It is a lovely sunny day, zero degrees celsius and although a few months of spring before planting outside, it is obvious that a large part of the vegetable garden in our new home will be in the shade this coming growing season. Here is a brief rundown of what you can grow if your vegetable garden is in part shade and some suggestions to help extend the growing season wherever you live
The vegetable garden has a western sun exposure; a high cedar hedge on the property line and very old, tall cedars growing in the green space behind our property. There is hope, as yes, many fruit and vegetables do not need six hours of sunshine per day. Some ideas :
Shade Gardening Suggestion #1
Buy a sun meter. These easy to use meters will measure the amount of sunlight where you would like to plant your fruit trees and vegetables and decide if there is enough sun shine to maintain them. These handy little devices can be used inside, on decks or patios as well as outside. As the product ad says “put the right plant in the right place”
Shade Gardening Suggestion #2
We have purchased fruit ripening perforated, red plastic mulch to place under strawberry and tomato plants to help fruit ripen. It is recommended for red peppers, melons and fruit crops and other above ground crops. The package claims to increase tomato yields 20% more than using black film mulch as well as retaining moisture, controlling weeds and warming the soil. All sounds good.
Shade Gardening Suggestion #3
Construct an indoor gardening center for starting your seeds inside to give them a 4 to 6 week head start on the growing season. Santa Claus gave me a light fixture with grow lights for indoor gardening this Christmas and they are already in good use. The light was suspended from a frame attached to a recycled computer desk and there is plenty of room in the laundry with an outside entrance, a large bright window and sink with water.
For best growing conditions the grow lamps should be 6 inches from the seeds for germination and 12 to 15 inches from the top of the plants so the light fixture has to be movable. A timer attached to the grow lights will control the amount of hours per day (12 to 14 hours) required for maximum plant growth.
Shade Gardening Suggestion #4
Build or buy a greenhouse. These are becoming relatively inexpensive and can be put together in a few afternoons. Also make a cold frame (or two) to harden off your vegetable transplants or buy some protection cloth to cover early garden transplants. Winter can linger and a cold snap can wipe out all your hard work. For example it’s nearly March and today we have fresh snow and minus zero temperatures.
Vegetables to Plant
In addition to the above here is a list of vegetables, mostly greens, which thrive on 3 to 4 hours of sun each day. Try some of these in your garden:
- Lettuce, Mescluns or salad greens, spinach,
- Kale, swiss chard, Sui Choi and
- Herbs such as sorrel, chives, mint, oregano and parsley
Fruit to Plant
There are also a few fruits which will grow in part shade such as :
Obviously the more sun the more productive your fruit and vegetables will be. Our fruit trees are growing in the sunniest part of the yard and we look forward to seeing how they produce this summer.
The extra time spent planning and building for your garden is well worth it as there is no sweeter taste than fruit and vegetables picked from your own chemical free garden. Happy gardening!
- Check for shade tolerant seeds and plants if you have lots of shade
- Variegated hostas and ferns are a good choice for flower garden shady areas
- Reminder to grow shade loving vegetables and flowers under large fruit trees
- Buy mold tolerant seed and plant varieties and rotate crops to avoid Fusarium (wilt)
- When not using the grow lights to grow vegetables use them all year to grow sprouts for your salad. Mung beans are a favourite but try some of the new blends containing alfalfa, broccoli, etc. They should be ready to sprout in 5 to 7 days and ready to eat a few days after
- Using aluminium foil or white cloth or pebbles as a mulch has mixed success. Keep away from plant so as not to “burn”
- Plastic (clear and black) mulch are an environmental concern
- If there is garden space available try to grow broccoli in part shade
- Calcium Carbide is used to artificially ripen fruit – a health hazard
Links & References
- The Self Sufficient Gardener, John Seymour, Dolphin Books, 1980
- Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, Rodale, 1977
- Growing chard, zucchini and rhubarb
- The best way to ripen peaches