Growing Food In Partial or Near-Complete Shade

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a vegetable garden that is bathed in sun for the full length of the day. In cities with many surrounding buildings, shade problems can be particularly pronounced. The good news is that even if you do not enjoy direct, full sunlight, there are still plenty of ways that you can grow food for yourself and your family – you just have to pick the right plants:

Food For Areas With Very Little Or No Direct Sun:

Growing edible plants in an area receiving fewer than three hours of direct sunlight a day can be a challenge. But there are a number of plants that can be grown in such areas. These are also the plants that will do best in the shadiest corners of a forest garden.

Wild garlicYou can use a shady corner or windowsill for pea or broad bean shoots which can be harvested early for salads and stir fries. You can also grow some cut and come again Asian greens such as mizuna, mibuna, pak choi and a range of mustards. Wild garlic, a few varieties of leek (e.g. allium paradoxum and allium triquetrum) and wasabi love the shade and will do well in areas with less than three hours of direct sunlight.

Elaeagnus augustifoliaFor food growing in very shaded areas, you will not have much success with many regular annual vegetables but you will be able to grow a wide range of edible plants – sometimes adapting to shade in an edible garden involves thinking outside the box. A number of common weeds and ornamental plants not usually used as food crops are delicious supplements to a home diet and many of these thrive in very shady conditions. Shade-loving hostas, plantago major, common dock, ground elder – these are just a few shade plants that can be good to eat. Elaeagnus varieties can have edible berries and seeds. Brambles, or blackberries, will also provide some fruit in almost full shade (and you can get thornless varieties).

Food For Areas With At Least Three -Four Hours Of Sunlight

Chenopodium bonus henriticusYou may think that your garden in shady but if you are lucky enough to get at least three or fours hours of sunlight then that dramatically increases the number and variety of plants that you can grow. You are still more restricted than you would be in an area with more sun but you can still have a good edible garden.

Rhubarb shadeYou will be able to grow a wide range of leafy greens over and above the Asian greens mentioned above. Chard, kale, spinach, sorrel, rocket, winter purslane, land cress, lamb's lettuce and Good King Henry and many different loose-leaf lettuce varieties can all cope with 3-4 hours of sunlight a day and may even do better and bolt less than plants grown in full sun. You can also grow a wide range of herbs, including chives, mint, chervil and parsley and will likely get away with growing many more types of herb. Root veg such as beetroots, carrots, swedes, parsnips, turnips and radishes should also do okay in this amount of shade and you can also grow a range of forest garden fruits such as currants, gooseberries, rhubarb and alpine strawberries.