How to Grow a Stellar Garden, Even In the Shade

You may have heard you need six or more hours of direct sunlight every day (otherwise known as “full sun”) to successfully grow a vegetable garden.

This isn’t true.

(At least not completely.)

Yes, full sun is essential if you’re growing fruit-bearing crops, such as tomatoes, squash, and eggplant. But many plants are less needy.

In fact, some actually grow better with a little shade.

For example, protection from the sun can help keep heat sensitive plants like lettuce and cilantro from bolting in warmer temperatures (which is good because plants stop growing and often turn bitter after bolting).

So if you’re like me and have a shaded backyard, rejoice. Today you’ll learn how to use that shade to your advantage.

Tower Tip: To maximize all available light, grow your garden beside a white wall or fence. The bright surface will reflect more light, helping compensate for the lack of direct sunlight.

Tips for Gardening In the Shade

Not all shade is created equal. Let’s identify which type you’re dealing with.

  • Dappled shade is created when light filters through other objects (e.g., tree leaves), resulting in a space that, though shaded, is relatively bright for most of the day.
  • Partial shade is created when an object — such as a building — completely blocks out light and casts a solid shadow during part of the day.

Of these, dappled shade is preferable. But you can grow crops in partial shade, too, provided they get at least three hours of sunlight at some point in the day. (If your space doesn’t provide that, you’re better off gardening indoors with grow lights.)

Tower Tip: Lack of light puts extra stress on plants, and stressed plants are more prone to pest problems. So be sure to monitor your plants closely, and try these natural methods of control if you see signs of pests.

30 Vegetables and Herbs You Can Grow In the Shade

Leafy vegetables and herbs tend to tolerate less light best, and most can survive on just 3–5 hours of sunlight daily.

30 Vegetables and Herbs You Can Grow In the Shade

If there’s a plant you don’t see on the list above that you’d like to try growing in partial shade, go for it (and report back)! After all, what’s gardening without a little experimentation?

Just remember that light-deprived plants will tell you when they’re light-deprived. Look for spindly growth, pale color, and bland taste — these are signs that the plant simply isn’t suited for shade.

Over to You

Shaded spaces may not offer the most ideal conditions for growing food. But look on the bright side. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) You can still grow many delicious, healthy crops successfully — and I hope this guide helps you do it.

If you have any questions about gardening in the shade or any tips you’d like to share, leave a comment below. I can’t wait to chat with you!

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