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Published on June 18th, 2013 | by Guest Contributor


Top 15 Food Plants that Grow in the Shade

Green Living Ideas is happy to welcome our newest writer, Jami Scholl. Jami is a Life Coach for WellBeing with a passion for creating beautiful permaculture gardens and food abundant communities. She is co-developing the area of PermaCoaching, and has experience in the areas where food, health and politics meet. She is an all-around creative, hiker, and a mom gifted with the superpower to to create beautiful solutions. Follow her on Twitter @jamischoll, on Facebook, and on GoodVeg’s A Subversive Plot.

grow your greens, even in the shade!

grow your greens, even in the shade!

How would you like to have yummy vegetables growing in every area in your yard, even those that don’t seem to get a fair amount of sunshine?  It’s definitely possible, if you grow the right selection of plants. Though shade has always been thought of as the antithesis of gardening for food, I have learned in the past five years of growing in a shady spot (one with only two to three hours of direct sun per day) is that it is possible

The best crops to grow in the shady places of your garden/yard include the following:

  • lettuce
  • peas
  • cabbage
  • kale
  • carrots
  • collards
  • bok choi
  • celery
  • parsley
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • radish
  • potatoes
  • Chinese cabbage
  •  magenta lambsquarter


You probably noticed that this list consists mostly of leafy greens and root vegetables (plus one plant that is often considered a weed, although a very pretty and nutritious weed!)  Many herbs may also be added to this list, as well as various types of beans such as green beans and lima beans, although they are not quite as successful as the greens and root veggies. Root vegetables do not require nearly as much sun as everyone usually expects, although growing in the share may delay the maturation of your harvest as compared to those grown in more direct sunlight.

radishes are truly the cutest vegetable.

radishes are truly the cutest vegetable.

Although this list does not include the vegetables that most people consider as essential to the garden– such as tomatoes, cucumbers and corn– the foods here will feed you and your household quite well. And if you do want to grow some tomato plants, these can be grown in large pots in the sunny areas that get at least six to eight hours of full sun.

Not only does shade gardening produce good good, it makes your gardening easily because weeding is nearly non-existent in comparison to areas which have access to abundant sun. The soil stays more moist with the broad leaves of the cabbage to hold in moisture. One last benefit I’ll add for food shade gardening is this thought – climate change is creating more drought conditions and given the intensity of the heat, plants are not easily able to grow in more desert-like conditions. With proper soil conditioning, shade gardens, with greater water holding capacity and less intense heat , may give cause to change how we eat seasonally.

And some additional information: don’t feel that all the planting need happen at once. If you plan your plots for a spring, summer and autumn harvest you will find that you will have different planting times throughout the seasons.

To create the best schedule, simply count backward from the estimated harvest date to determine when to plant. Another benefit to staggering you’re your planting is that you will have an overall more productive garden. Since plants have differing growing habits (celery versus a cabbage for example) you will be able to fit more food into a smaller space by inter-planting.

Soil/garden image from Shutterstock/ Zocchi Roberto; cabbage image from Shutterstock/ Elenarts; radish image Shutterstock/ Larisa Lofitskaya







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