Shade Vegetable Garden Secrets

September 11, 2015

Growing a shade vegetable garden really is possible if you choose the right food crops. Trying to cultivate tomatoes or zucchini in deep shade isn’t likely to work, so don’t waste your time failing with those. Instead, try some of these great performers for your dark corners!

Peppermint sticks chard in September garden

Chard like this ‘Peppermint Sticks’ variety from Renee’s Garden seeds* performs equally well in deep shade or bright sunlight. Here it is glowing in bright September sunshine.

Choose leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, kale or chard for your beds that get the least sun. Then, be sure to time things just right, and you’ll enjoy a long harvest of nutritious green goodness.

Peppermint Sticks Chard Seedlings

Sowing chard seeds early in the season will give your crop kickstart. Or, direct sow your seeds if your bed is getting some spring sunlight & the soil is warm. Early spring or late summer!

Many leafy green food crops will grow quite well in dappled to even deep shade, but it is important that they are exposed to sunlight and warmth during their early stages of growth.

Chard covered in horticultural fleece in April

Covering your leafy green starts or seeds with a sheet of horticultural fleece helps protect your food garden from pests like leaf miners & warms the soil to help your crop grow.

In early spring, this planting bed gets at least three or four hours of sunlight. But once the surrounding trees and shrubs leaf out and the asparagus and other nearby perennials grow tall, this will truly be a shade vegetable garden bed. And, in early autumn nearby trees begin to shed their leaves, again letting in sunlight so cool season greens below can grow.

Vegetable shade garden in July

While this bed looks bright & sunny on a hot July day, the chard is growing below the tall, ferny, shade-casting towers of asparagus. This light hardly touches chard in the under-story!

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Of course, when it is hot and dry, chard and other greens will need supplemental water. Leafy greens will not thrive in dry shade.

Chard in shade vegetable garden in September

Seeded in March, planted in April & offering edibles well into September, this brightly stemmed chard is productive in an area that receives only a dappling of sunlight each summer & fall day. Bonus: it adds a pop of bright color to an otherwise dark corner.

You might notice a few other edibles in this shade food garden bed — chives, strawberry, asparagus, rhubarb and blueberries. While chard does quite well in the shade, perennial food crops offer quite a few easy rewards in the darker corners of the garden. (And that asparagus grows tall enough to reach the sun!)

*Disclosure: Garden Mentors has received test growing ‘Peppermint Sticks’ chard & other seed from Renee’s Garden Seed. However, no compensation has been paid for this post or for growing this crop.

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