Everyone knows that plants need sunshine in order to grow – that’s a given! And for those who know anything about growing vegetables and fruits, you know that these plants tend to enjoy lots of sunshine. But there are actually some vegetables that grow well without direct sunlight, that are shade-tolerant.
A vegetable that requires full sunlight needs 6 hours of direct sunlight between 10 am and 6 pm in order to grow and thrive. Plants that enjoy partial sun need 3-6 hours of direct sunlight between 10 am and 6 pm. If your plant requires part shade, they also need 3-6 hours of sun per day, but additionally, they’ll require protection from the midday sun.
In times like these where the future isn’t certain, people are getting more interested in gardening. But what do you do if you don’t have a yard that gets full, direct sun? Give up? Nah, grow some of these shade-tolerant vegetables.
Spinach is one of my favorite shade-tolerant plants to grow. It’s delicious and extra nutritious when plucked straight out of the garden. Spinach tends to enjoy 3-4 hours of sunshine per day, but will grow just fine with shade the rest of the time. Pro tip: Spinach tends to become bitter when grown in mid-summer heat. Try to grow your spinach early and late in the growing season.
I remember being dismayed by my mother’s demands to “eat your broccoli” as a kid, but that’s because this 9-year-old boy had never grown it himself. These days, I love growing broccoli in the shadier parts of my garden. Broccoli needs partial sun, but definitely no more than 6 hours of direct sun every day. Like spinach, broccoli likes a cooler growing season, so grow early and late in your growing season.
Potatoes are perhaps my all-time favorite vegetable to grow, not just because they keep for a long time into fall and winter but because the plants themselves are beautiful, dense, and send up lovely flowers in the summer. Potatoes can handle just about anything, either full sun or partial shade. Potatoes that you grow in partial shade may take a little bit longer to mature. You can still uproot them early, you’ll just have littler potatoes!
Cauliflower looks like broccoli’s pasty white cousin, and like broccoli, cauliflower prefers to be grown in cooler weather and in partial shade. It is not advised that you try to grow cauliflower in full sun as it can bolt early and be rendered inedible if you aren’t watching it closely.
Swiss chard is a fascinating, nutritious, and delicious plant. The green foliage is punctuated by the deep, almost blood-red stems, making it a pretty dazzling vegetable to grow. And like the others on this list, it handles shade well. In fact, it doesn’t even especially like being in full sun. Plant your Swiss chard in an area that gets less than 4 hours of direct sunshine a day.
Onions are not 100% ideal for shadier gardens, but they’re still on my list because I love growing them so much. Onions prefer full sun, but they can grow in partial sun as well. The onions that you harvest may be smaller than the others, and onions grown in shade may also be more susceptible to pests. Still, give it a whirl, because homegrown onions are incredible.
Radishes? Not my favorite. But this list isn’t about me. Radishes are a bit like onions, definitely preferring a bit more sun to shade. They need 4-6 hours of sunshine a day, but they can tolerate limited amounts of shade. As long as you have an area that gets a few hours of sun each day, you should be eating your subterranean trash vegetable in no time.
When it comes to vegetable gardening, I think it’s great that folks want to grow their own food, no matter what they choose to grow. I do have an exception though. If you aren’t growing garlic, what are you even doing with your life? Garlic is incredibly easy to grow. It grows well in under 4 hours of sunlight a day and has no issue maturing in shady conditions. You can plant your garlic in the ground in early spring for a mid-summer harvest or in fall for a spring harvest. Garlic is a veggie that you can keep sowing and harvesting consistently. When you harvest in the fall, just set aside a few bulbs to sow again for spring.
Remember how I was trash-talking radishes a while ago? I expect to get some smack thrown back my direction for this (Yes, somehow there is an ‘I hate cilantro day’). I love freshly made pico de gallo, and therefore growing a little cilantro is an absolute must in my garden. Cilantro needs special attention, especially if grown in mid-summer. It’ll bolt and turn bitter quickly in hot weather. This is a good early spring and late summer plant. If you do plant in summer, give it plenty of shade.
Carrots – they’re everyone’s favorite. And they’re way easy to grow too. They grow well with under 4 hours of direct sunshine a day. They actually grow bigger when they aren’t exposed to full sun, interestingly enough. These vegetables handle cool weather too. They’re a good early and late season veggie to grow.
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