Growing in the Shadows: Shade Tolerant Varieties

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Shade covers some of our fields too in early spring.

Plants love sunlight like humans love a good meal. Most garden annuals need at least 6 hours of  sun per day for nourishment. No plants can grow in darkness, but fortunately, like humans, different plants have different diets and some are fairly modest.

Gardeners with a shady corner of yard or a porch in a tree's line of shadow - don't despair! Shade has a place in the garden. Partial shade can offer relief for cooler temperature prefering veggies on a hot summer day.  It can also create a mildly different "micro-climate" and thus extend the spring and fall harvests of succession plantings. As northern gardeners, we are often guilty of focusing our attentions on heating up the garden, but there are benefits to cooling it off too. Sown in early spring, greens will persevere longer into the hot season if protected by some shade. The same is true for late summer showings for fall harvests. Spinach, for example, can be planted in the fall as empty spaces open up, left over after other vegetables (like carrots or spent tomato plants) have been harvested. It will grow in the shade, then overwinter to re-emerge  in early spring.

NOTE: For the purposes of this post, we are writing about open garden spaces that receive 4-6 hours of light per day. Wooded and completely shaded areas are very difficult to grow annual garden varieties in. 

FLOWERS

shade garden MIX

Focus on: Early flowers that thrive in early spring. Choose Borage, poppies, calendula, flax, snapdragons, and sweet peas.

Consider: Flowers that grow in containers. Smaller plants can usually tolerant less-than-ideal conditions. Choose Teddy Bear Sunflowers, Sparky French Marigolds, and Variegated Nasturtiums.

Avoid: Heat loving, tall varieties such as Mexican Sunflowers, Skyscraper Sunflowers, and zinnias.

FLOWER RECOMMENDATIONS

Johnny Jump-Up

Johnny Jump-Up

Seeds are beginnings.

Shirley Single Poppy Mix

Shirley Single Poppy Mix

Early-summer blooming, tissue paper thin petals catch light delightfully.

Finnriver Sweet Pea

Finnriver Sweet Pea

A certified organic mix of highly scented peas!

Shade Garden Mix

Shade Garden Mix

A flower mix brimming with varieties that do well in not-so-much sun.

Out of stock


HERBS

 

Herbs are the most adaptable! Try them all but note that basil is the most sensitive to lack of sun. It prefers warm, dry conditions.

HERB RECOMMENDATIONS

Gigante d'Italia Parsley

Gigante d'Italia Parsley

More than a garnish, this large variety is a bright and tasty herb.

Chives

Chives

Edible, ornamental, and perennial, these hardy culinary clusters are an easy and essential part of every kitchen garden.

Sacred Basil

Sacred Basil

Deliciously scented leaves promote longevity when brewed as tea.

Anise Hyssop

Anise Hyssop

A welcome perennial herb that attracts pollinators and makes a lovely tea.

 


VEGETABLES

The most shade tolerant edibles are leafy greens.  They will grow with 3 to 4 hours of direct sunlight per day. They can also be harvested at any size, so if they don't receive enough light - pick them young.

Focus On: Arugula, Lettuce, Chard, Kale*, Collards, Sorrel, Spinach, Parsley, Scallions, Mustard Greens, Asian Greens

*Other Brassicas such as Broccoli, Kohlrabi, and Cabbage will also grow in partial shade.

Consider: Root veggies are the next most tolerant. They require at least half a day's (4 to 6 hours) of sunlight. Shade accepting roots: Potatoes, Beets, Carrots, Turnips, Radishes

Avoid: The least shade approving plants are fruiting vegetables. Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplants, Squash, Melons, and Cucumbers like full sun!

TIP: Try these varieties in containers and moving them into sunny areas as the season progresses if you have limited full sun space.

VEGETABLE RECOMMENDATIONS

Ultimate Salad Bowl

Ultimate Salad Bowl

A delightful blend of greens and lettuces brighten the salad bowl.

Wild Arugula

Wild Arugula

Smaller, punchier, and hardier than standard arugula, the wild strain is beautiful and delicious.

Abundant Bloomsdale

Abundant Bloomsdale

An improved savoyed spinach developed by OSA.

Sow Outdoors Early Set

Sow Outdoors Early Set

Imagine the first harvests with these cool loving spring varieties!

One thought on “Growing in the Shadows: Shade Tolerant Varieties”

  • Marge

    Great article, I realize that without knowing it I've been giving my greens a lot more sun than they need at the expense of the sun lovers. I see a major reorganization taking place, if I can just get the geese out of the sunny raised beds.

    Reply

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