Although most vegetables, herbs, and flowers do best with abundant sunshine, growing them in less than full sun is possible. Learn how to maximize the sunlight and anticipate the challenges of gardening in less sunlight. This post about gardening in the shade also includes a helpful list and reference guide of which vegetables, herbs, and flowers grow in partial sun.
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5 Tips for Growing Vegetables, Herbs, and Flowers in the Shade
1. Evaluate your garden to determine how much sunlight it receives
One of the most important principles for gardening success is sunlight. Understanding the different terms related to the amount of sunlight an area receives is important.
The sun’s angle changes throughout the year. Evaluate your garden at different times of day throughout the year (spring, summer, fall, winter) to understand how much light your garden receives. Consider the height of surrounding trees, buildings, and other obstructions as they can limit the amount of light that reaches your garden. Use an app or program to map out the sun’s route and learn exactly when your garden gets direct sunlight, partial shade, and full shade. This will help you determine what plants are best suited for your garden.
- Full Sun: 6–8 hours (or more) of direct sunlight daily.
- Partial Sun: 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
- Partial Shade: 3-4 hours of direct sunlight per day.
- Full Shade: Less than 3 hours of direct sun.
- Deep Shade: No sun at all.
Vegetables, herbs, and flowers may not grow if your garden receives less than 3 hours of sun.
2. Know how much sun different types of plants need
Although some plants need very little sun, plants grown for food usually need plenty of sunlight. Some types of vegetables, herbs, and flowers will tolerate some shade more than others, but all need sun. Most plants do best with at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day. For example:
- Flowering plants need a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight.
- Plants grown for edible roots need at least 4 hours of direct sunlight.
- Plants grown for edible leaves need at least 3 hours of direct sunlight.
3. Maximize the available sunlight your garden receives to grow vegetables, herbs, and flowers in the shade
Leave more space between plants. Plants too close to each other will shade one another.
- Use containers or grow bags to move the garden where the sunlight is.
- Anticipate areas that will receive more sun as trees lose their leaves.
- Grow plants vertically. Typically place vertical supports on the north side of your garden to prevent shading of other plants.
Be aware of micro-climates in your garden and areas that receive more/less sun, and plant accordingly.
4. Anticipate the challenges of growing vegetables, herbs, and flowers in the shade
- Take care not to overwater. Plants grown in areas that receive less sun will need less water.
- Be patient if your vegetables, herbs, or flowers take longer than the “days to harvest” number on the seed packet. Plants grown in less than ideal sunlight conditions will take longer to develop.
- Understand that vegetables, herbs, and flowers grown with less sun may be smaller than their full-sun counterparts.
- Some herbs and veggies may get “leggy” as they reach for the sun; harvest more often to keep plants compact.
- Do not over-fertilize. Plants require less fertilization when grown in the shade.
- Be on the lookout for pests. Pests are drawn to plants that are grown in less-than-ideal conditions. Daily vigilance and early detection are the best defenses against pests. Read this post for organic pest control options.
5. Plant the right type of vegetables, herbs, and flowers for the amount of sunlight your garden receives
Vegetables that tolerate partial shade (3-4 hours of direct sunlight) include arugula, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, kale, beets, kohlrabi, parsnip, carrots, turnip, radish, lettuce, spinach, mustard greens, and chard.
Flowers to Plant Outside & Seeds to Start Indoors Each Month in the Low Desert of Arizona.
• PLANTING GUIDE: Each month lists annual flowers and bulbs to plant outside & seeds to start indoors.
• BLOOMING GUIDE: Photos show what may be in bloom that month.
Do you have other ideas for herbs or vegetables that grow in shade? Let me know in the comments.
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