Did you know there are vegetables that grow in shade?
The common misconception is that vegetables need a lot of sunlight. And, while that is true for many of them, there are also quite a few that are do well in low light and shade.
This lets you grow them in parts of your garden where other plants can’t grow. And, you can also start your own container vegetable garden indoors, which is often a problem because of the lack of light inside your home.
Not All Vegetables Need Full Sun to Grow – Some Grow in Shade
Unfortunately, sunlight plays a huge role in plant growth no matter what kind of decide to go with.
That’s because sunlight is needed for photosynthesis which is the process by which plants grow their own food.
That’s why the fastest growing veggies are those that require 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily.
As such, if you want to produce quick harvest and turn your vegetable garden as many times as possible throughout the year, then full sun vegetables are the way to go.
However, there’s a common misconception that if you happen to have a garden that’s not getting a ton of sunlight, live in a high rise or condo unit, that you can’t grow a vegetable garden due to the lack of sunlight.
That’s not true at all.
In fact, as you’ll see below, there are many different veggies that grow perfectly well without the 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily.
However, you do need to understand how much sunlight your garden receives.
How Much Sunlight Does Your Garden Get?
This is the first thing every gardener needs to do. It does not only apply to vegetable gardens but to all gardens in general.
That is, know how much light your garden gets on a daily basis.
This is a bit tricky because of few things:
- The amount of sunlight varies throughout the day. Morning sun tends to be gentler. Afternoon sun is harsh.
- The location of your home affects how much sunlight you get. If you live in the northern hemisphere (U.S. and Canada) the sun comes from the south which is where the equator is. If you live in the southern hemisphere like Australia and New Zealand for example, the sun comes from the north. As such, the position of your home and garden (whether it faces north, south, east or west) affect the amount of sun you receive.
- Your city and area’s microclimate. Even within the U.S., climates vary. If you live in Honolulu, the weather is warm is sunny all year round. The same is true for Arizona and Las Vegas. California is a bit cooler. Nevertheless, it still receives sun all year long. On the other hand, in the northeast, winter means very little sunlight.
- Different seasons offer different amounts of sun. This is related to the last point.
So how do you know how much sunlight your garden receives?
The best way is to monitor it.
Here, there are two things to consider.
- The times of day. Take note of where the sun hits during the different times of the day. This is tedious. And, you can go from 30 minute intervals or use 1 hour intervals beginning at around 5:30 a.m. or 6:00 a.m. depending on when you get up. Then mark the amount of sunlight and where it hits in your garden up until the time when the sun goes down. Note that having a rough map of the garden and sectioning them off like area A, B, C or using labels helps. This way you can just note how much sun there is in area A, B or C during different times of the day.
- The seasons. Make sure to make time schedules for spring, summer, fall and winter. Each will have different day lengths, as well as different times of the day when the sun shines the most. Amount of rain and snow are also factors since too much rain will destroy your crops while snow likely means you need to create some kind of shelter for your veggies. This is less of a problem if you live in a city where the sun is up all 365 days of the year.
This is a lot of work. But you only need to do it once. After a while, you’ll get the hang of things and know it by heart.
Once you get the daily data into a chart, you’ll be able to tell that Area A for example gets 7 hours of sunlight a day. And, it receives the best sun during the morning because it faces the east.
Meanwhile Area B might get little light in the morning because there’s a tree blocking the east side. But, it receives 5 hours of afternoon sun.
The daily notes will take into account any buildings, structures, trees or other objects that may cast a shadow or shade part of the garden. So, even if there’s sun all day long, certain areas of your garden may not receive a lot or even any sunlight because of these obstructions.
This brings us to intensity.
A light meter or lumen meter looks very much like a volt meter or those reading machines some your postman or delivery guy makes you sign.
But this device measure the intensity of the light in lumens. This is optional. Most gardeners don’t need it since the hours of sunlight is often enough.
However, some people like to use it because it lets you know how intense the light it. Some plants can’t tolerate intense sun which can scorch their leaves.
Many veggies can bolt if they get too much sun which messes with your harvest.
Thus in addition to the number of hours of sunlight during the day, you can also measure the intensity of the sun in that area for each 30-minute or 1-hour interval.
This lets you know which are hot times and cold times as well at different times of the day for each area or section.
Vegetables That Grow in Shade
Now that you know how much sunlight there each section of your garden, you can plan which areas get full sun, partial sun, partial shade and full shade.
- Full Sun – these areas receive 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily. Note that is has more to do with the hours of the day and not the intensity of the sun. So, if live in the southern part of the country, this 6 to 8 hours of sun is more intense than the 6 to 8 hours of sun in the northern part of the country. Similarly, a southern facing garden will get brighter sunlight compared to an east or west facing gardens even if there are no obstacles blocking the sunlight there.
- Partial Sun – areas that receive 4 to 6 hours of sunlight per day fall under this category. This means the rest of the day they have some kind of shade be it from trees, your house, mountains or other structures.
- Partial Shade – here, you’re getting more shade during the day compared to sunlight. An area that’s getting partial shade only gets 3 to 4 hours of sunlight each day.
- Full Shade – this is the least amount of light. Many plants will not be happy here. But, there are some plants, vegetables and even flowers that do well with just 2 to 3 hours of sunlight daily. Note that some people will classify full shade as complete no direct or indirect light at all.
Now that we have the definitions out of the way, here are the best vegetables for full sun, partial sun, partial shade and full shade.
Partial Sun Vegetables
Here are the vegetables that grow in partial sun. That is 4 to 6 hours of sunlight daily. The rest of the day, they experience shade.
While they may do better (grow faster, bigger) in full sun, these won’t have a problem receiving a bit less sunlight.
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Partial Shade Vegetables
Partial shade vegetables are perfect for shade gardens of if your yard happens to be blocked out from the sun for one reason or another.
These are a good option if you get 3 to hours of good sun in the garden. The rest of the time they either get dappled light or have some kind of shadow or shade blocking direct sunlight.
You can likewise use this to section off parts of your garden which receive only 3 to 4 hours of sunlight daily and plant these veggies in those parts while growing others in different sections of your yard.
Full Shade Vegetables
These veggies need the leas amount of sunlight. As long as they receive 2 to 3 hours of sunlight daily they’ll be good.
Shade vegetables often don’t like hot or intense sun either. So for many of them, too much exposure be it length of time or intensity will actually be a problem.
So, keep them away from too much sun.