Shade Tolerant Vegetables

Try these 15 (or more) shade tolerant veggies in your garden this year!

By Kate Bryant April 18, 2013

This captivating image has been making the rounds on Facebook ever since its creator, Laura Burnham of the California vegan Homesteading Facebook page first posted it this spring.

It's a colorful, graphic depiction of 15 vegetables that she has found thrive with just a half-day's sun. "I was inspired to make it because the garden that I share at work is very shaded, and I wanted to create an easy-to-use picturegraph for planting this spring. I thought, 'If we don't have full sun back here, I bet a lot of others don't as well.'" She posted the image on Facebook and, next thing she knew, the photo had ten thousand shares.

My own experience gardening in the Northwest jives well with Laura's, although she lives one state south. Generally, plants that do best with less sun include leafy greens (her list includes kale, lettuce, mustard greens, chard, spinach, bok choi, arugula, parsley, and cilantro) and underground roots, tubers or bulbs (her list includes beets, turnips, carrots, potatoes and garlic). Scallions, which she also lists, don't quite fit in either category but remind me that chives can grow in partial shade, too, at least in my experience. I would even add the delicious salad green, mache (also known as corn salad or rapunzel) to her excellent list of 15.

It should be noted that most of these vegetables will grow more densely and produce more in a sunny spot. The idea is that if you have more shade than you would like - as most of us do - you shouldn't give up on growing vegetables. Just don't expect them to necessarily produce as much as they would in full sun. Depending on how much shade you have, the plants could be just a little or a lot smaller, but it's well worth giving it a shot, anyway. 

Note that none of the veggies mentioned that do well in shade are produced by pollinating a flower which subsequently turns into a vegetable: you won't see tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, beans, or corn on a "Shade Tolerant Veggies" list. These plants not only need sun to produce flowers, but also to properly ripen the fruit.

It's worth experimenting, if there's a green or root veggie you really want to try but you don't have full sun. What works for you?

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