Shaded backyard? You can still have a successful vegetable garden!

Posted June 14, 2018 in Plant and Tree

Most likely, when you picture a residential garden you imagine an enclosed fence complete with a gate and protective perimeter mesh, basking in the full-day sun.  On average, you wouldn’t be far off!  Most vegetables require 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day in order to thrive and produce fruits aplenty.  However, does this mean that you are doomed to never grow your own garden-to-table fare if your property doesn’t receive all-day sunshine?

For those who have less than 6-8 hours of sun during the day, all hope is not lost.  You may not be able to grow abundant sun loving vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and squash, but you can successfully harvest green and leafy vegetables, perfect for the hot and humid days when you just don’t feel like standing in front of a hot stove or grill!

When selecting the spot for your container or in-ground garden, be aware that there are hardly any edibles that will grow in deep, dark shade.  You will want to search for a spot that receives partial-sun or partial-shade, which is defined as receiving 3-6 hours of direct or dappled sunlight.  If you’re not sure what will grow in the garden spot you selected, just remember, “no fruits and no roots”. Fruits and most (but not all) rooted vegetables require full-sun, so partial exposure will not yield the results you are looking for.  Invest your time and energy into successfully cultivating a few of the following shady vegetables for your family:

  • Arugula: Does well in full-sun but also appreciates and thrives in partial-shade.
  • Garden cress: Related to watercress and mustard, this herb is fast-growing, shade-loving and has a peppery and tangy flavor and aroma.  The perfect addition to sandwiches, soups and salads for a little kick!
  • Kale: This cool-soil vegetable is perfect for a shaded garden and can even tolerate cool temperatures and light frost!
  • Spinach: This fan-favorite does well with only a few hours of sun a day.  Preferring cool temperatures, aim to plant this vegetable in the spring or fall.
  • Swiss chard: This plant dazzles in the garden with its array of colorful stems.  With the same sun, temperature and season preferences of spinach, this vegetable is delicious sauteed with some olive oil and garlic!
  • Lettuce: Lettuce that is grown in full-direct sunlight will become bitter, can get sun-scorched and go to seed quite quickly.  Plenty of shade, water and rich soil will have this fast grower on its way to your salad bowl in no time!
  • Cabbage: Thriving in partial shade, if this plant gets too much shade, the heads won’t form as tight as they should.  As a love it or leave it vegetable, I simply couldn’t imagine a season without Halushki or Halupki on the dinner table!
  • Root vegetables: Vegetables like beets, carrots, rutabaga and turnips will do alright in partial-shade garden locations, but you will simply have to wait longer for a full crop and they may be a little smaller than average.
  • Herbs: Who doesn’t like herbs?  You can successfully grow dill, chives, cilantro, parsley, mint and lemonbalm in your shade garden!

While the aforementioned are just a select few that do well in shady sections of the backyard, let’s discuss some advantages and tips to ensure your crops are happy and abundant.  If you want your produce to do its best, you will need to provide them with good-quality soil with plenty of nutrients to keep them fed and strong.  Along with rich soil, you will need to make sure that the soil stays moist.  However, a sheer advantage of a shade garden is that your watering needs are far less than garden that lives in full-sun.  Moisture does not evaporate as quickly in the shade, so you will not need to water as often.  One last advantage of a shade garden, is the longer growing season!  Sunshine and hot weather tend to make edibles bolt (send up flower and seed shoots) a lot quicker, but this process is put off a little longer in the cooler section of your garden.  Bon appetit!  *Note: if your garden is under tree canopy, you will need to pay a little more attention to the soil since rain will not reach the plants naturally.  Be sure to water as you see the soil dry out.

With hopes that this article has inspired homeowners with shaded plots to go out and get their hands in the dirt, we would like to mention that we are always available for outdoor living advice, guidance and education!  While shaded garden may not offer the ideal conditions for growing certain foods, look on the bright side; where there is a will there is a way!

MasterPLAN Outdoor Living sees the potential in every property and every homeowner’s outdoor desires.  For those who live in the Poconos, Lehigh Valley through the Main Line of Philadelphia and western New Jersey that have too much sun, too little sun, sloped lots, drainage issues, whatever the case may be, we are eager to help!  Specializing in custom backyard transformations, we never shy away from a challenge and are excited to partner with our clients through their outdoor living journey.  Together, we can discuss all options for your space and translate your dreams into your reality.  When you are ready to open up the conversation, reach out to MasterPLAN!  Your dream backyard is only one custom 3D design away!

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