Conventional wisdom dictates that if you want to grow edible plants, lots of sun is required. Growing from seedling to mature edible vegetable, plants usually predominantly need water and light. Most vegetable garden books, as well as planting instructions on seed packets tell you to plant your seeds in “sunny, sheltered spots” or “ full sun”. What however, if you are a (city-dwelling) gardener boxed in by tall buildings or tall trees that block out the sun for most of the day?
Growing vegetables in the shade
Don’t despair completely because there are still opportunities to grow (at least some) of your own vegetables. It is probably best to leave growing tomatoes, courgettes and aubergines to others who are blessed with sunny plots, but there are certainly lots of options still open to you.
The main advice here is to go for leafy plants, such as salad leaves. Some of these vegetables actually prefer a shaded environment to a sunny spot. Lettuce and spinach in particular does not like the heat as a result of exposure to full sun. In fact, lettuce crops are best grown in the cooler periods of spring and autumn. Grow lettuce or spinach in a warm and sunny spot and chances are it will germinate and start flowering and seeding very quickly rather than producing a nice crop. Plant the seeds in a cool and shade spot and your lettuce and spinach seedlings will produce lush and juicy leaves. There are other leafy plants that do well in shady spots, especially if you grow them as baby leafs so there is no time for problems such as mould to develop. Other crops that tolerate (part) shade are peas, kale and broccoli.
Growing herbs in the shade
There are lots of herbs that can cope with lower levels of sunlight as well. Mint will do just fine being out of direct sunlight for most of the time. An additional benefit of growing mint outside is that its fragrant flowers attract bees and butterflies. Chives and parsley will also do well in lower light levels or partial shade. Less sun means fewer flowers, but you will get plenty of grassy leaves in the case of chives.
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