All plants need some sun to grow well, and plants that produce fruits like tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplant, really need all the sun they can get. But there are a few vegetables that tolerate and even appreciate partial shade, especially so during the hottest days of the growing season. To spring’s leafy vegetables and root crops afternoon shade is a welcome relief after a few hours of intense morning sun. You can even grow some vegetables in areas near trees that provide dappled shade for most of the day.
If you are going to try growing vegetables in shade, remember that they still need plenty of water. Sadly, water and shade also are perfect conditions for snails and slugs. You’ll need to be especially diligent in scouting for these slimy creatures or they can wipe out your harvest!
1. Salad Greens
Leafy salad greens are staples in any spring vegetable garden. They like the cool, dewy days early in the season and most of them can be planted in succession for a long harvest period. It gets a little tricky to keep them growing in the hottest part of the summer, so that is why March is the best time to plant a spring crop. Spring greens are slow to germinate and quick to bolt to seed in hot, dry weather. You can wait for fall’s cool temperatures to replant them, or you can take advantage of a shady spot in the garden, even behind taller corn or tomato plants, to keep them going all summer. (3-4 hours of sun per day is sufficient). They will need extra water in hot weather. Good choices include: arugula, lettuce, sorrel, and spinach.
2. Cooking Greens
Leafy vegetables grown for cooking, rather than for salads and fresh eating, will develop more slowly and be tenderer when grown in afternoon shade. They probably won’t get as large as their full sun versions, but the smaller “baby” leaves will require less cooking and are often sweeter. (3-4 hours of sun per day)
Some to try: Mustard greens, chard, kale, and the Asian greens pak choi aka bok choy, and mizuna. Even cabbage and broccoli will grow in a half-day of sun. Because they prefer cool weather they will take a little longer to head.
3. Root Vegetables
Most root vegetables can get by on a half-day of sunshine, although they will grow more slowly and take longer to reach full size. You can harvest some of them, like carrots and potatoes, while they are still small and sweet. Also, beet and turnip greens make for good eating while you’re waiting for their bulbs to develop fully. Radishes need to grow fast so that they don’t become woody or overly hot, but partial shade will prevent them from bolting to seed. (4-5 hours of sun per day) Root vegetables for partial shade: beets, carrots, potatoes, radishes, and turnips.
Many culinary herbs are fast growers. In good growing conditions they will bolt to seed more quickly than lettuce. When grown in partial shade they may get a little leggier, but since you’re growing them for their leaves, it doesn’t really matter. Try any or all of these 6 herbs: chives, cilantro, mint, oregano, and parsley. (3 hours of sun per day)
5. Peas and Beans
Peas and green beans like cooler temperatures. Although they need some sun to produce flowers and pods, they tend to fade out as the temperature warms. Planting them in a cool shady spot will lengthen their growing season.
Bush beans are a better choice for shade than are pole beans. Pole varieties start producing later in the season and need sunshine to grow the vines that will eventually hold the beans. Bush beans are quick growers and, like peas, appreciate a little cooling off in the afternoon. (4-5 hours of sun per day)
Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center.
Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his web site at www.wattersgardencenter.com or Facebook page www.facebook.com/WattersGardenCenter .