While most people envision a bright, sunny space when thinking of vegetable gardens, gardeners are often challenged by shaded areas in their growing space. Fortunately, there are a variety of different vegetables that can live in shade and can be easily grown in any garden. Here is a list of vegetables that grow in shade.
To make the most of the shaded areas, ensure that the plants that will be grown there have an abundance of the other elements they need to thrive. Enrich the soil with organic matter and make sure the area has good drainage. Increase the amount of sun available by removing low-hanging branches and thinning tree canopies. Boost the effect of what sunlight is available by using reflective mulch and light-colored material in nearby walkways. Pests like slugs and snails also love cool, moist environments, so use deterrents such as a crushed eggshell border to keep them away from growing vegetables.
Finally, understand that while shade-tolerant plants can grow in less-optimal conditions than their more sun-loving brethren, shade may not be an ideal growing environment for these vegetables. Harvests from these areas may be less than in sunny areas and shaded crops may require a bit more time to mature before harvesting.
So, once the shaded garden area is prepared and ready to be planted, consider what sunlight is available. Root vegetables that grow in shade such as beets, carrots and turnips require four to five hours of sunlight per day. While potatoes are a stem tuber rather than a root vegetable, they have the same growth characteristics and are generally included in this category. Leafy vegetables can make do with less sunlight and may benefit from the relative coolness of shaded areas.
7 Vegetables that Grow in Shade
Deep shade, where there is little if any light, may appear at first glance to be useless space. For the intrepid gardener, however, mushrooms may be a viable option. Mushrooms will thrive where most vegetables that grow in shade will not if their requirements for temperature and moisture are met. Because they lack chlorophyll, mushrooms favor a dark, cool and moist environment. Growing your own mushrooms provides the benefit of adding a gourmet touch to meals without running the risk of accidental poisoning.
Many hobbyists raise epicurean varieties such as Enoki, Maitake, Oyster and Shiitake mushrooms. The table mushrooms most consumers are familiar with, the White Button, Cremini, or Portobello mushrooms, are the same fungus but picked at different stages of growth. All of these mushrooms can be grown at home and provide a number of health benefits such as potassium, copper, niacin, and antioxidant properties.
It is important for the beginning mushroom enthusiast to research the required growth medium of the mushroom selected. Some mushrooms, such as the button mushrooms, grow in composted manure while others require hardwood sawdust or straw.
This family dinner staple does best in cooler temperatures and is an excellent candidate for areas of the vegetable garden that receive either four to six hours of sunlight daily or are well-lit by ambient sunlight such as under a tree canopy. This plant is characterized by it’s dense, tightly packed flowers on a long, edible stalk.
Broccoli rewards its grower with an abundance of health benefits. The vegetable provides powerful antioxidants that help the body fight disease. It is a reliable source of vitamins such as A, B6, K, and C in addition to minerals such as calcium, iron, and potassium. Broccoli is rich in dietary fiber that improves digestion and powerful omega-3 fatty acids.
In addition to the broccoli that grocery store shoppers are most familiar with, there are several members of the Brassica genus that will do well in the same conditions and add diversity to the home garden. Cauliflower and cabbage are both relatives of broccoli, as well as purple cauliflower, broccoflower, and Chinese broccoli.
3. Culinary Herbs
Any chef appreciates the usefulness of fresh herbs in creating culinary masterpieces. And there several excellent candidates for those shaded areas of the vegetable garden that receive at least three hours of sunlight every day. While they may grow less densely than those grown in sunnier spots, garlic, chervil, chives, cilantro, oregano, and parsley will all do well in more shady areas. Mint and lemon balm are also good candidates. But should be grown in containers to keep them from spreading throughout the garden.
Culinary herbs have a broad range of uses including medicinal, seasoning foods, and drinking in the form of tea. The health benefits of herbs are immense. Herbs provide a wealth of vitamins like A, K, and C, as well as calcium and iron. Almost all green herbs also provide medicinal value. Such as anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and can help the body fight off illnesses ranging from cancer to the common cold.
4. Salad Greens
People who enjoy a salad will be glad to learn that these greens are among the vegetables that grow in shade. Leafy vegetables that grow in shade including arugula, kale, lettuce and spinach grow best when they receive three to four hours of sunlight per day. While Asian greens like bok choy can do well with as little as two. These plants can even benefit from the coolness that shadier areas offer when the season begins to get warmer. Gardeners who are not fortunate enough to have naturally shaded areas may want to consider creating shade for these vegetables. It is by growing corn or similar tall plants to provide protection from the hot sun for this class of vegetable.
Salad greens can do more than dress up a dinner plate. Spinach, in particular, is rich in iron and vitamin K, which has been shown to improve bone mineral density. While lettuce is a good source of vitamin A, lutein and zeaxanthin, which help improve eyesight.
5. Peas and Beans
Another dinner staple, peas and beans also prefer cooler temperatures. And they do well with four to five hours of sunshine daily. These legumes also produce nitrogen that fertilizes the soil they grow in. Dwarf or bush varieties require less support than their leggier counterparts and are the best choice for home gardens.
Peas and beans have an overwhelming variety of choices for the home garden. Including sugar peas, snap peas, black beans, chickpeas, and lentils. While peas and beans are both legumes and are the seed part of the plant, there are many differences between the two plants. However, they are similar in their health benefits. Beans and peas provide amino acids, essential components of proteins. That when combined with proteins found in dairy products such as cheese, provide the complete protein needed to build muscle. They are rich in zinc, iron, magnesium, and fiber and are an excellent source of antioxidants.
6. Root Vegetables and Potatoes
Root and tuberous vegetables provide a wide spectrum of crops. It includes carrots, beets, turnips, rutabaga, and potatoes, to name a few. They do well in areas receiving at least a half day of sun or a high amount of ambient sunlight. Root vegetables also present a unique challenge because they grow underground. To fully develop, they need loose soil. And, in areas where the soil is compact or rocky, may require raised beds. These vegetables can be harvested early for “baby” versions. But generally take longer than other garden vegetables to reach full maturity. While most of the members of this category are grown for what they produce below ground, several such as turnips and beets are equally prized for their leafy foliage produced above ground.
Root vegetables that grow in shade such as carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene, while the nitrates in beets improve the body’s ability to use oxygen. Turnips are rich in vitamin C and parsnips contain folate, an essential B vitamin. Root and tuberous vegetables are full of complex carbohydrates and fiber that help regulate blood sugar and the digestive system.
7. Onions and Leeks
These are another kitchen staple that can be grown in as little as three or four hours of sun per day. Onions and leeks are good candidates for shadier areas of the garden. When growing leeks, blanching the vegetable by mounding soil. It should be around the base of the plants as they grow will provide the largest amount of edible vegetable. After harvest, onions last a long time in storage, making them available year-round.
The gardener interested in growing onions, a member of the allium family, has a wide range of choices. It is from green onions and shallots to their larger cousins such as red or yellow onions. These plants are the only vegetable with leaves growing underground; the leaves growing below ground form the onion’s characteristic layers. Alliums provide vitamin C, B-6, and manganese as well as lesser amounts of calcium, iron, folate, magnesium, and antioxidants. These vegetables also lower the production of bad cholesterol, which is good for the heart.
Every gardener should embrace the shady areas of their gardens. Vegetables that grow in shade come in a wide-ranging variety that makes every niche of the home garden plot useful. With a bit of forethought and planning, these areas can be as valuable as sunnier spots. To produce an abundance of savory and nutritious produce for the dinner table.
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