Question: I have a beautiful garden with only four and a half hours of sunshine a day and that’s calculated by totaling up pretty much every single ray that hits it. What vegetables can I grow there effectively?
Answer: I won’t beat around the bush. Deep shade is simply not conducive to vegetable gardening. No regular vegetable will grow well in the shade, but you’re lucky. Your garden sounds more to me like it’s in partial shade rather than full shade and that gives you a chance.
What little sunshine you have is probably still enough to grow most leafy greens. Many of them, like spinach and lettuce don’t actually like the intense heat of full summer sun and will do best, at that season at least, with at least a little cooling shade.
However, don’t expect to grow prize vegetables. Under partial shade, leafy vegetables will grow more slowly than normal and may not reach their full size. And vegetables that normally form a dense head, like Iceberg lettuce, endive and head cabbage will likely instead produce loose leaves you’ll be able to harvest one by one. But then, aren’t baby leaves just as tasty as full-size ones?
You can also grow root vegetables in partial shade. Again, they’ll grow more slowly and may never reach their full size, but will still be delicious. In the case of garlic and onions, you’ll be able to produce edible leaves (as in green onions), but not really a bulb worth harvesting.
Most fruiting vegetables, on the other hand, require a lot of sunshine to produce a worthwhile crop and I wouldn’t waste space on them if I were you. However, there are exceptions. Peas don’t do so badly in partial shade and, while strawberries aren’t vegetables per se, they are usually grown in vegetable gardens and produce reasonably well in partial shade.
Vegetables That Tolerate Partial Shade
While you can’t exactly call them shade-loving, the following vegetables are tolerant of partial shade. The plants marked with an asterisk (*) are the most shade tolerant of all and can be grown successfully in surprisingly deep shade.
- Beet (beetroot)
- Bok choy
- Chinese cabbage
- Garlic (for its leaves only)
- Green onion
- Kale (kale)
- Mache (corn salad)
- New Zealand spinach
- Ostrich fern*
- Swiss chard