Sunday, June 4, 2017

Edible shade gardens shine in summer

Vegetable garden in shade
Sunday, June 4, 2017

You may think that your shady yard can't grow any vegetables or herbs.  You may be surprised to learn that you can grow some veggies and herbs in shade.  They will not be as lush or full, but they will produce and some will appreciate the cool shade in the hot summer days.

Veggies you can grow in the shade: greens, chard, kale, lettuce, spinach, celery, peas, beans, beets, radishes, turnips, endive, french sorrel, leeks, radicchio, purslane, pac choi, carrots, potatoes, scallions, mustard greens, cultivated dandelions, corn salad, chickweed   
Herbs for shade: mint, chervil, oregano, chives, cilantro, golden marjoram, lemon balm, parsley

Remember that you will have sun in the spring under deciduous trees until they leaf out.  Cold crops include lettuce, kale, broccoli, cabbage, radishes, turnips, peas, beets.  Choose crops that have the shortest time to harvest and plant as early as the seed packet instructs to get your crop up and ready to harvest before the shade overtakes the garden spot.

I always thought you had to have your garden in full sun pretty much all day to be able to grow a garden.  This isn't the case.  If you can give them some sun or dappled shade, it will be a boost to yields and you can grow almost any vegetable.

Kitchen garden with flowers in front
Watch how the sun travels through your yard and don't forget about your front yard!  You can grow herbs and vegetables interspersed with flowers for a beautiful "flower" bed.  If you have an elevated deck that gets sun, use pots.  There are many varieties today bred specifically to be compact and do well in pots.   Decorative container gardening for edibles

Here is a listing of additional crops you can grow  in your garden:
2-3 hours of sun:  Anise hyssop, Asian greens, chives, cilantro, kale, lemon balm, lettuce, marjoram, mesclun greens, mint, mustard greens, oregano, parsley, scallions, shiso, spicebush, spinach, sweet woodruff, wild ginger
4 hours of sun:  Alpine strawberries, arugula, soybeans, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, beans, peas, rosemary, basil, radishes, Swiss chard, carrots, beets
5 hours of sun:  blueberries, grapes, apple trees, micro greens, potatoes, celery, green onions, turnips


You can get more sun than you think by trimming tree limbs up to allow morning or evening sun in.  You can also use light colored mulch or even the high dollar metallic mulch to have more sunlight reflect up onto the plants.  Another approach would be to spray paint what the plants back up to with metallic paint or place a piece of metallic painted plywood behind your plants.

Another thing to keep in mind is when the leaves are off the trees.  There are many cool season crops that will do great in the chilly seasons like winter, spring and fall.  Overwintering crops are another winner for planting in the shade of late summer that will then have the benefit of late fall, winter and early spring sun.  For more on cool season crops for fall and winter, Fall garden planning and planting and Time to set out transplants for fall, winter, & spring harvests.  For spring any that are planted before your first frost date are the cold hardy ones Indoor sowing/outdoor planting dates.

Crops that thrive in spring will appreciate shade and dappled shade during the heat of summer.  Crops like lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, sprouting broccoli, cilantro bolt (go to flower) at the first sign of heat.  If you can plant them in a shady spot or move the pot they are planted in to shade as temperatures rise, you will be able to extend the season of harvest before they go to flower.

Don't let a little shade keep you from trying your hand at an edible garden.  The harvest may not be as much for the summer lovers like tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, and eggplant, but you can have a nice kitchen garden.

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