design-inspired urban farming

Success in the Shade

With the brutal heat of summer we’ve had, it’s hard to imagine things will ever cool down.  That said, many of you may be starting to prep for Fall and cooler weather.  Fall and Winter months brings shorter days and less hours of sun.  Some of the areas in your urban garden that may have had full sun for 8-12 hours throughout the summer, may now have significantly less sun depending on its location. You may want to consider shade gardening.  To have success with crops in the shade, especially if you are just starting out, it’s important to start with easy crops and add diversity from there.  You may want to try various types of lettuce, spinach, kale, chard or parsley.  We have a kitchen garden located on the west side of our farm and it gets shade for about half of the day and only gets morning sunlight. During the Fall, we typically plant shade lovers like curly kale, dinosaur kale, swiss chard, bok choy, lettuce, arugula, mesclun, potatoes, beets, cabbage, turnips and lots of herbs.  These do very well and allow us to make the most of our land in shaded and partially shaded areas.


Every shady spot in your garden is different. Climate and warmth will have just as much impact as sunlight does for the success of your garden.  In warmer climates, plants tend to grow much faster and so you may have greater success if you plant in warmer areas that get less sun, than in an area that’s cooler with lots of sun.  It will take some experimenting and you’ll quickly figure out what works best in various shady areas of your garden.  Sometimes failures in the garden will provide the most valuable lessons and will arm you for next year.  Growing food in shady areas requires testing lots of different types of crops and seeing what works best for your garden.  Consider keeping a journal from season to season and note the successes and failures you have in the garden. In particular, take note of what didn’t go well — did you over water, did you have more pests this year, note anything that may have inhibited your success.  This information will help you immensely in seasons to come.


Beans do really well in shady areas.  Try sugar snaps, long beans, any bean with “cornfield” in its name does well in partial shade. Even without direct sunlight, bean plants will sprout from seed and grow .  We’ve had plants grow
to about 18″ in height before flowering and producing beans. It typically takes 60 days for your beans to be ready for harvest. Bush or dwarf variety beans and peas will also work well.

Root Vegetables

Carrots, tubers and other root vegetables are great in shaded areas.  Early varieties typically mature quickly.  For carrots try: Nantes, Yaya, baby carrots, and Round Romeo.  For potatoes try: Yukon Gold, Red Norland, and Viking Purple varieties.


There are several fruits that do well in shade.  Berries like strawberries, currants, gooseberries and blueberries like shade too. Berries tend to produce greater yield when they are in the sun, but these are native forest understory plants and are used to particularly shady spots.

The best approach with shade gardening is experimentation.  Try lots of different crops and see what works for you.  Take notes and refer back to your notes the following year.  If you want to be safe and have the greatest chance for success, try lettuce, swiss chard and other leafy greens.  These guys were made for the shade!

Sow, what do you think?

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This entry was posted on September 17, 2012 by in Uncategorized.
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