10 Best Vegetables for Shady Gardens

Having a backyard garden is so much fun and is so rewarding! But sometimes if you live in a place that has lots of trees (like I do!) getting veggies to grow well can be rather frustrating!

Many of the common fruiting plants we think of in gardens, like tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and corn require full sun (over 6 hours of direct sunlight a day) to produce well.

I discussed in this post how you can definitely experiment with different vegetables you want to grow and see what does well for you!

But there are actually quite a few veggies that do well in a bit less sun, so you can still have a garden if your sun situation is less than ideal!

Just a small note that all of these veggies here in southeast Texas are fall/winter/early spring veggies, so if you are in a warmer area, these will do best once it gets a little cooler outside (so you can start planning your fall garden with these!), but up north, these are summer veggies! So I recommend checking local planting guides for the best times to plant for your area (most ag extension offices, master gardener associations, and some local nurseries publish vegetable planting charts).

1. Lettuce

Lettuce not only grows well in lower light situations, it is easy to grow too!  Lettuce is a top performer in my winter garden (a benefit of gardening in Texas!) that tends to be a bit on the shady side for most of the day.  And there are SO many varieties, you can grow a whole bunch of different types, colors, flavors, and textures for a delicious mixed green salad straight from the garden!

2. Spinach

Another nice addition to a salad, or added to a smoothie, spinach also does quite well with less sun.  I always make it a part of my garden!  My favorite and best performing variety is Bloomsdale Spinach.

3. Swiss Chard

Another healthful green that doesn’t need as much light, swiss chard is loaded with vitamins and minerals, and it is a favorite addition to smoothies around here!  It can come in fun colors too, like Bright Lights Swiss Chard!!!  Another favorite green variety is Perpetual Spinach (called a spinach but it is technically a chard – I just call it delicious!)

4. Peas

Peas are another staple in my garden because my daughter loves them so much –  I rarely ever get any, because she eats them all before anyone else gets a chance!  I don’t complain though – she hated peas, until I gave her one from the garden, and now they are one of her favorites.  We grow snap peas that you can pop the whole pod in your mouth, and they have beautiful flowers too!

5. Radishes

Radishes are one of the easiest veggies to grow!  They can tolerate less light, however I have found in my experience that root vegetables grow a little slower in the shady, cool conditions.  So if your packet of seeds says harvest in 29 days, it may be more like 40 days.  But you can definitely still grow them, and they are a fun and spicy addition to salads or a nice warm bowl of posole in the winter… 🙂

6.  Beets

I love growing beets for juicing, and even though mine end up being a little smaller and taking a little longer, they still taste amazing – so much better than the ones at the store!

7.  Carrots

Even in lower amounts of light, you can still grow carrots! This is one of my favorite varieties Cosmic Purple.  They are a bit smaller than your typical grocery store carrot, but the taste is so much better! They are worth giving a little bit of space in the garden to!

8. Kale

Kale is one of my favorites to grow – we love it in smoothies, adding it into tomato sauce or soups, or chopped up raw with apples, candied walnuts, and a vinaigrette!  And it is so good for you!  (In the picture, I have it growing next to some Perpetual Spinach swiss chard and some beets.)  It can do fine with a little less than full sun, so I recommend giving it a try!

9.  Asian Greens (Bok Choi, Tatsoi)

I have also had good luck growing these in lower light – they can be used just like other leafy greens.  My favorite way to use them is in smoothies – as you can tell, we drink a lot of green smoothies around here! It’s a great way to get your greens fresh from the garden!

10.  Parsley

I guess this one is really more like an herb, but it is a wonderful addition in any garden!  I grow both flat leaf and curly leaf, and the curly leaf has actually lasted now into its second year, through the brutal heat and the winter!  It is so nice to add fresh parsley from the garden as the finishing touch to a dish!

So there are 10 veggies to get you started!! And remember…if you have a less than ideal sunlight situation and you still want to try a particular veggie, go ahead and try it!  I have done many experiments over the years and some have failed, but some have done well even where all the experts and books told me it can’t be done!  Most important thing is to have fun and get gardening! 🙂

Happy gardening!

   -Jamie



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