No shade, no problem. Cathy Isom tells us about the crops that don’t need a lot of light to thrive in our gardens. That’s coming up on This Land of Ours.
From: Modern Farmer
Okay, raise your hand: How many of you would like to grow more food at home? Now, how many of you have at least six hours of direct sun in your yard? That’s what I thought. This list is for the millions of folks out there who thought they didn’t have enough sun for an edible garden.
Shade tolerance in fruits and vegetables is a matter of degree. The only edibles you can grow under in deep, deep shade are mushrooms. But there are plenty tasty things that grow in “part shade,” generally defined as two to four hours of direct sun. With four to six hours of sun—“part sun”—the list expands considerably. There are even a few edibles that grow and produce in areas that receive less than two hours of direct sun—“full shade.”
There are many other variables: Part shade on a north-facing slope, or on the north side of a building, is much shadier than on a southern exposure. The density of the tree canopy also factors in: Pine trees, with their slender needles and a branching pattern that tends to hold the foliage at the very top of the tree, cast much less shade than a broadleaf tree with low spreading branches. Ambient light makes a difference, too, so a garden with a single big tree is generally not as shady as a space with numerous trees of all sizes, shrubbery, and buildings all around. Finally, evergreens make shade year-round, while deciduous trees cast virtually no shade in early spring, providing a window of sunlight that an understory of edibles can take advantage of.
Mint – USDA Zones 3-10
Mojito, anyone? Spearmint is the variety of choice for the classic Cuban cocktail, but there are many other mints with which a refreshing drink of one sort or another can be made (to enjoy in your shade garden, of course): peppermint, chocolate mint, apple mint, ginger mint, and many others. Lemon balm, a closely related and shade-tolerant species adds citrus notes to the mint cornucopia. All mints like rich moist soil and tend to spread, so keep them in a pot unless you plan to establish a mint groundcover in the garden.
Survives in full shade, thrives in part shade.
Salad Greens – Annuals/All Zones
Lettuces and most other edible greens, including kale, chard, collards, Asian greens, and mesclun mix, fair poorly in hot sunny conditions, but grow happily in as little as three hours of sun each day. They “bolt”—that is, send up flower stalks and prepare to set seed, leaving the edible greens bitter—once daytime temperatures settle into the upper 80s. That combination of traits makes them a perfect fit for planting beneath deciduous trees. They will have plenty of sun while the weather is still cool and by late spring will be glad for the shade that the trees provide, thus preventing them from bolting and prolonging the harvest.
Survives in part shade, thrives in part sun.
Currants and Gooseberries – USDA Zones 3-8
The wild relatives of most berry crops originated on the forest floor, though millennia of cultivation and breeding has led to berry bushes that are suited to the field—in other words, to full sun. Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and the like tolerate part sun, though with diminished yields. Currants and gooseberries, on the other hand, thrive in fairly shady conditions and feel scalded when planted in full sun. European homesteaders typically plant these waist-high shrubs in the dappled shade of their fruit trees, though North American tastes have never really caught on to the trend. Gooseberries have a hard-not-to-like sweet-tart flavor and a texture that “pops” in your mouth, while it has often been said that fondness for the flavor of currants (a related species) must be “acquired,” which is why they are often combined with sugar and incorporated in pastries and preserves.
Thrives in part shade or part sun.