Do you have a shady garden? I do. While it’s not full shade, the lovely Japanese maple tree in my yard gives us dappled sunshine for most of the day. Combine that with the big cedar tree behind our house, and we have a fair bit of shade.
While we love the location of our house in other ways, the somewhat shady garden has been a challenge. I would love to be able to grow tomatoes and squash. One year, I had success growing a few ripe red tomatoes. Most years, if I get fruit at all, it’s green. I now grow my tomatoes in a neighbor’s yard and enjoy their sunshine.
So yes, unless you’d like green tomatoes, you’re not likely to grow anything that’s heat or sun-loving in your shady garden. However, a bit of shade doesn’t need to turn you off growing food entirely.
What can you grow in the shade? Think green, and you’ll be successful.
1. Traditional Greens
Many traditional greens like lettuce and spinach love a little bit of shade. In fact, they’ll get too hot and stressed and bolt if you have them in the full, hot sun. With a somewhat shady garden, you can grow lettuce, spinach, kale and other traditional garden greens far later than most people, and you may even be able to start them in the heat of the summer, getting good-looking greens while everyone else’s greens are wilting.
2. Asian Greens
Many Asian greens are ideal for cool places. Try an Asian greens mix and see what grows best in your garden. Bok choi is fabulous for stir fries, but my favorite is mizuna. This early season green is pretty, frilly, and loves the shade.
I love sorrel. While many people consider it to be a seasoning, I like its lemony flavor as a salad leaf. Try different types of sorrels to see what kind grows best in your area, and add it to salads in small quantities to see if the taste works for you.
4. Shade-Loving Herbs
While some herbs are sun-loving (rosemary and basil, anyone?) other herbs don’t mind a bit of shade. Parsley is fairly sturdy and doesn’t usually mind cool and shady places. The mint family is tough and can grow just about anywhere – just beware, or it will take over just about anywhere as well. My favorite is the traditional peppermint, lovely for teas or for eating fresh. I also love sweet cicely, a black-licorice flavored herb that softens the sourness of rhubarb and looks like a large and lovely fern.
5. Eat Your Groundcover
What are your favorite woodland groundcovers? Are they edible? A couple of years ago, I realized that one of the more prolific groundcovers in my garden is edible. Sweet woodruff might not be a staple, but we now use it in salads. Once you look at your landscaping with edibility in mind, you might be surprised to discover how much of it is edible.
What do you grow in your shady garden?