What to Grow in the Shady Bit

I’m asked on a regular basis what to grow in the shady part of a vegetable plot so I thought it was about time I wrote a post on the topic. So here goes.

Firstly, you’re not alone in wondering what the heck to grow in the shady bit of the garden. Most of the vegetable books talk about giving plants an ‘open site’ ‘in full sun’. Which is totally possible on an allotment but is virtually impossible in your own garden at home. There are usually walls, fences, trees, and buildings to contend with making it inevitable that there will always be a ‘shady bit’

Mtp has a shady bit – or if you’re going to get technical, a ‘north facing wall’. It runs down the right hand side. In the morning it’s in full shade, but in the afternoon the sun has moved around and it gets at least a couple of hours of sunshine before the sun drops behind the house.

This is the type of shady bit that is totally usable in a vegetable garden. The type of area that isn’t usable is an area in full shade. There are very few vegetables that will grow in full shade. If you have an area which is in full shade, your best bet is to plant some shade-loving shrubs or flowers – sorry, I know that’s not much fun but it’s the truth.

Now for the cream – what ‘can’ you grow in partial shade? The answer is, tons of stuff. Yey!

Here’s a list of the vegetables that will tolerate shade

  • Leeks
  • Kale
  • Calvo Nero
  • Radicchio
  • Chard
  • Spinach Beet
  • Cress
  • Radish
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Bay
  • Lettuce (winter varieties)
  • Mustard Greens
  • Asparagus (although fewer spears will be produced)

And here’s a list of fruit:

  • Alpine Strawberries
  • Autumn Raspberries
  • Plums (Czar etc)
  • Pear (Conference, Emile D’Heyst etc)
  • Morello Cherry
  • Gooseberries
  • Redcurrants
  • Rhubarb
  • Elderflower
  • And Quince (apparently, although I have no experience of this)

You could also think about using your shady space to grow plants to use as Christmas decoration. I grow Yew, Holly and Ivy for that very reason. And of course there are countless flowers you could grow in the shade too. I’m no flower expert but I manage to grow Foxglove and Echinacea without too much drama.

There are also crafty ways that you can get around the shade problem. For example you could sow and grow Runner Beans in the sunny part of your garden, then plant them in the shady part once they have grown big enough to cling to a frame. I tried it last year and it worked a treat. The top half of the Runner Bean teepee is in the sun for long enough during each day to produce lots of nice long pods come summertime.

So there you have it; what to grow on the north-facing side of your garden. Most of these vegetables will, of course, produce more robust plants if grown in full sun. However, if your space is limited and you simply ‘have’ to make use of that shady spot then these are the vegetables to do it with. Good luck.

25 Comments on “What to Grow in the Shady Bit

  1. Oh yes, quince does very well in a shady spot. Our quince is growing north of a huge (HUGE) beech tree and east of a 6m high hawthorn hedge, and gets only a few hours of sun each days, but my Quince jam is loved all around.
    (Our quince is 10 years old now, our first harvest was six years ago, and the shrub yields more and more fruits every year.)

  2. I have a fairly shady garden and I grow a lot of these things. Blueberries will also take some shade. My lettuce and beets do well in the shade as well.

    I’m getting rubarb this year, I’ll have to give it a shady spot.

  3. Thank you that gives hope and I hope people find your blog if they google like me what to grow on the shady side….not alot comes up. Looking forward to getting planting need to get some of the seeds sorted before our baby arives around mid march. Seems bad timing when there are so many seeds to so. Can’t wait for the first carrot experience like you had with Jackson. Thanks again.

  4. I’m DOOMED! 3/4 of my garden is shaded. Although my garlic seems to be growing nicely. The sun in Ireland doesn’t come out or stay out long enough for me to really see where it goes. The one time it did it was just a tiny corner of it. Thankfully I’m going to do a lot of container gardening so I can move them around to get the sun. Grrr! So frustrating! lol

  5. love your blog! read thru it and am very impressed w/your writing and info. Thanks!!

  6. Greatly enjoy your blog, after just finding it. Really like going through the archives. I began a small garden in some raised beds last year, and will greatly expand my gardening activities this year.

    My question concerns horseradish. Does anyone know if it grows well in shady spots? I believe I could find a good spot for it if it did.

    Thanks again for your great blog and taking the time to share with your readers.

  7. Have just found you and wow! what a mine of info.

    Regarding horseradish – it prefers rich soil, with good drainage and full sun. But it will grow almost anywhere except in deep shade or very wet conditions . Beware though – it is rampant and will rapidly take over so I’d grow it in a container if I were you.

  8. I have three bay trees in my back yard, one on a North facing wall, which, as you said, gets the afternoon sun, and the other two are in shade all day round. The walls are painted pale cream in the yard so there’s a little reflected light, but only a little. I live in Sunderland, the North East of England, so, apart from Scotland, we’re as north & cold as you get in the uh. My only comment on the bay trees is not to over-water them. How about chickens? You can keep them in sun or shade?

  9. I think you’ve put me to shame!LOl. I have 12 acres growing nothing but grass and weeds and what garden I did have was eaten by the cattle. So it’s back to basics again. Well rotted manure makes for a brilliant garden. Great blog I’ll be adding you to my list.

    Take care

  10. Quince not only copes well with shade, the fruits look gorgeous.

    I’d also recommend a crabapple as most will tolerate quite a bit of shade and you can either chose a red-fruiting variety like Red Jewel or a gold fruiting one like Holiday Gold (if you can get hold of it, it’s an American import) and they will look like Christmas decorations from October to when you harvest, normally around December and make crabapple jelly which is delicious.

  11. Rather bizarrely the previous owner of our house planted summer raspberries and strawberries against our north facing fence, which is also further shaded by a huge pear tree to the west. Despite this we’ve always had a reasonable crop of both fruits and I am only now (after 7 years) moving them!

    How do you work the shady part of the plot into crop rotation? Do you just have a separate rotation for those beds?

  12. Hi Nicki,

    I would say do whatever works for you. I just plant things in the shady part as I go and move them around each year. I don’t have a specific rotation as such because it’s such a small part of the garden. However if yours is bigger then a plan would be advisable in order to get the best from it.

  13. The most important thing I found over that last two years in the shady bit was slug control. I have finally resorted to organic slug pelletts, because every little growing plant was being eaten before it could get ahead.

  14. I’ve heard people use various things to reflect light into a shady spot. Aluminum foil and/or white plastic shower curtain. Perhaps the shower curtain cut to size and framed in with wood could actually be of some use while at the same time reflecting some light? It wouldn’t have to look unsightly.

    An article in an Organic Gardening magazine told of a woman who used mirrors!! I suppose if you are really in need of some light these techniques could be handy.

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  16. Thanks for the advice, Gill. I only have one small bed in the shade so I’ll probably do as you do.

  17. On our balcony we only get sun until mid-afternoon so light is a big concern to us. You have a couple of herbs in your list but I would definitely add tarragon and parsley (both flat-leaf and curled) both of which thrive when partially shaded from our experience.

    I’ve started growing some small berries (blue/straw/rasp) this year too and am hoping that they will do well in the shade.

    I think your idea to grow runner beans in a sunny area and then move them is a great idea. In this way you can allow the plants to share the sunny patch when they most need it.

  18. I tried cucumbers the other month and loophas earlier, similarly to what you did with Runner Beans – it worked. Yes, not many cucumbers down there, but up, in the sun, we had quite a number.
    Great blog, I’m actually quite new to veggie’s gardening, so your posts ‘ve been very educational. Thanks a lot! Found you from Down-to-earth blog.

  19. Just come across the site, like to say thanks for the info. The whole back of the veggie patch is covered with trees so is in shade apart from late afternoon when i may get a couple of hours, I think i’ll go with the fruit bushes and a herb patch .. at least I can get some use out it, and if all that fails .. grow slugs !!!

  20. I thought I was also doomed when I found half my garden in my new house didnt get any direct sunlight. I soon found though the best things to growm in the shade are: Try growing some shade tolerant vegetables (shade for more than half a day) like beetroot, ‘Bolthardy’, calabrese, kale, kohl rabi, lettuce – little gem. Also radish, spinach and herbs – chives, mint and parsley are all shade tolerant. Fruit such as raspberries, blackcurrants, gooseberry and rhubarb are plants of the woodland edge and will thrive in this environment. You could try other strategies to improve the growing conditions such as increasing the light levels by careful pruning of trees.

  21. Hi Just found your blog after following a link from the BBC, looking forward to having a good look around but first a quick comment because I am slightly surprised you list Asparagus – it is a native of coastal areas so used to high light levels, it needs full sun in my garden and I live in the Southern France with plenty of light. Does it grow well for you in the shade?
    Other things that will grow well in partial-shade include: angelica, chervil, lovage, sorrel, comfry, spinach, mizuna and other oriental leafy brassicas, jerusalem artichokes, chrysanthemum greens, land cress, and garlic mustard (jack-by-the-hedge).

  22. Thanks for this. I have a tiny plot in my garden and about a third of it is in shade because of shed, house etc. Might try the herbs you list.

  23. I have always been wondering what could be grown on such huge shady space on my garden tried some squashes and didn’t do really well. This is an excellent idea. Thanks for the great post.

  24. That’s a very good list. I have already tried some in the list and its time to try some more. Nice post. Cheers.