Vegetable Gardening in the Shade

Posted on June 1, 2011 by

I missed the large terraced raised 13-bed garden Kevin built for me at our previous house. Last year I was so excited when Kevin built a new raised bed vegetable garden for me. We chose the sunniest place in our courtyard, and I hoped there would be enough sun during the course of the day. It was an experiment. I planted peppers and tomatoes in one bed – lettuce, chives and spinach in the second – carrots, radish and onions in the third – and corn in the fourth.

Vegetable Garden Experiment 2010

The corn was a miserable failure, grew till about 6 inches and stopped. The rest of my plants grew and grew. But not like one would expect if planted in the full sun. The tomatoes grew tall, very tall, but very little fruit and not until just before the first frost. Same with the peppers. The root vegetables grew tall, but never developed much for roots underground. I let the radishes go to seed, hoping to harvest the seed pods. I got a few. The spinach was a total failure, even after replanting. The great success was the lettuce. It was perfect, tons of it, tons and tons of it. Didn’t plan that very well. More than we could eat before it went to seed.

Year one, lesson learned. I needed to learn a bit more about vegetable gardening that wasn’t in full sun. And as far as vegetables go, it seems that means shade gardening.

What I learned was there were several fruits and vegetables that thrive on less then full sun. From year one, I knew lettuce is one of them. But this year I’m planting rows every few weeks so we can keep up with what we harvest. Plus the chives came back from last year. Bed one, done.

Rest of the beds needed to be reinvented completely. I researched online about shade vegetables. Turns out bush beans, not pole beans, do grow in less than full sun. So planted in bed two, done.

I had hoped for a beautiful herb garden. I grew basil quite successfully in planters on the back porch last year, so I’ll try that again this year. And I had some in hanging baskets on the wall in the vegetable garden, so I’ll try that again this year. But I’d hope for something for tea. Mint is suppose to grow well in part shade gardens. So after visiting 3 nurseries, I found 12 different varieties of mint to plant in bed number three.

The Mint-Tea Garden

On to the final bed, where the spindly monster tomato vines grew last year. One thing we love to do is make jam and jelly. We have rhubarb growing out front by the gazebo, and raspberries by our back porch. So I researched what fruit would grow in part shade. Turns out currants, gooseberries and jostaberries are a perfect choice. So I chose currants. But they weren’t so easy to find. After 6 nurseries, I found black currants. I purchased one, for variety, but I really was on the hunt for ‘Red Lake’ Currant, which is a University of Minnesota hybrid, so I figured it should be easy to find. Nursery number 8, or 9, was Bachman’s, and they had an abundance of ‘Red Lake.’ So I bought three, and bed four was done.

The Hopeful Shade Vegetable Garden

So year two experiment in the shade is under way. The beans are popping up, and the lettuce has sprouted. Mint is spreading. And the currants are blooming. Looking forward to the harvest.