Vegetables you can grow in shade – Sara's Kitchen Garden
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Vegetables you can grow in shade

This bed only gets around an hour of sunlight in the early mornings. But the leafy greens are thriving here! This is what I grow in shade in my kitchen garden.

En bild på en odlingsplats med täta rader med bladverk i olika former. Grow in shade, a shady spot with tight rows of leafy greens.

The bed looks so nice and green with both direct-sown and planted leafy greens in my rows.


Who would have guessed that my best spot for leafy greens this year would be a perennial bed facing north? The leafy greens seem to love it here, and I can start harvesting only a month after sowing the seeds!


Bild på bladgrönsaker, små, i täta rader i svart jord. Grow in shade, leafy greens in the black soil.

The direct-sown cabbages are growing nicely. It's time to water them now though so that they can grow even bigger.


The plan was actually to plant perennials in a shady spot this summer, and I was especially going for plantain lilies. They are actually edible, and I was really looking forward to the first harvest of tender little shoots. But I decided to focus mainly on vegetables this year because of my limited supply of water when it's hot and dry. So, no perennials yet!


Vegetables that grow in shade

At the start of summer, I decided that I wanted to learn more about vegetables that grow in shade. Said and done! First, I removed any weeds and then I drew up the rows. I decided to put some leftover plants in them, and also did some direct-sowing in the bed.

Vegetables in my bed:

  • chard
  • leek
  • purslane
  • basil
  • scallion
  • parsley
  • fennel
  • turnip
  • snap beans
  • dill
  • romaine lettuce
  • carrot
  • black kale
  • cabbage
  • choy sum
  • komatsuna
  • kailaan
  • bok choy (pak choi)
  • lettuce
  • snow peas


I decided to water my plants very sparsely. As you can see in the pictures, the plants grow in little depressions in the soil. This helps keep the water around the plants. I often put some kind of liquid fertilizer in the water too.


Read more: Growing vegetables in dry conditions


En bild på små plantor av svartkål, fotograferade något underifrån. Grow in shade, black kale.

Black kale is a good vegetable to grow in shade. It grows better in the sunlight of course, but I'm not too fussed about getting nice-looking plants this time. It's all about the food now.


En rad med vackert grön sallat i små upprätta huvuden. Grow in shade, a row of lettuce.

Large Romaine lettuce leaves, direct-sown in the bed. I'm going to thin them out later, so there's more room.


Illgröna mangoldplantor fotograferade i motljus. Grow in shade, chard in backlight.

Chard grows really well in the shade. I planted it in June and it looks really lovely now! This will make a wonderful supply for winter.

Harvest a month after sowing

I'm also growing napa cabbage in this bed, I sowed it around midsummer and planted it in mid-July. It was time to start harvesting only two weeks after that. Amazing! I can harvest the lettuce leaf by leaf now, just like chard. I'm especially enjoying watching my onions grow. They have had a hard time coping in the sunny beds during the hot spells, but things are a lot better here in the shade.

I wonder if the bed is going to look even lusher than this. I hope so! I started using grey water to water the beds on the north side, so the soil is getting some well-needed moist now too. As you can see, I haven't covered the soil with any mulch. I didn't find any fitting material, so I just left the soil bare instead. Fresh grass clippings would have been perfect, but I'm not so lucky this time!


More about leafy greens: Broadcast-sowing leafy greens


En sallat med rödgröna blad i liten rosett. Grow in shade, lettuce with red/green leaves.

I have had issues growing lettuce in my beds outside before, so I'm very happy about everything I get this year.


En vackert grön bladgrönsak med små blad i rundade former. Grow in shade, beautiful leafy greens.

Komatsuna is a lovely mild cabbage that tastes a bit like bok choy (pak choi). The little holes were made by pests, but it's mainly an aesthetic issue.


En tjock rad med kraftig dill som växer frodig och fin, tätt, tätt, tätt. Grow in shade, a broad row of lush dill.

It can be difficult to grow dill successfully, especially when it's dry outside. It thrives here in the shade though, but it's starting to show signs of needing more water and nutrients when the leaves get a bit dry and yellow.


Everything is growing really well, except perhaps my basil and to some extent purslane. This bed doesn't seem to be the best spot for fennel either. But I decided to leave it here and will harvest it stalk by stalk. The basil and purslane will have to be replaced by beets and a cabbage variety.


The kailaan grows really nicely, but it bolts early. I cut the plants, fertilize and water them and get several harvests of both leaves and shoots as they grow.


Several of the vegetables I grow here are hardy and cold-resistant. They will be part of my winter supply if they survive until then. I'm guessing I will have to move them to a more protected spot at the end of summer though. For example my lettuce, parsley, chard and black kale.

I think I will have a few more spots where I grow in shade in the future too. I'm not sure that this bed is the most optimal choice after all. It's located on top of an old pathway that connected the barn and the house for 150 years, so I can't grow too deep here. Instead, I decided to go for tall plants. I will have to see what happens next, but I'm sure that I'm going to keep finding more vegetables I can grow in shade.

Do you grow in shade in your garden at home? What do you grow there?
/Sara Bäckmo


21. August 2021