Most Ideal Plants for Growing in Limited Sunlight/Shade

It’s no longer a secret that the ideal garden has more than enough sunlight in order for plants to grow ideally. The optimum condition is usually around eight to ten hours of sunlight each day. However, there are areas and situations that don’t allow this. Factors such as the presence of tall trees, buildings, and other forms of shield will contribute to the lack or insufficiency of sunlight. But does this mean you no longer are capable of growing plants, flowers, and vegetables in your garden? Well, the good news is you actually can still build a garden even with limited sunlight if you choose shade-tolerant plants and combine it with the use of fertile soil and a lot of water.

In this article, let us take a look at the ideal ways of growing plants with limited sunlight and figure out the type of plants that could grow in them.

First, let’s look at this blog called Harvest To Table, particularly the article titled “Vegetables and Herbs for Growing in Shade,” to find out which herbs and vegetables a homeowner like you can grow without the need of the usual sunlight.

Rather than choose crops that will struggle in a shaded garden, choose crops that are adapted to shade.

Vegetables. Vegetables crops that will grow in light to partial shade are: arugula, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, Chinese cabbage, corn salad, endive, escarole, garlic, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, leeks, mustard, New Zealand spinach, parsnips, peas, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, salsify scallion, sorrel, spinach, turnips, and watercress.

Vegetables that will tolerate light to partial shade include: bush beans, summer squash, and determinate or bush tomatoes adapted to cool regions or ready for harvest in 55 days or so. These varieties often bear the names of cool summer regions such as San Francisco, Oregon, New York, Russia, or Siberia, for example.

Herbs. Herbs that will grow in light to partial shade are: angelica, basil, catnip, chervil, chives, costmary, garden cress, germander, horseradish, lemon balm, lovage, mint, parsley, rosemary, sweet flag, sweet woodruff, valerian.

Aside from the specific herbs and vegetables, this article also offers tips on the best ways to grow them. If you want to learn those, visit this link.

Based on that shortlist of plants you can choose for a garden devoid of sunlight, there only is one conclusion: that gardening even with very little sunlight is highly possible. What’s even better news is that all those herbs and vegetables are the kinds that you use every day for consumption, suggesting that you eventually will be beneficial if you plant and grow them.

(image credit: LifeHacker.com)

But one thing you also have to understand is that these plants still need sunlight, at least the minimum. So the question you would want an answer to is this: how much sunlight is really needed? And if you can supply it, what other things do you need to ensure the plants in your garden will live and thrive? Well, to answer that, let’s go to the blog called MotherEarthNews.com, where an article titled “Best Vegetables to Grow in the Shade” gives us the answers to those two queries:

How Much Shade Is Too Much?
All shade is not equal. Some shady conditions will yield much more produce than others will, while some areas are better left for hostas and moss. Gardeners should be familiar with the different types of shade, but should also keep in mind that measuring how much shade your garden gets isn’t always easy.

For instance, nearby trees may cast dappled shade on your garden for some or all of the day. If the tree canopy is high enough and the branches aren’t too dense, the conditions nearby can be shady but still fairly bright. Trimming any low-hanging branches can help let in more sunlight.

More challenging than dappled shade is partial shade, which can be quite variable, ranging from only a couple of sunny hours and many hours of shade to the opposite. Shade from buildings is more difficult to deal with than shade from trees, as it often plunges the garden into total shade for large parts of the day. As a general rule, if you have a few hours of full sun but dark shade for the rest of the day, you can grow some crops, but the yields won’t be as high as if you had bright or dappled shade during the rest of the day. Maybe your garden has a little of everything: some areas that get a couple of hours of sun, some that get dappled shade and some areas that are in complete shade. In addition, the amounts of shade will change seasonally! It can be difficult to add up the exact amount of sun your crops get in such a scenario. Keep an open mind about what you may be able to grow in your conditions, and use our chart of the best shade-tolerant vegetables as a guide for where to start.

Reflective Mulches and Surfaces
Reflective mulches, including metallic mulches, are a great tool for gardeners growing in shady conditions, and for some crops in some regions, the benefits can be huge. University studies have shown increased yields in crops such as peppers, tomatoes and strawberries.

Reflective mulches — such as the red plastic mulch some tomato growers have become fond of — reflect light up onto the leaves of plants. Mathieu Ngouajio, Associate Professor of Vegetable Crops in Michigan State University’s Department of Horticulture, says that under partial shading, reflective mulches have been shown to provide the following advantages: increased amount of light in the plant canopy, increased air temperature in the plant canopy, increased photosynthesis, reduced incidence of certain insects (particularly aphids and thrips), and increased produce yield and quality. Ngouajio recommends metallized reflective mulches (which look like aluminum foil) because they reflect the entire light spectrum and will have the greatest impact on increasing photosynthesis and, therefore, growth.

Creating other bright, reflective surfaces near your garden will also benefit plants. If you’re growing near a wall, R.J. Ruppenthal, who shares his experiences with his small, Bay Area garden in his book Fresh Food From Small Spaces, recommends painting the wall white or another light color.

“A bright-painted wall that faces the sun for any period of the day, particularly south-facing, will reflect an enormous amount of light and heat,” Ruppenthal says. “This speeds up growth rates quite a bit, and can compensate for some other shade during the day.”

We encourage you to try reflective mulches (aluminum foil should also work nicely) and reflective surfaces in your own shady garden. If you use them, let us know how they work out!

Want more from this post? If so, get more information by clicking this link.

After reading this post, we hope that you now realize that building a garden under the shade is very possible, contrary to what others might tell you. It’s just a matter of knowing what crops to use and how to make the area as suitable as possible.

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