Growing edible plants in the shade is definitely possible! One of the most important factors to consider when planning your edible plants or permaculture garden is to OBSERVE your environment and analyse your sectors (wind, sun, fire, water, frost). It is number one on David Holmgren’s list of Permaculture Principles (1. Observe and Interact). Learning how these external energies behave on your specific property will make your garden design and planting so much more successful and long-lasting.
Observing where the sun and shade are throughout the year will also allow you to plan which plants or elements will grow best in each spot. Rather than finding a spare spot and planting a full sun-loving tree in an area that is 80% shaded and wondering why it doesn’t do well (been there, done that..). Gardening is a lot of trial and error, but by observing and interacting you will be able to identify what issues you have and figure how to solve them.
I have identified areas of my garden that are mainly in shade due to our garage and neighbouring trees.
My Top 10 Edible Plants to Grow in the Shade:
- Nasturtiums – Tropaeolum majus. If you don’t know by now these are one of my favourite plants. They thrive pretty much anywhere and are so abundant even in shaded areas. Most of the plant is edible!
- Sweet Violets – Viola odorata. Sweet violets, also know as English Violets, Wood Violets or Common Violets, have cute little purple or white and purple edible flowers and make a beautiful carpeted ground cover.
- Lettuce – I grow many different varieties of lettuce and they don’t seem to mind the shade. In fact in Perth, WA I find they do better in the shade.
- Chives – Allium schoenoprasum. I have chives planted in the shade year-round and they do well. They add great oniony freshness to omelettes and the flowers are also edible.
- Kale – Brassica oleracea var. acephala. Kale grows well in the shade due to its large leaves being able to sustain adequate energy. It does grow at a slower rate (like most plants in the shade) which I like because although I like kale it is much easier to keep up with it.
- Radish – Raphanus raphanistrum subsp. sativus. Radish are fast-growing and will do well in the shade. They are a perfect fresh accompaniment to a salad or pickled.
- Asian Greens – Bokchoy, Tatsoi, Choy Sum, these are some of my favourite Asian leafy greens and they all do well in the shade or part shade.
- Parsley – Petroselinum crispum. Parsley will tolerate shade and I find it grows at just the right rate for me to use without having masses going to waste.
- Sweet Potato – Ipomoea batatas. Although full shade is not ideal growing conditions my Sweet Potato still does well. Slower growing but a great ground cover and still produces decent size crops.
- Rocket – Eruca vesicaria ssp. sativa. Rocket does fine in the shade too and is a great addition to any salad, served with Pizza or make a delicious rocket pesto!
Overall growing edible plants in the shade will require more patience as growth rates will be slower and will often result in smaller plants. This can be a great thing though for plants that you don’t use very often or in small amounts. Less waste and they will also require a lot less water.
What edible plants do you grow in the shade? Leave me a comment below.