Vegetables in partial shade?

ikea_gwFebruary 4, 2009

I have a heavily wooded backyard and a pretty open front yard. Unfortunately my hubby isn't so happy about putting vegetable beds in the front. So I am going to try growing some vegetables in the back. It gets sun before noon and then it is in the shade of tall oak and tulip trees. Any suggestion is welcome. I know I can grow leafy vegetables such as kale or lettuce. I am more concerned about tomatoes, sweet peppers, cucumbers ... Thanks in advance!

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Well it will be difficult, not impossible, but difficult and the results won't be the same with just that little bit of sun. Tomatoes and such really need 6-8 hours minimum. But you'll never know for sure until you give it a try. Anything you can do to improve the sun exposure like pruning the trees and such could only help. ;)

Could you use containers and put them in a sunnier place?


    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 5:39PM
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Dave, I could use containers. The problem is that I also have deer and the front yard where it will get 6 hours of sun is not closed off. I don't know of any sprays that I can use on vegetables.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 5:44PM
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Throw the veg plants in the front yard with the flowers. Vegetables are beautiful plants. There are veg plants that deer don't like that much and will mainly leave alone.

I've never had problems with them eating tomatoes or peppers or potatoes or squash plants.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 6:57PM
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In the backyard, where you have total shade or deep shade, grow ostrich ferns (fiddleheads) and mushrooms on logs. They are the only two veggies you can grow in full shade (strictly speaking you grow mushrooms on wood, not in soil).

In the front yard, chard, flowering cabbage, squash (zucchini) and runner beans will satisfy your husband's needs. Carrots and lettuce as edge plants are quite valuable too. You could also seed claytonia, arugula and corn salad, and pretend they are weeds.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 9:35PM
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petzold6596(8b southern NM)

If you have at least 6 hours of sun light, you'r good to go.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 9:41PM
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In the front yard, you might do containers with somewhat decorative plants. Like eggplants. Pretty flowers and fruit.

Jingle bell peppers? They are smaller than regular peppers and look cute.

Ooh. Bright lights chard?

Aside from the eggplant, I'm going off of book learning here.

Here is a link that might be useful: picture of bright lights chard.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2009 at 11:11PM
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My go-to garden book lists these plants that tolerate partial shade: Arugula, basil, bee balm, beets, broccoli, chard, cabbage, carrots, chervil, cucumbers, endive, kohlrabi, lettuce, lovage, mint, peas, parsley, parsnips, radish, rhubarb, and spinach.
I personally have had luck growing broccoli, radishes, carrots, beets and peas in a bed that gets sun until noon. Cucumbers have done just okay.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 10:34AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Deer don't bother solanaceae plants - tomatoes, peppers, etc. as the foliage is poisonous and they seem to know that. ;) We live in the woods and have tons of deer. Never had them bother anything in the vegetable garden except the corn, beans, and a few very young seedlings. Now other critters - that's a different story.

And, if you do discover they become a problem there are several deer repellent sprays available.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 12:38PM
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digdirt, I really hope this will be true for the deer around here. I have neighbors growing tomato without a fence and the plants certainly get large. I have not paid close attention to the fruits ...

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 3:37PM
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y'all are lucky to have deer not eating your tom's and peppers. they eat mine right to the ground. the only hot pepper plant they got to they also ate it right to the roots except i found the 1 and only 3 inch pepper pod laying on the ground that the plant had. i wonder if it smelled the capsaicin, since they ate the sweet pepper pods.

when the vegetation here turned brown in august they even pruned all my horseradish leaves , but up until that point they left them alone.

am trying garlic and onions to see if they'll leave them alone this season.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 4:34PM
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disneynut1977(5b, Sunset zone 42)

Same goes for me. Deer demolish my tomato plants, unless I fence.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 4:46PM
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Do deer eat cucumbers around you guys?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 3:37PM
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I don't know the answer for the cukes but I've had deer eat the tops of the tomato plants and pull off the fruits, both green & red.

I have one garden with something like 5 trees within a very short distance. It has morning sun but no sunlight falls on that ground after noon. I grow the leafy greens and onions/leeks in there.

You probably have a longer growing season than I do (165 days between killing frosts). Most of the US has warmer night-time temperatures. This is an arid part of the West and there will be 30 and more degrees between day and night temps.

I wouldn't try to grow tomatoes without 8+ hours of direct sun. Even the earliest varieties would never ripen. Sunshine would be even more important for peppers and eggplants.

Growing in containers would be an excellent idea. The plants can be moved to "just the right spot" for maximum sun. That "spot" would change as the sun moves lower in the southern sky late in the season.

Here's a guess: cucumbers would be a better choice for short hours of sunlight than the solanaceae plants and they would be better than melons and winter squash. The reason for my thinking is that the cukes are eaten before they are fully mature.

I gotta tell you, I'm real happy to have nice crops of salad greens and scallions coming out of my little shade garden. The leeks come at the end of the season. The other crops, I grow elsewhere.


    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 8:47PM
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I walked around the property yesterday and figured out roughly how much sun I get from April through September. We don't get frost until late October, but the trees shade my yard much more after mid September that I don't think I can count on much sunlight. I think I have a few spots where it gets 5 hours of sun from 9am to 2pm. I am going to try putting my tomato and pepper plants there and see how they do. I will definitely report back later this year since I know other people have similar questions.

I have chosen determinant tomatoes that are of the early variety. I also picked sweet peppers that are not bell shaped, gypsy is one that I grew before at my old house and it produced much much more and faster than bell peppers. And I plan to prepare good potting soil with worm compost. Wish me good luck guys!

By the way, I had a huge problem with sunburns on my bell peppers in the past when I grew it. The problem seems to be the afternoon sun. For anyone that is growing peppers in full sun, you might want to shade your peppers in the afternoon in the south.

I am on the waiting list for garden plots nearly my house. The waiting list is long, but I am hopeful I will have a full sun plot to cultivate next year. But who knows... maybe everything will do sufficiently well enough I might not want to grow things so far away from my house. It is always nice to walk into the yard and pick a tomato and eat there.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 4:00PM
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I live in Massachusetts, where i also have a heavily wooded backyard, where I am forced to plant. If I am lucky I get 6 hours of sun, but I doubt it. I try to make up for my lack of sun with good soil. Last year, I planted tomatoes and had a fairly good turnout, and it would have been better if I didn't struggle with blight. I grew cucumbers, which did great, I grew peppers, which did not turn out so good, I grew strawberries, which also did good (aside from squirrels) and I grew beans that did okay. So I would say give it a try in your backyard, and see how it turns out, It works for me.


    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 12:27PM
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I also have a backyard that is pretty heavily shaded. When we moved in three years ago, there was a garden the PO had created in the very back of the yard, about 50' x 10' so we were excited about growing vegetables back there, despite the fact that it was surround on three sides by huge pines and hardwoods. Unfortunately, our three years' experience has taught us the following: tomatoes? definitely not; same for peppers, cukes, eggplant, squash, melons - just about anything that flowers. OTOH, peas, beans, chard, basil and other herbs, sweet potatoes, and spinach have done quite well for us. We now use SWC for toms and peppers, and have had great luck with those since we can place them for optimum sun exposure... Ya just gotta learn what you can and can't grow back there... Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 5:01PM
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tammysf(9b/10a or sz15/16)

this is my first year in our new house.

i am in california and get about 8-9 hours of sun on my garden bed but only about 4 hours is full sun then the rest is partial you think that will be ok? i know it will get warm enough but now worried it may not get enough sun.when i say partial sun, i mean that it is not full, unobstructed sun, but more spotty.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2009 at 3:02PM
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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

I have almost the same situation, as far as not having enough sun in the backyard, and a hubby that likes a neat garden in the front. I stood my ground though, and here is my small frontyard veggie garden:

The part that bothers him the most, are the tomatoesduring the last 6 weeks of the summer, he says they look like a jungle, but I always line the front of the bed with marigolds, or swiss chard, or basils, so from a distance it looks like it could be a flower bed.


    Bookmark   March 22, 2009 at 9:31PM
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tammysf(9b/10a or sz15/16)

i meant to elaborate on my message above.

from 8-11 the sun is sort of dappled, then 11-3 full, direct sun, then 3-5 dappled again.

do you think this is enough sun for tomatoes and melons. i am in an area where the summers are in the 80's and can get past 100.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2009 at 11:25PM
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bigoledude(SE Louisiana)

Dave gave you some good advice. Some strategic thinning in the canopy greatly increased my friend's vegetable production. We did it all in one day in some live oaks in his backyard. We were careful not to destroy the look and shape of the 150-year-old trees.

I once had a garden where it only got about 4-5 hours of midday sun. I lined the fence and the ground with foil-painted plastic. The foil reflected light from the sides and bottom, giving the plants sort of a triple-dose of sunlight during the hours I had. This also seemed to prevent as much pest predation as compared to the gardens on other parts of the property.

Once the plants grew high up the fence and, spread wide shading the ground, they were back to square-one. But, those 3 little 4' X 4' garden beds did beautifully.


    Bookmark   March 23, 2009 at 12:30AM
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My father has grown tomatoes in a 2.5 foot wide area in between the fence and the shed, yes you are reading this right. I never thought it could happen but the shed reflects the light and they were beautiful.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 10:26AM
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For less light, i'd recommend most herbs (cilantro only if it's still cold there)...tomatoes will have a hard time & so will many types of peppers. Maybe strategically place your plants that need more sun where most of that morning sun hits.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 10:50AM
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In the vein of strategical planting...

How can you tell in Spring where the sun will hit at what times in the Summer and from what angle? My patch doesn't seem to get as much sun the same way as it did in Feb when I was checking it out and making descisions. Maybe I should have taken at least one physical science at some point in schooling, maybe I'd get it more :)

There needs to be a widget for this, and if not, someone should make one.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 11:27PM
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I don't know for sure how to calculate it...Google would probably provide the answer. I do know exactly what you're talking about though & depend on it for mid to late season sunlight (I guess my porch is on the opposite side as your It seems to move (at an angle looking straight up during mid-day) about 20-30% all year. That's just a guess based on observations though. It starts, in very early Spring/late Winter almost is mid-sky, then by Summer Solstice, it's close to 2/3 of the way up from the horizon on my porch side.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 11:41PM
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