I recently got to sneak a peek at Growing Cities, an award-winning documentary about urban farming in America. By the end, I wanted to grow something so bad I could taste it. So now, I’m bound and determined to have a garden this year. Despite living in a third-floor apartment with no extra space to speak of.
I do have a balcony, and as many successful container gardeners have shown, a space this small can produce a lot of food. If (and that’s a big if) conditions are right. Cue the worry. See, I’ve been watching my balcony throughout the day, and I’ve noticed that it’s pretty shady. Not in the “I’m gonna pick your pocket” way, but in the “I don’t see a hint of sun until afternoon” way.
If you’re planning a spring garden, you know that most of the awesome fruits and veggies need FULL SUN to grow to their full potential. It’s tempting to give up, to once again push my urban farming aspirations on the back burner until that magical day when I “have space.” But like I said, I’m bound and determined.
So I started doing some research, and it turns out there are more than a couple useful, delicious edibles that actually enjoy growing in partial shade. Coincidentally, many of them are known to be well suited to container and/or vertical gardening, which is perfect for city dwellers like myself. Are you too working with small spaces and a lack of sunshine? Then this list is for you!
7 Easy Edibles That Grow Without Full Sun
1. Salad Greens – Too many hours in the scorching hot sun is actually a bad thing for salad greens like lettuce (not head varieties), sorrel, endive, cress and arugula. Planted in partial shade, you might actually be able to harvest these veggies for a few weeks longer than those with full-sun gardens.
2. Mint – If you’ve killed more houseplants than you care to admit, mint is the perfect edible to grow this year. Herbs such as mint, chervil, coriander and parsley actually prefer partial shade. In fact, mint is a voracious grower, so even your best attempts to kill it will probably fail. Be sure to grow it in a container so it doesn’t choke out everything around it.
3. Beans – If your garden area gets at least four to five hours of sun each day, you just might be able to grow some peas and beans. Just be sure to choose bush and dwarf varieties rather than pole varieties.
4. Broccoli – In addition to being delicious and extremely good for you, broccoli is “a great choice for growing in the relative coolness of partial shade rather than full sun,” explains Tom Oder for MNN.com. “After cutting off the large central head, leave the plant in the ground. Smaller heads will form along the stem in the leaf axils.”
5. Radishes – “The radish is one of the easiest, quickest-growing crops you can grow in your garden,” explains Colleen Vanderlinden, an organic gardening expert. They “actually prefer a bit of shade during the heat of summer, when excessive heat can cause them to turn woody and bolt,” she continues.
6. Leafy Greens – I’ll bet you didn’t know you could grow superfoods right in your own shady garden, did you? Rockstar greens like spinach, Swiss chard, collards, mustard greens and kale only need about three or four hours of sun each day to thrive.
7. Beets – “Beets, carrots, potatoes, radishes and turnips will do OK in partial shade, but you’ll have to wait longer for a full crop. The more light you have, the faster they’ll mature,” explains Mother Nature News. Beets are a two-fer veggie, which means even if the root fruit stays small, the greens will be delicious.
All images via Thinkstock