Shade-tolerant vegetable plants do well when placed next to taller vegetables or vegetables that have broad leaves for shade. Retainer walls and trees sometimes create partial shade in late afternoon. You can also grow shade-tolerant vegetables in containers on the shady side of a deck, patio or walkway.
Seed collections of "micro-greens" do well in a shady garden area or planted next to leafy vegetables such as rhubarb or squash. Micro-green collections have lettuce varieties such as arugula, chervil, endive, mache, radicchio and cress. Other salad greens that are shade tolerant include 'Tom Thumb' lettuce, which is an heirloom variety introduced in 1853. It does best if planted in early spring or late fall in well-composted soil. It is a butterhead type lettuce with individual heads the size of an apple.
'Green Deer Tongue' lettuce gets its name because of the shape of the leaves. It can be grown in the shade and come to harvest as a micro-green in 28 days or 50 days to full maturity. 'Sweet Valentine' is a loose leaf lettuce with tender taste and hardy growing habits. It can be grown through the hotter summer months when given a shady environment.
Green leafy vegetables that are shade tolerant include varieties of kale and chard. The 'Lacinato Blue' kale will stay in the garden for two years or more and is hardy to cold weather. It has distinctive long slender blue-gray leaves that are deeply crinkled. This kale is sometimes known as "dinosaur kale" because of the leaves. Chard plants are resistant to disease and harmful pest infestations. Chard grows well in soil enriched with compost. 'Fordhook Giant' is a traditional chard with creamy white stalks. 'Rhubarb Chard' has bright red stalks. 'Mizuna' is a spicy tasting leafy green that can also be used for braising and added to soup. It has long serrated feathery leaves and it comes to harvest in 40 to 60 days. Grow Mizuna as a shade tolerant vegetable plant under the protection of taller vegetables such as pole beans.
Broccoli and Cabbage
'Broccoli Rabe' has stems that end in a small cluster of broccoli buds that look like traditional broccoli heads but smaller. It is easy to cut both stems and leaves for stir-fry or salads. Grow this variety as a shade-tolerant vegetable plant anywhere in the garden that does not receive full sun. 'Belstar' broccoli has larger heads that can grow to 8 inches across. It is a cool season crop best planted in early spring or mid-summer for a fall harvest. 'Buscaro' cabbage is bright purple-red with compact heads. It can grow in moderate shade and has moderate water needs. Plant cabbage in mid summer for a late fall harvest, 100 to 110 days from germination.