What Vegetables Can Grow in the Shade?

Gardening in the shade presents special challenges for the vegetable gardener. Although many beginner vegetable gardeners might shy away from planting vegetables in partial shade, several types can successfully be grown without full or direct sunlight. Using the shadier parts of the garden can increase overall square footage, reaping a fuller harvest. Root-based vegetables do not need full sun to thrive, and favorites such as spinach and broccoli can easily be planted in shadier spots and still yield a respectable harvest.


Spinach is a cool-season crop and is grown during the spring as well as the fall seasons. The appearance of spinach in the garden often heralds the arrival of spring since it can be planted as soon as the soil has been primed and the ground has warmed up from its winter temperatures. Spinach will grow in partial shade and prefers an abundance of moisture in well-draining and fertile soil. Chill the seeds in a refrigerator for one to two weeks before sowing and planting them in the soil for best results. Harvest spinach while the leaves are still young for optimal taste. Different varieties of spinach include plain leaf, hybrid savoy and crinkled leaf. Plain leaf is the most popular variety of spinach since the leaves are much smoother.


Many types of lettuce grow well in partial shade. The vegetable gardener can choose from the common green leaf, red leaf, romaine, crisphead and stem lettuce as participants in an edible harvest. For early harvesting, green leaf is recommended over the other types. Color and texture vary greatly from one type to the next. When planting lettuce seeds, sow them half an inch deep in rows spaced a foot apart. Do not sow more than 10 seeds per foot. Lettuce thrives with frequent but light watering. Harvest leaves once they grow to usable size, usually occurring between 50 or 60 days after germination. Lettuce does not do well in high temperatures and prefers weather between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.


Broccoli is another hardy, cool-season vegetable commonly grown in partial shade. New varieties of heat-tolerant broccoli have been created, enabling vegetable gardeners to harvest a crop outside the normal spring and fall seasons. Recommended varieties include Cruiser, which is tolerant of drier climates, or Green Comet and Green Goliath, both of which are heat-tolerant types. Plant seeds half an inch deep 18-to-24 inches apart with 3 feet between each row. Broccoli typically reaches heights of 2.5 feet and grows vertically, so adequate spacing is necessary. Once the broccoli head is fully developed, cut it with 5 or 6 inches of stem before the yellow flowers begin to open.

Keywords: vegetables shade tolerant, shade vegetable gardening, shade gardening vegetables

About this Author

Rachel Campbell has been writing professionally for several years. Her work has appeared in print magazines such as "Ft. Thomas Living" and "Bend of the River." Campbell holds a Bachelor of Science degree in biblical studies and psychology from Cincinnati Christian University.