How to Grow a Vegetable Garden With Limited Sunlight


An ideal environment for a vegetable garden usually is in full sun, but there will always be times when gardeners only have limited sunlight, whether it is because of their location or available growing space. With limited sunlight, the key to success is to choose vegetables for the garden that can thrive in this condition, as well as improving the sun exposure as best you can.

Step 1

Pick the best vegetables to grow in a limited sunlight garden. This usually includes vegetables that can withstand some cool temperatures, such as cabbage, kale, lettuce, mustard greens, beets, radishes, spinach, carrots, potatoes, onions and scallions, to name a handful. Decide whether you want to start with seeds or seedlings from your local gardening nursery.

Step 2

Examine the best area to plant your vegetables. For limited sunlight, the ideal planting location is in containers so you can move them. But if you want to have the vegetable garden in the ground, do your best to increase the sunlight exposure in this area. Prune back any branches or shrubs blocking sunlight. Pay attention to the shade patterns throughout the day so you can plant accordingly. For example, in the morning a tree may not cast a shadow, but in late afternoon it may cover the whole planting site so you can prune back those branches.

Step 3

Till the planting area about 3 inches deep to loosen the soil. Discard any rocks or dirt clods.

Step 4

Plant the seeds or seedlings after the last expected frost in the spring season. Position the vegetables that need the most sunlight accordingly, and space out vegetables that will grow larger leaves away from smaller vegetables so these don't block light. Depending on the varieties, you will need specific soil requirements, such as well-draining (so add loam).

Step 5

Choose fertilizers tailored for vegetables in low light, along with nutrient mixes. This will increase the growth and health of your vegetables grown in limited sunlight. Every week, provide the vegetable plants with either nutrient mixes (liquid or solid) or fertilizer. Spread compost over the gardening area once a month to increase water retention and insulate the roots.

Step 6

Keep an eye on the water content of your vegetable plants. Since they are more in shade, water will absorb more slowly so make sure you don't over-water the plants. Keep in mind the specific watering requirements of your vegetable varieties.

Step 7

Harvest vegetables when they are ripe even though they may appear a little smaller then normal produce. This is common in low-light gardens. The vegetables will be smaller but still healthy and nutrient-rich.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears or loppers
  • Till
  • Seeds or seedlings
  • Shovel or trowel
  • Water
  • Fertilizer, nutrient mixes
  • Compost


  • Gardening Easy Made: Growing a Garden in Limited Sunlight
  • National Gardening Association: Growing in the Shade
Keywords: growing vegetables, shady gardens, shade vegetables

About this Author

Lauren Wise has more than eight years' experience as a writer, editor, copywriter and columnist. She specializes in food, wine, music and pop culture. Her writing has appeared in various magazines, including "Runway," "A2Z," "Scottsdale Luxury Living" and "True West." Wise holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Arizona State University.