Shade-tolerant vegetables tolerate cooler weather, creating a greater window of opportunity to plant as well as a longer growing season. Plant in spring for an early crop and late in summer to continue to harvest through the light frosts of fall. Leafy vegetables are the best choices for shade. They can be harvested as they grow, and do not have to be left to fully mature. Enjoy successive cuttings or, if your crop begins to falter, you can collect all of the leaves early, while still tender. Shade-tolerant vegetables are also good options for gardens at higher elevations, according to the Oregon State University Extension.
More than simply shade tolerant, spinach needs cooler temperatures to perform at its best. A location out of direct sun provides the lower soil temperature that promotes better seed germination. Spinach can be planted in the fall for a spring harvest or late in the growing season harvest in the fall.
Shade may be permanent, like that from structures, or temporary, like that from a companion plant. A tall plant can serve as shade and shelter for a shade tolerant vegetable. For example, corn can be used to shade spinach. The spinach may then be allowed to take over and fill in empty spots once the corn has been harvested. This trick saves space in the garden and yields a better result than trying to force another sun loving plant to struggle and compete against a taller rival.
Heat will stunt the growth of lettuce and can cause bitterness in the leaves, according to the University of Illinois Extension. This does not have to lead to disappointment for those who love a fresh summer salad. Tucked into darker corners of a flowerbed, or beneath the canopy of a tree where the light is more limited than in other areas, lettuce will supply you with leaves throughout even the hottest months. Shade from above keeps the ground around lettuce roots cool. Lettuce has shallow roots that won't challenge root crops for space. Relatively short in height, and requiring little space, these plants won't greedily compete for nutrients.
Chard tolerates heat, but also grows well in shade. The University of Florida Extension suggests the plant as a good choice for borders. The foliage holds its own alongside bright flowers and can bring a shock of deep color to flowerbeds. Gardeners with limited space can find a place for chard beneath the spreading vines of peas, cucumbers or beans. Additional shade can be created with temporary row covers of light fabric.