Most vegetable varieties thrive in full sunlight and require six to eight hours of direct light per day. Fruit bearing vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers require the most sunlight, while root vegetables like carrots and onions can handle some shade. Leafy vegetables have the most tolerance for partial shade conditions.
Lettuce plants thrive in cool, moist conditions and are tolerant of many soil types. Plant your lettuce seeds or transplants in early spring after the last hard frost. Remove any large clumps of soil from your seed bed and sow the seeds 12 inches apart to a depth of a quarter inch. Apply a layer of mulch around your lettuce plants to keep the soil cool, even in partial shade.
Spinach thrives in partial shade and cool conditions. Spinach seeds require temperatures below 70 degrees Fahrenheit in order to germinate and can be overwintered for an early spring crop. Sow your spinach seeds as the weather begins to cool in the fall, about 6 weeks before the first frost. Keep your seedlings moist as they begin to germinate. Once the first frost hits, add a 4-inch layer of mulch to your seed bed until the weather warms again.
Swiss chard can be substituted for spinach in many recipes. This leafy vegetable will tolerate partial shade, but yield better growth when given adequate sunlight. Work a compost into your seed bed and sow the seeds after the final threat of frost. Plant seeds 1/2 inch deep and they should germinate within two weeks. Harvest your chard leaves from the outside of the plant once the leaves reach 6 to 7 inches. Continue harvesting throughout the season until the first fall frost.
Mustard greens are a quick and easy cool-weather vegetable for the beginning gardener. Plant your seeds two to three weeks before the last frost in early spring or in mid to late summer to allow your mustard greens to mature in the cool fall weather. Space seeds 5 inches apart and 1/2 inch deep. Maintain soil moisture and fertilize monthly during the growing season.