How to Grow Vegetables in Shade


Sun is a vegetable gardener's best friend, but shade can nurture a number of herbs and vegetables. Gardeners who aren't blessed with abundant sunlight can enjoy a harvest by choosing plants that perform well in shade, then giving plants adequate care. Many spring and fall weather crops perform better in shade gardens than they would in full sun. With forethought and planing, a shade vegetable garden will succeed.

Step 1

Prepare the soil in your garden bed for planting by turning it over with a shovel. Break apart clumps of earth with your fingers. Remove rocks, weeds and plant roots from the soil. If you don't take these out, the latter two will grow when you plant and water your garden, so weeding well now saves time later.

Step 2

Lay a 2-inch later of manure or compost over your garden bed to enrich the soil before planting vegetables. Then turn the manure or compost into the soil with your shovel until the two are combined.

Step 3

Flatten the soil with the back of your shovel or with a rake to even it out, so there are no hills or valleys in your garden bed.

Step 4

Select vegetables that grow fair to well in shade using the suggested list from Colorado State University (see the Resource below) and purchase healthy vegetable transplants. Veggies suited to shade growing include greens like lettuce and chard and members of the broccoli family, like broccoli or turnips. Heat-loving vegetables such as tomato or eggplant do not grow in the shade.

Step 5

Dig holes in the garden bed to plant your vegetable transplants, following the spacing recommendation for each type of vegetable. This should be on the plant tag. Make each hole twice the size of the root ball on your vegetable plant.

Step 6

Remove your vegetable plants from their containers. One by one, massage each plant's root ball to break apart the root cluster. Then place one plant in each hole.

Step 7

Hold the plant straight with one hand and fill in soil around the base of the plant with your other hand. Lightly press the soil around the plant.

Step 8

Plant all vegetables in this manner.

Step 9

Water your newly planted garden until the soil compresses around the roots of the plants and becomes saturated.

Step 10

Mulch the soil around the base of your plants with mulch or pine straw to cut back on the amount of weeding you will have to do. This also helps keep moisture in.

Step 11

Monitor the plant's moisture level, watering until the soil becomes saturated whenever the soil gets dry to the touch. Water the soil without watering the vegetable plant leaves, since this can lead to disease.

Step 12

Harvest your vegetables when they've grown. Pick lettuce and leafy greens as you need them, but leave root vegetables in the ground until they've matured.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Manure
  • Compost
  • Rake
  • Vegetable transplants
  • Water


  • University of Minnesota: Gardening in the Shade
  • University of Minnesota: Planting the Vegetable Garden

Who Can Help

  • Colorado State University: Vegetables for the Shady Garden
Keywords: shade gardening, vegetable planting, shade vegetable garden

About this Author

Based in Northern California, Elton Dunn is a freelance writer and nonprofit consultant with 14 years' experience. Dunn specializes in travel, food, business, gardening, education and the legal fields. His work has appeared in various print and online publications. Dunn holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English.