How to Garden Shade Vegetables


Don't despair if your garden area has more shade than sun. While you might not be able to grow corn or tomatoes, you can grow many vegetables known as cool season crops. These vegetables prefer cool weather and tend to go to seed when the weather turns hot. They don't grow well in deep shade, but will thrive in partial shade. Try carrots, onions, radishes, lettuce, Swiss chard, beets, peas and kale.

Step 1

Spread a 1- to 2-inch layer of compost on your garden area. Shovel the compost into the soil to a depth of 6 inches. Remove any weeds, rocks or debris from the soil. Rake the soil to smooth and level it.

Step 2

Plant your garden in early spring three to four weeks before the last expected frost. You can buy plants at a local nursery, but most cool weather crops grow very well from seed. Plant seeds at the depth and space recommended on the seed packet.

Step 3

Fertilize your seeds three to four weeks after planting and every five weeks thereafter. Cool season crops are more affected by nutrient deficiencies than crops like beans and tomatoes. Spread the fertilizer around the plants at the rate recommended on the package and hoe in very lightly. Water your garden to activate the fertilizer.

Step 4

Water your garden weekly to keep the soil evenly moist. Shade gardens are often deceptively dry. Check the moisture level by putting your finger in the soil. It should feel moist 2 to 3 inches under the soil. Lettuce, especially, needs constant moisture or it becomes bitter.

Step 5

Pull any weeds that grow and compete with your shade garden vegetables. You'll have fewer weeds in a shady garden than you would in a sunny location.

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't work wet soil. Doing so compacts the soil and can spread diseases to plants.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Fertilizer made for vegetables


  • Cornell University Department of Horticulture: Vegetable Growing Basics
  • Washington State Extension Office: Home Gardens

Who Can Help

  • Cornell University Horticulture Department: Vegetables
  • University of Minnesota: Harvesting and Storing Home Garden Vegetables
Keywords: shady garden vegetables, growing vegetables, cool season vegetables

About this Author

Julie Christensen has been writing professionally since 2001. She is a full-time freelance writer and former teacher with writing credits from several regional and national publications, such as Colorado Parent and LDS Living. She specializes in parenting, education and gardening topics. Christensen studied early childhood education at Ricks College, and spent 20 years as a teacher and director in university and public school settings.