While all vegetables need a small amount of sunlight to grow, those with shady gardens still have plenty of options for fresh, homegrown produce. With the partial sunlight available beneath a tree or in the shadow of taller plants, these vegetable varieties will do very well. Leave the sunny portions of your yard to tomatoes, peppers and squash and make use of the shady spots with vegetables that are grown for the leaf or bud rather than the fruit.
A variety of salad greens such as arugula, radicchio, endive and leaf lettuce grow well in shady conditions. These salad greens tend to grow better in cool weather, so you should plant them about a month before your last frost. Well drained soil and a minimal amount of sunlight are often all that will be needed for a plentiful harvest of salad greens.
For a continual harvest, cut the outer leaves from leaf lettuce when they are about three inches high, leaving two inches on the plant. Thin your head lettuces as they grow. A fully ripened head of lettuce will require about 12 inches. You can eat the lettuce that you remove from the garden immediately.
Spinach, Swiss chard and mustard greens are examples of leafy greens that will grow especially well in shaded areas. Similar to salad greens, leafy greens are also a cool season vegetable. Those harvested in the heat of summer tend to have a bitter taste. Swiss chard is the exception, as this variety of leafy greens can withstand hotter temperatures. Spinach will bolt in warmer weather while mustard greens will go to seed. Provide well drained soil and a minimal amount of sunlight for the best results.
Broccoli and cauliflower are both members of the cole family. These vegetables require little sunlight and can do well in moderately shaded areas. Both broccoli and cauliflower will yield the best results when they are started indoors and transplanted to the garden after about two months. Broccoli and cauliflower can be planted just prior to the last frost of spring.
Set the plants about 18 inches apart, and mulched to prevent weeds and retain moisture in the soil. Both plants prefer cooler temperatures but cauliflower is much more sensitive to heat than broccoli. Cauliflower should be blanched when the curd is about three inches wide. While broccoli can be harvested for as long as six weeks, cauliflower can only be harvested once.