Every garden has its own set of worries, but the shady garden is particularly plaguing. It is much easier to shade a sunny garden than to light up a dark one, but there are strategies that can help. Removing obstacles that create shade, growing shade-tolerant plant varieties or finding ways to send a bit of light in are all part of the arsenal in the battle with shade. Choose one or all, and do not despair—a shady garden may be more challenging than a nice sunny one but it has benefits as well.
Evaluate the level of shade in your garden and choose the least shady space available. There are many levels of shade—and plants for each—so, though you may have to deal with some shade, understanding the light needs for particular plants will help you choose plants more likely to survive in your particular spot. No garden vegetables will grow in deep shade, so if you do not get light in your garden at least three hours per day, you will have to look elsewhere for a place to grow your plants or consider container gardening with lights.
Choose shade-tolerant varieties. Look for green leafy crops such as lettuces, spinach, kale (and other members of the cabbage family, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower) or beans. The general rule is that plants grown for fruits (like tomatoes, peppers) and roots (beets, turnips, carrots) need light, while leafy vegetables are more shade tolerant.
Plant taller plant varieties on the north side of your garden to maximize sunlight to shorter plants in front.
Gain additional light for your plants by taking advantage of reflected light from pools and light-colored walls. Paint garden sheds white or install a prefabricated pool (even a child’s wading pool or half barrels can help). In a pinch, hanging light-colored sheets behind plants will brighten them considerably.
Take advantage of shade to control desirable, but rambunctious plants such as mints, which become more manageable with less light. Shade also benefits plants with high moisture needs–like lettuces, since lack of drying sun means you will need to water less frequently.