Real Men Sow

Six Great Veg for Shady Spots

rhubarb, good for shady spots in the garden.I’ve been thinking about the area that will become my kitchen garden for summer, and what I can grow there. It’s a sad little space that cries out for some colour and love, but as I live in a terrace house, it doesn’t get much sun.

Being part of my garden, rather than the functional allotment, I’d like to make the area colourful and pretty, as well as productive. This is also an Ailsa-imposed condition, due mainly to her experience of some of my peculiar garden design ideas (it was nice driftwood, honest).

The shade rules out growing any veg that fruits from flowers, like tomatoes and peas, and the root veg which by most accounts requires at least half a day’s full sun. I’ve left the sun worshippers for the allotment, and compiled the following list of the more interesting and attractive partial sun tolerant veg that I’m thinking of trying in my shady spot.

Chard definitely meets the pretty requirement. Bright Lights and the Australian heirloom Five Colour Silverbeet are both beautifully vibrant and colourful and will cheer up even the glummest of days. Chard is also long-lasting, and my spring sowings have often remained in good nick until the next year.

I’ve never grown true spinach, preferring the hardy perpetual alternative instead. However, I can’t help thinking I’m missing out by not growing the proper Popeye stuff, so this year I might try a small sowing, and pick it as baby leaves for salads. Hopefully it will have the same effect on my biceps by the time I get married. I particularly like the intense colour of Tetona.

I love kale, and I grow lots of the dwarf curled variety on the plot. This is the standard green leaf job, but some of the more exotic varieties are stunning. The striking Black Tuscany and Scarlet provide a decorative and delicious feature in any veg patch. Again, I might try harvesting as baby leaves for the most glamorous salad I’ve ever eaten.

Lettuce is another delicate leafy veg that doesn’t necessarily like the heat, and will sometimes benefit from a shady patch. Personally I like the come and cut again varieties as salad leaves rather than a full blown lettuce, but Ailsa’s after some crunch this year so I might try some Cos too.

The first picking of this sugary sweet smelling fruit is one of my favourite times of the year (see picture for example of my happiness). For me, it’s like the official start of spring, and the minute the juicy stems are ready, I’m stewing, jamming, crumbling and ice-creaming as fast as I can harvest.

I’ve got a packet of the purple Hilds Blauer Herbst und Winter (I think that’s German for Blue Autumn and Winter) that came free with a magazine a couple of years ago which I’m going to plant alongside my favourite radish, the pink, spherical Sparkler. Other colours to liven up salads include the white Tsukushi Spring Cross and the gold Zlata.

These are the cool and quirky shade-tolerant plants I’ve found or grown, but I’m sure there are more out there. Are there sun-loving plants that have bucked the trend for you, and excelled away from full light?

In fact, just yesterday I was chatting on Twitter to someone whose Alpine strawberries had completely taken over a shady patch. He’s now considering ripping them out, such is their rampant way!

Let me know which plants have succeeded for you, I’d be really interested to know.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Related Posts

Sign up to receive a RMS weekly bite size summary, featuring all posts from the previous seven days, hints and tips and other interesting snippets from the world of veg growing.


  1. louisa @ TheReallyGoodLifeFebruary 16, 2011 at 11:32 amReply

    I found herbs – particularly rosemary – did better in the shade of the north-facing garden of my old house than they have done in the SE-facing or west-facing gardens here. So this year I’m moving all my rosemary into a cave or something ;)

  2. MarkFebruary 16, 2011 at 6:12 pmReply

    Good list, thanks for sharing. Here are a few of my favourites:

    Blueberries look good (blossom in spring, red leaves in autumn), taste good and are productive once established. They’re best grown in pots (they like ericaceous compost) and you’ll get higher yields if you grow two varieties together. Main drawbacks are that the plants are a bit pricey and the containers need watering!

    I also grow a lot of Asian greens in shady places: Mizuna, mibuna, chinese cabbages, serifon, pak choi – there’s loads! Scrummy.

    Chives, parsley, lovage and mint are good herb wise.

    • Jono

      JonoFebruary 16, 2011 at 6:27 pmReplyAuthor

      Hi Mark, thanks very much for that.

      I do like my rhubarb!

      I’ve been looking at blueberry bushes. Other half is half American, and does love a blueberry. Any advice on varieties?

      I grow Pak Choi late in the summer, and also mizuna and mibuna, which I love as it lasts right into the winter time.

      I also overwintered some serifon, mizuna and green in snow (love that name) this year. They’re really hardy and not far from being pickable now, which is great for early salads.

  3. MarkFebruary 16, 2011 at 6:16 pmReply

    PS love the pic of you and the rhubarb!

  4. Tweets that mention Real Men Sow » Blog Archive » Six Great Veg for Shady Spots -- Topsy.comFebruary 16, 2011 at 10:23 pmReply

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by akgpodcast, Catherine Higgins, realmensow, realmensow, Mark Ridsdill Smith and others. Mark Ridsdill Smith said: RT @RealMenSow: New Blog Post! Six Great Veg for Shady Spots #allotment #growyourown [...]

  5. TrixyFebruary 18, 2011 at 4:02 pmReply

    Thanks for this list. I have a wall on the west edge of my garden which only gets sun till about 2, so will try rhubarb and carrots there I think!!!

  6. Jono

    JonoFebruary 18, 2011 at 10:14 pmReplyAuthor

    Louisa – interesting. My rosemary and sage are North East facing and quite shaded, and they’ve grown really well.

    The thyme really hasn’t liked it though (twice).

    Trixy – hope it works, rhubarb is one of my favourites. Let me know how you get on.

  7. Real Men Sow » Blog Archive » Which Blueberry Bushes to BuyFebruary 21, 2011 at 7:45 pmReply

    [...] Six Great Veg for Shady Spots [...]

  8. MarkFebruary 28, 2011 at 7:58 pmReply

    I’ve also found rosemary does better on the North side of the house. But how can this be? It’s a Mediterranean herb, I thought, that is supposed to love full sun….?

    Just looked up Jekka, the oracale on herbs, who also says that it needs a sunny position… Weird.

  9. GeraldoJuly 10, 2011 at 11:47 pmReply

    No one else in my family really likes Chard but I grow Bright Lights for it’s beauty. Sometimes I’ll saute it with chickpeas for myself.

  10. The Hydroponic GardenerAugust 8, 2011 at 1:31 amReply

    Chives! I swear they can grow anywhere. We have a pot of chives that date back over 20 years. Back then we lived on a real shady lot and we discovered these chives growing wild on the property. We have since lived in 3 other homes with varying degrees of sun and shade, and these potted chives have moved with us and thrived no matter where we placed the pot. Not only that, but it’s a hardy perennial that comes back every year with a vengeance! All summer long they are ready to be cut for a salad garnish. Oh, and I almost forgot to mentions the very showy lavender flowers that bloom early summer. You can’t go wrong with chives!

Leave a Reply to Trixy Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

Buy My Book on Amazon!


Sign Here for Updates!

Sign up to receive a regular RMS bite size summary, featuring all recent posts, hints and tips and other interesting snippets from the world of veg growing.

Allotment Cakes for the Weekend

  • Allotment Cakes for the Weekend #15 – Blackberry and Apple Flapjack
  • Allotment Cakes for the Weekend #14 – Courgette, Lime and Coconut Cake
  • Allotment Cakes for the Weekend #13 – Jamie Oliver’s Squash Muffins
  • An Allotment Cake for the Weekend #12 – Lemon Curd & Blueberry Loaf Cake
  • An Allotment Cake For the Weekend #11 – Apple and Cinnamon Flapjacks
  • An Allotment Cake For the Weekend #10 – Fresh Ginger and Apple Cake
  • Good Food Magazine Marrow and Pecan Cake
  • A Rhubarbey Roundup, and Whatever Happened to Allotment Cakes for the Weekend?

Saving £500 a year!

During 2011, I kept a diary of how much money I save from growing my own fruit and vegetables. After totalling all my outgoings, I saved approximately £500 over the year. I made a spreadsheet to calculate these savings - it’s nothing too complicated, as I’m no Excel guru, but hopefully someone else will find it as useful (and strangely fun) as me. For more info, visit my Money Saving Experiment page by clicking here.


As Featured In…