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 outgrowing 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 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 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 an 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.