Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What to do in the shade

Bountiful carrots (2010)

When you planned your garden, you probably picked out the most sunny part of your yard as The Spot. After all, vegetables love sun, and they need enough of it to produce fruit. This is fantastic if you have a huge yard that isn't surrounded by shady trees. It's not so great if part or most of your yard is covered in shadow for several hours a day. Do not despair, though!

There are several plants that do very well in shade. Leafy greens are the ones most people are aware of, and it's true that lettuce, cabbage, chard, all salad greens, and even spinach and kale all love the shady spots. You can safely plant them where tomatoes wouldn't grow.

Beans (2009)
That's not the only thing to do with your shady bits, though. Broccoli and cauliflower both grow very well in the shade, as do beets, brussel sprouts, and beans. You can even grow peas and radishes in less sunny spots with no harm to your plants whatsoever.

The general rule that's used is that if a plant is grown for its leaves, then it's safe to plant in a shady spot, provided it gets at least a couple of hours of sun per day. If it's grown for the root (potatoes, beets, parsnips), it is shade tolerant, and can go somewhere that gets four to five hours of sun a day with no problem. Vegetables grown for a fruit that comes from a flower (zucchini, tomato, green peppers) need as much sun as they can get, and eight or more hours of sunlight is optimum for them.

Giant cabbage (2010)
This year, we'll be putting in three new raised beds on the shady side of our driveway. These beds will be just for our leafy greens and shade tolerant vegetables. It's there that I'll plant the summer crops of spinach, salad greens, my cabbages, and some of our beans. The sunny spots, which get many hours of sunlight a day thanks to our yard's layout, will get our tomatoes, squash, watermelon, corn, and other sun-loving veggies.

It's my hope that this way of planting will increase the yield in our garden by at least a multiple of two. We will be adding a third more raised beds, but because of how we'll be planting in those raised beds, we should see a lot more production than we did last year. Last year wasn't a bad run, either!

What sort of vegetables do you intend to grow this year? Do you have special micro-climates to overcome in your yard?

Broccoli (2010)
REMINDER: If you are in New England and plan to grow broccoli and/or kale this year, now is the time to start them indoors. Both require planting before we stop getting frosts, in order to get their best growth. Broccoli in particular needs to be started indoors six to eight weeks before transplanting into the garden, and it should be transplanted outdoors about four weeks before our last frost!

This post was shared at the Homestead Barn Hop #103!

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