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Plants that produce food and can handle shade?

 
David Mcgowan Hicks
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I live in Columbia, SC and would love to start growing a bit of an urban food forest, my yard, however gets very little sun. The front yard probably only gets 6 or 7 hours of sun and the back is mostly shaded. What perennials can I grow that will do well in these conditions? I would love things that are native when possible, and I would also love stuff I can easily start from seeds or cuttings, I don't really have a budget for buying established plants.
 
Shawn Harper
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Location: Portlandia, Oregon
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Mushrooms are probably the best, but there is also ginger, miners lettuce, Oregon grape, nettles, and depending how deep the shade is some salads do well in partial shade.
 
Paul Cereghino
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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Also consider checking your native forest flora and local ethnobotany resources... fern fiddleheads, ramps, nipplewort, salal... mostly greens... low energy foods.
Check out http://perennialvegetables.org/perennial-vegetables-for-each-climate-type/cold-temperate-east-midwest-and-mountain-west/
And http://www.pfaf.org/user/plantsearch.aspx
 
Brenda Groth
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I would like to report on my neighbor's garden...they built a garden by clearing an area in an aspen forest..it is in nearly full shade from OUR pine and hemlock trees and the roots invade it..but they have the finest tomato plants and pumpkins and asparagus I have ever seen..this garden is lucky if it gets even 2 or 3 hours of sun..but it is a fantastic garden..so hey, if all you have is mostly shade, go for it..some things may fail..but some things may just surprise you .

Also I have 2 patches of black raspberries, the ones in shade grow beautifully and produce abundantly, and the ones in sun..do lousy

Also another thing, shade can mediate frost in the spring..so you might actually GET fruit with a late frost if there is shade on your fruit blssoms in the morning..

don't be afraid of shade
 
Nicole Castle
Posts: 151
Location: Madison, AL
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Strawberries, blackberries and blueberries will tolerate shade if you have some indirect light. They won't produce as much as they will in sun, though.

I have a few things which don't tolerate as much heat as I get planted in a moist shade, like winterberry, which are doing okay. Hostas are also edible (the new shoots in the spring) and thrive in shade. Mostly I have my shade planted with native woodland herbs.
 
David Mcgowan Hicks
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Late frost? Whats that? Haha. I guess all I can do it try stuff until something works. How do potatoes do in shade? Does anyone know? I eat a good many potatoes and I see no reason not to grow them myself.
 
David Mcgowan Hicks
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Does anyone know how apple and pear trees do when surrounded by other, taller trees? My backyard is basically a mature deciduous forest.
 
Brenda Groth
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apple and pears need some sun, but will do OK with other trees around them if they get some sun..I have apple trees growing smack in my woods, and honestly they don't do that well, but IF I was to trim some of the trees around them I'm sure they would do better..which I hope to do this following year..My pear trees get some shade from taller trees and they do fine..actually if fruit trees get morning shade (here in Mich anyway) it does them a lot of good in the spring so the late frosts do not affect them as much (the shade keeps the sun from hitting the buds with frost on them so they can thaw more slowly and not die)..

most fruit trees originally were understory trees, but understory doesn't mean total shade..they do have to have some sun..best to plant them on the south or west side of other trees. My neighbor has plum trees east of pne trees that are quite tall, and the plums just produce like mad !!
 
Xisca Nicolas
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David, how high is your place there ? What are your temperatures, and your rain pattern? Winter or summer rain? Real hot? Mountain fog? Rain forest? Andes?

You have equatorial sun, so thanks god you have shade!!!

Except if you are high in the mountain, I do not see how you can have apples and pears, I can just have some apples there, and pears are not great.
In the shade you need lulo (naranjillo), they need shade, but do better in altitude without hot days.
The malabar spinach is a climber that will do well with shade.

You NEED to look around and ask people from your place, as you will just do different things than us, even me, who is at 28° north so not even a real tropical climate.
 
John Polk
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Generally speaking, most seed packs (or books) that say "Full sun" are misleading.
In the hot/humid south, "full sun" all day would likely kill most plants.
Six to 7 hours sun is enough for most plants that "require full sun".

Light colored rocks (or even aluminum foil) set to reflect some sunlight onto the plants "increases" their sun exposure.

 
John Polk
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I might add:

I have a friend who lives at the AL, FL, GA border. He intentionally plants his tomato/pepper plants so that they are shaded in the afternoon. He wants full sun on them in the morning to dry the dew, in order to avoid many diseases. His experience shows that full sun in the afternoon can put an end to the plants producing edible fruits.

 
David Mcgowan Hicks
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Xsica. Where I live is not high at all (89m) I know that pears do well here because my family has a piece of land right outside of town with a couple of pear trees that produce bumper crops year after year. They are hard country pears, really only good for cooking, but I love them, so.

It is very hot here, normally we have 3 months with highs that range from 98-105 with high humidity.

I took a harder look around my back yard and theres one cherry laurel tree i could take out with a hand saw that would give me a good 2-3 hundred square feet of nearly full sun.

John, its a relief to hear that full sun doesn't really mean full sun where Im from. I guess I just need to plant some stuff and see how it does. I definitely want some figs, some pears, blueberries, blackberries, scupernongs, and hopefully apples.

I appreciate the input you guys.
 
greg patrick
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Location: SoCal, USDA Zone 10b
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I purposely didn't read the replies so I can answer honestly without bias. I have asian (Korean) pears and apples in the shade of mature trees and to be honest, they grow but aren't rock stars. They aren't dead but I can't say I'm impressed with their progress. Plans are to severely prune the canopy so more light gets to them in the spring.
 
Irene Kightley
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Location: South West France
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My garden is basically a series of clearings in a little wood. I've kept a lot of the existing trees - many oaks, chestnut, alder and acacia and I planted fruit trees in the spaces around them then adding lower growing fruit trees and perennials. In the spaces between I plant even lower - putting in annual veg plants in the space that's left.

The biggest tree in this grouping is an oak which protects the other plants from the hot midday sun. I'll post a few photos, hopefully, to give you an idea of what's growing in the space between four big trees.



Less than a metre from the oak is a huge bunch of canna, then behind are tomatoes and pumpkins. To the right, there are beans, cabbage blackcurrants, amaranth and strawberries. On the left of the photo 4.5 metres from the canna to the west, there is the second tallest tree, a mature plum tree, then three metres behind this grouping is a young peach tree. (Pêche de vigne)



The area to the right in the first photo is fenced against our chickens and contains lettuce, the cabbage family and seedlings plus any other vulnerable plants that I have space for. The fence is also used to support heavenly scented roses, beans, cucumber, malabar spinach, ballon vine, ipomea etc. Growing less than three metres behind the fence to the north is a mature cherry tree.



In this photo you can just see a branch of the oak.





It's difficult to post clear photos as everything is crammed into the space but it all seems to be in good health and not lack light or air circulation.

 
Nicole Castle
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Location: Madison, AL
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John Polk wrote:I might add:

I have a friend who lives at the AL, FL, GA border. He intentionally plants his tomato/pepper plants so that they are shaded in the afternoon. He wants full sun on them in the morning to dry the dew, in order to avoid many diseases. His experience shows that full sun in the afternoon can put an end to the plants producing edible fruits.



I'm quite a bit north of him, and I planted my peppers for the first time this year in part shade (~6 hours on the north side of the house); previously I had planted them where they get about 7-8 hours. I have the best year for peppers ever. The ones in full sun... only the hot peppers managed to produce anything.

I find this completely illogical since peppers are a tropical perennial, but I like that it works!
 
Zoe Wroten
Posts: 19
Location: New Hampshire, zone 5
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Hi David! I used to live in Columbia as well. I think many people who have not visited that particular piece of sweltering swampland may not realize its unique challenges....I burned many, many plants to a crisp trying to follow the "full sun" instructions on seed packets when I lived there. I finally had success growing any and all salad plants in shade, as well as Mediterranean herbs (thyme, rosemary, etc). I didn't grow tomatoes when I lived there but I have seen and heard from many people who agree that in that part of the South, even things like tomatoes and peppers benefit from a little shade.

Have you been to Congaree Forest? There are incredible groves of wild pawpaws there in the deep shade of the old growth forest. Currants, especially clove currants, might do well if you choose a variety that can handle the heat -- clove currant, perhaps? I live in NH now and we have wild blueberries that make decent fruit in part shade, so perhaps rabbiteye blueberries would be worth a try. Groundnut (Apios americana) could be nice. Any perennial that has edible parts other than fruit, I think, would be worth experimenting with in shade. How about coppicing linden/Tilia spp. for perennial salad greens?
 
David Mcgowan Hicks
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Zoe,

I was at congaree swamp yesterday! You know its been upgraded from a national Forrest to a National Park? Its a pretty amazing bit of ecosystem. Had a run in with a hog yesterday, which was scary.

Irene, I want to take up residence in your garden, beautiful!
 
Zoe Wroten
Posts: 19
Location: New Hampshire, zone 5
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Wonderful. Congaree is an amazing, sometimes terrifying place. It makes you wonder about the folks who first decided to settle nearby.... I had friends who used to kayak down from some of the parks along the river closer to downtown, until some water moccasins decided to hop on in the boat.

I'm thrilled that there seem to be so many SC Permies (I grew up in Greenville)! Would love to see what you end up doing there.
 
Paula Edwards
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IMO, everything leavy and green can be grown in the shade like lettuces, silverbeet, edible chrysantemum, parsley, rhubarb etc. they are not perennials but everyone needs them. All sorts of herbs do grow only in the shade.
 
Jeanine Gurley
pollinator
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Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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Zoe - thanks for that info about currants - I'll have to try them.

David - now that I know we are sharing the same bit of SC I have some suggestions for you to plant for Sept:

All greens, spinach, boc choi, tat soi, baby choi, lettuces.
Just about all root crops except potatoes.
Onions.
Garlic at the end of this month. Specifically 29th and 30th of September.

We have great winter gardens here in SC! Even in what we call severe weather a little protection will keep lettuces and tender greens going all through the winter.
 
Marianne Cicala
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Hey David
6 hours is plenty of sun for most things down here. Best part is that you can put fall planting in early like lettaces, spinach, turnips, beets, mustard etc as they'll be protected from afternoon sun, but a little later in spring as your soil will warm up slower. Both are great because your crops will be in at a different time than the bulk at local markets. I just cleared an afternoon shade area outside of my kitchen garden (FULL sun) for that reason - wanted only morning sun to extent harvest time of the same plants in full sun. ALL berries will thrive in your front and look great incorporated with traditional landscape (in case neighbors would object to a front veggie garden). With our humidity, be careful with pears as fireblight can be an issue in shady areas - also, not knowing what types of trees are around, if there are cedars, apples will get cedar rust (not that big of a deal usually). Check the wetness of the soil before investing in potato seeds - if the area stays damp, your crop won't do great. Thumbs up for mushrooms in the back.
good luck!
 
Marianne Cicala
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Jeanine Gurley wrote:Zoe - thanks for that info about currants - I'll have to try them.

David - now that I know we are sharing the same bit of SC I have some suggestions for you to plant for Sept:

We have great winter gardens here in SC! Even in what we call severe weather a little protection will keep lettuces and tender greens going all through the winter.


Gotta love the south! I put in a late crop of cabbage (probably end of this month as an early frost is predicted). Just before frost, I cover the bed with straw. I harvested cabbages all winter - as long as temp was over 34 (when I harvested), I'd go out, move straw and cut. They were as good as I've ever had and cold weather didn't effect, wilt or rot them.
 
Paula Edwards
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If you save your own seeds from plants which grew well in the shade then you develop shade resistant vegetables over time (saving the seeds from brassicas is a bit of a pain).
 
Leila Rich
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If my soil was acidic, I'd be squashing blueberries into my shady spots
I find canes that naturally grow in forest margins do well. Raspberries, currants and gooseberries in my climate, but you're bound to have natives.
If you have space, figs are really easy to strike from cuttings, but be aware that they're from very sunny, arid climates and may not fruit much, if at all, in the shade.
 
Alex Cortez
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I recently planted katuk in a shady spot hoping to having something edible there. I tried first cooking the leaves and they tasted delicious. Worth investigating.
 
Steve Flanagan
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Location: North Fork, CA. USDA Zone 9a, Heat Zone 8, 37 degrees North, Sunset 7/9, elevation 2600 feet
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Alex, I'm interested to know how your Katuk is holding up in its shady spot. Also, how many hours of sun does it get?
 
Paulo Bessa
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In southern climates where it gets very hot during summer, its actually nice to have most species growing in part shade. 6 hours of sunlight is enough for ost crops.

Once I had a urban garden in part/full shade and grew many conventional annuals. Tomatoes are ok (but less yield) with 4 hours of sun. Potatoes can produce with even only 2h of sunlight, but its much better for them to have at least 4hours of sunlight. I once grew a perfect harvest of cucumber with only 3 hours of direct sunglight. Beans need much more light, min 6 hours. Peppers can produce with 3 or 4 hours of sunlight. Squash can produce with 5 or 6 hours of direct sunlight. That garden was in central Europe, during a hot summer, but the soil there was very fertile. Salads and carrots caqn grow with more shade.

There is a difference between growing in shade provided by walls, and that of a forest. If a forest shade is very thick, then the non-direct sunlight is not enough. Otherwise with a wideopen clearing, most plants will probably get enough daylight even the sun is not shining directly (only with a few hours of direct sun).

Once I grew tomatoes in a balcony with only 5 hours of direct sunlight and had of the best harvest ever.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Cucumbers and melons are said to need part shade, as far as I remember!
They are supposed to originally grow in trees, thus with shade.
Same for kiwano in warm climates.
 
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