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Limited space and limited sunlight. Growing tips?  RSS feed

 
Steve Smyth
Posts: 52
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Hey Everyone,

I live on a 1/3 acre lot in the North Cascades in Washington State. I am in a canyon with a beautiful creek in my back yard. Lots of beautiful Spruce, Cedar and Fir trees.

I would love to have a vegetable garden but have been of the understanding that I do not get enough sunlight to grow a vegetable garden.

Reading here I am getting the idea that there may be some particular crops & methods that may be practical producers in my less than ideal growing conditions. I just need a little help figuring out what I can successfully grow where?

What can I tell you about my location/circumstance that will help identify what & how I can grow successfully?

Thanks.

S.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9696
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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In my experience, if grass will grow then so will vegetables. Leafy greens do better with less sunlight than fruiting plants such as tomatoes, but it does not hurt to try the fruiting kinds anyway. Sometimes it is lack of heat rather than lack of light that is the problem with tropicals such as tomatoes or eggplants.

http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/shade-tolerant-vegetables-zm0z11zsto.aspx
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2339
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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You might try grapes. Perhaps they can use the trees as a trellis.

What's already growing in similar ecosystems in the neighborhood? Brambles? Strawberries? Ferns? Fungi? Miner's lettuce? Burdock? Perhaps those or similar species would work for you.

Are there any breaks in the canopy? If yes, where does the light fall. What is illuminated? What grows there? Are there any transition zones?
 
Steve Smyth
Posts: 52
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During the longest days of summer, if it isn't cloudy, we get a few ours of direct sunlight on the far North end of our lot.

Common plants in the area are: blackberries, ferns and rhododendrons.

 
Emilie Thomas-Anderson
Posts: 50
Location: Ben Lomond, CA
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Someone in my neck of the woods asked the same question in one of our facebook community groups awhile back, and I posted this response that may be of help to you, too! Most of these will do best/be most productive with at least dappled shade in our area, which usually is pretty warm in the summer (around 80-90F during the day most of the time, sometimes hotter; usually zero rain from June through September).

Oooh, fun! I've done a decent amount of research into shade-loving edibles in the last year, as I've started a new edible garden in my mostly shady front yard. Many of the following plants I haven't eaten yet, but have planted and are doing well so far; from what I understand, most of the fruiting ones will produce more fruit with more sun, but should still be somewhat productive in bright or dappled shade. Here's a list of what I've got planted:
Mint
Raspberries
Thimbleberries (a raspberry relative, native to the Pacific coast)
Rubus calycinoides (a groundcover-type raspberry, no thorns)
Lemon balm
Horseradish
Asparagus
Aronia melanocarpa (grown for its berries)
Gaultheria shallon (also called "salal"- a native grown for its berries)
Gaultheria procumbens (aka wintergreen, another native grown for its berries which yes, definitely taste of wintergreen! and for its leaves, which can be used to make a tea)
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (aka kinnikinnick, a native grown for its berries)
Lonicera caerulea (also called honeyberry or haskap, grown for its sweet blue berries)
Viburnum trilobum (aka highbush cranberry)
Gooseberries
Currants
French sorrel (I've grown this with huge success in bright shade for years!)
Huckleberries
Violas (for their edible flowers)
Calendula (for their edible/medicinal flowers)
Turkish rocket (a perennial broccoli relative - this is growing quite well in partial shade in my yard!)
Good King Henry (a perennial spinach relative)
Mashua (a nasturtium relative grown for its edible tubers; I grew this last year in partial shade with great success)
Malabar spinach (a perennial, semi-vining green, somewhat frost tender)
Oregano (does *great* in partial or dappled shade!)
Thyme
Yerba buena (a native mint relative; does fine in even full, bright shade)
Alpine strawberries (grow these in the brighter areas for best fruiting)
Rhubarb
Catnip
Kale/lettuces/arugula/other greens
Claytonia (aka miner's lettuce; a delicious native springtime green in our area)
Stinging nettles
Cornus mas (an edible-fruiting dogwood tree)
Allium triquetrum (a wild onion that grows like crazy around here in the spring)
Cow parsnip (a native parsley relative with edible stems)
Aralia cordata (aka Udo, a large shade-loving shrub used like asparagus in the spring)
Polygonatum odoratum (a beautiful, fragrant shade lover, with apparently edible shoots and roots, though I've never eaten them)
Asarum caudatum (aka wild ginger, native shade plant used for ginger-like roots, apparently toxic in large quantities)
Pawpaw trees (*not* papaya, but Asimina triloba, a native to the eastern U.S. I put in a few last year to try, and which are doing quite well so far)
Camellia sinensis (used to make green and black tea)
Celery does decently in partial shade, and apparently its perennial relative, skirret (grown for its carrot-like roots) does, too
Hosta (edible shoots in the spring)
Medlar (an apple relative to about 6 ft tall, apparently does well in partial shade)
My quince tree has been doing well in partial shade for 7 years!

A few I haven't tried yet, but want to add to my yard:
Matteuccia struthiopteris (aka Ostrich fern, used for fiddlehead ferns)
Allium tricoccum (aka ramps)
Allium ursinum (bear's garlic)
 
Steve Smyth
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Wow!!!

That is quite a list!

I have not tended a vegetable garden in many years. When I did it was without and real planning or need for the food. It was done on impulse.

Today I am looking at how I can reduce my food bill and provide quality vegetables for my family. Unfortunately I am realizing the amazing depths of my ignorance.... I have no solid idea of what my best choices are for vegetables that will make a solid taste and nutritional contribution to our diet. I know that I want to grow tomatoes and okra other than that I am dazed by the variety of choices. I would like to embrace selections that fall into the following categories:

Reasonably easy for a beginner to grow.
Produces good quantities relative to space required and labor input.
Produces well over a period of time. Not something that matures & is harvested in one shot.

What do you all find to be your favorites in the garden that would fit the above?

Thanks
 
Kris Mendoza
Posts: 79
Location: New England USA, Zone 7a
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I grow lettuce, kale, mustard greens, parsley, onions, and nasturtiums in a shady garden plot through the hotter summer months, when they would quickly wilt or bolt in full sun. I also got some decent radishes through July and August using this bed. This works well for me so I can have these leafy greens in spring (grown in a sunny area) as well as summer (grown in a shady area). I think they'd do well for you.

If you have rhodies and a lot of conifers then your soil is likely acidic--how about some strawberries or other berries that like acidic soil?
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9696
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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A bunch of perennial onion things do well for me in part shade, though of course my region is very different from yours. But they are worth a try and definitely help in the kitchen. It took us a little time to learn to use green onions from the garden instead of bulb onions from the store, but now we don't buy onions anymore! I have: Perennial Leek (aka Elephant Garlic), Garlic Chives, Canada Onion, and Walking Onion (aka Egyptian Onion).

 
Steve Smyth
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Kris Mendoza wrote:I grow lettuce, kale, mustard greens, parsley, onions, and nasturtiums in a shady garden plot through the hotter summer months, when they would quickly wilt or bolt in full sun. I also got some decent radishes through July and August using this bed. This works well for me so I can have these leafy greens in spring (grown in a sunny area) as well as summer (grown in a shady area). I think they'd do well for you.

If you have rhodies and a lot of conifers then your soil is likely acidic--how about some strawberries or other berries that like acidic soil?


I have never grown lettuce. I didn't realize that it is a crop that can be harvested throughout the season. Cool!! I am getting excited about this

Our soil is acidic and strawberry's do grow here. They will definitely be part of the garden.
 
Steve Smyth
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Tyler Ludens wrote:A bunch of perennial onion things do well for me in part shade, though of course my region is very different from yours. But they are worth a try and definitely help in the kitchen. It took us a little time to learn to use green onions from the garden instead of bulb onions from the store, but now we don't buy onions anymore! I have: Perennial Leek (aka Elephant Garlic), Garlic Chives, Canada Onion, and Walking Onion (aka Egyptian Onion).



Yes, your climate is quite different. . We get about 40" of rain and 180+ cloudy days a year.

I am curious regarding replacing bulb onions with green onions. I am a big Walla Walla Sweet fan. Is there a green onion alternative?

Thanks
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9696
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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The green onions are all stronger "oniony" tasting and less sweet, so it took some adjustment of palate. Our personal favorite for flavor is the native Canada Onion, which isn't native to your part of North America, unfortunately.

http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=alca3

Perennial Leek makes a biggish stem which can almost pass for a bulb onion, but has a little bit more of a garlicky taste. You can sometimes find bulbs for this in the grocery store as Elephant Garlic, or purchase bulbs from suppliers in the Fall. They also grow easily from seed but I'm not finding any suppliers in a quick search.

 
Kris Mendoza
Posts: 79
Location: New England USA, Zone 7a
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bee hugelkultur urban
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Tyler Ludens wrote:The green onions are all stronger "oniony" tasting and less sweet, so it took some adjustment of palate. Our personal favorite for flavor is the native Canada Onion, which isn't native to your part of North America, unfortunately.

http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=alca3

Perennial Leek makes a biggish stem which can almost pass for a bulb onion, but has a little bit more of a garlicky taste. You can sometimes find bulbs for this in the grocery store as Elephant Garlic, or purchase bulbs from suppliers in the Fall. They also grow easily from seed but I'm not finding any suppliers in a quick search.



Are elephant garlic and perennial leek one and the same? I have been wondering where to find the mythical perennial leek. They sell elephant garlic at our local Whole Foods--I can't really afford to shop there, but I just bought some sunchokes there to plant, and I checked out all the produce for grow-able things!
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9696
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Kris Mendoza wrote:
Are elephant garlic and perennial leek one and the same?


They sure are! Allium ampeloprasum They are remarkably tough plants, living here just fine with no irrigation, though they will go dormant when it gets too dry.
 
Chris Sargent
Posts: 54
Location: SE Alaska
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I live in a climate similar to yours only more rain and cooler summers. I to have a property with lots of shade. There are things you can grow but expect them to grow much slower than in sunnier locations. I've found that smaller early maturing varieties are important. Emilie has a great list...I've considered many of the things on her list.

You can pretty much rule out any vegetable that you eat the 'fruit', such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc. They need more sun and heat that we can provide.
Beans also don't work...with the exception of runner beans...I've had good luck with them in the "sunnier" areas on my property.

Most leafy greens will do well even in lots of shade. I've found leaf lettuces do better than head lettuce. I like to do a mix of leaf lettuces, and other baby greens (kale, swiss chard, beet greens, radish, etc.) Again expect them to grow much slower than the seed packet advertises in a shady garden. But they can be harvested at any size from micro-green, to baby, to fully mature. I often sow them in large dense patches. I'll thin them out and eat the baby greens early and keep eating from the patch though out the summer. By the season end I have full size leaf lettuce.

Kale does well in part shade. Again you can eat it as baby kale in salads and then as it matures just pick off the outermost leaves. The plant will continue to grow though out the summer and you can just harvest the outer leaves as you want to eat them. Spinach also does ok in the shade.

Most root vegetables do ok in part shade. Again choose 'small' or 'baby' varieties as they take less energy to mature and thus can reach harvest size even in shadier spots. I like small nantes and little finger carrots, egg or hakurei turnips, radishes. Expect these early or baby varieties to take about as long as normal varieties when grown in the shade.

Rhubarb does fantastic even in almost full shade. It needs almost no care and you can harvest stalks starting in the early spring though the summer as you want or need them.

Peas do well in some shade. Snap and snow peas can just be harvested as you want to eat them and in a cool shady spot will produce all summer. You do need to keep them picked though because if the pods are allowed to mature on the vine the plant will stop producing flowers and you'll get no more peas from that plant. Shelling peas also do well but they tend to be more of a harvest all at once type crop.

Berries, berries, and more berries. Many berries will grow well in the shade. Native or wild type berries do better in the shade. Many of the cultivated varieties have been breed to produce extra large, sweet berries. But those big sugary berries need lots of energy and thus lots of sun to mature. Wild berries tend to have smaller fruits and still carry adaptations to fruit in the shady under story. So wild type blueberries, huckleberries, currents, gooseberries, and strawberries.



 
Galadriel Freden
Posts: 358
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
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I want to add that you can grow mushrooms in the shade. I grow in strawbales under mature trees at the back of my small property. About half or more of my growing space is shaded during the warmer months due to those two mature trees, though luckily I have enough full sun to grow a reasonable vegetable garden. In part shade and dappled shade I have mainly fruit: apple, cherry, pear, blackcurrants, rhubarb, raspberries. To be honest though, the full sun fruits do produce more than those in part sun.

For non plant food crops, chickens, rabbits, ducks, etc can function pretty well in mostly shade. My chicken coop is under my trees at the back, and even when I have crop failures (in 2014 we had a plague of slugs that mowed down 75% of my veg), I still get fresh garden food in the form eggs every day. I even get them in winter when nothing else is producing. I believe chickens (and other poultry) should have access to some sunshine, even if it's just a little patch they can sunbathe in; I'm not sure if rabbits have that requirement--I've never kept rabbits.
 
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