Grow Fruits and Vegetables in the Shade!

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Arugula growing in shade

One of the questions we’re often asked is ‘What can I grow in a shady part of my garden?’ Well, the answer is: a surprising amount! While shade presents a challenge, it certainly needn’t stop you from growing your own fruit and vegetables.

Maximize the Potential of Your Shady Garden

Even shady gardens will normally receive at least a couple of hours of sunshine a day. The secret to coping with shade is to make the most of these windows of direct sunlight.

In most climates seedlings need as much light as possible in order to start off strongly, so prioritize the sunniest parts of the garden for your seedlings. Grow them in pots and module trays within cold frames, or start seedlings off in a seedbed then transplant them to another part of your garden once they are bigger and better able to cope with lower light levels. If you're starting seeds early in the season, using full-spectrum grow-lights indoors can give them an early boost before you gradually introduce them to the outdoors.


Make the most of available light by reflecting it into shadier parts of the garden. Paint walls and fences white or add mirrors and other reflective surfaces such as shiny metal or foil to bounce light back into these darker areas.

It's important to remember that shadier corners will be slower to warm up in the spring, so use cold frames, cloches and horticultural fleece to warm up the soil earlier. They can also be used to extend the growing season later on in the fall.

Slugs and snails can be more of problem in shady areas, so set up plenty of beer traps and delay laying mulches until the weather has properly warmed up.

Vegetables to Grow in Shade

Leafy crops such as lettuce, arugula, chard and kale will be more than happy with just three to four hours of sunshine a day. For areas that receive morning sun then afternoon shade, try vegetables such as carrots, celery and bush beans.

Look for areas which receive sunlight above ground level. Areas that are shaded in the morning but sunny by afternoon are perfect for climbing vegetables like beans, climbing peas and outdoor cucumbers. Given the correct supports they can clamber upwards out of the shade and into the sunshine.

Allow plenty of space between plants to help maximize light penetration, which in turn will reduce the risk of disease.

Fan-trained gooseberry

Fruits to Grow in Shade

Currants, gooseberries and sour (or acid) cherries are the best fruits to grow in shade. Rather than allowing them to form bush shapes, train them against a wall as single-stemmed cordons or as fans. Training the stems this way ensures the branches are well spaced so that light can reach all parts of the plant, rather than just the edges. Walls and fences can also be painted white to reflect light back onto the leaves.


You can give your fruit a further boost by allowing a little more room than normal – an additional one to two feet (30 to 60cm) between plants will reduce any risk of further shading from neighboring plants. Soil in shady areas can be cooler and wetter, particularly if you have heavy soil, so before planting your fruit dig in plenty of well-rotted garden compost to help improve drainage.

Cane fruits such as raspberries and blackberries can also cope with some shade. Again, the secret lies in ensuring there is plenty of space between canes for light penetration and to avoid damp, stagnant air.


Choosing Shade-tolerant Plants

Our Garden Planner makes it very easy to choose crops suitable for shadier areas. Simply click on the Custom Filter button to the left of the plant selection bar, then select the ‘Partial Shade Tolerant’ option and click OK. The selection bar will then display only crops that are suitable for growing in these conditions.

If you have a shady garden then please let us know what grows well for you – just drop us a comment below.

Bugs, Beneficial Insects and Plant Diseases

< All Guides

Garden Planning Apps

If you need help designing your vegetable garden, try our Vegetable Garden Planner.
Garden Planning Apps and Software

Vegetable Garden Pest Warnings

Want to Receive Alerts When Pests are Heading Your Way?

If you've seen any pests or beneficial insects in your garden in the past few days please report them to The Big Bug Hunt and help create a warning system to alert you when bugs are heading your way.

Show Comments


"Thank you so much for this article. I am living in South Africa in the Western cape and can use this info. Would like to know more."
Henriette on Wednesday 4 May 2016
"There is a part of my garden that is in total shade all the time. Despite this my rhubarb grows there very well producing more than enough for my family."
Richard on Monday 16 October 2017
"hi I am very fanatic about vegetable gardening, saw your planner and would really like to try it on my garden when planting.could you please send me a copy.thank you very much."
Peter Ramgolam on Friday 16 August 2019
"Hi Peter. To try out the Garden Planner free for 7 days please click on the Create an Account button at the top right corner of this page (or any other page on GrowVeg). The Garden Planner is online software so there's nothing to download to your computer. If you have any questions about using the Garden Planner or Journal at any point, please do not hesitate to email us at"
GrowVeg Customer Support on Friday 16 August 2019
"So we have 4 raised beds 12'x4' for gardens on the north side of our house. And plenty of shade from the house in winter. We have 4 mirrors on our privacy fence and then 4 mirrors on our house that reflex the sun back to the beds during the day. the sun moves so they dont line up for very long and the ones on the fence can adjust the angles for the time of year. But you know the plants love teh little extra sun they get from the mirrors. "
txdouglas on Sunday 29 December 2019
"That's very interesting to hear that they do have an appreciable effect. Thanks for sharing."
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 2 January 2020
"I want to grow asparagus with wood chip mulch, also I would like to grow wine cap mushrooms in wood chips. Asparagus is a sun lover, wine cap, not so much. The wine cap mushroom need partial shade, so will it get enough shade in 3 year old asparagus beds or will it need more shade. Can I shade the bed below the asparagus with a low growing crop like lettuce or straw berries, that will shade the mycelium, but not compete the asparagus. This is my quest, I will let you know what I find out, but it will take some time to set up the beds and grow off the asparagus."
Joe on Saturday 7 March 2020
"Hi Joe. Some good questions there. I imagine the asparagus, being quite light and feathery in foliage, probably wouldn't cast enough shade. Generally fungi quite a bit of shading."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 9 March 2020
"hello, will your app accommodate curves and circles. I have a approximately 8 foot brick circle in my back yard with 2 foot planter borders around it. Then there are 4 foot wide semi circle beds on one side of the main circle. Will I be able to draw this using your app? Thanks, Cathy"
Cathy F Rohweller on Saturday 13 March 2021
"Will your app accommodate curved and circular of garden bed layouts?"
Cathy F Rohweller on Saturday 13 March 2021
"Hi Cathy. While the planning grid itself must be square or rectangular, you can draw a garden of any shape within it. When you click on the New Plan button, make the plan large enough to fit the whole garden area you want to plan within it, including paths and any other features you want to include. You can then draw a garden or bed on the grid using in the Shape tools (the triangle, circle, and square icon in the Drawing Tools pane). Lines, which can be found among the shape tools, can also be curved if necessary by clicking on and dragging the center 'handle'. If you have any further questions about using the Garden Planner, please feel free to contact the customer support team using the Contact button at the top of this page or within the Garden Planner."
Garden Planner Customer Support on Saturday 13 March 2021

Add a Comment

Add your own thoughts on the subject of this article:
(If you have difficulty using this form, please use our Contact Form to send us your comment, along with the title of this article.)

(We won't display this on the website or use it for marketing)


(Please enter the code above to help prevent spam on this article)

By clicking 'Add Comment' you agree to our Terms and Conditions