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Use the whole garden and grow a salad in the shade

3 large vegetable leaves

Summer is in full swing and your gardens are planted, but there is still one bare spot in the shade. In a vegetable garden, shade is a predicament.  Have no fear – food will grow here! Plant some leafy greens and lettuces in these spots and feast on many summer salads.

The more popular things to grow in your summer garden such as tomato, pepper, zucchini and others indeed will not grow well without at least 8 hours sun. On the other hand, spinach, arugula, all types of kale, Swiss chard, and head lettuce grow well with about 4 hours of full sun. These crops are typically planted in spring and fall in full-sun areas because they do not respond well to heat and summer sun. Therefore, any of these are great choices for shade spots.

As an aside: there are other options besides leafy greens, though these are slightly more difficult to grow. These are cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, beets, and cabbage. These crops prefer just a tad more sun than the greens previously mentioned, ideally around 5-6 hours of direct sun. However, direct seed plantings of these crops take a lot more time than the leafy greens to mature (excluding radishes, which are ready to eat in about 30 days). Sometimes you’ll get lucky and garden centers will carry these as transplants.

If this is your first foray into planting anything else but peppers and tomatoes, stick to leafy greens and the ultimate beginner crop – radishes. These are the most forgiving of all vegetables to grow.

Simply pick up some radish, spinach, kale or other seeds at your local garden center, and plant the seeds according to the label instructions! If you have that key 4-6 hours of sun in your otherwise shady spot, you’ll be fine.

Dig your little seed furrows using your favorite garden implement for the job, read the spacing requirements of the seeds carefully, sow the seeds by hand, cover with soil, and you’re done planting! All that’s left to do now is stay on top of weeding and watering – the keys to any successful garden enterprise. Make sure your germinating seeds do not dry out – water every other day, keeping soil moist, not flooded.

You should be able to cut your first salad from your leafy greens patch about 4-6 weeks after planting. Make sure to read label instructions carefully to determine harvest date; radishes will turn hollow and inedible if you harvest them later than 1 month.

PHOTO CREDIT: Grow Greens in the Shade by Nick Frillman, University of Illinois Extension

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nick Frillman is a Local Foods and Small Farms Educator serving Livingston, McLean & Woodford counties. A fourth-generation graduate from University of Illinois, Frillman has a B.A. with a double major of Political Science and Spanish and a M.S. in Crop Science with a focus on crop production. Before joining Illinois Extension, Frillman completed a field season of CSA and farmers’ market style production at a small “beyond-organic” vegetable farm in Sandy, Oregon.

ABOUT THE EDITOR: Liz Repplinger is the Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Coordinator serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. A Bloomington-Normal native, Liz earned a B. A. in Animal Science and an M.S. in Animal Science from Illinois State University. She has enjoyed contributing to the multiple facets of Extension including previous support of the 4-H Youth Development Program as a program coordinator and current support of Unit and Statewide Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives.