How To Grow Vegetables in a Garden in the Shade

The ideal garden has a good supply of water, soil filled with nutrients, and, most importantly, plenty of sunlight to help your vegetables grow well. Most vegetables do well with the correct supply of water, nutrients, and sunshine. However, if your garden is in the shade, it’s still possible to grow vegetables. 

Here are a few tips on how to grow vegetables in a garden in the shade:

  1. Choose vegetables that thrive in the shade.
  2. Grow your seedlings indoors.
  3. Expect slow maturation and lower yields.
  4. Prune low trees and thin out high branches.
  5. Grow crops in containers.
  6. Use nutritional compost.
  7. Check the garden for pests and diseases.
  8. Use reflective mulches.
  9. Paint nearby walls white.

Just because your garden is in the shade doesn’t immediately disqualify you from planting vegetables and enjoying them in your household. Read on to understand how you can apply specific tips to make the best out of your garden.

1. Choose Vegetables That Thrive in the Shade

Vegetables grown for their leaves and roots are more likely to do well in your garden than those grown for their fruit. These don’t need a lot of sunlight to thrive and can cope with the cool atmosphere in the garden. Fruity vegetables, such as tomatoes and squash, will start to rot or develop diseases due to the excess moisture in your garden. 

All the same, some vegetables will thrive in your garden with shade, while others will tolerate the shade and outdo the odds.

Here’s a table with examples of vegetables that thrive in the shade and those that tolerate it:

Vegetables That Thrive in Shade Vegetables That Tolerate Shade
  • Arugula
  • Horseradish
  • Garlish
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Beets
  • Turnips
  • Broccoli
  • Watercress
  • Bush beans
  • Summer squash
  • Bush tomatoes

2. Grow Your Seedlings Indoors

If you prefer to grow your vegetable seedlings in a nursery before transplanting them to the garden, you need to grow them indoors. 

It’s important to ensure the seedlings get accustomed to shade from their onset. If you grow them outdoors and then transfer them to your garden in the shade, the vegetables won’t be able to withstand the changes in their environment. Consequently, you’ll have poor or no yields. 

Step by Step Guide on Growing Your Seedlings Indoors

  1. Set up a lighted area to plant your seedlings. Most seedlings require 12-16 hours of light every day. 
  2. Set up the growing containers. These could be anything from recyclable plastic containers, tissue paper rolls, or seed starting pots. Alternatively, you could compact soil together and prepare a seedbed. 
  3. Create drainage holes in your planting containers. This helps to avoid overwatering.
  4. Prepare the soil to sow your seeds. You should use a new starting mix for your seedlings. Using recycled soil from your garden could expose the new seedlings to pests and diseases. 
  5. Sow your seeds. Poke holes into the soil and place 2-3 seeds per hole. Cover the seeds with soil and water them to keep the soil moist. Use a humidity dome to lock in the moisture.  
  6. Place the containers in a warm location. Seeds need temperatures of 65-75℉ (18-24℃) to germinate. You might need an additional source of warmth for this to be successful. 
  7. Water the soil frequently. Keep it moist but not soggy. Too much water inhibits seed germination, and if you don’t water the seeds, they’ll dry out and not germinate. 
  8. Use liquid fertilizer to feed the seedlings once the true leaves shoot. The true leaves are the second leaves that sprout once a seedling germinates. 
  9. Thin out the plants, leaving the strongest plant on the pot. Each container should have one plant. The best way to thin out the plants is to clip them at the root level. 
  10. Move the seedlings to larger pots when they outgrow the smaller containers. Water the seedlings properly before moving them to reduce the chances of root damage. 
  11. Harden your seedlings to the outdoor environment. They need to be ready for the changes in the weather before you transplant them. 
  12. Transplant your seedlings to your outdoor garden. Avoid removing a plant from its pot until you’re ready to transplant it. 

3. Expect Slower Maturation and Lower Yields

Almost all vegetables need sufficient sunshine, among other nutrients, for growth and good yields. Yet when your garden is in the shade, vegetables will be getting less sunshine. This will affect the maturation periods and the potential yields you obtain from your garden. 

Even with partial shade, vegetables will take longer to grow and mature. You might also notice them leaning towards the areas that get some sunshine. However, with partial shade, you’re sure to harvest something, just not as much as you would if your garden had plenty of sunshine coming through.

A study by the University of Florida indicates that vegetables growing in the shade have long, weak stems and fewer leaves. This explains why your vegetables may have lower yields at the end of the season. 

4. Prune Low Trees and Thin Out High Branches

If you have trees in your compound near your garden, they could be the reason for the excessive shade. Working on these might give your vegetables a better chance at growth. You’ll be more qualified to expect a bountiful yield if you reduce the shade in your garden. 

Low trees bring a lot of shade to your garden and reduce the extent to which your vegetables have access to sunlight.

You can reduce the shade by:

  • Cutting off excess branches
  • Thinning out the branches

You can also thin out the high branches in your trees to create more ways for sunlight to reach your garden. Cut off the excess twigs and prune the extra leaves for better exposure. 

It’s important to be constant with pruning low trees and thinning out high tree branches to minimize the shade in your garden. 

5. Grow Crops in Containers

If your garden has partial shade, you need to figure out a way for your crops to get the little sunlight that comes through. The most practical way to do this is to grow your vegetables in containers so they’re easy to move whenever necessary. 

For instance, in the summer, you could move your vegetables in the direction of the sunlight. This way, you’ll increase your vegetables’ chances of survival and production of high yields. 

You can also buy containers or use recyclable plastic containers or pots at home to plant and grow your vegetables. Just be sure to clean any old containers with soap and water before using. Cleaning helps remove any debris and chemicals that may alter the growth of your vegetables. 

6. Use Nutritional Compost

Using nutritional compost for your vegetables helps to make up for the little sunshine they get. Composting improves the quality of your garden soil and gives your vegetables a fairer chance at giving maximum yields. 

Here are the benefits of adding compost in your vegetable garden in the shade:

  • It has organic matter that feeds organisms in the soil to maintain a healthy soil food web.
  • It adds nutrients to the soil for the better growth of your vegetables.
  • Composting releases nutrients gradually, unlike fertilizers. This helps to reduce the leaching of nutrients and improves the quality of your garden soil
  • Your garden will have a better soil structure to support the growth of your vegetables.
  • It improves drainage and aeration in your soil.
  • Nutritional composting helps to improve moisture and nutrient retention in the soil.
  • Reduces soil erosion in adverse weather conditions such as strong winds and heavy rainfall.
  • Composting also helps to reduce soil compaction in your garden. It will be easier to remove weeds and tend to your plants. 
  • It also reduces the occurrence of soilborne diseases and pests.
  • Nutritional composting also helps to increase the number of earthworms in your garden. The worms are excellent in soil building. 

7. Check the Garden for Pests and Diseases

Pests are the worst enemies to your vegetables. If you want to have a good harvest in your shaded vegetable garden, you have to be on the lookout for those pests and diseases. 

The most common pests in your shaded vegetable garden will be snails and slugs. These thrive in wet and dimly lit gardens. They can be a threat to your vegetables by eating the leaves or spreading other pathogens. 

Here are ways to deal with the snails and slugs in your garden.

  • Remove any debris in the garden, which serves as a hiding place for the snails and slugs.
  • Remove any landscape fabric, bricks, or art pieces housing the pests.
  • Thin out your vegetables to create more room for air movement.
  • If the pests are too stubborn, you can resolve to use chemical controls. Use metaldehyde or iron phosphate in the most affected areas of your garden to flush out the snails and slugs. 

Tip: Learn more about how to keep eating insects and animals from eating your plants in my article here: How To Keep Insects and Animals From Eating Your Plants

The most common disease in shaded vegetable gardens is powdery mildew. Your vegetables will start to look as if they have been sprinkled with white flour. A good example is your green beans turning white.

If you don’t control this disease as soon as it starts to show, you could end up losing all your vegetables. 

The most efficient way to control powdery mildew is through chemical control. 

8. Use Reflective Mulches

Reflective mulches are reflective materials such as silver polythene or aluminum papers that help reflect light in your garden and reduce the spread of aphids. The mulches come in different colors and are great for adding light to your shaded vegetable garden. 

They also increase air temperatures in the garden and improve photosynthesis in your vegetables. Consequently, you can look forward to better yields by the end of the season. 

Setting Up Reflective Mulches

If your garden is to benefit from the reflective mulches, you have to set them upright.

Here is a step-by-step guide on using the mulch in your garden. 

  1. Remove all weeds from your garden. This ensures the soil is ready for planting before laying the mulch.
  2. Cover the garden with silver mulch from end to end to cover the entire area you intend to plant with vegetables. You can use any mulch color as long as it reflects enough light into the garden.
  3. Bury the edges with some soil to hold them down. You can also hold down the edges with sticks, stones, or stakes. The intention is to keep the edges down. 
  4. Make 3-4 inches (7.5-10 cm) holes to plant your vegetables. Make enough holes for the seedlings you have.  
  5. Plant your vegetables. Gently cover with soil and mulch.
  6. Lift the mulch when the temperatures are high to avoid burning your vegetables. Polythene material can retain too much heat, which is unhealthy for your vegetables. 

Tip: If you’re working on a tight budget, you can cover cardboard with aluminum foil to serve as the mulch. 

9. Paint Nearby Walls White

White is the most reflective color. If your garden is too shady and you want to let in more light for your vegetables, the best option is to paint the surrounding walls white. 

The white walls will reflect more light on your garden. Your vegetables will have more light to help them grow. While this might not solve the problem of shade in your garden, it helps to improve the chances of a better yield. 

Types of Shade in Vegetable Gardens

Before planning what to plant in your garden in the shade, you should understand the different types of shade.

There are three different shades:

  • Deep Shade
  • Light Shade
  • Partial Shade

Deep Shade

If your garden has no light coming in at any time of the day, it’s covered by a deep shade. Unfortunately, such a garden can’t support the growth of any vegetables. Even the vegetables that tolerate or thrive in the shade need at least 2-4 hours of sunlight a day to grow. 

Light Shade

Light shading in your garden occurs when your garden gets spasms of light, though trees and other materials block them. In this scenario, the vegetables in your garden will get an hour or two of sunlight

Your garden will have some light. It’ll be airy and well illuminated by reflected or indirect light. 

Partial Shade

If your garden has partial shade, it gets direct sunshine for 2-6 hours a day. For instance, if your garden’s shade is brought by the house walls when the sun changes position, your garden will get enough sunshine. 

Vegetables thrive most in partially shaded gardens. 

Advantages of Growing Vegetables in Shade

When you grow your vegetables in the shade, you stand to enjoy benefits that you would miss when growing them in non-shaded gardens.

Here are some of those benefits:

More Succulent & Less Bitter

The leafy vegetables become more succulent and are not bitter. Growing the vegetables in the shade means that they retain most moisture because of the reduced evaporation rates. 

A Lower Growing Period

Partially shaded gardens allow a lower growing period for cool-season crops. If you’re growing cool-season crops in a shady garden, then you don’t have to wait too long before you serve them in your family’s meals. 

Protection From the Sun

The shade protects the vegetables from the harsh summer sun. Most vegetables wither away in the summer because of the hot temperatures and increased evaporation. However, the shade in your vegetable garden will protect your crops from those harsh conditions. 

Fewer Maintenance Needs

Shaded gardens require lower maintenance than non-shaded gardens. Most of the time, the soil will be moisturized, with a good balance for the growth of your vegetables. You don’t need to constantly work in your garden for a good yield. 

More Vegetable Variety

You can maximize growing the shade-tolerant vegetables in your garden and growing other varieties in other non-shaded spaces. By the end of the season, you’ll have different vegetable varieties for your home. 

Less Watering Required

Since the soil in shaded gardens is constantly moisturized, you don’t need to keep watering your plants every day. You only need to check when they need water and water them then. This helps you become water-efficient and save some labor. 

Fewer Weeds to Deal With

Shaded gardens don’t have as many weeds as non-shaded gardens. This means you’ll save yourself from constantly weeding the garden. The low competition from weeds also gives your vegetable more room to grow. 

Less Competition (& Less Fertilizer!)

The less competition in your garden means that you can feed your vegetables with normal doses of fertilizers. Non-shaded gardens need extra fertilizers to help the plants gain enough nutrients to support their growth. They might also require chemical control of the weeds, which can be harmful to the vegetables. 


Having a shaded garden doesn’t mean that you can’t plant and enjoy your vegetables. However, you need to establish the type of shade your garden has. You also need to study which vegetables would do well in your garden. 

Prepare your garden by using nutritional composts, averting the shade whenever possible, and keeping pests and diseases out. 

After carefully tending to your shaded vegetable garden, you’ll have healthy and succulent vegetables to feed your family all through the season.

Dr. Moritz Picot

Dr. Moritz Picot is a horticulture enthusiast and the founder of, where he serves as the lead content writer. He established the website in 2022 as a valuable resource for both gardening aficionados and beginners, compiling all the gardening tips he has accumulated over the past 25 years. Alex has a passion for nurturing plants, transforming backyards into inviting spaces, and sharing his knowledge with the world.

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