Garden Gets No Sun: Which Fruit and Veg to Grow?

Q.I would love to grow fruit and veggies with my children, but we can only grow in pots as we have no garden only a yard which doesn’t get any sun. What could we grow?

(D.E, 15 May 2009)

A.Growing your own fruit and vegetables is becoming increasingly popular and it’s a great thing to do in the Kid’s Garden. The good news is that there are things you can try, even if your efforts do have to be restricted to a small amount of shady space.

Leafy Vegetables

As a general rule, leafy vegetables seem to be the most tolerant of shady conditions and depending on what you and your children like to eat, there should be something to suit. Lettuces for example, can be surprisingly successful, particularly if you pick the outdoor “all year” varieties – or possibly one of the hardier “cut-and-come-again” types.

Other possible contenders include:

  • Beetroot
  • Chard
  • Chicory
  • Kale
  • Kohl Rabi
  • Radish
  • Rhubarb
  • Spinach

Experiment A Bit

It’s worth experimenting a bit to find out what will do best for your particular spot. Some of the herbs, for instance, will do well in a shady spot, particularly the likes of mint and lemon balm, and you could also think about growing some of the early cropping vegetables such as spring cabbage or broad beans, which tend to need less light to thrive.

You’ll probably always struggle to produce a good crop of most kinds of fruit or vegetables that need to flower and then ripen in full sun – although some of the outdoor hanging-basket varieties like the multi-cropping tomato “Hundreds and Thousands” might be worth a try if you have a suitable wall. Some people have also found that the dwarf runner bean “Hestia” which is ideal for growing in a pot, can do quite well in the shade. It might also be worth trying blackberries – a plant which naturally lives in the shade of woodland edges and there are a few thorn-less varieties available which are much kinder to little fingers!

Sprouting Options

Growing sprouts is something else that you might like to think about, and there are lots of suitable varieties available, from the traditional Mung Bean (“beansprouts”) to alfalfa and wheatgrass. Admittedly they’re not for growing outdoors – a window-sill is perfect – but they will let you get started quickly. You can be cropping these delicious additions to salads, sandwiches and stir-fries in a week or so, which should allow you the time to give the rest of the project some more thought.

A lot of what you can grow depends on the circumstances of your particular plot and the local climate, so any new gardening venture always has a bit of the hit-and-miss about it, at least at first. As well as picking the plants that should do well, it’s worth adding a few that you’d simply like to try; you never know, they may surprise you and even if they don’t produce a great crop, you’ve learnt something which should help with future plans.

If you are limited to growing in pots, then look out for patio vegetables which have been developed specially for container gardening. It’s often also a great idea to have a talk to the staff at your garden centre, since there are few people better placed to offer useful local advice.

Best of luck – and enjoy seeing what you can get to grow.

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