Verktøy for Hjem og Hage

Fruit and vegetables for shady spaces

Sour cherries develop aromatic fruit with just a little light. Credit: Image Professionals / Strauss, Friedrich

Not all gardens and balconies are sunny. However, you can also grow fruit and vegetables in the shade. You just need to choose the correct varieties. You can find out what they are here.

Do fruit and vegetables also grow in the shade?

Lots of people associate fruit and vegetable cultivation with luxurious beds and magnificent trees or bushes in the bright sunshine. But lots of fruit and vegetables also grow in the shade and deliver delicious fruit.

Nonetheless, you should not grow fruit or vegetables in the direct vicinity of large and evergreen trees. It is not so much the lack of light that causes a problem here. Rather the large trees leach so many nutrients from the soil that the fruit and vegetable plants often cannot absorb enough of them. This means they do not develop well and also form less fruit.

However, if you have a north facing balcony or a shady patio, you can cultivate all kinds of fruit and vegetables. You can also plant tasty things in the light semi-shade or the shade of buildings. The important thing is that the plants receive at least three hours of sunlight per day in the selected location.

Beans are also happy in a shady spot in the garden. Credit: Friedrich Strauss Gartenbildagentur / Strauss, Friedrich

What kinds of fruit grow in the shade?

Plants which grow freely in nature, particularly in the forest, are used to small amounts of sunlight. So they also thrive in shady spots. The following types of fruit belong to these varieties (among others):

  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Red currants
  • Blueberries
  • Wild strawberries
  • Sour cherries

You can achieve a good harvest from all of these plants in shady places and pick delicious fruit.

Exotic fruit that are used to the sun and heat in their native environments require particularly high levels of light. If you have a bright spot, it’s worth cultivating them to add some variety.

Blackberries are undemanding and also grow in semi-shady locations. Credit: Friedrich Strauss Gartenbildagentur / Zelano, Sonja

What kinds of vegetable grow in the shade?

Where vegetables are concerned, you can also cultivate the following plants in the shade:

  • Beans
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Lamb’s lettuce
  • Peas
  • Leaf lettuce
  • Spinach

All these plants also do well in brighter locations. However, they also thrive in semi-shade and even shade.

But you should make sure that the vegetables do not receive less light than in light semi-shade. Otherwise, an increased amount of nitrate will be stored in the leaves, which is harmful to health. This is particularly prominent with a lack of light. The brighter it is, the more nitrate is broken down. If you harvest the vegetables in the afternoon, the nitrate content is at its lowest.

A greenhouse can also work in a shady garden area or on a balcony, as the low levels of sunlight reduce the risk of plants overheating or burning. Radishes, Kohlrabi, and Swiss chard also ripen before their usual harvest times outdoors here.

If you want to know more about when you should do what kind of work in the garden, you can find out the best times for all the important tasks in our Gardening Calendar.

Spinach thrives both in sunny and semi-shady locations. Credit: Friedrich Strauss Gartenbildagentur / Strauss, Friedrich

Which herbs grow in the shade?

In addition to fruit and vegetable varieties, there are also some herbs that thrive without a lot of sunlight and therefore also in the shade. These include:

  • Dill
  • Mint
  • Parsley
  • Wild garlic
  • Chives
  • Woodruff

Mediterranean herbs such as thyme or rosemary cannot be cultivated in the shade. They must have sunlight to develop well. So you should only plant these herbs if you have a location in full sunlight. It is the rays of sunlight that gives these herbs their full flavor.

In contrast, you can readily grow the herbs mentioned above in the shade. They are tasty even if they grow in a location without much light. Wild garlic, for example, grows naturally in forests and does not require any sun. Quite the opposite: It dries up really quickly in direct sunlight.

These herbs are sometimes vigorous growers. That means they spread very quickly in a bed. If you want to restrict the growth area, you can partition the bed with vertically buried stone slabs or wooden slats. Otherwise, the strong growing herbs could reach the lawn and be cut by the robot lawnmower.

Alternatively, you can plant the herbs in a raised bed or in homemade balcony boxes. This dictates the perimeter of the plant area. The borders of the planting areas are directly defined here and you can trim the rampant leafy greens with Isio battery operated shears.

Some herbs, such as woodruff, also grow in the shade. Credit: Image Professionals / Schieren, Bodo A.

Cultivation tips for fruit and vegetable varieties in the shade

Plants do not grow as vigorously in the shade as they do in brighter locations. So they do not need to be watered as frequently. They also require less fertiliser. Therefore, always use the minimum amount stipulated on the packaging when fertilising. Otherwise the plants will quickly be over saturated.

Wild garlic does not require any fertiliser. This does not make it grow better, rather it is satisfied with the nutrients from fallen foliage.

Water does not evaporate as readily in the shade. So the plant soil does not dry out as quickly. The humidity around the plants is therefore higher than for plants in sunny locations. So do not water them too much, only when the soil surface is dry. The soil should be constantly damp but not wet.

The high humidity often attracts snails and slugs. Keep them at bay with snail and slug barriers or sprinkle some slug pellets.

Extra tip: If you want to plant fruit and vegetables in the shade of a tall wall, paint the wall a light colour. It will then reflect the light better and considerably brighten the plant location. This will help the plants to thrive.