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Louise Curley

30 Apr 2024 14:48

Shade-loving Edibles

Plenty of warm sunshine is crucial if you want to successfully grow edible plants, but what about those tricky shady spots – the raised bed under the dappled shade of a tree, the corner of a patio shaded by a neighbour’s extension or the side return of the house that only gets a few hours of sun in the morning or evening?

Most of us have got somewhere like this in our garden, but they tend to be neglected places.

The good news is not all edibles require all-day sun, so these otherwise unproductive spaces can be transformed into mini allotments for a range of tasty crops. While plants that flower and produce fruit tend to be the ones that need lots of sun to produce good harvests, leafy crops will do just as well, if not better, in a cooler position, so here’s my guide to the best edibles for shade.

Lettuce

Salad leaves tend to bolt (flower and set seed prematurely) when it gets too hot, so they are a perfect candidate for growing in shade. Sow seeds in modules in a greenhouse or on a windowsill, growing them on to form little plug plants before planting out.

Rocket

This leafy plant with spicy foliage is notorious for running to seed at the first hint of hot weather, so it’s much better to grow it somewhere cooler. It’s best sown direct into the soil, so prepare the ground a bit by raking the soil to break up any lumps, mark out a line about 1cm deep with the rake or a trowel, water this line, then sprinkle the seeds evenly along the length before covering with soil.

Coriander

Because coriander is synonymous with Asian cooking it’s assumed it needs heat and sun to grow, but these cause it to bolt. It actually needs cooler temperatures, so it’s a good plant for shady places. It doesn’t like having its roots disturbed, so coriander seeds should be sown into the soil where you want the plant to grow...

Oriental greens

This is a general term for a whole host of edibles popular in East Asian cooking, including tatsoi, mizuna, pak choi, bok choi and mibuna. They tend to prefer cooler temperatures and will easily cope with a bit of shade. Start them off in coir pellets or module trays first before planting out. This will give them a good head-start and make them less prone to being eaten by slugs and snails.

Mint

While Mediterranean herbs such as thyme and rosemary need to bask in the heat, mint will happily grow in just a couple of hours of sun a day. Mint is a vigorous grower and will take over given half a chance, so it’s worth confining the roots in a pot. You could sink the pot into the ground so that the roots are kept cool. Don’t be tempted to grow different types of mint together in the same pot as they will lose their individual flavours.

Flat-leaved parsley

Another leafy herb that will make up a shade garden herbery. It’s easy to grow from seed. Sow in modules or coir pellets, then move into 9cm containers and keep them in the greenhouse or on a windowsill until the plants are a good size before planting outside.

Chives

One of the easiest herbs you can grow, it forms mounds of long, pointy leaves with a mild oniony flavour, but it’s the round purple flower heads that I love. They nectar-rich blooms are a magnet for bees but they’re also edible – break them up and scatter on salads, on fish or into an omelette.