The Q&A Archives: shady container vegetables?

Question: I live in a condo with a shady patio. What types of fruits/vegetables can I grow in a 3x6 garden, or in containers?

Answer: Almost all food crops grow best in sunny locations. Not only do they need full sunlight for good growth, few will flower without adequate sun and therefore won't set fruit.

Cool-season salad vegetables such as lettuce, spinach and radishes may benefit from light shading through the heat of the summer. Beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, peas, potatoes, rhubarb and turnips will grow in light shade but not produce as large a crop as plants growing in full sun.

Currants and gooseberries are fruits which tolerate medium shade and still produce a crop. Bramble fruits such as blackberries and raspberries grow in light shade, but yields will be reduced.

To determine the degree of shade your garden gets, here are some standards:

Light shade is described as an area that is shaded but bright. It may be completely shaded for only several hours each day. The sun's rays may be blocked by a wall or building for several hours at midday, but the area is sunny the rest of the day. Light shade may also be found in areas that receive filtered or dappled sunlight for longer periods. Edges of shady gardens or areas under the canopy of solitary, lightly branched trees are typical of filtered sunlight. During the heat of summer, light shade at midday will provide a beneficial cooling effect. Flower and foliage color may be more brilliant when plants are shielded from intense midday sunlight.

Partial or medium shade is present when direct sun rays are blocked from an area for most of the day. Many established landscapes have large areas of partial shade, where sections of the yard are shaded by mature trees for much of the day but receive some direct sun early or late in the day. Bright, north-facing exposures may also be classified as medium shade.

Full shade lasts all day. Little or no direct sunlight reaches the ground at any time of the day. There may be reflected light from sunnier areas of the yard or off light-colored walls. Dense shade refers to full shade under thick tree canopies or in dense groves of trees. Areas under stairways, decks or covered patios on the north side of the house receive full shade.

Best wishes with your balcony garden!

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