Answer: I'm happy to hear the gardening bug has bitten you! Gardening is such a rewarding hobby! Now that you have a place to garden, you'll want to enrich the soil to help your new plants grow and thrive. Spread 4-5" of organic matter over the top of the soil and dig it into the soil, to a depth of 8-10". This will help the soil retain moisture and make it easier for the roots of your plants to penetrate the soil and get the moisture they need. A shady area is not the best area for vegetables. They need full sunshine in order to grow and produce. The reason the veggies in the garden center wilt in the afternoon sunshine is because their root systems are confined and they just can't escape the heat. If they were planted in the ground, the roots would remain cool and moist and the tops would not wilt. Since it's shady in your new garden spot, you can grow shade-loving plants, including some lettuces if you want to be able to harvest what you grow. Aside from lettuces, you might consider growing some of the following shade-tolerant perennials:
Aconitum fischeri - Monkshood. Monkshood likes full sun, but is fine in partial shade. The blooms, which resemble monks? hoods, hang along spiky stalks and can last for up to 2 months. Very pest and disease resistant.
Aquilgia - colombine. Butterflies and hummingbirds can't resist the delicate, nectar filled blossoms of columbine. The bi-colored bell-shaped flowers come in a wide variety of colors, although you'll often find them for sale mixed. They are prone to leaf minor, but you can always cut the foliage back after it blooms.
Astilbe - false spirea. Astilbes are one of those near perfect flowers. The fern-like foliage stays attractive all season. The flower plumes, in shades of whites, pinks, purples and reds, bloom once but last the whole season as they fade. Except for dividing astilbes to make more, they require no effort. A similar great plant to consider is Aruncus or Goat's Beard.
Belamcanda chinensis - Blackberry Lily. Bleamcanda has the sword-shaped leaves of its cousin, the iris, but its flowers are distinctive. Small, flattened, star-shaped flowers often in orange but available in a range of colors, with or without spots bloom for a day each, over a period of several weeks in summer and fade to rounded seed pods.
Cimicifuga racemosa- Bugbane, Black Cohosh, Black Snakeroot. Black Cohosh can easily reach 6 - 8' in a season and adds great height and texture to the shade garden. The dense, deeply cut foliage gives rise to even taller stalks of bottle-brush white flowers in late summer or fall.
Dicentra - bleeding heart. Delicate bleeding hearts are work horses in the garden and they welcome the relief of shade. The common variety D. Spectabilis can be ephemeral in hot areas. The fringed varieties will repeat bloom throughout the summer. D. cucullaria, Dutchman's breeches, is another spring charmer with white blossoms resembling pantaloons.
Primula - primrose. Primulas are one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring. Even their name tells you they are a spring flower. Primulas can handle some sun in the spring, but once things warm up, they?ll require at least partial shade. They also have a preference for moist, but well-drained soil. Colors are usually vibrant, sometimes bi-colored.
Thalictrum aquilegifolium - Meadow Rue. Meadow Rue has columbine like foliage, with fuzzy white, pink or purple clusters of summer blossoms. Thalictrum takes care of itself and doesn?t like fuss or being moved, but they thrive in partial shade. They reach heights of 3 - 5 feet.
Of course there are lots of shade loving annual plants, too. Pansies, impatiens, lobelia, even early season snapdragons will grow in the shade.
Best wishes with your first garden!
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