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Feb 18, 2014 09:52 AM

New to gardening - herbs and veggies that grow well without much direct sunlight

I was in the hardware store this morning to buy a few screws and of course took the opportunity to browse and happened upon their supply of herb and vegetable seeds which reminded me that this year I wanted to try and plant a few things. I live in the city, don't have much room, and have killed nearly any plant I've tried to grow but I think it would still be a fun adventure. I have a small concrete slab in the backyard with a few planter boxes (4'x2' and 2'x2'), but unfortunately there's not much sun and it sits in the shade for most of the day. Are there any herbs or vegetables that do well in the shade?

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  1. How much of the day are your planter boxes in shade and how completely shady is the shade? Does any direct light come through at all? Most vegetables need at least four hours of full light a day or steady dappled light all day.

    If you have some places inside that get more light, it might work better to put planters in the sills or beside the windows there. You can grow lots of herbs in small planter boxes. If it's legal in your city, you can even affix window boxes right outside the window. This site has a lot of interesting products for small-space city gardening: -- You can probably get all the stuff they sell more cheaply elsewhere, but it's a nice source of ideas.

    I suggest posting your question on GardenWeb, too. There are many more knowledgeable home gardeners there.

    8 Replies
    1. re: ninrn

      It faces north and is pretty shady :) There is an overhanging tree that I could possibly trim but I think it's in the shade most of the day. I live in a rowhouse so there's not even snow coming through between the houses. I think my neighbors have hanging window boxes, so if the landlord is OK with that, that would probably be an option as it sounds like the backyard planter boxes won't be very good. Thanks for all the information, I'll be sure to go look over at GardenWeb.

      1. re: fldhkybnva

        Good luck, fldhkybnva. I think it's great to try to garden in the city. I lived in NYC for a long time and ate so poorly and got so cut off from nature that it really messed up my health. I think even just trying to grow a tiny bit of your own food (or just something beautiful) is worthwhile.

        1. re: ninrn

          I always keep fresh veggies at home but my motivation was more so in frustration of herbs that always go bad. Then, I figured I could expand and grow some veggies too. I'd love to grab it from the backyard and know there is always a fresh option :)

          1. re: ninrn

            I grew up in Queens, and my neighbor had a rooster. It crowed, but it was not as loud as the train that behind their house.

            1. re: Shrinkrap

              I grew up in Queens too (99 th ave & 204th St. in Hollis), had the LIRR passing loudly all day long (and part of the night). Gosh! I hadn't thought of that in years!

              1. re: Cherylptw

                I was in St. Albans, between Baisley and 120th.

                Things rattled for several seconds, several times a day. I thought it was "normal". When I moved to LA, the first time I felt an earthquake I was thinking..."there goes the train....wait...."

                1. re: Shrinkrap

                  heh once in SF I was talking to somebody who lived on a streetcar curve where it always rumbles, I was commiserating, but her response was "NO, the N-Judah is my buddy" later I lived where I heard foghorns, ships, and cable cars most of the night and I understood.

                  1. re: Shrinkrap

                    We used to go to Baisley Park all the, that brings back memories....

        2. do you have access to the roof?
          can you put planter boxes on the roof? is there a source of water near the roof?

          1 Reply
          1. re: westsidegal

            Hmm, never thought of that. I will have to investigate.

          2. peas, lettuce, spinach, chard, radish, carrots, mint, oregano l
            any direct sun at all?

            3 Replies
            1. re: daislander

              The sun is up today and there are very few clouds and I just checked and it's pretty dark although enough sun that the area is lit. In the summer I recall finding the sun pretty annoying when trying to grill so it must get some amount of sun.

              1. re: fldhkybnva

                winter and summer sun is different as the summer sun is higher longer in the sky. That is what you need to do is actually track it and keep note then you can make choices of where one spot might get more then another so you can plant your most sun needy plant there.

            2. fruit bearing plants do want light but lots of herbs don't want to be blasted with light. so think leafies. herbs should do just fine in indirect. however, if you're the black-thumb you describe, you may want to consider the back-up of planting ones already sprouted. I'm pretty good with plants and almost never had success with seeds. that takes a lot of coaxing and counter/table space in egg cartons for a few weeks+ with no guarantees.

              3 Replies
              1. re: hill food

                Thanks for the tip, I don't coax well.

              2. My original garden area has become shaded by next door trees, so I've had to move sun-loving veggies to the front lawn (despite mild objections from DW!). Maybe you should look into ornamental veggies there too!

                However the shaded area (~5 hours of sun each day) are still useful for many crops:
                lettuce, spinach, chard, kale, peas, parsley, pok choy, mizuna, basil, sage, etc.

                Others seem to have their productivity reduced, but still do well enough to grow there:
                Beans, cherry tomatoes, garlic.

                Things that definitely need sun:
                Most tomatoes, peppers, brussels sprouts, broccoli, melons, squash.