What to Plant with Little Sun? Plants for a Shade Garden

Do you have a garden in a patio or other type of urban garden without direct sun or in semi-shade? A garden with little sun does not have to be a problem if we grow the right vegetables. Find out which are the shade vegetables and which plants need little sunlight to thrive.

Although all plants need light and most garden plants need quite a few hours of direct sunlight to grow and bear fruit, there are some » shade plants « that can grow in shady orchards that receive only a few hours of sun a day. or reflected light.

What are shade plants?

The plants that do not need light do not exist. Although they can tolerate being in places without direct sun, the so-called «shade plants» must receive at least a little sunlight in order to thrive.

But then … How many hours of sunshine do vegetables need? What are shade plants?

Are called shade plants those plants that can grow in partial shade or partial shade , ie in areas with a shady mottled for several hours (sun and shade under trees or other plants larger, for example), or receive little hours of sunshine per day (2-4 hours of direct sunlight or reflected sunlight).

All vegetables need some light to grow. Garden plants that need less sun, shade vegetables , require at least two to three hours of light a day in order to photosynthesize and grow.

Even plants that need little sun will not thrive adequately in the total absence of light, so in a completely shaded area that never receives direct or reflected light, no plants can be grown .

Why do plants need light?

Plants need the energy of light to carry out photosynthesis , a basic process of plant metabolism on which their proper growth and development depend.

But… What is photosynthesis in plants? Photosynthesis is the process by which, in the presence of light , plants (and also algae and some bacteria) generate energy and synthesize organic matter or ‘living’ matter from inorganic substances (carbon dioxide from the air, water and nutrients).

Photosynthesis has several phases. In the previous phase or absorption stage , the roots of the plant absorb water and nutrients and these circulate to the leaves and other green organs, where photosynthesis itself takes place.

In the light phase of photosynthesis , through a complex biochemical process, the plant uses the energy of light to dissociate the water molecules that it absorbs from the soil and releases chemical energy (ATP and NADPH) in this reaction.

In the dark phase or Calvin Cycle , the chemical energy produced in the previous phase is used in various complex chemical reactions and, as a result, the plant obtains glucose and oxygen . The oxygen is expelled back into the atmosphere and the glucose is used to provide the plant with energy for cell multiplication (growth of organs and tissues) and to synthesize other compounds such as proteins, starch or lipids .

In crops that do not receive enough light , the photosynthetic process stops or slows down a lot, and the plant is not able to obtain enough energy and food to grow .

In addition, if there is no light, the chlorophyll of the plant cells is deactivated, the plants lose their intense green tone and yellow or pale green leaves appear and weak, whitish and excessively long stems (etiolation or threading due to lack of light).

In addition to chlorophyll, there are other plant pigments and molecules that absorb and use light energy . These photoreceptors (contained not only in the green parts of the plant, but also in seeds and roots) are capable, by capturing photons of light, of triggering essential biological processes that allow plants to germinate, flourish and bear fruit.

Without the alternation of light and dark, therefore, the metabolism of the plants does not develop correctly and the plants show abnormalities in their growth.

Vegetables and vegetables that need little sun

What vegetables can grow with little sun? What to plant if we want to garden in a shady patio ?

The first thing you should know is that the garden plants that best tolerate shade are leafy vegetables (lettuce, endive, spinach, kale …). On the contrary, vegetables that have a fruitful use (such as tomato, aubergine, cucumber or pumpkin plants) do not tolerate shady areas and need a location in full sun with 6-8 hours of direct sunlight to develop well.

Although they will grow better with more light, other plants for gardens with little sun that can grow in semi-shady areas are brassicaceae or cruciferous (broccoli, turnip, cauliflower …) and some root and bulb vegetables, such as ginger, carrot or garlic.

When designing the garden it is important to know how much sun and shade each area will receive and to consider the light needs of the plants to choose the best placement of the crops in the garden.

Here we show you which are the garden plants that need the least light :

  • Chard
  • Garlic
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Onion
  • Parsnip
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage or cabbage
  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Strawberries and strawberries
  • Green peas
  • Broad beans
  • Ginger
  • Lettuce
  • Turnip
  • Potatoes
  • Leek
  • Radish
  • Beet
  • Arugula
  • Rhubarb
  • Carrot

Other plants for a shade garden

Although they are not vegetables and greens, there are other plants that can be grown in the garden that need little sun. These half-shade vegetables can be planted, therefore , in shady areas such as the border with walls and walls or under the trees of the garden.

These are other plants for orchards and gardens with little sun :

  • Aromatic plants such as parsley, chives, basil, mint and coriander .
  • Hedges of wild fruits such as blueberries, currants or blackberries .
  • Flowers such as calendula, chamomile or violet.
  • Plants for green manures such as alfalfa or white clover .

Tips for gardening in little sun

It should be taken into account that vegetables that are grown with little sun or partial shade take longer to grow , so the harvest can be delayed several weeks compared to growing the same plants in full sun.

Before planting the shade vegetables in the final field, it is recommended to make seedbeds . In a seedbed, plants are more protected and grow better during their early stages, so the germination percentage is higher than in the ground or in large containers. In addition, in this way, we make sure that we discard diseased or stunted plants and that the vegetables planted in the garden are the best specimens.

On the other hand, in shady crops it is very important to monitor and prevent pests and diseases of greater incidence, which in this case are garden fungi and limacos such as snails and slugs , for which we can place traps (glasses with beer ) that will help us catch them.

To avoid an environment that is too humid that favors the incidence of fungi, it is important not to overdo watering and promote aeration between the plants. To do this, if possible, install a localized irrigation system that does not wet the leaves of the plants, such as drip irrigation .

It is also important to leave adequate separation between plants (to promote aeration and to reduce shadow areas on neighboring specimens) and to apply preventive treatments for fungi from time to time , such as biostimulants made with nettle or horsetail.

Although shade-tolerant plants can grow in semi-shade or without direct sun, they will always do best in a sunny area, so it’s important to try to get as much light as possible .

To take better advantage of the sunlight, it is best to install the garden facing south and, if there are walls or walls around the garden, paint them white so that they reflect more sunlight.

It can also be very useful, especially in urban gardens installed on terraces and balconies or for indoor plants, to use reflective screens such as white or silver panels that divert light to the plants.

Finally, although these are more modern orchards that go beyond the traditional cultivation, it is also possible to grow plants indoors in the absence of sun using the cultivation cabinets or indoors (more information on this in the post on « Grow cabinets in home « ).

Shady orchards

Although it is not the topic of today’s post, we wanted to mention another topic that has to do with growing in the shade : shady orchards or orchards with shade mesh for areas with too much sun.

In the case of growing vegetables in full sun , the installation of shade nets or sunshades not only serves to protect the crops from sunburn and strong winds , but can help to improve the yield of the harvest .

In addition to conserving humidity and reducing wind and direct radiation, shade nets, if they are colored, can have other benefits for crops. Several scientific studies and field tests have shown that using colored shade nets on some horticultural plants has very positive effects on fruit ripening and quality as well as protection against pests .

The colored meshes (red, yellow, blue, pearl gray …) modify the spectrum of the light that reaches the plants and this colored light (as in the case of the application of colored LED lights) can affect growth plants and their composition.

According to these studies , red mesh, for example, improves photosynthesis and stimulates vegetative growth , which results in larger leaves. In tomato, pepper and broccoli the red light causes more and more fruits to be produced and that they have a higher content of lycopene and other antioxidant pigments that are beneficial for health.

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