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Growing in the Shade

By Emily Peagram
24th June 2023

Finding an ideal place for your crops to grow can be a struggle in built- up areas – limited space where high levels of sunlight aren’t always available is a common problem, and many plants need at least six hours of daylight to produce worthwhile yields. However, playing to your garden’s strengths and making smart decisions about the fruit and veg you grow can help you to achieve great results.

Make the most of your space
Containers that can be attached to window ledges are a great environment for plants that love full sun such as thyme and oregano. Placing these pots in the highest position possible will give them the best chance of getting adequate light and can protect them from many types of pests – just remember to keep your soil well watered as these conditions can cause them to dry out quickly. Investing in planters is a good way to keep your crops safe and secure, and flowers can be added as companions to encourage pollinators to visit. Hanging baskets are another way to raise the position of your plants so they can reach precious sunlight. Be sure to use a good quality compost and choose varieties that will thrive in this environment such as tomatoes and chillies.

If any indoor places such as a south- facing windowsill receive a good amount of light then you could germinate many seedlings in this spot to help them establish a strong, healthy constitution before being planted outside.

Choose your crops wisely
Leafy vegetables are a great option for growers who are facing shade for the majority of the time – spinach, lettuce, chard and kale are just a few of the crops you can try. They will happily grow in areas that receive as little as three or four hours of light per day as too much can cause them to wilt. With a small amount of effort and early harvesting you can produce beautifully tender veg that doesn’t require lengthy sessions in the sun to develop. Roots such as radishes and baby carrots can also be cultivated in a shady spot and their speedy development means you’ll be rewarded with yields in a short amount of time.

Fruit bushes such as gooseberries, raspberries and blackcurrants can do well in the shade, but do require around three hours of sunlight each day in order to develop their juicy fruits. Rhubarb is another reliable crop in this environment that can be productive for many years once it is properly established.

For a more unusual option, why not try growing your own mushrooms? These fungi can be cultivated using spawn that can be bought online – simply add this to an area that is rich in organic matter and keep them warm and moist by placing a layer of turf on top. They require limited hours of sunlight and do well in a humid environment. Just remember to avoid using chemical fertilisers on this area of your plot as this will kill the mushrooms – they prefer natural conditions.

Keep an eye on pests
Unfortunately, fruit and veg in shady environments are at a higher risk of being attacked by certain pests and diseases, due to the fact that insects are more comfortable in cooler conditions and shade provides adequate moisture for fungus to thrive. Remove any slugs and snails you see nearby and install copper tape around your pots to discourage them from returning. Conditions such as mildew thrive in dark, damp places, so be careful not to over-water your plants and watch out for changes in the appearance of leaves.

Practical methods
Painting fences and the exterior walls of your home white will help to make the most of rare sunny spots in your garden – this colour reflects light which will be gratefully received by fruit and veg crops. Another less permanent course of action is to introduce reflectors made out of cardboard wrapped in foil – if these are positioned in the correct place and at the right angle then sunlight can reach darker areas.

Practical methods
Painting fences and the exterior walls of your home white will help to make the most of rare sunny spots in your garden – this colour reflects light which will be gratefully received by fruit and veg crops. Another less permanent course of action is to introduce reflectors made out of cardboard wrapped in foil – if these are positioned in the correct place and at the right angle then sunlight can reach darker areas.

Grow your fruit and veg in pots or containers that you can move around easily in order to make the most of any light that reaches your garden throughout the day. Purchasing an artificial light and bringing your plants indoors can also give them the boost they need.

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