Gardening in Shade

Having a shady yard can be wonderful on hot sunny days but it’s tough for those who love to garden. Thankfully there are a number of flowers, vegetables, and herbs you can grow that tolerate at least some shade.

Listed below are a few of the plants that tolerate partial to full shade (less than 3 hours direct sunlight per day) that you can order through us.

Flowers

Many flowers, particularly annuals, love full sun but there are a few that do well in more shady areas. Some flowers like nasturtiums, tolerate shade but may not bloom as much as they would in sunnier spots.

  • Balsam
  • Violas
  • Bee Balm
  • Nasturtiums
  • Soapwort
  • Sweet Alyssum
  • Sweet William
  • Sweet Wormwood (Sweet Annie)

Vegetables

While you can’t necessarily start a vegetable garden in the middle of the woods there are quite a few plants that will tolerate some shade. In fact, having a bit of shade can help you grow cool season crops later in the south. However, it’s important to remember that many plants will grow slower in the shade than they would in full sun.

  • Collards
  • Lettuce
  • Swiss Chard
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Arugula
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Beets
  • Green onions

Woodland Medicinals

If you have a wooded area on your property consider growing ginseng or goldenseal. Both plants are highly medicinal and native to North American forests. They do well in the forest understory or other shaded areas. Wild ginseng and goldenseal are frequently overharvested so adding them to your property can help these plants survive. You can pre-order seeds or roots will both ship in the fall.

Mushrooms

Though not actually a plant, mushrooms can help you make the most of your property because they love humid, shady spots. The mushroom spawn, available as plugs, comes from Sharondale Farms and makes cultivating mushrooms easy. The plugs are placed in holes drilled into logs and inoculate the log with mushroom mycelium. These logs will bear mushrooms for several years to come, giving you an edible product from your shaded areas. Great varieties for beginners to try include:

  • Oyster
  • Shitakes
  • Lion’s Mane
  • Reishi

If you have a wooded or very shady area on your property you can also check with local nurseries to see if they carry any plants local to your native woodland. Shrubs like holly and plants like Dutchman’s breeches and bleeding hearts are accustomed to growing in the shady understory and make wonderful landscaping plants as well!

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Farm Ferments: Swiss Chard Kimchi

Some evidence suggests that humans have been fermenting food and beverages for over 13, 000 years! This ancient method of food preservation uses naturally occurring bacteria that create acids to prevent spoilage and give fermented foods their sour flavor. Even though most of us now have access to other food preservation methods like canning or just refrigeration using this time-honored technique can still be a great choice for the modern gardener. Recent studies continue to link gut bacteria with mood and some even suggest that good gut health may help prevent depression.

If you want to improve your gut health an easy recipe to try is kimchi. Kimchi has probably been around since before 37 BC and is a staple in Korean cuisine. Traditionally kimchi was made from vegetables like napa cabbage, radishes, and carrots which were fermented in earthenware pots buried in the ground. The ground temperature helped the kimchi ferment slowly and keep for long periods during the summer and prevented it from freezing during the winter. This time of year a great way to make kimchi is with swiss chard.

Making Kimchi

Ingredients

  • about 1lb swiss chard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 TBS red chili powder
  • 1 TBS paprika
  • 5 large cloves of garlic
  • 1 TBS fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 TBS sesame oil

Rinse off your chard and separate the leaves and stems before roughly chopping all of it into small pieces. Thoroughly mix all ingredients. It’s often best to sort of massage them together with your hands like you would sour kraut. You can use gloves for this if desired.

Pack your kimchi into jars leaving at least 1-inch of headspace. Fit lids loosely to your jars and leave them in a spot on your counter out of direct sunlight for 4-5 days. Remove the lids at least once per day to allow any trapped gases to escape and stir your kimchi so the same leaves aren’t always sitting on top. After a few days, your kimchi which shrink down and you may be able to combine jars if desired. Taste your kimchi every day or so and when you like the flavor move it to the refrigerator to slow down fermentation.

If you like this ferment try making your own sauerkraut!

The Power of Fermented Foods: Making Sauerkraut

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The Wonderful Leek: Planting, Harvesting, & Storage

Leeks have a long and cultured history. Some of the earliest records of leeks come from Egypt. There dried leeks were found in archeological digs as well as in carvings and drawings. They were also consumed in ancient Rome and are said to have been a favorite of the emperor Nero.

Later leeks were brought to Wales where they gained impressive notoriety. According to legend, a monk named David suggested to the Welsh that they wear leeks on their helmets to distinguish themselves from the enemy in their famous fight against the Saxons in the battle of Heathfield in 633 AD. Later that monk became St. David. To this day the Welsh still wear leeks on St. David’s Day and the leek is a Welsh national emblem.

Planting

Leeks are surprisingly easy to start from seed and plant. To start from seed you’ll need a tray full of good quality potting soil. You don’t need separate cells for leeks though they’ll do fine in cells if that’s easiest for you. Generously spread seed in the tray, lightly cover it with soil, and water them in.

Once your leeks are 6-12 inches tall, you’re ready to plant them out. To prepare your bed for leeks you’ll want nice loose soil. You can broadfork and then rake it smooth if you practice no-till. Then take a tribble (basically a handle or stick about 1 inch in diameter with a slightly pointed end) and make holes for your leeks. Generally, the farther you plant them apart the larger the leeks will grow. Aim for about 9-12 inches between each plant and row or 2-6 inches between each plant and 18 inches between each row.

Once your bed is ready, gently tease the plants apart. You don’t need to worry about keeping soil with each plant just try to avoid damaging the roots. Then place one leek in each hole, making sure the roots are touching the bottom. Do not fill the holes in. The deep holes create nice blanched, white stems and by filling them in you can get dirt between the leaves.

Once they’re all planted you should carefully water them in. Watering will stir up enough soil to cover the roots at the bottom but you should do so gently as to avoid filling in the entire hole. Once they’re established you can mulch around them with hay, straw, leaves, or grass clippings to cut down on weeds and keep the stems white.

Harvesting

Harvesting leeks is a bit like harvesting carrots. It’s best to loosen the soil with a garden fork before you pull them to avoid breaking them. Try to avoid spearing any, of course.

You should chop off the long roots and outer, tough leaves into a ‘V’ shape. If you’re harvesting quite a few it’s best to place them, base down in a bucket with a bit of water to help them stay fresh.

If you’re harvesting leeks from frozen ground our friend Pam Dawling recommends pouring boiling water on the base of the plants if you’re harvesting a few for immediate use.

Storage & Eating

One of the best ways to store leeks is by just leaving them in the garden. Winter varieties of leeks are very cold tolerant, handling temperatures down to 10°F. In many areas, they can be overwintered in the garden providing fresh produce when little else is coming in.

If you must harvest your leeks you can store them fresh in the refrigerator or in wet sand in a root cellar. Leeks can also be dehydrated or frozen. To dehydrate you want to slice them into thin pieces and dry them in a single layer in a dehydrator. You can freeze leeks the same way on a cookie sheet before transfering them to a container for easy use.

Potato and leek soup is an obvious classic but leeks are incredibly versatile. They’re milder than a regular onion and are excellent for galettes, pasta dishes, or just sauteed with some fresh greens or cabbage.

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Saving the Past for the Future