Monthly Archives: March 2024

Putting on Airs: Tillandsias

Looking for something easy to grow? Tillandsias should be on the top of your list. Tillandsia is the largest genus in the Bromeliad family with over 650 species that vary in color, size, texture and shape. In their native habitat, Tillandsias attach themselves to trees and rocks using their roots. They derive the nutrients and water they need from the air, hence the common name “air plant.” And like their name implies, no soil is necessary for a beautiful, thriving specimen! This versatile houseplant is not fussy, and when given minimal care, will adapt to most home and office environments.

About Tillandsias

Tillandsias are evergreen flowering perennials, and their native range spreads from the southeastern United States to Central and South America. While they are often associated with tropical regions, these diverse plants can also be found in deserts, high mountain ranges and rocky habitats.

It is a common misconception that these are rootless plants – in fact, their roots are critical to serve as anchors and keep the plants stable, though the roots do not absorb moisture or nutrition like other plants. Instead, these plants absorb all they need through their foliage.

Caring for Tillandsias

These delicate plants are easy to care for, but there are some tricks necessary to keep them healthy and looking their very best.

  • Light
    Place your Tillandsias where they will receive plenty of light but not direct sunlight. Direct sun will dry out the leaves very quickly and can cause dehydration and wilting. Home or office fluorescent lighting works just fine.
  • Temperature
    Typical indoor temperatures are perfectly suitable for Tillandsias, and a range of 50-90 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.
  • Water
    Once a month, soak your air plant in water for about 20 minutes. If the plant is flowering, a delicate rinse would be more appropriate so that the bloom is not damaged. When through soaking, shake off the excess water from the plant and place in an area with good air circulation so it can dry easily. In between soaks, spritz your Tillandsias 1-2 times per week with clean water from a spray bottle. Indoor heat and air conditioning rob moisture from the air. If your air plant leaves start to wrinkle or roll, this is a sign of dehydration. Give them a good soak and spritz more frequently.
  • Pruning
    It is not unusual for the outer leaves of an air plant to dry out and turn brown, and these spent leaves can simply be removed. If leaf tips dry a bit and turn brown, cut off the tip and continue with regular care. The plant will grow and look just fine.

One final note, Tillandsias have beautiful brilliant blooms but only bloom once in their lifetime. Depending on the species, the bloom may last several days to several months. Why not try several different Tillandsia varieties so you can experience these amazing blooms?

A Feast for the Eyes

Traditionally, when planning a vegetable garden, the focus has been primarily on function with aesthetics as an afterthought – a productive harvest has usually been more important than any visual appeal. This year, why not try a new approach? Thoughtfully combine beauty and performance to create an edible garden that will explode with a variety of color and an abundance of produce. It can truly be a feast for the eyes as well as the table!

Planning a Beautiful Vegetable Garden

Color, texture and form are characteristics we keep in mind when combining plants in the flower garden. We plan flowerbeds so that plants enhance each other, repeating colors and shapes for continuity and flow. We add a variety of texture and form for diversity and interest. Vegetables, herbs and fruits can be just as vibrant, exciting, diverse and easy to combine as annual and perennial flowering plants are.

To begin, provide structure. Placing a picket fence around your garden offers instant structure and visually sets it apart from the rest of the landscape. If you plan on planting along the outside of the perimeter, you will create the allure of a garden within a garden, with a hint of secret places. Place a straight pathway through the center, starting at the entrance. Divide the larger garden into smaller square planting beds using pathways to separate the beds. This will enhance the structure of, and provide easy access to, the garden beds as well as lead your eye through the garden. If desired, you can also used raised beds for this formal structure.

Next, focus on plant selection. Begin with a plant plan or layout. Initially, base your selections on what is pleasing to your individual tastes. Consider unusual varieties of vegetables and herbs that come in unique colors. Repeat colors, both horizontally and vertically, to add depth and dimension to the garden. Don’t forget to add brightly flowering annuals such as zinnias and marigolds to mingle amongst the edibles. Another consideration is edible flowers like nasturtium and calendula. Contrast colors for a striking, eye-catching effect. Keep in mind, also, texture and form. Bold textures add drama and are often combined with fine-foliaged plants for a softening contrast. Short, stout plants anchor the garden bed while tall, willowy plants raise the eye and lead you farther down the garden path. Take all these characteristics into account when planning and place plants in geometric patterns to create a quilt-like garden tapestry.

Finally, your spring edible garden will emerge invoking a feeling of calm, displaying a variety of cool greens, purples and blues found in peas, lettuce, cabbage and broccoli. Shortly after, the summer edible garden will be completely transformed at harvest time with an explosion of vibrant shades of red, purple, orange and yellow. With so many stunning options to combine, you can truly create a feast for the eyes that will be beautiful in every season!

More Than Just Mulch

Not only does mulch add a decorative finish to your flower beds, it also keeps the soil cool and moist and thus reduces the need for watering. By using a pre-emergent herbicide with mulch, weed seeds are discouraged from germinating and growing. But which mulch should you use?

Types of Mulch

There are several types of mulch to choose from, and each type can give your landscaping a different finishing touch.

  • Pine Bark and Nuggets
    These types of mulches release acid when they break down. Pine mulches should be used around plants that need a more acidic soil. Use around azaleas, rhododendron, pieris japonica and holly.
  • Shredded Hardwood
    This is by far the most popular mulch. It has a dark color and knits together well so that it does not wash away. This mulch is often available in different colors, including black, red and brown.
  • Cypress
    This long-lasting mulch has a pleasant fragrance. Cypress mulch also knits together well, and it is thought to repel insects.
  • Artificial Mulch
    Artificial mulches may look like bark, nuggets or hardwood shreds, but they are really shredded rubber or similar materials. They are often dyed in natural tones to mimic organic mulches, but could also be dyed in outrageous colors. These mulches do not break down and will not benefit the soil, but they do not need replacing as often as organic mulches that will eventually decompose.
  • Yard Waste
    Many gardeners use yard waste such as shredded leaves, grass clippings or pine needles as mulch. While these can be effective mulches to conserve moisture and repel weeds, and they are certainly more economical, they do not have the refined look of wood mulches. Yard waste mulches will also decay and discolor much more quickly than wood mulches.

Using Mulch

No matter which mulch you choose, it is important to use it properly. It is recommended that mulch be applied 2-3 inches deep around plants, in flowerbeds and in garden areas – less depth will not be as effective to shield and protect the soil, while deeper mulch may actually protect too much and could restrict water from entering the soil. Take care not to pile mulch directly next to stems and trunks, which could invite insects and rot to invade the plant.

Over time, mulches will decay and compact, at which time they can be removed and added to a compost pile, or simply turned and worked into the soil around the plants they’ve been protecting. To preserve mulch a bit longer, raking and turning it over will refresh its color and reduce compaction.

Not sure which mulch will be best for your plants? Our experts will be happy to help you choose!

Pre-Emergent Control of Crabgrass

Did you have a crabgrass problem last year? Well, chances are, it’s gonna be even worse this year! Crabgrass is an annual lawn weed that dies once a hard frost hits. The main problem with this pest is the tenacious seed that it leaves behind after it blooms.

Early spring is the season to control crabgrass with a pre-emergent herbicide. This chemical works by killing the crabgrass seedlings as they germinate. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Apply the pre-emergent as the forsythia is going out of bloom.
  • For newly seeded lawns, wait until you have mowed your lawn three times before applying the herbicide. This will help to avoid killing the new grass.
  • Use a spreader to apply the herbicide uniformly across your lawn.
  • Apply your pre-emergent before a light rain. This will knock the chemical off the grass blades and down to the soil surface where the crabgrass seed is germinating.
  • Do not de-thatch or aerate the lawn after applying the herbicide, as this disruption will break the chemical barrier.
  • Wait two to four months to re-seed the lawn after applying.
  • Repeat this same procedure year after year.
  • Keep you and your lawn safe. Always follow the manufacturers’ instructions.

Acid-Loving Plants

Soil pH is a critical factor for gardening success. Some plants thrive in neutral soil while other plants prefer soil on the acidic side. The difference lies in the plant’s ability to use nutrients present in the soil. For plants that prefer an acidic soil a critical nutrient is iron. Iron is most easily available in soil with a pH of around 5.5. Without iron, acid-loving plants will turn yellow and suffer stunted growth.

What is pH?

pH stands for “potential hydrogen ions” and is the measure of acidity or alkalinity. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. pH less than 7 indicates acidity, pH greater than 7 indicates alkalinity and 7 is neutral. Soil pH directly affects nutrient availability. Plants grown in soil with pH above or below their optimum range will be less vigorous, more susceptible to disease, less able to fight off insects and may even be weakened to the point of death.

How pH Affects Plants

Nutrients necessary for healthy plants are divided into three categories: primary nutrients, secondary nutrients and micronutrients. Primary nutrients are (N) nitrogen, (P) phosphorus and (K) potassium. These nutrients requited in the largest amounts for plant growth and health and are represented in numbers found on every fertilizer container (for example, 20-20-20). (Ca) Calcium, (Mg) magnesium and (S) sulfur are secondary nutrients that are also required by plants. These are required in lesser amounts than N-P-K but are also essential for good plant growth. (Zn) zinc and (Mn) manganese are examples of micronutrients. Micronutrients are required by plants in very small amounts. Most secondary and micronutrient deficiencies are easily corrected by keeping the soil at the optimum pH value.

Because pH directly affects nutrient availability, acid-loving plants develop iron chlorosis when grown in soils that are too alkaline. Iron chlorosis is often misdiagnosed as a nitrogen deficiency because both present with a yellowing leaf. Chlorosis of young leaves is the first symptom of iron deficiency, while a magnesium deficiency results in yellowing of older leaves first. Nitrogen-deficient plants will not only have yellow leaves but also weak stems, underdeveloped leaves and reduced root development.

What Causes Soil Acidity

Soil pH is influenced by the kind of parent material from which the soil was formed. Rainfall also affects pH. As water passes through soil it leaches basic nutrients such as calcium and magnesium from the soil, which are replaced with acidic elements such as aluminum and iron. For this reason, soils formed under high rainfall conditions are more acidic than those formed under dry conditions. Caused by pollution, acid rain also has an influence in soil pH. The application of fertilizers containing ammonium or urea speed up the rate at which acidity develops in the soil. The decomposition of organic matter will also add to soil acidity.

Testing and Adjusting Soil pH

Before planting any plant it is best to know the optimum pH range that plant will thrive in and the pH of the soil in which you will be planting. “The right plant in the right place” is always the best policy. Purchase a pH test kit or meter. These are available at most garden centers, or you may also send a soil sample to your county extension service. This will give you a more in-depth soil analysis along with the pH. To correct soil pH it is imperative that you know the soil pH before you attempt to change it.

Adding shredded pine needles, composted oak leaves or peat moss will assist in lowering soil pH over time. A quicker fix is the addition of two materials commonly used for this purpose: aluminum sulfate or garden sulfur. Aluminum sulfate will change the soil pH instantly because the aluminum produces the acidity as soon as it dissolves in the soil. Garden sulfur requires some time for the conversion to sulfuric acid with the aid of soil bacteria. The conversion rate is based on the fineness of the sulfur, the amount of soil moisture, soil temperature and the presence of bacteria. Based on these factors, the conversion rate of sulfur may be very slow and could take several months for a full effect. Acidifiers should be worked into the soil after application to be effective. Do not apply to leaf surface or burn may result. Read and abide by manufacturer instructions when applying.

Keep in mind that it takes time to alter soil pH and your soil will tend to revert to its old pH over time, necessitating repeated treatment. Attempting to change soil pH too quickly may shock and kill a plant. A good rule of thumb is to adjust no more than one point per season. It is also important to note that fertilizers recommended for acid-loving plants do not assist in adjusting the soil pH, but are instead formulated to work well in already acidic soil.

Acid-Loving Trees and Shrubs

Want to add gorgeous plants to your landscape without worrying about acidic soil? These plants thrive in soils with low pH. Find out your soil’s pH and then you will know what plants will do best in your garden, flowerbeds and landscape.

  • Azalea
  • Bayberry
  • Blueberry
  • Camelia
  • Cranberry
  • Dogwood
  • Fir
  • Fothergilla
  • Gardenia
  • Heath
  • Heather
  • Hemlock
  • Holly
  • Hydrangea
  • Itea
  • Leucothoe
  • Magnolia
  • Mountain Ash
  • Mountain Laurel
  • Oak
  • Pieris
  • Pine
  • Raspberry
  • Rhododendron
  • Spruce
  • White Cedar

Azaleas – An American Favorite

Azaleas are true garden favorite and are popular in all types of landscape designs. To keep them blooming prolifically and as beautiful as they can be, however, you will need to follow a few special directions for their best care.

Planting Azaleas

Azaleas need a well-drained location, as they will not thrive in an area that stays overly wet. They prefer afternoon shade, and too much sun can harm their leaves and fade the flowers, depleting their beauty. For their best growth, it is important to shelter azaleas from drying winds. The best locations in the landscape will be along the north, northeast or east side of a building or stand of evergreens or in the filtered shade under tall trees.

Azaleas may be planted any time of the year, even when in full bloom. Spring and early fall are ideal planting times so the plants are not stressed by the heaviest summer heat. Before planting, loosen the matted roots with a hand cultivator so they can spread and establish more easily.

To give azaleas the excellent drainage they require, they should be planted high, with half the root ball above the existing ground level in a hole at least twice as wide as the root ball. Amend the planting soil to provide good nutrition for these hungry plants. Once the plant is set in the planting hole, fill in around it with the planting mix, packing firmly to eliminate air pockets. Mound soil up to top of root ball. Water shrubs thoroughly with a diluted plant starter fertilizer to encourage root growth and help them establish more quickly. Mulch 2-3 inches deep over the planting hole, with mulch pulled away from plant stem to avoid insect infestations and rotting.

Watering Azaleas

Spring and summer plantings should be watered 2-3 times per week until fall the year they are planted, then once a week until Christmas. Plants may need to be watered as often as once a day if they are small or the weather is hot. Always check the soil moisture level before watering. It should be lightly moist several inches down, but if it is drying out more frequent watering may be needed. In following years you will need to water your azaleas about once a week unless there is a good soaking rain. Plants will need more water in hot summers and while in flower to keep their growth and form lush.

The Need for Mulch

Mulching around azaleas is always a good idea, and can help them thrive. A 2-3″ layer of mulch should be maintained at all times over the root area of the plant, but pulled away from the stems. This keeps the soil cool and moist, helps control weeds and protects roots in winter.

Pruning Azaleas

Azaleas rarely need to be pruned. When pruning is required it should be done immediately after blooming, since if you wait to prune until summer you may cut off next year’s blooms and miss an entire flowering season. Azaleas may be sheared, as they will send out new shoots anywhere on a branch, or you may choose hand-pruning to create a neater form.

With a bit of considerate care, azaleas can be a showstopper in your landscape. Stop by today for help choosing the best azaleas and learning all you need to know to keep them gorgeous year after year!

Plants for Wet Soil

More water is always good for plants, right? Wrong! When water stands in the soil, air is displaced, which in turn smothers the plant roots. Once the roots are damaged many symptoms appear on leaves and shoots including wilting, marginal and inter-veinal browning of leaves (scorch), poor color and stunted growth. But the excess water isn’t always coming from overwatering, it may be the result of poor draining soil.

Poor drainage is often produced in disturbed sites when heavy clay soil is compacted by construction machinery or other excessive use, such as yards where several children are often playing. Areas cultivated for plantings, such as flowerbed or borders, then collect water running off the compacted ground – this is called the teacup effect. Wet areas may also be the result of swales, drain spout runoff and low areas even when soil percolation is adequate in most of the site but when general moisture levels are routinely high.

To check for a potential drainage problem, dig a hole at least 2 feet deep, fill it with water and note how long the water remains. If it doesn’t drain completely away within 24 hours a severe drainage problem exists.

Fortunately, you can correct drainage problems in different ways. Easy options include…

  • Divert water past plantings using drainage pipes, splash blocks or rain chains.
  • Plant in mounds or raised beds so water will run off and away from the plants.
  • Install drain tiles in saturated areas or use French drains to contain excess water.
  • Amend the soil with organic matter such as compost to improve its structure.

An even easier solution is to simply select plants that tolerate wet sites. The following trees and shrubs tolerate wet sites and flooding better than most. Few tolerate standing water for long periods (those that grow in truly swampy conditions are marked *), but all will do better in wet areas.

Shade Trees

  • *Acer rubrum/Red Maple
  • *Betula nigra/River Birch
  • Liquidambar styraciflua/Sweet Gum
  • Alyssa sylvatica/Sour Gum
  • Platanus occidentalis/Sycamore
  • Quercus phellos/Willow Oak
  • *Salix spp./Willow
  • *Taxodium distichum/Bald Cypress

Flowering Trees

  • Amelanchier Canadensis/Serviceberry
  • Magnolia virginiana/Sweetbay Magnolia

Evergreen Trees

  • Calocedrus decurrens/Incense Cedar
  • Ilex opaca/American Holly
  • Thuja occidentalis/Pyramidal Arborvitae

Deciduous Shrubs

  • *Aronia arbutifolia/Chokeberry
  • Clethra alnifolia/Summersweet
  • *Cornus spp./Twig Dogwoods
  • Enkianthus campanulatus/Enkianthus
  • Ilex verticillata/Winterberry
  • *ltea virginica/Virginia Sweetspire
  • Lindera benzoin/Spicebush
  • Myrica pennsylvanica/Bayberry
  • *Rhododendron viscosum/Swamp Azalea
  • *Salix spp./Pussy Willow
  • Viburnum spp./Viburnums

Evergreen Shrubs

  • *Andromeda polifolia/Bog Rosemary
  • *Chamaecyparis thyoides/White Atlantic Cedar
  • *llex glabra/Inkberry
  • Kalmia atifolia/Mountain Laurel
  • Leucothoe spp./Leucothoe

Perennials

  • *Arundo donax/Giant Reed Grass
  • Aster nova-angliae/Asters
  • Astilbe spp./Astilbe
  • Chelone/Turtlehead
  • Cimicifuga racemose/Snakeroot
  • Helenium autumnale/Helen’s Flower
  • Hibiscus moscheutos/Hardy Hisbiscus
  • *Iris kaempferi/Japanese Iris
  • Iris siberica/Siberian Iris
  • *Lobelia cardinalis/Cardinal Flower
  • Lobelia syphilitca/Blue Lobelia
  • Monarda didyma/Bee Balm
  • Myosotis scorpiodes/Forget-me-nots
  • Tiarella cordifolia/Foam Flower
  • Trollius europaeus/Globe Flowers
  • Viola spp./Violets

Ground Covers

  • Gallium odoratum/Sweet Woodruff
  • Gaultheria procumbers/Wintergreen
  • Hosta spp./Hosta
  • Mentha spp./Mint
  • Parthenocissus quinquifolia/Virginia Creeper

Annuals

  • Cleome hosslerana/Spider Flower
  • Myosotis sylvatica/Forget-me-nots
  • Torenia fournien/Wishbone Flower
  • Viola wittrockiana/Pansies

Not sure which water-loving plants to choose? Do some investigating in your yard. Evaluate your landscapes moisture and other conditions. This information will help you to choose the very best plants for your yard!

Herbs As Companion Plants

Practiced by organic gardeners for years, companion planting has become very popular for all gardeners. The concept is to plant together species that will benefit each other, to help prevent disease and insect infestation without the use of chemicals. In general, herbs and other aromatic plants like tomatoes, marigolds and onions are helpful in warding off insects. Certain colors, like the orange of nasturtium flowers, are thought to repel flying insects. While these practices have not been scientifically proven, many gardeners have been using them for years with positive results. Try it – and see if it works for you!

Best Companion Herbs

The exact herbs you choose to pair with other plants will depend on what you want to grow and what problems you want to eradicate. The most common herbs and their purported benefits include…

  • Basil – Enhances the growth of tomatoes and peppers. Dislikes rue. Repels flies and mosquitoes.
  • Borage – Companion to tomatoes, squash and strawberries. Deters tomato worm.
  • Chamomile – Companion to cabbages and onions. Improves the growth of all garden plants.
  • Chervil – Companion to radishes.
  • Chives – Companion to carrots. Deters Japanese beetles, blackspot on roses, scab on apples and mildew on cucurbits.
  • Dill – Improves the growth of lettuce, cabbage and onions. Dislikes carrots.
  • Fennel – Most plants dislike it – avoid using it as a companion herb and instead plant it away from the garden.
  • Garlic – Plant near roses and raspberries. Deters Japanese beetles.
  • Horseradish – Plant at the corners of your potato patch; deters potato bug.
  • Hyssop – Companion to cabbage and grapes. Deters flea beetles and cabbage moths. Dislikes radishes.
  • Marigolds – Plant throughout the garden as they discourage nematodes and other insects.
  • Mints (esp. Spearmint and Peppermint) – Companion to cabbages and tomatoes. Deters aphids, flea beetles and many types of cabbage pests.
  • Nasturtium – Companion to radishes, cabbage and cucurbits. Plant under fruit trees. Deters aphids and squash bugs.
  • Onion – Repels cabbage loopers, potato beetles, carrot flies and imported cabbage moths.
  • Oregano – Improves the growth of beans.
  • Parsley – Enhances the growth of roses. Repels asparagus beetles.
  • Pot Marigold – Companion to tomatoes, but plant elsewhere, too. Deters tomato worm, asparagus beetles and other pests.
  • Rosemary – Companion to cabbage, bean, carrots and sage. Deters cabbage moth, bean beetles and carrot fly.
  • Rue – Companion to roses and raspberries, dislikes sweet basil. Deters Japanese beetles.
  • Sage – Plant with rosemary, tomatoes, strawberries, cabbage and carrots. Dislikes cucumbers. Deters cabbage moth and carrot fly.
  • Summer Savory – Companion to beans and onions. Deters bean beetles.
  • Tansy – Plant under fruit trees. Companion to roses and raspberries. Deters flying insects, Japanese beetles, striped cucumber beetles, squash bugs and ants.
  • Tarragon (French) – Enhances the growth of all vegetables.
  • Thyme – Improves the growth of tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant. Repels whiteflies and cabbageworms.
  • Wormwood – Use as a border, keeps animals from the garden.
  • Yarrow – Plant along borders, paths and near aromatic herbs. Enhances production of essential oils. Attracts beneficial insects including ladybugs and predatory wasps.

Exactly how much benefit companion plants give to one another will vary; be sure to choose varieties to group that have similar soil, light, water and fertilization needs. Even if their companion benefits may not pan out, you’re sure to enjoy a more diverse and vibrant garden filled with delicious vegetables and herbs!

Aphids

One of the most common insects, and one of the most potentially plant-threatening, is the aphid. There are actually many types of aphids – more than 4,000 in all. Some feed on specific plants and others are not so choosy. They all attack the newer plant growth and suck sap from a plant’s internal circulation system, the phloem, in stems and leaves. This can decrease the plant’s growth rate, discolor or disfigure leaves, cause galls to form and transmit plant diseases. Strong aphid infestations can lower produce yields and eventually kill plants altogether.

Recognizing Aphids

Aphids – also called plant lice, blackflies and greenflies – are easy to recognize. They’re about one-eighth to one-third of an inch long, usually pale green but can be almost colorless, pink, black or brown. Their pear-shaped bodies have six legs, small tail-like structures and long, jointed antennae. Aphids are soft-bodied and are mainly found in dense groups on the underside of new plant growth, where they leave behind a sticky residue called honeydew. Ants are attracted to aphid honeydew, so a nearby ant infestation or very active ant colonies may also indicate that aphids are present. Aphids are most common in spring, and die off rapidly in the hot temperatures of summer.

Controlling Aphids

Fortunately, controlling aphids is fairly easy. Most full-spectrum chemical insecticides kill aphids. Other, less strenuous products include plant extracts, neem oil, plant oils and insecticidal soap water sprays. A regular spraying with strong blasts of water or hand picking will control many infestations, especially when just a few aphids have been noticed. Many gardeners release ladybugs (lady beetles) to eat the aphids or parasitic wasps to lay their eggs in the aphid, but because these natural predators will quickly spread out, large applications of hundreds of predators may be needed to effectively control an aphid infestation. Another option is to encourage insect-eating birds to visit the yard – chickadees, titmice and warblers all especially love aphids and can provide superior natural pest control. Even hummingbirds will happily munch on aphids.

It’s best to control aphids early. As their numbers increase, the drying leaves begin to roll over them, thus protecting the aphids from controls such as soaps, oil and water sprays, and making it harder to effectively eliminate these pests. If you think you have aphids or you’re not sure what you have, bring in a sample. We’ll take a look and suggest the best way to eliminate the problem and help you protect your plants.

Shade-Tolerant Vegetables

You don’t need a sun-drenched space to grow a nutritious, delicious vegetable garden. Whether your urban garden is balanced on a deep balcony, tucked into a narrow side yard, or hidden by a privacy fence, there are many shade-tolerant vegetables you can easily grow for a bountiful harvest.

How Much Shade Do You Have?

Before planting, study your shady space to determine how much shade and sunlight you may really have. Even in a shaded garden, the sun may peek through at different times of day, or shadows shift through the seasons to bring more sunlight into the area. Some vegetables do well in partial shade, but  all will benefit from some intermittent or filtered sunlight. Keep in mind different vegetables’ growth rates and times to maturity to ensure you select varieties that will do well in your shade garden even as the light may change during the growing season.

Best Shade-Tolerant Vegetables for the Urban Garden

Vegetables that sprout edibles from blossoms – tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, etc. – tend to need abundant sunshine to produce well. Root vegetables or leafy edibles, however, are excellent choices for the shadier garden. There is a surprising variety of part shade-tolerant vegetables that can have productive yields even without full sun, including…

  • Arugula
  • Beets
  • Bush beans
  • Bok choi
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Chard
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Parsnips
  • Potatoes
  • Radicchio
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Turnips

In addition to leafy greens and root vegetables, many flavorful herbs also perform well in a semi-shady situation and can add a tasty touch to your garden. Consider adding cilantro, parsley, oregano, or mint to your urban garden for extraordinary flavor with all your vegetables.

No matter which vegetables or herbs you plant, be aware that some crops may take slightly longer to mature in the shade, but they will still perform well when given the proper care and appropriate patience before harvesting.

Maximizing Your Harvest

To make the most of all the shade-tolerant vegetables you plant, you can take steps to maximize their sun exposure and keep them healthy and productive. For example, painting nearby walls or fences white or pale blue can help reflect sunlight onto the plants, and reflective mulches can similarly reflect light up onto the leaves for a bit of extra sun exposure. With just a bit more sun, even shade-tolerant produce will perform better.

Mirrors in the garden are also an excellent way to increase available sunlight. Place mirrors in the sunniest area of your garden and direct the sunlight toward the shadiest corners. Mirrors can also make for attractive garden ornamentation making your garden space appear larger than it actually is.

Make the most of your planting space by using vertical techniques. Tiering crops and using arbors, trellises, and other supports will create more growing space without blocking what sunlight does reach the area.

Finally, be sure you give every plant the best of care with high quality soil, appropriate fertilizer, and good watering practices so it can reach its full potential and most productive harvest. Be on the lookout for garden pests that can decimate your crop before you have a chance to enjoy it. When controlling pests on food products, always begin with the safest control method possible.

There are a surprising number of vegetables that do very well in semi-shaded spaces, making them perfect for urban gardens or anywhere sunlight may be at a premium. By choosing the right vegetables that will thrive in the area and giving them proper care, you can create an amazing harvest even if you aren’t able to take advantage of full-sun growing space.