Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Gardening: Leaves and Sun Denial

There's an area toward the back and side of the house that we've designated the vegetable garden. It's convenient to the back door, nestled into the fence, with a nice newish crazypaved path. We even added a light to enable evening herb-snipping. There's just one problem: It doesn't get full sun. Vegetables are supposed to have full sun. I know this. I believe this. But I continue to try to grow edibles in this space. They don't all fail - raspberries and herbs grow there, we had a couple of decent crops of snap beans, and rainbow chard put out a few leaves. And the shade is deciduous, so there will be a lot more sun from late fall to early spring.

So I thought, greens. Cold-weather greens while it's cold and sunny, and lettuce and other heat-sensitive greens while it's hot and shaded. This could give me a chance to use some of the information in various garden books that make me hungry. Joy Larkcom's The Salad Garden, for example, and her even more interesting Oriental Vegetables. And The Harrowsmith Salad Garden, by Turid Forsyth and Marilyn Simonds Mohr, always makes me feel as if I'm already tasting garlic and vineger and olive oil. And Rosalind Creasy's Edible Landscaping books - I have a battered old original, I believe from before they were broken up into many smaller books, and the pictures of the French and German gardens in particular always make me want to plant something.

The problem is that even greens tend to fail for me, a fact that I find inexplicable given the success of the bush beans, which I could have sworn were more sun-demanding than lettuce. So I plan to take a proper geek experimental approach, choosing several, or maybe more like a dozen, different leafy plants and planting examples of each in all of the different sunny or shady areas of the vegetable garden, plus perhaps a few more spots around the yard. I'll plant them at an inappropriately close spacing, because the goal of this experiment is to see if the plants thrive at all - if a plant crowds out of its four-inch spacing, it's already doing better than the average lettuce plant that I put in.

So. That's the plan. There will be updates.

Image: By Forest & Kim Starr. Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Swiss chard (try one of the white types rather than the rainbow varieties) does okay in cool shade, or at least mine does, as do my leeks and rocket. Both prefer it cool. I've also found that turnips seem to not be too fussed, especially the rapid growers like Tokyo Express.

  2. Thanks! Ooh, leeks? I've been wanting a shade onion! All of my other oniony types have failed - well, except for the chard. Leeks, leeks. Is it too late to get them started this year?