34 Vegetable Plants You can Grow in Less Sunlight or More Shade: Full Sun, Partial Sun and Minimal Sun Categories Defined

Posted by Gary Pilarchik on

The Rusted Garden Seed and Garden Shop

34 Vegetable Plants You can Grow in Less Sunlight or More Shade: 
Full Sun, Partial Sun and Minimal Sun Categories Defined

Does my garden have less sunlight or more shade? Growing vegetables is not difficult but it does take work and we (gardeners) at times, make it more confusing and complicated than needed. The beauty of a garden is that it wants to grow and give back to you. Nature designed plants to adapt. Even if you initially have some trouble, you will still get plenty of vegetables as you develop your skills and abilities over the seasons. The best way to grow vegetables is to start planting and enjoy learning as you go. That is what my YT channel The Rusted Garden is all about. Please subscribe and check out a few of my 800+ gardening videos. 
It is is important to understand the basic needs of the vegetable plants you want to grow in your garden.  The amount of sunlight is a great place to start. Sunlight is, of course, needed for your plants to flourish but not all vegetable plants need the same amount of direct sunlight.  Many people think they can't have a vegetable garden because they don't 8 plus hours of sun on their property. You can grow and harvest vegetables with 'Less Sunlight or More Shade' than you might have thought possible.
Direct Sun Requirements for Vegetable Plants Vary - The Rusted Garden

The first thing that is important to understand is that vegetable plants want to grow and are adapted to grow within a broad range of their required needs. They can easily be placed in more than one arbitrary category for sun requirements because they are designed to adapt and do well in a range of sunlight.  So the key word is range and I stressed it three times.  The bottom line is to try different plants in different places of your garden. You will be surprised by what plants grow in the lower range (4 times) of sunlight and often even do better without all the sun they were getting.
Kale Does Well in Partial Sun - The Rusted Garden
There is no set universal 'title' for each category of light. You will find; full sun, partial sun, partial shade, light shade, deeply shaded or shade as categories when you do research. You will find terms like direct, indirect, dappled and reflected sun. I am just presenting how I look at lighting needs for my vegetable plants, which is basically a 'range' of direct sun. Direct sun is where the sun directly hits plant leaves.  That is the type of light, direct sun. I feel this is the least complicated way to identify where the heck to plant your plants... type of light (direct sun) and number of hours of direct sun (5). 
Vegetable plants are generally classified into 3 groups when you do research: Full Sun, Partial Sun and Light/Partial Shade.  I think this is confusing as you can have Partial Sun or Partial Shade. Isn't that the  same? It is like saying it is Partly Sunny or Partly Cloudy outside.  The bottom line is your garden must have sun. It can be, for instance, 8 hour of continuous sun or 4 hours of morning sun and 3 hours of late afternoon sun.  Because a vegetable garden must have direct sun for plant photosynthesis, I use these three 'Sun' categories below.

Full Sun (6-8) is a minimum of 6 hours but the plants in this category really do their best with a full 8 hours. Of course more than 8 hours works but some plants can get beat up by intense hot summer sun, come the long days and heat of July and August, in my zone.
Partial Sun (4-6) is a solid minimum of 4 hours and they enjoy a range of direct sun that covers a span of 4-6 hours.  7 hours would be okay.
Minimal Sun (2-4) plants need a lot less direct sun but 2 hours is a really low.  You will notice a clear difference in growth between plants that only get 2 hours of sun and the same plants that get the 4 hours of sun.  The lower range of 2 hours is pretty challenging.
Beets Do Their Best in Partial Sun - The Rusted Garden
Here are 34 plants that can do well in Partial Sun (PS) and in some cases somewhat decently in Minimal Sun (MS).  A general rule of thumb is that leafy green plants used for salads can do better with less sun. I will be growing most of these plants in 2019. I have videos on garden bed design, seed starting, planting, tending and harvesting. If you would like to learn more... follow me at The Rusted Garden. The vegetable plants have active links that take you to my secure Vegetable Garden and Seed Shop hosted on Shopify.
Arugula PS MS
Endive PS MS
Escarole PS MS
Kale PS
Peas PS 
Radishes  PS MS
Rutabagas PS MS
Scallions PS MS
Spinach  PS
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