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Growing food in the shade

Morgan Raleigh Campbell

Joined: Nov 23, 2013
Posts: 1
Hello fellow permies

I am new to permaculture by have grownup in gardens And worked in them and farms as well. I am starting a new endeavor and would love some help and guidance.

We rent in a downtown neighborhood in Petaluma, CA. I have gotten permission from our landlords to design and utilize the street side sidewalk patch for food!! Very exciting. We are reaching out to help other neighbors to do the same

The ground is hard and there is pretty consistent shade during the summer. I have been given the ok to build planter boxes. They want it beautiful and not toooo messy.

I would love to prep things now so that some spring it is ready to go. I would love to plant things now as well too if there are suggestions.

My biggest questions is what foods can I plant in shaded areas?

Thank you and I am very excited!!!

Morgan Raleigh
Alder Burns

Joined: Feb 25, 2012
Posts: 1195
Location: northern California
If the spot is in the shade of deciduous trees, which drop their leaves during the winter, you should be able to grow salad crops like lettuce and spinach during the winter, and then more heat tolerant lettuces and other greens during the summer, when they might actually appreciate the shade. Greens, roots, and flowers/fruits is the light "rule"....greens are the most tolerant of shade, while plants grown for the flowers or fruits (including, for instance, tomatoes and peppers, the edible parts of which are technically fruits) are the least tolerant....i.e. hardly producing anything without several hours of sun daily.....
Aside from vegetables, there is a whole cadre of shade-tolerant and even shade-demanding edible, medicinal, and otherwise useful herbs. CA is so full of microclimates that some contact with local people, starting with a native plant society or a nursery specializing in locally adapted plants might be the best place to start. I think that Petaluma gets some influence from proximity to the ocean/bay and fog, etc. so there might be plants that would need more sun there that would be shade plants for me, with a much hotter, drier summer....

Alder Burns (adiantum)
S Bengi

Joined: Nov 29, 2012
Posts: 1227
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
Here is a list of plants that you can plant
Jeff R Hodgins

Joined: Dec 01, 2013
Posts: 21
If its partial shade squash should do well but you want a bush type or you will have to train vines. I know some will say that squash is not a shade lover but that is because they are WRONG.
Jennifer Wadsworth

Joined: Sep 24, 2013
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
Hi Morgan and welcome to Permies!

So I looked up your location and it says that you have a "mild Mediterranean climate" - warm, dry in the summer. You should be able to grow a ton of stuff in the shade. Alder had some good advice. CA is indeed full of microclimates - so find a local and chat them up.

Also, planting near hard surfaces like roads and sidewalks will affect your planting area as these things will hold heat longer than say grass or trees and shrubs. Also, how will you water this area? Raised planters will tend to dry out more quickly in your climate - this might prove critical for you in the dry summer season.

Another thought is to grow an herb garden in that spot. Many culinary and medicinal herbs do indeed come from Mediterranean climates and they would be less fuss to grow.

One thing about sidewalk/streetside gardens - I've done them and after some observation, I noticed that sometimes dogs would tinkle on my edibles!! You can bet I washed those thoroughly before use. The dog-tinkle problem might actually point you in the direction of edibles that you would peel or not eat the skin of. Posting a sign that says "Please don't tinkle on my edibles" might do the trick too. Some edibles look just like landscape plants to a lot of people - they don't even think that you might be eating those plants.

Subtropical desert (Köppen: BWh)
Elevation: 1090 ft Annual rainfall: 7"
josh brill

Joined: Sep 06, 2010
Posts: 86
All shade is not equal. Some trees have more shade then others. Does it get any direct sun in the morning or evening? There are a good amount of veggies that will grow without having a full day of sun. Most greens hit their light saturation point pretty quickly.
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subject: Growing food in the shade