Shade Tolerant Edibles? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 07-14-2012, 11:49 AM - Thread Starter
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I have a patch of yard that is almost entirely in tree shade all day. The ground can't even support grass. My first thought was to simply cover the bare area with mulch or rocks to prevent the mud bath that rain creates. But then I wondered if I could build a raised bed around the tree and plant shade tolerant edible plants in it. I would definitely prefer to do this so that I'm actually making use of the space instead of just covering it up, but after searching around on the internet I'm seeing that most plants require at least a few hours of sun a day. This area doesn't ever get direct sunlight. At best there may be an hour or two of dappled sunlight, but I'm not even positive of that. The tree's branches are fairly high off the ground- maybe 8 feet- so it's not like it's a dark shade.

Any ideas of edible plants that would survive there?   I'm in zone 5b.  Someone suggested mushrooms, but I'm not ready to delve into the world of fungi quite yet, so really just looking for plant suggestions.  TIA!!

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#2 of 6 Old 07-14-2012, 11:56 AM
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You may have luck with leafy greens and the like.  Anything that sets fruit will probably just make you frustrated.  Hostas are actually edible (you eat the new shoots in the spring) and will grow in shade.  Mushrooms are probably easier than you think.

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#3 of 6 Old 07-14-2012, 05:09 PM
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How bright is the shade?  Deciduous tree or evergreen?  That makes a difference.  Annual vegetables might not be the best use for the space, though you could try leafy greens.  Instead, try edible perennials and shrubs.  Here evergreen huckleberries grow beautifully, amongst other things.  Wine berries are fairly shade tolerant.   Yes, hostas.  Ferns for fiddleheads.  Try Raintree nursery to see what is available for shade that is good for your zone.  There might be other edible nurseries that specialize in plants for the Midwest.


I would hesitate putting raised beds entirely around the tree, especially if water already collects there.  Depending on the tree, it could really hate the extra soil on top of its roots.  But a few would probably be just fine.

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#4 of 6 Old 07-18-2012, 09:59 AM
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Is the space mossy?  That would mean that the soil quality is poor.  You could compost it up and grow strawberries, mint, or maybe leafy greens.  If it's bare because of lack of sunlight, maybe you could look into fungi plants.  

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#5 of 6 Old 07-18-2012, 08:47 PM
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I would go with greens in containers or raised beds.  I grow my greens in containers and they seem to do very well in areas with "bright shade".  If it's a deeper shade go with huckleberries like a PP suggested. 

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#6 of 6 Old 07-23-2012, 08:37 AM
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You already have lots of great suggestions :) I'll add violets to the list! My dad also grew gingers in very full shade, but that's in Houston where it's nice and hot. Aloe will tolerate shade too, but it won't flower.


If you think about what might grow at the edge of a forest, you can come up with shade tolerant plants. It depends on how deep of shade you're talking, though- like SweetSilver said up there. Most of my gardens have been shady gardens, and if you have the soil for it, you can do ok :) Containers work really well too, and you can move them with the seasons as your shade patterns shift.




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