Permaculture Principles: Working With What You Have – Shaded Gardens

Last year I had mixed success growing in my mostly shaded back yard. Some plants (like lemon balm, mint, oregano, and bush beans) did great while others (spinach, sugar snap peas) did not do as well.

I’m trying to work with the space I have available, so I’m trying a different approach this year. I’m going to be planting some native species in the shadiest part of my yard in addition to a few shade-tolerant food species. I’ve talked in the past about my interest in native species, and since there are native species adapted to all sorts of conditions there are certainly species that can thrive in my shady yard. Here are the native species I’m planning on introducing this year:

  • Black raspberry (Rubus occidentalis)
  • Nodding onion (Allium cernuum)
  • Wild geranium (Geranium maculatum)
  • Wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)

These species aren’t available from traditional garden centers, of course, but there are many online sources of native seeds and/or plugs (although you may need to find one for your specific region). I generally use Prairie Moon Nursery for my native plant species seeds. I’m also keeping the perennial herbs that are doing well (mostly perennials like lemon balm, mint, oregano), that section is performing fairly well. I may also add some chives and green onions.

The sunniest part of the garden space is going to be mostly garlic, chamomile, and maybe echinacea. In the past I’ve done some container gardening for plants like tomatoes that need lots of sun. I have a narrow (3 foot wide) strip of grass on the side of my driveway that is the only place in my yard that gets lots of sun. The soil here is not great and probably gets lots of runoff from the driveway, so it wouldn’t be ideal for planting in-ground, but I should be able to fit lots of containers in that space.

Despite the fact that it’s a narrow space, it is about 50 feet long, so I could easily fit 60-70 large (tomato-sized) plants or even more lettuce, onions, carrots, or other less space-consuming crops. I think this is the best option I have, given the space I’m working with. I might also try some vertical space – building a large trellis something like this container garden (from apartment therapy):

So now that the snow around here is finally melting I am hoping that I can finally start working on these plans soon! My seedlings are taking off, so getting the containers and trellis set up is the next step.


5 thoughts on “Permaculture Principles: Working With What You Have – Shaded Gardens

  1. Sounds like a great plan for the year! You should give chard and amaranth a try if you haven’t already, they both grow great in shade. And some amaranth can be left to reseed itself. I particularly like the “love lies Bleeding” variety as the fresh long seed heads are tasty raw or cooked as well.

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