Episode #13 Growing in Sunny & Shady Spots

Working out what to grow in the prime sunny spot and what to relegate to the shady areas is something that every backyard gardener has grappled with at some point. 

Like us, plants have different preferences. Some love being in the full blast of the summer sun every day and others are a little more tender and can suffer from sunburn, drying out or heat stress. 

Knowing your food plants preferences means you can cater to their needs and have happy, healthy and good producing food plants all year round. 

Many of us have followed the faith gardening model. Put something in without any consideration of location and hope and pray it grows. Most of the time it grows but it’s stunted, slow and generally weaker, attracting pests and finally, disease takes hold.

The way to move from faith gardening to working with your garden and her unique qualities is to understand the microclimates in your garden.  

Microclimates is something I touched on in Episode 12 when I covered planning your food garden. I also cover working out what areas get shade and what are full sun. Take a listen before you start planting. 


What is a Microclimate? 

Microclimates are the places around your garden that have different conditions to what is in the surrounding area. Under trees, near water features, behind structures, multilevel canopies, full sun, grassed areas, hard surfaces, paths, wind, ect all contribute to the conditions. A microclimate can be as small as a few square meters or as large as the whole garden.


Fun fact. Having a water feature such as a pond can reduce the air temperature of the surrounding area by up to a few degrees. This temperature change can go as high as 1 metre above the water level and spread as far as several metres. It is also known that moving water can further reduce the air temperature and planting trees around the pond can reduce air temperature even more and help to maintain a consistent temperature for longer periods.  I will put a link in the show notes to a study that was undertaken in The Netherlands if you are into research. 


In short,  having a body of water in your garden can help to cool it and creates a microclimate for plants that don’t like high temperatures and also provides water for the wildlife and insects in your garden.

So how do you know what is considered full sun, part sun/part shade or full shade?

The general rule of thumb for working out what your garden sun status is: 

  • Full Sun gets a good 6 + hours of direct sunlight every day (8 hours in summer). 
  • Part Sun/Part Shade are the areas that get between 3 to 6 hours of sunlight per day. This may be a combination of dappled sunlight for 6 hours of direct sunlight for 3 or so hours a day. 
  • Full Shade are areas that don’t get any direct sunlight. They might get a little bit of dappled sunlight throughout the day or maybe they get reflected light off a surface like a wall.

Within these 3 categories, there are various levels. You might have an area that gets full sun from sunrise to early afternoon and then is in part shade until sunset or maybe you have an area that is shaded all day except for the last few hours. This is where you need to make a judgement call on what might grow well where and then trial and error your way to working it out. 

Full Sun

Most fruiting plants are sun worshipers and love being exposed to the sun. Vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, capsicum, pumpkin, okra, zucchini mellons, corn, strawberries, most of the berry family, grapes figs, passionfruit and most fruit trees.

Some underground vegetables like onions and garlic love full sun. 

Herbs like basil, oregano, lavender, rosemary, lemongrass, thyme and sage. 

Some of these will tolerate a little shade but it will come at a cost.

In cooler climates grow all the brassicas like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts and kale in full sun but in warmer climates put these in partial shade, they are long croppers meaning they grow through a few seasons and sometimes the harsh summer sun can cause them to bolt and produce flowers. Once this happens the flavour will start to turn bitter. 

Part Sun/Shade

Vegetables that do well in partial sun/shade sites include root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, beetroots, radishes, horseradish, parsnips and turnips. Also a huge range of leafy vegetables benefit from a little sun protection. Lettuce, mustard greens, spinach, silverbeet and rocket also called arugula.   

 Asian greens like bok choy, choi sum, tatsoi and mizuna will thrive in part shade. 

As I mentioned earlier, If you’re in a warmer climate consider growing brassicas in partial shade.  Other veggies that will love part shade are asparagus, celery, kohlrabi, leeks, peas and beans. Beans don’t need direct sunlight but they do need warmth. So grow these where it might be part shade but it keeps the heat, same goes for ginger and turmeric.

Common herbs that love a little shade are parsley, coriander, dill, chives and mint.

There are many more edible and medicinal plants that fit into this category. The rule here is if in doubt, try it out!


Full Shade 

Most of the leafy greens will do well in a shaded spot if they have good soil and good moisture. In summer this might be the only spot that will prevent your greens from bolting to seed. Same goes for coriander and parsley.

And Brussels will tolerate quite a bit of shade. 

If you forget everything and totally blank out remember that fruiting plants like it hot, root vegetables like a little protection and leafy greens are your shady space fillers. 


More information

Full show notes at www.sohfarmlet.com.au/podcast

Blogs – www.sohfarmlet.com.au/blog

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Episode 13 Sponsored

This episode is sponsored by The Female MSI Club 30 Day Money Challenge. This challenge will help you understand your money mindset, identify blocks you have to making more money and understand how to manifest more money into your life.


This is the study I mention:  How to make a city climate-proof, addressing the urban heat island effect


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