Gumboot Adventures

gowing and growing green

Embrace Your (Garden’s) Shady Side June 22, 2009

Snap Peas - a good shade veggie

Snap Peas - a good shade veggie

With three to four hours of direct sunlight and not a lot of space, a friend emailed to ask what she could grow on her substantially shady apartment patio. The answer – plenty!

Traditional fruiting veggies like tomatoes and peppers are out the question, but the leafy greens & the brassica family thrive in the cooler weather a bit of shade provides.  These plants also have the advantage of smallish root systems – making them ideal container species.  The rule of thumb for most of the shade friendly plants is that they require 3.5-6 hours of sunlight.  A few greens (live Chevre) and herbs (lemon mint) will do well with less sunlight, but your options are really reduced after the 3 hour mark.

The following 10 vegetables are good shade choices:

  1. Salad Greens, such as leaf lettuce, arugula, endive, and cress.
  2. Broccoli
  3. Cauliflower
  4. Peas
  5. Beets
  6. Brussels Sprouts
  7. Radishes
  8. Swiss Chard
  9. Leafy Greens, such as collards, mustard greens, spinach, and kale
  10. Beans

There are further considerations to maximize your shady output.  In the bean and pea families, for example, the bush varieties generally do better in shady environments than their climbing cousins.  And across the board, you will want to look for varieties with quick maturity cycles.  The more shade you’ve got, the less time you have!

Swiss Chard Growing in a Shady Spot

Swiss Chard Growing in a Shady Spot

Moderatly shady garden patches can have distinct advantages when planting appropriate crops. In addition to holding the water better, and therefore requiring less regular watering, these patches have the potential of a longer growing season.  I, for example, planted a lovely and very complete bed of leafy greens in a sunny cold frame early on this season. We had leafy greens well before the masses, but despite opening the frame in May, my brocolli bolted as soon as the first hot spell hit.  The spinach wasn’t far behind.  And the lettuce brought up the back shortly after.  Now in late June, I’ve only a couple lettuces, swiss chard and kale left in that bed.  I’ve got second crops of some varieties planted in shady spots in the garden.  For example, swiss chard is popping up behind the potatoes.

I digress, this post is for shady gardeners looking to maximize their sun.  A little creativity will also help to liberate you from a “what you see is what you get” approach to the garden lot (or patio as the case may be).  In shady places, consider how best to utilize reflective surfaces in your garden space.  White walls help.  Mirrors or water can be utilized.  Some folks lay reflective plastic on the ground, which serves the dual purpose of maintaining ground temperature and reflecting light back to the plants.

Well nourished soil is also critical (and by critical, I mean helpful, but if you’re soil is poopers – plant anyway and stuff might grow).  This is especially true in patio plots where the same species are planted year after year in the same dirt.  Without a little forethought and a bit of soil maintenance, the nutrients in the soil will soon be depreciated. Compost and crop rotation are key.  And where true crop rotation isn’t possible –  like in container gardening or shady-spot gardening, where the soil will never get the benefit of deep rooted veggies pulling up hidden nutrients from the well that is the earth – compost becomes all the more important.

I can practically hear my friend – but I live in an apartment, how will I compost? You will vermi-compost! Here on the wet coast, worm composters are available from the City of Vancouver at a discounted rate of $25 (  And while this isn’t the post to go into details on the many benefits of composting, it really is the a to good gardening and a pillar for sustainable living.  I’ll do a post on this in the near future – in the meantime, check out  Vancouver gardening gurus City Farmer’s how to video


Pick Your Radishes and Eat Them Too June 12, 2009

Filed under: Food,garden — gumbootgarden @ 8:26 am
Tags: , , , , ,
Early Harvest - Radishes

Early Harvest - Radishes

Until recently, I’d thought of radishes as sort of dried up little nugget things – bland in flavour and full of nasty bite. But all that has changed.  This year, inspired by a neighbour, I planted radishes.  I planted radishes not because I wanted to eat the radishes – a thought which actually filled me with a certain sense of dread. I planted radishes because I realized that if I planted radishes I could harvest them in June.  And that was exciting!

It’s June.  And we’ve been harvesting radishes en masse.  Eating them.  Handing them out the neighbours.  Chopping them into salad. Loving the colour and the sense of really harvesting something so early in the season.  But having now started to exhaust the novelty of fresh radishes-in-salad and raw-radishes-with-homemade-hummus it’s time to branch out.  A little research has revealed that while radishes aren’t known as the bell of the garden ball, these early temptations are much more versatile than we give them credit for.

With my darling husbnd away,  I’m  juggling the kiddos, and work, and the garden and volunteering  single parent style, so my recipe mandate was healthy, delicious, mostly local and the priority of the day – fast or prepare-ahead-able.

Pickled Radishes.

A bit of sugar, but worth it –

Baked Radish Chips.

My kids love home made veggie fries.  But I’d never thought to bake radishes.  Steam instead of putting them in the microwave to maintain maximum nutritional value.

Radish Relish.

Yes, it’s pink. And it’s a great way to use the end of the radishes when you tire of them.  This recipe does require citrus, which isn’t available locally.  I can’t seem to give up lemon.  It’s just too good!

And though I haven’t had a chance to try this one, I’m yet to be dissapointed by any of Alanna’s fabulous recipes.  So from A Veggie Venture (Kitchen Parade), try Creamed Radishes with Pimenton

My four year old is admitedly more excited about the pod peas.  And the one year old is all about the snap peas.  But I have to say, I’m a little over the moon about radishes.  Who knew!


Tea, Mint and Mint Tea June 4, 2009

Filed under: Environment,Food,garden — gumbootgarden @ 6:49 am

I’ve been jiving on tea the past few days.  It’s a miracle substance really.  Flavoured water.  Hot or cold.  Refreshing.  Invigorating. Calming.  There is a tea for everthing and I am oft found enjoying a cup of tea.  Much to my husband’s chagrin, I’m also oft found abandoning half drunk cups of tea.  Usually in the office.  Which is another story entirely – but not unrelated.

Those abandoned cups of tea have their purpose.  They are nitrogen rich infusions for your plants and garden.  I had forgotten this until recently. And I am delighted to now have a reason, a purpose, a defense, for leaving the cup of tea half full.  Not that the tea-to-the-plants fact is news. I remember with a certain nostalgia that that my mother would pour the reminants of her tea pot into our house plants when I was a child.  She probably still does. I don’t have house plants (those are something that, gasp, my mother has). And until recently, I’m ashamed to admit, my tea often went down the drain. No more. Tea is for the garden.

Think of the benefits.  Teaing the garden provides the plants much needed nitrogen without purchasing anything outside the scope of your usual consumption habits.  If your tea is organic, so is your nitrogen. Furthermore, tea bags can be reused twice for garden tea.  And then composted.  Eat your heart out coffee.  There is the packaging associated with the tea – bulk tea being least the offensive and individually wrapped bags being the recipients of the George Bush award.  But with a little thoughtful buying, the waste can be kept to a minimum. And for die hards – you can make your own tea.

Which takes us right back to the garden.

Mint is taking over it’s little plot in my yard at a furious rate – propelling me to search for mint tea recipes.  Gillian at mytinyplot (one of my favorite resources for gardening know how) posted a great recipe last week and I’m itching to try it this weekend. I’ll keep you posted!


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