Life in the suburbs is all about compromise. You can’t always have it the way you want and often, you’ve just got to make the most of what you have. My backyard is surrounded by trees in neighbouring properties – there’s not a lot I can do about those, and in reality, I do appreciate the screening and birds they bring to my view. I placed my vegie patch in the most opportune space I could… it gets plenty of morning sun after 9 o’clock, but from 1pm, the shade of my neighbour’s giant mango tree creeps in (nice mangoes by the way). That means most of the patch only gets 4 hours of guaranteed full sun… some spots get a little more (5 hrs), others a little less.
I have reserved the sunniest spots for the fruiting plants – tomatoes, eggplants, capsicum, zucchini, cucumbers etc - they really do demand the best light. Everything else goes in the shady corners, and despite the lack of 'recommended' sun hours, they still perform remarkably well. Now when I say shady, I don’t mean no sun at all… these spots get at least 3 -4 hours direct sun minimum.
Asian greens are among the best performers – I’ve grown them in pots on a deck in a spot that gets just 2 hours… they’re not as quick growing, but the quality of the end result is still good. Cousin Kale does well in 3-4 hours, as do radishes. Most of the leafy greens welcome a break from full sun, particularly lettuce, English spinach, mizuna and silverbeet, along with leafy root crops like beetroot, carrot and turnip. The onion tribe – including garlic, shallots and chives – all do well on a 3-4 hour ration of sunlight, so do herbs like mint, coriander and parsley, and I’ve been delighted with the returns I’ve had from peas and beans in some of my shadier corners – but I’m sure they are reaching up and stealing an extra ray of sunlight or two when I’m not looking.
So there you go, if 3-4 hours of sunlight is all you can muster, there is still plenty of good tucker you can be producing in your home patch.
First published: March 2012