How to Grow Vegetables in the Shade in the UK

Updated February 16, 2017

Don't be discouraged by your shady yard. Gardeners in shady U.K. gardens might not grow tomatoes, squash or beans successfully, but many vegetables do grow well. Choose leafy vegetables that tolerate partial shade. Lettuce, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage all thrive in the moist, cool climate found throughout Britain. Grow these crops, along with beets, spinach and chard from early spring to late fall in shady areas.

Prepare the soil. Spread a 1-inch layer of compost over the garden area. Use a shovel to mix it in, removing rocks and dirt clods as you go. Regardless of which vegetables you choose, good soil preparation is the most important step. Leafy vegetables like broccoli and lettuce require less fertiliser than fruiting vegetables like tomatoes or squash. Adding compost to the soil is probably the only fertilising you'll need.

Rake the garden area to level the surface. Water the garden, and allow it to sit for a few days or even weeks before planting.

Use the hoe to dig furrows for the seeds. Check the seed packets for individual seed depths.

Place the seeds in the furrow, 1/2 inch apart or more, depending on individual seed requirements. Cover the seeds with soil and pat gently. Water the ground with a gentle mist hose or sprayer until the ground is thoroughly moist, but not soaking. Put your finger in the soil. It should be moist at least 2 to 3 inches down.

Pull weeds throughout the growing season. Gardeners in Britain don't need to water very much because of the wet climate. But monitor your plants during dry spells. If they are droopy, or if the soil feels and looks dry, water them with a hose or sprinkler 10 to 15 minutes until the ground is very moist, but not soaking. Plants like lettuce and broccoli taste bitter when they don't receive enough water.


Cut lettuce when the leaves are 3 to 6 inches. Allow the plant to continue to grow and continue to harvest. Cut broccoli when the plant begins to form heads. Don't allow it to flower or the broccoli will be bitter.

Things You'll Need

  • Work gloves
  • Shovel
  • Compost or manure
  • Rake
  • Hoe
  • Seeds
  • Water
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About the Author

Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."