Sunday, October 28, 2012

Urban Core Shade Gardening Basics

This post is for Michael O'Connell and all the others interesteed in having a productive garden on a canopy tree covered lot.
Containerized plants do well under trees where roots are thick

Many established urban core neighborhoods are covered with large canopy trees, beautiful old trees providing shade and broad limbs from which hang innumerable swings.

Gardening under these trees doesn't have to be difficult.  Follow a few basic concepts and your shade food garden can be an important source of food, cut flowers and family pleasure.

Though the list of available shade plants is lengthy we will only mention a few here today.  Starting the garden is the most important step.  A half dozen food plants in the ground are much better than the fat package of seeds sitting in the garage waiting for planting.

First step to a successful urban core shade garden is to make sure the trees on your lot are allelopathic free.  Allelopathic trees are those species whose leaf drop is toxic to other plants.  Allelopathic trees have evolved this capacity as a mechanism to suppress other plants who may compete for nutrients and water.

Locally here in Florida, cypress (Taxodium spp.) is somewhat allelopathic.  Other allelopathic trees are listed on the University of Florida's IFAS website here.

If your urban core yard trees are allelopathic you may want to consider porch container gardening.

Secondly, tree roots need oxygen and water.  If you cover the ground under a tree with garden soil you may damage the tree.  If you dig too deep while preparing your soil you may damage the tree root systems (even nicked roots can damage trees through infections).

If you have a shady area free of roots then prepare the soil accordingly.  If, as I suspect most urban core residents will find in older, established neighborhoods, you have too many roots then you may should consider container gardening.

Containers are scalable and cost-effective.  Many containers are efficient with water conservation.

Most all my current gardening efforts are focused on containers.  Judy has the garden.  I have the containers.

We are moving into the winter season now and it is time to plant leafy greens.  In sixty days or so you can be enjoying wonderful pestos, salads and cooked greens!

You will find spinach and lettuces and many other leafy greens excellent choices for shady areas.

My Grandpa grew spinach in between his crotons through his Miami yard shaded by giant live oaks.

Garden fresh herbs and vegetables are a welcome addition to any kitchen!
Organic spinach, container or ground level grown loves shade.  Of course, some direct sunlight (even an hour a day) always encourages vigorous plant growth.  Organic spinach is quite costly in the local health food store and a number one shade vegetable.

Lettuces too most always do well in shade.  Our teens forage daily throughout winter afternoons, creating tasty afternoon crisp salads from the lettuces in our garden.  There are many wonderful types of lettuces available from most seed companies.  Check out the Seeds of Change selection here.

A cornerstone of our garden are our indestructible and evergreen Garlic Chives.  We use the leaves almost daily for accent or flavor to most any dish.

Garlic Chives grow well in containers or in the ground.

Keep a container of mint growing in the shade for tea, fruit salads, your favorite beverage or a number of other uses.  Mints I'd choose include spearmint, peppermint, chocolate mint, and orange mint.  Mints can take over though so they are best planted in containers!

Homemade cilantro dips and pestos fresh from the Florida Permaculture Garden!
Parsley is so tasty in salads, soups, on sandwiches and good for you too (full of zinc).  Curly parsley does very well here in the North Florida Urban Core.

Don't forget Cilantro now.  If you love cooking you probably love cilantro.  Cilantro is another great shade vegetable.

There you have it!  Start with these six plants and you will fill your kitchen with so many healthy foods at a fraction of what they'd cost in the organic section of your health food store.

Shade gardening can be fun!  No time like today to start!

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