Vegetable Sunlight: Ultimate Guide

Various vegetables in a basket under the sun.

The right amount of sunshine makes all the difference in every garden’s harvest. Sunlight is the principal source of plants to grow healthy. But did you know that sun requirements differ from plants to plants? Some plants thrive well with partial shade, while others need more than 8 hours of full sun per day.


How Sunlight Intensity Differs Throughout The Day

Sunlight coming through tree branches.

The sun has various positions in the sky throughout 24 hours of the day which gives different levels of intensity depending on the time of day.

When the sun starts to rise in the morning, it has the lowest strength of brightness. However, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. is when the sun is completely full and intense. The evening sun provides moderate intensity before it disappears at night.

The sun keeps shifting from a slight shade to its full intensity within the day depending on the weather. Some regions receive more sunlight during the day, while other regions generally experience more cloudy weather along with colder temperatures.


Garden Location For Optimal Sunlight

When considering to start a garden, the most important thing you need to check first is the location.

It is essential to understand how many hours of sunlight can hit the garden throughout the day. You also need to consider what kind of vegetables you’d like to grow.

North

Why people want their house to face north has a reason. This goes with your garden too. Your garden that faces north to north-east gets direct sunlight throughout the day in almost all seasons.

East

If your garden faces east, you will get most of the morning sun. However, you won’t have much in the afternoon until evening.

South

A garden that faces the south gets the least amount of sun. There’s not much sun for your plants to soak up, and weeds flourish more than crops.

West

Gardens facing west will get the late afternoon until evening light as the sun sets in the west. This is when the moderate strength of the sun hits your garden. You may get sunlight that is not too harsh, but it isn’t sufficient for your plants to thrive.


How The Sun Helps Vegetables To Grow

Lettuce seedling stemming out of dark brown soil.

When it comes to growing any plant, it is essential to understand how the sun nourishes your plants’ growth.

Vegetables need sun to create their food. Photosynthesis is the process when sunlight collaborates with the plant’s chlorophyll, carbon dioxide in the air, and water to generate sugar within the plant. This process is how your plants grow and feed themselves.

Some plants such as carrots and other roots crops tolerate less amount of sunshine, but still need 3 to 4 hours of full sun to complete the photosynthesis they need.

Other plants thrive in partial shade. Plants like lettuce and spinach develop dry curled leaves and dark spots when the amount of sunlight exceeds within the limit requirements.

The need for sunlight differs for each vegetable. Vegetables that grow well in summer are those that require full sun, or else, they will suffer from weak stems and eventually die.

In gardening, healthier crops mean an adequate amount of sunlight, while too little sunshine makes the plants weak. This also means low to no produce.


 How Much Sunlight Do Your Vegetables Need?

As the sun rotates, the amount of sunlight your garden receives depends on what direction it faces. Below are the lists of plants that will thrive according to their sunlight requirements.


Full Sun Vegetables (Requires 6-8 Hours of Sunlight)

Zucchini with its young fruits.

  • Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Peppers
  • Squash
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Corn
  • Okra
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Peas
  • Yard Long Beans
  • Sunflowers
  • Malabar Spinach
  • Yams
  • Taro
  • Cassava
  • Kangkong (water spinach)

Partial Shade Vegetables (Requires 4-6 Hours of Sunlight)

An artichoke with its purple flower.

  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Beans
  • Beets 
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cardoon
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Coriander
  • Garlic
  • Leek
  • Mint
  • Onions
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Pea
  • Radish
  • Rutabaga
  • Shallots
  • Turnips

Low Light Vegetables (Gets 2-4 Hours of Diffused Light)

Mustard Greens in a container.

  • Arugula
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Bok choy
  • Endive
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Mustard Greens
  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard

Consequences of Inadequate and Too Much Sunlight

All plants need sunlight to thrive, whether you grow them in your garden or indoors. Some plants need plenty of sunshine while others need a little. But when your plants start to grow tall and thin, it is because they are lacking and looking for more light.

Lack of Sunlight

Usually, plants that are grown under full sun grow fast compared to plants with low requirements of sunlight. Plants that do not meet their sunlight requirements end up being weak and leggy.

Etiolation or weakening of the plants happen when the stem of your plants grows more rapid than usual due to lack of sunlight. The long internodes, having only a few leaves, and being weak is the result of losing strength in search of light.

The section of the stem where the leaves of the plants are attached is the nodes, while in-between nodes are the part of the stem called internodes.

Foliage turning yellow is an indication of insufficient light. Other symptoms of insufficient light exposure such as pale color, smaller leaves, inability to bloom, and long thin stems are all evidence of lack of sunlight.

Too Much Sunlight

Withered kohlrabi from full sun garden.

Not all plants are created equal. While some plants love full sun intensity, too much sunlight can cause other plants like shade-loving plants their death. Too much sun can wither flowering and will burn the flowers before they bloom.

Some flowering plants need to receive more than 8 hours of sunlight every day. Long story short, the amount of sun during the day can either meet the needs of your plants or burn them, so it is essential to understand your plants’ sunlight requirements before planting.


Tips for Growing Vegetables Following Their Sunlight Requirements


Growing Vegetables in Full Sun

Squash harvested from a garden of full sun.

1) Location of the Garden

For full-sun loving plants, look for a location that gets 6- 8 hours per day and more if possible. To provide adequate sun exposure to all your plants, place the tallest plants like corn and tomatoes on the north or west side so they won’t overshadow the smaller companion plants.

2) Appropriate Soil

Plants that thrive in full sun require loose and enriched soil. Incorporating organic material into the soil like compost helps retain the soil moisture and provides proper soil aeration.

3) Water Reasonably

Watering your plant along with occasional rainfall at least once a week during summer is sufficient enough to meet their water needs.

The use of soaker hoses and drip lines to water is the most efficient way for your garden. This way, the water is delivered slowly into the roots of your plants. It allows the roots to absorb the water just enough for their needs and prevents problems like root rot due to overwatering.

4) The Use of Mulch

Adding 2-3 inches of organic mulch around your plants will protect the soil, keeping it colder in summer and warmer in winter.

Besides, mulch is exceptional at suppressing weeds and retaining soil moisture. It is also an excellent garden barrier, preventing pests like slugs and snails that destroy your plants, aside from making your garden look great.

5) The Use of Pests Control

Pests are one of the most common problems in the garden. If you’ve practiced the tips mentioned above, you are more than halfway there to promoting the growth of healthy plants.

Using an organic pest control like spraying a solution of hydrogen peroxide to eradicate pests and boost your plant’s health is also a great idea.

However, if you need to resort to pesticides, you have to apply them responsibly. Apply them only in the late afternoon or in the evening. Never apply chemical treatment in the morning. This is because it is in the morning when beneficial insects and pollinators are most active.

6) Use Fertilizer Appropriately

Excessive use of fertilizer is not only harmful to your plants and soil, but it may not serve its proper purpose. Improper use of nitrogen can develop healthy leaves at the expense of fewer fruits and less harvest.


Growing Vegetables in Partial Shade

Radishes grown in a partial shade garden.

Shade does not have to prevent gardeners from growing their food, but there are different types of shade that gardeners should be aware of.  Also, every gardener should know that estimating the amount of shade in your garden is not always easy.

Dappled shade cast by trees can be shady but still somewhat bright. Trimming low hanging branches can help sunlight get through.

Partial shade is more challenging compared to dappled shade. It provides sunlight to your garden only a couple of hours, while most of the day it is shadowy.

Partial shade is often caused by high buildings nearby, giving your garden a total shadow most of the day.

Overall, a few hours of sunlight and a shady garden for the rest of the day can let you grow some crops. However, the yield will not be as high compared to areas with dappled shade or full sun.

Useful Tips for Growing Vegetables in Shade

  1. Enriched soil incorporated with compost is beneficial to your vegetables, especially when growing plants in shade.
  2. Vegetables that are grown in the shade requires less watering. You can save your time from watering because soil moisture doesn’t evaporate promptly.
  3. Check your garden regularly for any signs of slugs and snails. These type of pests loves to thrive in a much colder part of the garden. You may spray your garden with a hydrogen peroxide solution to avoid infestation.
  4. Utilizing reflective mulches to cast light into your plant is also of big help.

Note: Reflective mulches are widely used by most gardeners in shady areas. It is an aluminum or silver polyethylene that reflects light into the leaves, thereby helping plants to photosynthesize.


Growing Vegetables in Low Light

A Cress plant grown indoors in a container.

If you love to garden, but your location has too much shade, worry not as there are plenty of vegetables you can choose that is appropriate for your space.

Neighboring buildings or trees can’t hinder all your options. Increasing the light may not be possible, but creatively working might let you grow plants where you thought would not be possible.

Determining suitable vegetable varieties to grow in the shade is worth exploring your options.

Growing vegetables with light to full shade have lots of advantages and disadvantages. To guide you more about what is best for you and your vegetables, let’s take a look.

Advantages of a Shady Vegetable Garden

  • Vegetables that are planted in mostly shadowed conditions survive long periods between waterings. Less water, less consumption cost. Yay, what a saving!
  • Shaded spaces reduce moisture loss, so vegetables aren’t at risk of wilt and heat stress.
  • Soil does not dry out quickly, especially if you lay mulch as added protection.
  • Your harvest can be extended as most of the varieties won’t seed fast, unlike a harvest with full sun.
  • Utilizing your spaces like these can make you more creative to grow food efficiently, aside from becoming more productive.

Disadvantages of Growing Vegetables in Light to Full Shade

  • The plants photosynthesize at a lower rate, so vegetables grow slowly and often result in smaller leaves.
  • The plant takes longer to mature, making you wait longer to harvest.
  • Fewer yields compared to plants grown in full sun.

Final Thoughts On Your Vegetable Sunlight Guide

Vegetables that are grown in shady gardens can also provide you homegrown produce. By careful planning accompanied by appropriate preparation, you can grow vegetables, even in spaces with a little amount of light.

Experimenting what works for you and the spaces you have can be fun. Try to maximize both your sunny and shady areas to grow more vegetables.

If there are any suggestions you have in mind that you would like us to add, please feel free to write them down in the comment section below. We’re always glad to hear your thoughts. Happy Gardening!

About Benita Abucejo

Hi there! My name is Benita Abucejo. What can I say? I truly love spending my days in the outdoors, specifically in the garden. Gardening has always been a strong passion of mine since I was a little girl. It has brought me so much joy and happiness that it is definitely safe to say that I will be a gardener for life. For a period of time, I was able to work with people who are into home gardening and I found it to be quite beneficial to my physical health, as well as my mental well-being. Here at Seasonal Preferences, I am going to share with you my experience and ideas so that you can fulfill yourself with the same satisfaction and happiness. Of course, if you have ideas, I would love to hear those as well! Being creative in the garden can really be quite fascinating so let's share our experiences and be the best gardeners we can be. With that being said, thank you for dropping by and please leave me a comment on one of my posts if you would like to get in touch!

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