Vegetables and Herbs for a Sunny Garden

Bumblebee visiting borage flower in Chicago garden.png

Last year when I visited the organic rooftop farm at Uncommon Ground on Devon the farm manager at the time mentioned that growing on the roof posed several challenges. The rooftop farm is exposed to full sun and it gets very hot up there. This year, while planning the garden on the back porch I remembered that conversation and have picked vegetables and herbs for a sunny garden.  The back porch gets pretty much full sun throughout the day. There is also the sun that bounces off the vinyl siding and surrounding buildings. Space is also limited and I have to carefully select the plants I’m growing there because they will be growing in containers. Here is a list of vegetables and herbs that I recommend for a sunny garden based on what I’ve grown there in the past and some research.

Anise Hyssop
Vegetables that produce fruits require 6-8 hours of sun so they make perfect candidates for growing on my back porch. This shouldn’t be considered a complete list, I may add more sun-loving veggies and herbs if I visit any of the plant sales around Chicago in May (see link on right) or come across something interesting at a garden center in Chicago. Hopefully this list will give a newbie gardener in Chicago and idea of what they can grow in a similar setting. If you have a favorite I didn’t include in my list of vegetables and herbs for a sunny garden, feel free to add them in the comments. 


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  • Doesn't borage have the cutest flowers? And I love the fuzzy stems. As far as I know, most herbs prefer full sun.

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    It has nice flowers, but those stems kinda creep me out. As a matter of fact, all plants with fuzzy stems give me the creeps.

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    Aw, seriously? What about Hepatica? Good gravy, those are adorable! Oh, wait. Do they look too much like tarantulas?! :)

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    Wow, that's beautiful! Hairy flowers look "ok" it is mostly the thought of touching them that kind creeps me out.

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    Planting oregano in full sun is just asking for it to completely take over. Good thing it's in a container. What about parsley?

  • In reply to naxn:

    I've never grown parsley before so I didn't include it but I did find it in a veggies gardening book listed as doing well in full sun. Also, mint. That's something I'll never grow outside of a container myself because I wouldn't want it to escape.

  • In reply to MrBrownThumb:

    Xan is right about oregano--it definitely has megalomaniac tendencies, though it isn't as crazy as mint. In fact, I put my oregano in part shade to contain it. Giving a plant suboptimal conditions does help contain it. Parsley is pretty flexible--does fine in full sun and part-shade. Just planted mine out t'other day. How are your tomatoes doing?

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    My tomatoes aren't doing so hot. Thinking of maybe starting some new ones up today.

  • In reply to MrBrownThumb:

    My winter-sown ones are small but sturdy. With any luck, I'll have extras, can bring you and Linda some in June! (I'll also have nodding wild onion and zizia--did I tell you that already, or was that Linda?!)

  • In reply to MrBrownThumb:

    I've found most herbs grow well even in part sun, lucky for me since that's the most sun we get in our gardens. Also, although conventional wisdom dictates most veggies, and especially fruiting ones, need full sun, I've had excellent success with tomatoes, peppers, beans, and cucumbers in part sun. Our veggie beds get at most 4-1/2-5 hours of sun, and still manage to produce an abundance of these - so many that, as small as our veggie beds are, I had more than enough for fresh eating as well as for canning, pickling and freezing. I'm sure they'd be even more productive in full sun, but I love that it's possible to have an overabundance even in less-than-optimal sunlight.

  • In reply to ssgardengirl:

    I remember the harvest you had last year in your shady veggie bed and was very impressed at the results. It almost made me want to try some in the front of the house too.

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