Wet clay, full shade, close neighbors

ShadeMaid(8a/8b)March 16, 2014

My house has a "garden area" (approx 9'x25') that a previous tenant set up on the north side of the house, with my neighbor's house another 25' or so north of that. Our whole lot is very soggy clay (more moss/dandelions than grass in our yard) and the garden spot gets very little light on the outside edge in the summer, and nearly nil in the winter.

After using it for a yard/kitchen waste dump for three years I discovered a few days ago there are tons of worms and a little bit of dark hummus-y matter. I made a rough raised bed by edging the area with the highest concentration of organic matter (about 4'x15') with some wood my boyfriend had around after doing some clearing for our landlord last year. Turned the soil and cleared as many of the rocks as I could, though there are still many ranging from marble sized to double fist sized.

I've been looking for shade tolerant berry bushes or bamboo, something so that we don't have to keep the curtains drawn at all times for privacy. Goumi/autumn olive seemed promising, or Fargesia robusta bamboo, but I'd prefer an edible bush of some sort. I read that Camellia sinensis could take full shade as well, but another source said only partial. Do you guys have any suggestions? For the rest of the area I'm going to lay down some stepping stones and put in a mossy ground cover of some sort to try and keep mud under control. It's been fascinating looking for wet/shade tolerant plants, but my focus on (mostly) edibles has kept the selection rather small, and I'm getting a lot of conflicting information.

FWIW I'm absolutely new to gardening. Tried a container gardening experiment last year that totally flopped, but I've been hitting the local library for about two months and have an idea on basics. Just... no significant experience

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Most plants that provide edible fruit/berries/foliage simply do not thrive in much shade - by and large they need full sun or close to it. The major exceptions, especially in the PNW, would be the huckleberries - both evergreen and deciduous (Vaccinium ovatum and V. parviflora). Again, these need some decent light to flower and fruit well but they are quite shade tolerant and are common native woodland species. If you want to range a bit further afield, you could try salal (Gaultheria shallon) and Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) - both of these are native woodland plants and produce berries favored by the indigenous native peoples. These berries need to be cooked before very palatable.

Any of the Fargesia species do well in shade but if in heavy shade, may not grow as quickly or as densely as they would with a bit more light. But unless your are of the panda persuasion, bamboo is unlikely to be very tasty :-) You could also try Camellia sinensis or tea plant. Camellias are very shade adapted and you can harvest the new growth to make your own tea. Again, heavy shade is going to restrict or limit growth.

Other good plants for shade that can provide privacy screen are Japanese laurel (Aucuba japonica) and Japanese aralia (Fatsia japonica). Both of these will take quite heavy shade as well.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 4:00PM
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Thank you for the suggestions and reply! The Fatsia japonica looks beautiful (I'm in love with Gunnera and that tropical looking foliage, but limited space and little light has me hand tied there). The more reading I do the more edibles seem pretty far fetched, but I'll probably try my luck with one or two of the edible species and fill in with privacy screen plants.

I remember picking deciduous huckleberries when I was younger out in the woods, though the plants were commonly on giant nurse logs and aged stumps. Would some old wood sunk into the surrounding soil be beneficial? Or maybe hollowed out sunken rounds. I'll look into the Oregon grape and salal as well, maybe they'll do well out towards the yard/plot edge where there's a couple hours of morning sunshine

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 4:40PM
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