Sun-Loving Edible Plants
Sun-loving edible plants will survive in partial shade, but they need direct sunlight to perform at their peak!
- Which Plants Crave Sunshine?
- Where’s The Sun?
- For Indoor Growers: Sunlight And Artificial Light Sources
Which Plants Crave Sunshine?
Here’s a list of Sun-loving plants we sell that really, really, prefer sunshine over shade in order to perform at their peak potential (cough, cough, hint, hint):
- Sun Flowers
Where’s The Sun?
Find a location that has a southern exposure. This will give your plant the maximum amount of sunlight each day. Pay attention to any tall vegetation (i.e. trees and hedges) or objects (i.e. buildings or walls), because these may shade your plant at some point during the day. Also, as the summer progresses into fall, the sun path will be noticeably different than it was during the summer solstice. That “sunny spot” for your favorite plant may be shaded by an obstruction in late August. This is an important point, because the plant (indeterminate growth especially) will most likely be growing a second or third round of fruits at this point of the year. If it loses sunlight duration, the yield will be negatively impacted ( = fewer and smaller tomatoes).
For Indoor Growers: Sunlight and Artificial Light Sources
Basics Of Indoor Light
Growing sun-loving edible plants indoors has the same light requirement as growing outdoors. However, this can be a little tricky. Before you attempt to grow anything inside, locate the south-facing window. If you don’t have a south-facing window, look for a west-facing window. At least with a west-facing window, you’ll get the afternoon sun (sort of). It depends on what’s outside that window and how many hours of light you’ll be exposed to during the day.
The south-facing window needs to have absolutely NO obstructions on the outside of the window. Soffits, awnings, tall shrubs, tress or anything else which is above or next to the window will inhibit the amount of light coming through the window. With less than 9 hours of sunlight on the shortest day of the year in Minnesota, your plant will appreciate receiving all the direct light it can receive.
Unless you have a solarium, we suggest you park your sun-loving edible plants right up on the windowsill. This will ensure you’re getting the absolute maximum light to your plants. Sunlight intensity drops significantly as you position your plant back from the window. Even six inches away from the window can have noticeable effects on the plant growth. A particular location may seem like a good fit for a plant, but it may not be the best for your edible plant.
Plants won’t talk to use using our language, but they will talk to us by the way they grow! “Leggy” or “spindly” are two common words to describe edible plants that are starving for light. The plants grow tall and thin to reach towards the light. They’re actually expending energy in hopes of getting sufficient amounts of required light to fulfill their primary mission (reproduction).
Plant geek moment: phototropism is the fancy technical term for this condition. A hormone called auxin is responsible for the plant bending towards a light source.
If our sun-loving edible plant is spending energy on reaching for light, it won’t be producing as much of the plant we’re most likely waiting to eat. This is especially true with kitchen herbs. Ideally, we want a healthy stout-looking plant which has multiple shoots and full leaves. The same is true for leafy greens and lettuce plants. If a plant has to stretch for light and eventually gets the light it needs, we then run into a different problem. Ever see a plant topple over due to its weight? This is likely to happen if our plant gets too tall without developing a main stem.
Speed of growth
The more light a sun-loving edible plant receives, the quicker it can grow. Plants follow an exponential growth pattern when growing in the correct conditions. They grow relatively slow early in their lives. As soon as the plant has sufficient leaves coupled with a sufficient amount of light, it enters into a rapid growth sequence. It’s a direct result of the available plant leaf surface plus sufficient light and other inputs (i.e. water, chemical elements).
Artificial light is your best option if you:
- don’t have sufficient light in your home
- don’t have a south-facing window
- want to step up your plant-growing game
There seems to be a bottomless well of information and options for artificial lights these days due to an increased demand for indoor growing. We’ll cover a few general points here. There’s no “correct” artificial light for every situation. They all have tradeoffs and pros and cons. It comes down to how much you’re willing to invest and what you need out of the lights. Here are some popular options:
- Fluorescent: T5’s are popular. These are the smaller diameter option and tend to draw less electricity.
- LED: These are gaining more popularity. They have many different configurations and options.
- HPS/MH (High Pressure Sodium and Metal Halide bulbs): These are specialty grow lights for bigger operations. They’re not needed if you intend on growing kitchen herbs
- The sun: If you have a solarium, you’re blessed!
What’s the right light for you? In MEG’s opinion, whatever is available at a good price and gets your plants what they need. You don’t have to go overboard with fancy lights. You just need lighting that meets your plant’s needs and allows them to develop at their full potential in the quickest amount of time possible. After all, we’d rather eat the basil sooner that later right!? If you’re just starting out, T5’s and LED’s will be good investments. Take into consideration how much area you need lit up. A small 2′ wide LED or T5 light will be just fine for a kitchen herb garden.