If you have pine trees in your garden, you are probably already aware that they can stunt the growth of some plants, and you may be wondering how you can deal with this issue. Growing edible vegetables under a pine tree can be challenging, but it is possible if you choose your plants with care – so let’s look at 15 edible plants that can grow under pine trees.
The best edible plants for growing under a pine tree include potatoes, carrots, lettuce, spinach, and cabbage. You can also grow wild ginger, currants, wild strawberries, gooseberries, some herbs, and northern blueberries.
Choosing your fruits and vegetables with care makes it more likely that they will grow well in spite of the presence of the pine tree. We’re going to explore which plants to choose and how to grow them.
What Edibles Can Be Grown Close To A Pine Tree
There are plenty of edibles that you can grow under a pine tree, but in general, shade-lovers will do better than those that need plenty of sunlight. Before you select a spot for your vegetable bed, dig around and see how many roots are growing in it, because your plants won’t grow well if they are constantly competing for root space. You need to be far enough away from the pine tree for them to put down roots of their own.
The biggest issues when growing alongside pines is usually the shade and an abundance of fallen pine needles – so choose from the below list of plants to maximize their chances of survival.
- Wild ginger
- Wild strawberries
- Northern blueberries
- Swiss chard
Choosing shade lovers is the most important first step, but you do also need to think about the other conditions surrounding your pine tree, and make sure they are suitable for the kind of fruit or vegetable that you want to grow. For example, if the soil is heavily alkaline, many vegetables will struggle.
Equally, if the soil is poorly drained, herbs will not grow so well there, because they prefer loose soils. You need to choose the plants to suit the conditions as closely as possible so you can maximize the crop that you get from them. Let’s explore what these plants need in order to grow well beneath a pine tree.
Spinach is best grown in the shade because it has a tendency to bolt as soon as the weather gets hot, and this spoils the flavor of the leaves. If you have hot summers, growing spinach in the shade of your pine trees could be the best option for you. Spinach will cope with the sun during the cooler days, but as soon as the weather warms up, it needs to be kept in the shade to preserve it.
Some people have success with growing spinach under pines, while others find that it doesn’t get enough light. It may be worth a try if you’re a spinach fan and your space looks suitable.
Carrots And Potatoes
You can’t grow carrots or potatoes right beside a pine tree, because they need more light than this, and they will struggle if they are in the full shade. In general, they need about 6 hours of sunlight every day. However, they will usually grow well alongside a pine provided they do get some sun.
If your pine trees are very tall and shelter the whole area, these crops aren’t likely to be suitable, but if the trees only block the light for part of the day – perhaps the morning or the evening – then potatoes and carrots could be an ideal crop to try.
Wild ginger is an enormously versatile plant that will grow in almost any situation. It burns if left in full sun, so it will appreciate getting some shade from your pine trees, and it is easy to propagate.
Wild ginger isn’t identical to culinary ginger, and you do need to choose your plant with care to make sure that you get an edible variety, but it is a great option if you like ginger and you have a good spot for it to grow.
Furthermore, it looks pretty growing under pine trees and provides a low maintenance cover.
Wild strawberries are found in all sorts of situations, but they tend to prefer cooler, shadier spots, so they may thrive under your pine tree. They are low growing and don’t need much care, and they will spread out to form a nice mat of ground cover. The plants tend to be dormant in summer and winter, but grow well in the spring and fall.
These strawberries do like well draining soil, so make sure the space under your pine trees is suitable before you put them in. They dislike heavy clay and will struggle to survive.
Like many of the salad leaves, lettuces tend to prefer spots that are not too bright or hot. They will bolt, just like other salads, if they are exposed to too much summer sun, so your crop will be at its best if it is kept in a shady spot, such as under a pine tree.
Lettuces are a great crop to grow because you can space them out among other crops and fill in gaps, maximizing the value that you get from your land. Keep your lettuces damp and cool, and you may be able to harvest them for months.
Cabbages don’t like to be exposed to too much sun, as this may burn their leaves. Like carrots and potatoes, they need about 6 hours of light, so if your pine trees don’t block out all the sun, they will thrive alongside them. You can plant a whole row of cabbages, as long as they will get some sunlight during the day.
If they won’t get any sun because the pines are dense or angled to block most of it, cabbages will struggle – so choose your positioning with care. You may find that it helps to measure and mark out where the sun falls for the longest period, and then use this to plan where your cabbages should go.
Blueberries are an immensely popular crop and you can sometimes grow them in the shelter of a pine tree, although it does depend on the setup a little. They need a few hours of sunlight each day, and acidic soil which is a soil pH level 7 or below.
Fortunately, the soil around pine trees is often pretty acidic, partly because pines themselves prefer acidic soil, and partly because their needles can have an acidifying effect when they fall and decompose. This may make a pine grove the perfect spot for growing blueberries, as long as they will get enough light.
Although Swiss chard does like some sun, it should tolerate medium shade in the summer, so it can be a good option for a veg bed that is partially shaded by a pine tree. It’s a pleasant crop with a spinach-like taste, and has become very popular among vegetable gardeners because it’s prolific and easy to grow.
It won’t grow in full shade, however, so don’t put it beside your pines if they block a lot of the sunlight.
Some chives will grow in full sun, but they generally prefer to have some shade, especially if your climate is hot. Chives have attractive flowers and many culinary uses, and they will grow in a variety of conditions. They should do well alongside pine trees, as long as they get some sun and plenty of water. They are a very low maintenance crop.
What Edible Plants Won’t Grow Beside A Pine Tree?
You should avoid plants that need full sun, alkaline soil, or a lot of space for their roots, as these are unlikely to thrive if they are crowded by pine trees. A few of the edibles that won’t grow well alongside a pine include:
Although some of these vegetables may be encouraged to grow if the conditions are good enough, most will struggle to get enough light if they are grown alongside a pine tree. They need plenty of sun to produce their fruits, and if you can’t offer this, you will find that they wilt and die, or that they grow but produce very little fruit.
You should also avoid trying to grow a fruit tree alongside a pine. There is not likely to be enough root space, and the pine will probably crowd the fruit tree out, especially if it is already established when you plant the fruit tree.
There are many things that you can grow alongside a pine tree, but you need to make sure that the edibles get enough sunlight. Depending on the size of your pine and the positioning, this might be easy, but in some gardens, it will be harder. Research how much light each plant needs and check whether this need will be met before you put it in the ground.