Any experienced SF shade gardeners out there??!!

Hi, I need help figuring out what on earth will grow behind my apartment building! It is between two other buildings and has a giant tree overshadowing it. I think it gets very little if any light. I am learning that little, if any, food products will grow back there. I’m hoping for sorrel, mustard, and spring greens once the days get a little longer – with 13+ daylight hours, I hope enough can filter through for growth. In the meantime, I’d really like to find some fun and pretty woodland type plants I could grow back there. It’s just a wasteland of leaves from the tree and three varieties of weeds (they’re all green, so SOMETHING can photosynthesize back there!) and a bunch of raw dirt that nothing’s growing on. Here’s a view from above, looking down on the “garden” from my apartment window:

It’s pretty useless for recreating, because who wants to go out on a nice day and grill and hang out in a shady, dank yard, where all your neighbors can hear you? Thus, I’d like to do something with is, since my landlord gave me free reign (currently it’s a wonderland of leaves, abandoned bikes, bits of brick, and the aforementioned green weeds). What do you think can grow back there that might look nice? Obviously, I always prefer “edible landscapes”, especially herbs and such, but I’m not sure anything will thrive.

Here are some plants I looked up online that might grow, but I need to know: Are they the best choice? Where do I buy them?

  • Arugula
  • Mints
  • black snakeroot and bleeding heart (not sure what these entail)
  • hosta lilies (probably a good choice – where to buy?)
  • wild violets and lily of the valley (woodland plants – can you buy them?)
  • ferns (no idea where to get)
  • nettle (white nettle is edible – i might try this. not sure where to buy it)

I’ve also been reading this ridiculous garden-porn book (it’s all-color, including the text, and features so many cool urban and small space gardening ideas – tons of photos, written by a brit, and published by chronicle – called “Garden Anywhere”) but apparently this doesn’t include urban gardening for people who *don’t* have balconies, front ledges, yards, or stoops. SIIIIGGGGH. I have at least one book “Gardening in Small Spaces” that at least *acknowledges* this is the reality in many urban environments, but sadly, it appears that his solution was to “grow” his own food in the form of sprouts, mushrooms, fermented things like kimchi and sauerkraut. All can be good, but not really what I’m looking for.

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