How to grow food in a rental space

April 12, 2016
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Gardening can be great fun and even provide you with extra food. But how to go about starting a garden when you’re living in rental accommodation or a really tiny space? Here are some tips on growing your own food, no matter what kind of space you’re in.

Backyard gardening

If you’re living in a share house with a backyard, then you’re in the perfect place for a thriving veggie patch. Who cares that it’s just a rental space? You can still grow food there; just keep your gardening efforts tidy out of respect to the landlord.

The easiest way to create a veggie patch in a backyard is to use the no-dig method. Instead of digging into the soil, build up a garden bed with layers of compost and mulch. It’s a lot easier and quicker than digging, and the soil you create will be full of nutrients and other good things, like worms.

All those layers of compost and mulch can be a bit exxy, so it’s a good idea to contact your local council for any free materials they have on offer. Also consider adding a compost bin to your backyard so you can turn your scraps into food for the garden.

Build your garden bed on a site that gets maximum sunlight. Choose fast-growing veggies that you like to eat, such as herbs, lettuce, tomatoes and spinach.

If you’re worried your landlord may not be as enthusiastic about your no-dig garden, try other, subtler methods of growing food in your backyard. Tuck veggie plants into already established flowerbeds where they won’t be spotted, or grow fruit trees in pots.

Balcony gardening

The next best thing to a backyard is a balcony. You can definitely grow food there too.

First, suss out the climate conditions on your balcony. How often does it get full sun? How windy and exposed is it? Choose plants that suit your conditions.

Be creative when locating pots and other containers for your balcony garden. Try growing salad greens in a polystyrene box or repurpose an old drawer for a herb garden.

You should also take advantage of the vertical space on your balcony. You can grow climbing beans up a trellis, hang baskets of strawberry plants from the ceiling, or grow potatoes using an above-ground method.

Throw in a worm farm and you’ve got the perfect urban oasis.

Windowsill gardening

No backyard and no balcony? That’s OK; you can still grow plants on your windowsill.

Windows that receive lots of sun are your best bet. Try growing a row of herbs on your kitchen windowsill for easy access when cooking. You can also raise plants from seed, or grow alfalfa sprouts in a jar. So hipster.

Community gardening

If you’re longing to get your hands into the soil but don’t have a backyard, seek out a local community garden. You’ll get to meet people and take home a share of the spoils. If you live in the city, there may be verge gardens near you.

Guerrilla gardening

If you really don’t have anywhere to garden, it might be time to take back control and ignore the rules. Guerrilla gardeners grow things on other people’s land without permission, aiming to transform ugly spaces into beautiful and productive gardens.

You can get in on the guerrilla gardening action by making seed bombs. Seed bombs consist of seeds encased in soil, and can be lobbed into vacant lots while you make your getaway, under the cover of darkness and preferably wearing a balaclava. You may not get to eat the food or pick the flowers it creates, but you’ll be part of a global movement spreading gardening mayhem far and wide.

Don’t let renting get in the way of growing food. Whether you start your own backyard veggie patch, grow herbs on a windowsill, or become a renegade seed bomb-thrower, you too can cultivate some plants and some happiness. 

Melinda Cooper

Melinda loves reading on rainy days, drinking cups of tea and making things. She is doing a PhD in English at the University of Sydney. 

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