Have you ever wanted to garden but you don’t think you have the resources? I’m willing to bet that unless you live in a dark tunnel in a parched desert and never see the light of day, you can indeed grow something. And if you grow something, you are a gardener. Even if it only grows for a little while, it counts in my book!
Expanding the Definition—You Don’t Have to Have a Yard!
When we hear the word “garden” we tend to think of the traditional garden, lined with rows and rows of veggies. The trouble is, this spacious, horizontal style of gardening isn’t a possibility when you live in a home or apartment without a yard, or at least not a yard you’re allowed to till.
So let’s expand our definition of gardening. When I speak of gardening, I’m referring to growing anything that is edible, even in the smallest quantities, and even indoors. I encourage you to try your hand at growing something to eat, whether a full traditional vegetable garden or a small container of herbs or green onions on your windowsill.
Over the course of my life, I’ve been party to a number of different gardening styles, depending on the living situation of my family. Here are some suggestions to help you find a gardening method that will suit your needs:
- Utilize your windowsills. Some plants require very little space and sunlight to produce what you need. Try growing a fresh herb like basil, mint, rosemary, parsley, thyme, or oregano in a small container on a windowsill. You needn’t purchase anything fancy. An empty yogurt container, ice cream bucket, or any other waterproof container will do. Just be sure to poke several holes in the bottom for drainage, then sit the container on top of a shallow container, such as a lid, to catch the runoff. You will need a small amount of potting soil for your container. You can even purchase living herbs from some grocery stores. These come ready to be watered and used continually. Just using one fresh herb in your cooking can really make a regular meal taste like fine dining!
- Take advantage of your patio. For a few years of my childhood, my family lived in a townhouse boasting only a cement patio. We used 5-gallon buckets that had previously held laundry detergent to grow tomatoes. Reuse old bins and containers to turn your patio into a garden. Burpee has even engineered a variety of corn specifically for growing in containers.
- Scout out small areas that could be used to grow food. One year my husband and I rented a mobile home. We didn’t have the resources or permission to till into the yard for a garden, but noticed that there were some small beds by the front door which had been filled with decorative rocks and had been overgrown by ugly weeds. We ripped out the weeds and rocks and used the space to grown several pepper and tomato plants. Edged with marigolds, it looked a lot nicer than weed covered rocks!
- Eavesdrop! Actually, please don’t drop. Hang. That’s right, eaves-hang. You can grow tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce, spinach, small peppers, and herbs from hanging baskets just as you would flowers. Use existing hooks or install strong hooks in your eaves, or hang containers from trees, awnings, or fences.
- Consider a shared or rented plot. In some communities you can actually rent a space in a community gardening area. Where I live, the local university offers garden plots to students, along with a kit of seeds, for only about $15 per summer.
- Negotiate with neighbors and friends. Do you know anyone who has space for a garden but doesn’t want to take on the work solo? See if you can strike a bargain and grow a garden together. Perhaps in exchange for using their land and water, you will be responsible for all of the weeding. Then split the harvest amongst yourselves. Or do all the work and offer to share the harvest in exchange for using the land. When my husband and I lived in a small apartment, we were able to grow a garden together with our relatives who own their own land.
- Don’t forget your fences. There are climbing and trailing fruits that can put your fence to good use. Grapes are great at hiding an ugly chain-link fence. The taste of Concord grapes always reminds me of my great-grandmother and grandfather’s home, because their fence was covered with grape vines. Plus, grapes are perennials, which means they come back year after year.
- Ask your landlord or HOA. If you are renting a space that includes a yard (or own within a home owner’s association), don’t assume your landlord won’t let you grow a garden. Ask him or her to be sure. Right now we are living in a rural area, and our landlord was perfectly fine with us tilling up a section of grass to use as a garden plot.
- Consider a fruit tree. If you can’t or don’t want to disrupt your turf, you may still be able to plant one or more fruit-bearing trees. You can even purchase genetically-engineered dwarf varieties that won’t take over your space. You can buy fruit trees that are already a couple years old so you won’t have to wait long to bite into some juicy, homegrown fruit.
Hopefully this has given you hope in your ability to grow something even if you don’t own a yard. What ways have you thought of, or used, to put gardening within your reach?