Have you ever wanted to grow some veggies but feel stuck because you don’t own land?

I’ve heard this many times from several people over the years.

It goes something like this “I’d like to grow some of my food so I can eat more vegetables and save money but I can’t because I live in a rental so I can’t do this now.”

This surprises me because I’ve been gardening for 5 years now without owning my land.

I’ve got to admit that I’m blessed to have been living in a student co-op (Shot out to my Ad Astra Student Housing Coop Fam 2012 you know who you are!), when I started gardening.

In a coop, all current members are the acting landlords.

So I guess, I felt like it was a safe place to propose turning the whole yard into a walking garden. And I’m forever grateful for all the other 9 house members who entertained my gardening escapades even when I failed often in the beginning.

But since moving out, over 4 years ago, I still continue to garden without land.

You’re not alone. We are renters too along with  43% of households in the US. (Pew Research 2016 Stat)

Yes, you read right, 43% of the households in the US rent.In fact, across the board renting is on the rise.

And, Black and Hispanic households continue to be about twice as likely as white households to rent their homes. In 2016, 58% of black household heads and 54% of Hispanic household heads were renting their homes, compared with 28% of whites. But all major racial and ethnic groups were more likely to rent in 2016 than a decade earlier. – Pew Research

But, you don’t have to wait until you have that house or piece of land.

In fact, I believe the options you may have available as a renter are perfect for learning and building the gardening skills that were once necessary to pass down generation to generation.

The three options I’m about to share with you are ones I’ve relied on for the past 5 years.

I’m sharing this with you because my gardening journey has reconnected me to how my food grows, where it comes from and allows us to eat more organic (chemical-free) foods affordably.

It’s also surprised me by becoming a form of therapy/meditation and pill-free cheap-o-express anti-depression remedy even though I was just after learning about what’s involved in growing healthy whole foods.

Harvest 2015 from strawberries I planted in the front yard of the Ad Astra Student Housing Cooperative

“The key to success is to start before you’re ready”, says Marie Forleo.

And this quote totally applies here. The key to being able to grow a big vegetable garden in that house or farm you get one day from years of hard work (which equals success in my eyes) you need to….

start gardening where you are before you have your ducks in a row (house, land, sufficient funds).

If you are ready to start an organic vegetable garden but not sure what options you have without land or your own home, continue reading.

Napa cabbage harvest from my 2016 community garden plot

Option #1: My number one recommendation start in a Community Garden near where you live…preferably in your neighborhood.

Some of you may know this but it’s worth saying that your cities are changing so you can grow food without owning land by turning the unused public land into community gardens. I know some are not, and it always has to do with politics, money, greed, and inequality. But I don’t want to go into that now.

Let’s just say you do have community gardens in your city.

You can find out if you have one by following this link or googling “your city name and community garden” since the link does not have all community gardens that exist listed.

In community gardens, you contact the garden manager this time of year ( fall-winter) so you can see if they’re any plots open for rent or free use the following year.

They’ll keep you posted and viola you just got a bit (sometimes a lot) of land to grow your own food. In that little piece of land, you can grow enough greens and herbs for a family of four all year round.

Beets and nasturtiums ( Edible Flowers) in a container outside our studio Spring 2017. I took these picture a month apart.

Option #2: Another way a family of four can grow all the greens and herbs they need year round is in containers or pots.

I’m always surprised at how much you can grow in pots. If you have a sunny spot by your doorstep grow vegetables, herb, and even some fruits like strawberries in pots outside your rental, this is one great way to grow affordably at home without land.

Passion fruit vine in Panama while a Peace Corps Volunteer 2013.
Reused water bottles in Panama to grow cashew tree seedlings, passion fruit seedlings, mint, pigeon pea tree seedlings, and flowers 2013 while a Peace Corps Volunteer.

I’ve grown in all a kinds of containers, even recycled one-gallon bottles, old tires (which I don’t recommend because of the chemicals). The main thing is to have loose finished compost/topsoil mix and holes in the bottom of the container for good drainage.

The other thing is to grow foods that are not very demanding like greens, and herbs, and some root veggies in containers instead of tomatoes, melon, squash to start. You’ll have a bigger harvest and less work if you grow low demand veggies like greens, herbs and root veggies than high demand veggies like tomatoes in containers. This means more food for you!

Option #3:The other option I’ve used is to ask your landlord or someone you know if you can garden on their land.

You may be surprised that they give you the go ahead and show you where you can and can’t grow vegetables. This one takes more courage but as long as you keep things tidy ( and offer free produce from your garden once in a while) there are people willing to share their land for the sake of seeing a nice vegetable garden.

Sage and Basil growing along the fence where our land lord has flowers. Herbs pair beautifully with flowers in a flower bed. 2017.

Sure all these options limit you with only a couple of square feet but this is why they’re also a perfect option for beginner gardeners. Community garden plots, container gardening, and small lots from people you know that have land are small manageable. Plus, you really don’t need a huge piece of land to provide the greens or herbs your family needs.

As you learn about each plant and gain confidence in your gardening skills in these smaller settings, you’ll be far more equipped when you do get your own home or land.

So tell me what’s one veggie or herb that you love to eat and would love to grow? Tell me I’d be glad to help you start finding the information you need to get started now. Share in the comments below.

Also if you have a friend or someone you know that’s always dreaming about gardening but hasn’t yet, share these tips with them.

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