Gardening when you don’t own land


Emilie was the name of my grandmother’s sister. She lived in the same apartment for her whole life or at least as long as I can remember and all that time she grew her vegetables in the same garden, which was half an hour’s ride on the bus from where she lived. She never owned anything, both the garden and the apartment were rented.

Life these days seems to be a lot more complicated and renting the same house or a garden for many years is a dream for many. If you are renting, you’re constantly on the move. The dream of having a garden seems to be out of reach because of the insanity of our real estate market.

balcony gardening

I always tried to grow something. When we rented a tiny apartment I fixed a wide board on the windowsill to cram more pots in. The water soiled the window underneath and these people didn’t like it at all. Renting a house in Brisbane, I simply gardened without asking too many questions; in the end, I had to leave all this beautiful soil behind. I own a garden now and I am endlessly grateful for that!

Apart from cramming some pots on windowsills, containers on balconies and growing sprouts in the kitchen: how can you grow your own food without breaking the bank?

You could give up on gardening altogether and simply become an expert in foraging. But be aware, many if not all councils are spraying “weeds” (plants I rather call medicinals or food). Indigenous plants introduced “weeds”, mushrooms, fish, mussels a cornucopia waits to be harvested!

Offer some help! An ad in the local paper costs you less than $30 dollars and that’s what older people read, they need help in the garden, can’t afford a gardener and you could help them in the exchange of some land you grow your food on.

Or offer to pay rent for a part of the garden, or you lease your parcel for your weekend getaway.

You might be able to get the money together and gather some friends to jointly buy a couple of acres in the countryside. I have no clue about the legal side of this idea though.

Join a community garden! There are many of them all over Australia, have a look at the map: and if there is nothing in your area the Australian city farms and community gardens network has a very comprehensive guide how to start a new community garden.

Ask your employer, maybe he allows you to use a part of these bare lawns around the factory, warehouse or office you work in.

Verge gardening is very much on vogue these days, in Chippendale neighbours got together and build community: Of course, it is easier to get the approval of the council if there’s a group of eager verge gardeners and your garden doesn’t have to be exactly in front of the house you live. Councils do change regulations now, and more and more communities do encourage these activities. You will find a lot of information on this Facebook page:

And last but not least there is guerrilla gardening – not entirely legal though. I knew a beautiful guerrilla garden in the city of Stuttgart where I grew up. Although it was close to the city no one seemed to know about it. There was the old villa of the chocolate manufacturer Moser, which was destroyed in WWII. In the midst, this totally overgrown and forgotten villa garden people secretly planted their little private gardens. It was the most beautiful garden! That lasted for many years until the city decided to turn the site into a public park, stunningly ugly by the way.

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