If you don’t have a garden, it’s probably because you don’t want one.
Which is fine. It’s your life, I’m not going to judge you.
But, it’s not because you can’t have a garden.
Even the most insidious Black Thumb can grow a garden. And it can be done literally anywhere.
Despite the ubiquity of gardens all over the world, there are still some people who swear they can’t have a garden for all sorts of reasons.
Here’s the most common ones I know AND solutions to those problems.
“My HOA won’t allow it”
Someday, we’ll all look back and marvel at the fact that we established Home-Owners Association and gave them broad powers over our lives and shake our heads in dismay.
But for today, it’s a reality that HOAs many times forbid vegetable gardens within the confines of their tin-pot dictatorships.
You could start an armed rebellion against the little old ladies wandering around measuring grass in a futile effort to protect their equity investments (I’m not advocating violence, but if you do, be loaded for bear: Little Old Ladies are surprisingly tough) or you could grow a garden anyway, and stay well within your HOA agreement.
First, find out the rules. With the increased interest in Homesteading, gardening and local food, many HOAs allow some portion of their jurisdiction to be planted with vegetables. Sometimes HOAs restrict vegetable plots to a backyard, or a certain space within the front. Other times, some neighborhoods actually have community garden space that can be planted.
If you can’t plant in your yard, then do a container garden. With some pots and potting soil, you can grow scads of veggies on your deck, on your porch, even indoors, if it’s near a window. You can take over and entire area anywhere in your home and turn it into a garden. It’s arguably cheaper and more efficient to grow indoors — there is no season and you’ll severely curtail the number of pests and disease pressures you’ll have. Don’t have a room that gets enough sun? By grow lights. They’re pretty cheap and produce lots of fake sunlight for as long as you want them to — you won’t be constrained by the length of the day.
If you don’t want to garden indoors or in containers, then find a community garden. Community gardens offer rows or plots to community members to grow in at a centralized location. For usually a very manageable membership fee, you can grow anything you want. Your HOA can’t complain because it’s off site. Don’t have a community garden? Start one.
“Climate’s not right”
Ignoring the aforementioned indoor gardens, climate is often one of the reasons people claim they can’t garden. If you live in a space too hot or too cold, then you’ll obviously have to do something different. In places like Alaska, for example, the combination of greenhouses and cold frames can significantly increase your chances of producing veggies in a space. They aren’t as expensive to build as you may think. And even heating one is relatively cheap and easy if you’re willing to get a little creative.
Even if you live in the hottest desert, you can still get some veggies out of the ground. Grey water irrigation systems can provide moisture, while xeriscaping and getting creative with your veggie choices can lead to some big gains no matter what the weather is.
One of my favorite things to grow, which does very well in desert climates, is the Prickly Pear cactus. This lovely cactus produces fruit that can be turned into jams and jellies and the pads of it can be harvested and eaten for a really tasty addition to any meal. It was a staple among the First Nations in the American desert areas.
“Can’t afford it”
A lot of people think you need tons of money to start gardening. But in reality, you can drop $10 on a shovel and another few bucks on a pack of seeds and start planting in a 10 foot by 10 foot space right now. My daughter likes to buy veggie and flowers seeds at the local dollar store with her allowance — four packs for a dollar. After that initial investment, sure you might want to spend more, but the fact is, you can manage a garden with what it costs to water the thing. If you invest in a grey water or rain catch irrigation system, you won’t spend much on water at all.
In fact, I hate spending money. It’s a fun hobby of mine to get as many gardening supplies as I can for as little as possible. Check craigslist for free stuff — If a body in your neighborhood is tearing down a deck, that wood could be re-purposed as a raised bed. Use pallets for everything (raised beds, vertical gardens, etc.). Compost for fertilizer. Hit up area coffee shops for their spent grounds to add to the soil. Contact your local utility company to get their wood chips for mulch — most of the time they’ll drop them in your yard for free.
Re-purpose old containers as pots — just drill drain holes in the bottom and go to town. Yogurt cups make great seed starting pots! Use your imagination!
“Don’t have the space”
If you think you don’t have the space to plant a garden, you’re absolutely wrong. Again — containers and indoor spaces can be used for gardening. A fodder system can produce lots of micro greens. Window boxes can be used for spinach and strawberries.
And you can always go vertical. A standing pallet garden provides grow space literally anywhere. I’ve seen people grow lettuce on apartment balconies.
My friend Christine McLaughlin wrote a great book on going vertical — Vertical Vegetable Gardening. My friend over at Sweet Potatoes and Social Change has been Apartment Gardening for a while now. One family in California produces 6,000 pounds of food from 1/10 of an acre just outside of Los Angeles.
Space is definitely not a limiting factor.
“I live in the city”
Plant herbs in pots on your window sills. Grow mushrooms in a closet.
Ron Finley has been gardening in South Central LA for years in spaces formerly ignored and blighted.
So really, if this guy can do it, and fight the city in the process — all in the middle of South Central LA, then I’m pretty sure you can pull it off where ever you are.