Gardening

Gardening While Renting: The Start of Year Two

I’ve always loved the thought of having my own vegetable garden, but since I’m a renter without my own plot of land, I wasn’t sure it was possible. Last year, I decided to take advantage of my current front stoop and have my first attempt at gardening while renting. You can read all about how that year went in my recap post for the gardening while renting series.

While I didn’t yield a huge harvest (as you can imagine in less than one square foot of space!) I still found gardening incredibly rewarding. That’s why I am diving in and giving it another go this year!

Gardening while renting – Year 1 garden fully grown

Deciding to Plant Again

Even though it’s only April (at the time of writing this), 2021 has felt like a year. The overwhelming exhaustion not only from living in the pandemic, but also from getting Covid-19 and dealing with the effects of it, have given me little motivation and energy. So the internal debate was: “Do I put in the effort to try another garden?”

I was lucky last year to have the help of Krista in growing my seedlings and choosing the plants I was going to grow. This year, it was going to be all me.

What tipped the scales towards me planting my little garden again was the reward of watching things grow, the challenge and adventure of seeing what would happen, and the connection I had with my food after a season of trying to grow my own.

Far from a Gardener

Now, let’s be clear on this fact: I am far from a gardener. I have managed to kill everything from bamboo plants to cacti to succulents. I just don’t have a green thumb, but I’d sure love to.

My venturing out on my own with my tiny garden plot is going to be a misadventure–a “Guide to How Not to Garden” perhaps, but I’m okay with that! I hope that my failures and surprise successes will be just as good lessons as ones coming from a seasoned gardener like Krista. At the very least, it will possibly be entertaining.

What I’m Planting

Gardening while I’m renting means I’m limited on space. In my current rental that means the triangular planter I had built for the corner of my front stoop. So with limited space comes limited plants.

This year I’m planting:

  • Beets
  • Kale
  • Dill
  • A mystery plant from seed paper I was given–possibly Basil

I chose beets because it’s a vegetable I’d love to try to eat. It is something I never buy at the grocery store, so I thought it would be fun to have at my doorstep.

My kale plant did not grow at all last year and it was actually the plant I thought would do the best. This year I bought a pack of six small plants to increase my chances of having some grow. I am not a big fan of eating leafy green foods (I make a horrible vegan!) but I do love the idea of kale chips!

I chose to plant dill simply because I love the smell of dill. Last year I experimented with making pickles using Epicures Quickles seasoning. If my dill grows, it will be the perfect thing to add to the recipe.

If the seed paper is basil, that grew extremely well last year and was so satisfying to see thrive. Since I don’t use a lot of basil, I’ll be more on top of giving it away to others this year.

Where I’ve Already Gone Wrong

So I’ve mentioned I’m not a gardener, right? I am proving it right from the start with all the ways I’ve already gone wrong with this year’s garden.

I chose plants based on what I wanted instead of on the planting conditions.

My little garden is in quite a shady spot, so it is not ideal for all plants. Unfortunatlely, even with choosing plants for shade, last year didn’t yield me a lot of success with growing. This year, what helped inspire me to plant was the fun plants I chose. While the beets’ little tag says they require full sun, a quick Google search tells me they can survive in the shade too–and everything on the internet is true right?

I didn’t fertilize the soil.

My lack of experience means I didn’t even think of it until I was planting the plants. On when to fertilize your garden, the Almanac says, “The general rule is to fertilize in the spring before planting most annual flowers and vegetables.” Hopefully, my little plants will do okay without, but this was my first lesson learned for this year.

I planted without looking at the calendar.

I completely disregarded that there are ideal times of the year to plant different vegetables. Oops! In my defense on this one, I think I assumed that if a store was selling the small plants then it would be okay to plant them outdoors. I do realize that was also a bit of laziness and wishful thinking on my part.

After some internet searching, it looks like I may or may not be okay for what I’ve planted:

  • Kale likes cooler weather and suggestions are to sow seeds outside in Spring. While our Spring weather has started to warm up in the Lower Mainland of BC, there should still be some cold spots happening. There is the other fact that I was planting small plants and not seeds which makes me unsure about how successful my kale will be.
  • Beets don’t like cold soil, so I am worried I planted them too early. Gardener’s World tells me that it’s okay to plant beets from mid-April to June, so there is a chance my plants will be okay.
  • Dill is best planted after the threat of frost is gone. That’s a win because I think we are pretty much through that weather. What I learned when searching this, though, is that dill does not like to be transplanted and is better grown from seed. I’m still optimistic about my little plant for some reason, though!
Small vegetable garden
Gardening while Renting – Year 2 newly planted

Some Accidental Success

While I chose my plants based on things like my desire for kale chips and how much I love the smell of dill, more professional gardeners might choose their plants based on the idea of companion planting.

What is companion planting?

Companion planting is basically planting two plants that can be pals. They are plants that will have a beneficial relationship when planted near each other. This benefit is often related to natural pest management as one plant may repel pests from the garden. Some plants will attract much needed bees for pollination.

In reading about planting kale, I learned that dill is a good companion plant for kale.

Gardening while Renting Continues

This year has already had some ups and downs and it is just getting started! I’m looking forward to what the rest of the season holds.

Small vegetable garden
Gardening while Renting – Year 2 newly planted

Are you gardening this year? What are you planting?

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31 Comments

  • Michelle (Boomer Eco Crusader)

    I love beets but I’ve never tried growing them. I love to make a beet salad with goat cheese, pecans and a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Yum!

    Have you seen the stackable planters? They may be perfect in your small space.

    I have started tomatoes, peppers, geraniums and coleus indoors. Later in May, when we’re safe from frost, I’m also planning to plant potatoes, beans and peas, and mainly spinach although I’ve never had any luck with spinarch. I also planted some garlic last fall for the first time, so we’ll see if it yields anything.

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Thanks, Rosie! I relate to not being fingered too so it will be interesting to see what grows 🙂

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      That’s aweomse you’re able to garden at your rental unit too! It really is a rewarding experience 🙂

  • Lisa's Notebook

    Gardening should be fun though, it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes, that’s all part of the learning process. I’ve made soooooo many mistakes but I don’t care, because they’ve led me to new discoveries along the way. Good luck with your dill though, I’m growing some too this year, for food and for cut flower displays!

  • Jaya Avendel

    Best, best, best of luck! I love that you are overcoming the challenges of gardening while renting and learning along the way. I love a baked beet cut into slices on my salad with bleu cheese and sweet balsamic dressing, but I have never had much luck growing root vegetables so I will be curious to see how yours turn out! <3

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Thank you, Jaya! Baked beets sounds really good! If mine don’t grow I should buy some beets and give it a try. But I’ll keep my fingers crossed I have some success 🙂

  • Corinne

    I’m rubbish at this kind of stuff! We have planted some herbs this year, we have some chives, mint and a curry plant! I’m really hoping to plant some daffodils and tulips in autumn for spring time in our front garden!

    Corinne x

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      I might have to add mint to my list of what to plant next. I love the thought of having fresh mint on hand!

  • CristinaR

    I truly don’t have the green thumb but would love to try and plant some herbs! We have some parsley and rosemary and they are such a great add on when we cook, thanks for sharing x

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Herbs are a great way to start! My basil plant’s success is what made me feel like I could expand my garden a bit 🙂

  • simplyalexjean

    This was a wonderful read, it really sounds like you’ve learned a lot and had a lot of ups and downs in your second year! I love your little corner planter box, that’s a great way to utilize space especially when limited! Congrats on all you’ve accomplished and best wishes for a fruitful year ahead with your garden!

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Thanks, Jenny! It’s been a great, low pressure way to start gardening that’s for sure 🙂

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