Do you rent a suite in a house and you want to grow your own vegetables? It is possible as you will see with this homegrown food case study.
Ayako and Vince live in a bustling city on the west coast of Canada.
They rent a basement suite in a suburban neighbourhood on the outskirts of downtown Vancouver, BC, Canada.
They approached their landlord in 2018 and asked for a small area of garden their landlord wasn’t using.
What they ended up growing that first year in a small space is amazing! Read on for their case study which is in the form of an interview.
Marc: So tell me a bit about yourself and why did you decide to start growing veggies at home?
Ayako: I’m a full time office worker, Monday to Friday. I enjoy being active like commuting by bike and running some half marathons multiple times a year. Our landlord always grows some vegetables during the summer and shared with us some space and encouraged us to try last summer. You (Marc) also encouraged us to do so! My parents also have been growing multiple veggies through the year, so this was something that finally was meant to happen!! As much as my husband and I have a busy daily life, we still wanted to grow a few veggies.
M: What veggies are you growing right now/did you grow this year?
A: Mini tomatoes, kale, broccolini, peppers, italian parsley, shungiku, green onion.
M: What specific challenges did you face with starting your garden and how did you overcome them?
A: Making good soil, mulching and deciding what to plant. We borrowed space from our landlord at the front & back of the house. Back garden is very close to tall trees which means so much tree roots, plus not enough morning sunshine.
We didn’t want to be too ambitious to plant something that requires so much care for the back garden. So we tried to be selective. We planted everything mentioned above except mini tomato on the side. Peppers were not really successful though. Maybe not next year.
M: What benefits did you get from growing your own food?
A: We can eat super fresh veggies! But also it was fun to step out from house and be outside. Very calming.
M: How did the info you found on Healthy, Fresh, Homegrown help you get started and keep going?
A: Even if I am not able to read all the information sometimes, it still encourages me to shift my thought to gardening.
M: What advice would you give someone who is just starting out as a beginner food grower?
A: Trial and error!! We benefit from your e-newsletters/books, youtube video, etc. a lot. However in the end, you’ll learn also more by experiences. Since this is the 2nd year , I think I learned better from it too.
M: What are your plans for next year? Are you growing anything new or expanding how much you are growing?
A: I don’t think I want to be too ambitious. I’ll do again tomatoes, kales, parsley, and maybe some other herbs like cilantro, chives etc.
Thanks to Ayako and Vince for providing a look at their first few years of growing food as renters. I’m really proud of them having overcome some challenges to grow food for themselves.
The important lessons here are:
- Even if you rent, check with your landlord and see if you can get a small area of the garden to plant some veggies in. Keep in mind that when you move you may need to restore the area back to what it was.
- Trees will always be a problem if they shade your garden area. And you don’t always have control over them (ie. trimming them to let more light in). You need to then selectively pick the right spot for each type of vegetable based on its light needs.
- Roots are a problem as well if you have trees. Raised beds are one way to address that challenge. While Ayako and Vince don’t have raised beds, they have managed to plant in areas that have less roots.
- Being too ambitious the first few years can be overwhelming! Best to start slow, build up your experience and confidence and build on that over several years.
- Getting info from others on what to grow and how to grow it can get you started quickly. And provide you the motivation to keep going when things are not going well. However you’ll learn the most from your own experiences, learning what grows well and doesn’t grow well in your climate and area. If something didn’t work out try something else.
Are you a renter? Have you been thinking of starting a small garden with some veggies and perhaps some fruit? Let me know in the comments below.
If you enjoyed this article, have something to add or have any questions, please leave a comment below.
Wishing you all the best!
Tranquil Urban Homestead, Victoria, BC