Even city and apartment dwellers can have a garden

Rented Garden Plots

by Debra Karplus

How to Conquer Debt eBook

You have undoubtedly noticed that grocery prices have been rising each year. The cost of feeding your family continues to increase; yet the selection and quality of the food you buy often falls short of what you're seeking. An excellent way to gain more control over your family's diet while stretching dollars is to have a garden. Write a list of the vegetables your family enjoys that grow in your area, purchase packets of seeds from the home improvement or discount store, and then plant them within the appropriate dates, using the correct depth, seed, and row spacing. Put as much or little effort into your homestead to achieve the desired results. It's really that simple.

Not in my backyard.

But not all households are able to accommodate a backyard vegetable garden. Your property may lack space or adequate sunlight or have some other issue that would make gardening a challenge. Apartment, condo, or townhouse residents may not have a backyard at all. One resourceful apartment-dwelling gentleman, whose passion is gardening, arranged to tend the garden of his vacationing friends. They returned home to a healthy-looking weed-free garden, while he was able to work in the garden and plant and harvest a few of his own favorite veggies. An arrangement like that makes everyone a winner.

But, perhaps you'd rather commit to a more permanent garden than occasionally "house-sitting" someone else's backyard spot. Since the mid-1970s, many communities have established community gardens where you can rent space specifically for growing the foods of your choice. This may be the best option for your family.

Related: French Intensive Container Gardening

Think of your rented garden space as a money tree.

Spending the small amount of yearly rent on a garden plot is money well spent. One Central Illinois park district offers its residents plots of approximately 800 square feet for $50 annually; a half plot rents for $30. With that amount of garden space, you can expect crops in abundance to feed your family well. Besides garden space, they provide water, hoses, wheelbarrows, and compost. Additionally, there are places for raised garden beds if your disability requires it.

To locate garden rental spots in your area, contact the local park district, Master Gardeners, University Cooperative Extension, community college, or possibly your nearby hospital. There's a wide range of prices and sizes of plots nationwide. Expect to review and agree to some basic rules regarding issues such as fences, netting, disposal of garden waste and weeds, and end of season clean-up.

A sense of community flourishes with shared garden space.

Working side-by-side with other gardeners is a great way to build a sense of community and fellowship. "Work is love made visible", as the saying goes. Sharing growing tips, gardening tools, and bulk seeds is a great way to establish and nourish friendships. Some gardeners barter crops; you plant more tomatoes than you need and your neighbor plants an ample broccoli crop. At harvest-time, you trade.

Become active in the association or board that manages and makes decisions about your community rental gardens. It's a great way to become involved in the day-to-day operation of the plots and ultimately have more control over the food you grow and eat. Indirectly, your involvement could help you further reduce your families produce budget.

Related: Indoor Container Gardening

Gardens grow hearty families.

In the 1800s, family members worked together to maintain the family farm, creating strong family bonds. But this concept is not limited to rural life of days gone by. Having a garden plot is a fun, educational, healthy, practical, and affordable ongoing multi-faceted family project. Even the little ones can help with planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting. After school, evenings, weekends and summertime can be filled with as much gardening as you choose to do. A garden, like many hobbies, can fill as much time as you allow it to consume.

Become familiar with the planting zone map. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a standardized map of eleven North American Hardiness Zones based on temperatures and climate. This is a valuable tool to assist in planting seeds that grow best in your area; it will assure greater success and higher yields in your family's garden.

Plant seeds of interest in gardening locally.

If there's no garden space to rent in your area, become a community activist and gather others to speak up and establish one. Talk to people, and plant the idea of a community or rented garden plots in your area. You'll likely uncover a strong interest.

Get outside and garden this season. By autumn, you'll be enjoying bountiful organically grown veggies that cost considerably less than the supermarket or even the farmers' market. Reap the benefits of nature's Vitamin D from the sun for healthy bones. Lift, bend and reach while planting and tending the garden to have well-exercised muscles, and take pride in the mud under your fingernails and on your shoes. You'll probably wish you had started garden years ago.

Reviewed February 2018

Take the Next Step

  • Gardening on the cheap is simple. Just visit the TDS Frugal Gardening Guide and we'll show you the many ways frugal gardeners maintain beautiful, bountiful gardens for less.
  • You tend your garden with care. Do the same for your finances. Start weeding out that debt and pruning that budget with the TDS ebook How to Conquer Your Debt No Matter How Much You Have so you can begin to grow your money.
  • Join those who 'live better...for less' - Subscribe to The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, a weekly look at how to stretch both your day and your dollar! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE!

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on Amazon.com (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for freelancewriting.com and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at DebraKarplus.blogspot.com.

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