What’s in a garden?

We are renters on the farm my husband works for. This farm has several nice homes that it provides for some of its management people.

We happen to have the best house on the whole farm, in my opinion. Not because it’s the newest (but it’s not the oldest, either) but because it’s close to the office where my husband works but away from the main road, and we’re the furthest back in the cul-de-sac, so we have the most privacy.

Being a renter has its pros and cons, though, especially when it comes to being a serious (obsessive) gardener.


  1. We don’t have a mortgage over our heads.
  2. The house is lovely and we have plenty of space.
  3. It sits in a good location, in a little cul-de-sac at the end of a long road.
  4. It’s close to my husband’s work, so we see him more than most families get to see their father/husband.
  5. It’s not a teeny tiny lot. We have about a half acre lot.


  1. That half acre is more than half grass. And we’re not allowed to do anything with the grass…
  2. …Unless I want to incur the wrath of the uppers (no further description is wise or needed…)
  3. We always feel slightly on tenterhooks about making any changes. I think we’ve just about reached our limit.
  4. Which means my expansive garden dreams have to lie dormant for who-knows-how-many years.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful. It has been wonderful to be so near my husband’s work. And he loves his work – he’s always wanted to be a farmer that works with trees, and now he gets to work on many thousands of acres of walnuts and prunes. It’s a very good fit for him, and that alone is worth a lot.

It’s just that there’s nothing like owning your own property and improving it to your heart’s content, which I can’t do right now.

After having drawn up plan after plan trying to figure out how best to move and rearrange plants and manage garden spaces, I have finally concluded that it simply can’t be done properly because the areas on the property where plants would grow the best are occupied by lawn. I’ve already pushed the boundaries just a little bit (which is all I dare to do, see comment about “the uppers” above).

I can’t put garden beds where they need to be because the grass is there first. I can’t expand existing garden beds without asking permission first, and I know what the answer will be.

We were amazed that our request to expand the vegetable garden (about 5 times what it originally was when we moved here) was approved. I honestly don’t know how that one got through. But we did a really good job designing and installing the geometric-shaped post-and-wattle beds (it looks amazing, if I do say so myself) and I don’t think the uppers can complain. I’ll let you be the final judge.


A view of our vegetable garden – several pictures combined to give a panoramic kind of view.


We also have a (small) tropical plants area against the south-facing wall of our house, a small flower garden against our backyard fence, and the herb garden where the trampoline used to be (not ours – the previous tenant’s. I’m not a fan of trampolines.).

So, yes, we have several different spaces which I optimistically call “gardens” – as in “the tropical garden,” “the flower garden,” etc. At least I have those little spaces. In our many rental situations prior to this one, we’ve had much, much less.

Today, I’ve decided that I need to stop dreaming of what I could do with this property, and wait (as patiently as possible) for the time that we finally, somehow, have our own property and we can decide what to do with it.

I’ll continue to weed, plant, and properly manage the garden space I already have, of course. But for my gardener sanity, I need to stop wasting time, energy, and money to improve a property that I don’t own.

With all that saved time, I’m hoping to work my way steadily through my library of gardening books. I’ll learn more than ever, and when we finally have our own property, whenever that may be, I’ll be more knowledgable and full of even more ideas of what I want and what can be done with land we own.

It’s the big dilemma of any gardener-renter. I know there are lots of us – from the apartment-dweller with only a balcony or window-box to garden in (been there), to people like us who are renting a house with a bit of land. We seem to be the kind of people who can’t help but to try to improve the land, grow beautiful things, improve the soil, put in edger stones and paver bricks and trellises and…

Patience. Someday we’ll have our own. Until then, I’ll dream of a line of well-built compost bins, a mountain of bricks to turn into walls and low garden edging, an orchard garden with hedges and paths, giant flower beds filled with all sorts of shapes and colors…

*Sigh* I need to work on my gardener patience.

2 Responses to What’s in a garden?

  1. Mike October 18, 2017 at 4:53 pm #

    I’m in the same position, living with the owner; although she’s a nice person and very sharing, she has the image in her head that if she ever sells, she will need a lawn to do so. Like you, I have inched out here and there into the sunlight, but the biggest compromise I got was to grow stuff in buckets on the “lawn” in summer.. because the lawn gets no water and its dry here, its generally brown earth in summer anyway. The lawn is more seasonal weeds than anything else. So a few rows of buckets with tomatoes look better than bare dirt, so she accepts it. Plus, I make sure to share all the produce with her and the whole household, which also helps.
    One thing I did this year which you might get away with, is to raise the buckets off the ground on a wire table. For me, I put more buckets underneath to catch the valuable water drips, but for you, its a way of leaving the lawn intact. You can also try hanging planters on the fences, and if you are really into it, you could string wires between tall posts and hang those upside-down tomato planters from the wires. In that way, you can have your lawn AND your plants. And youre not limited to tomatoes either – I’ve had canteloupes sneak in in the compost and give me an extra harvest, but cucumbers would trail well also. Dont also forget to plant at the edge of the lawn, and let plants like trailing squash grow out over the lawn. You can always push it to one side when mowing the grass. Get creative! Sow rocket in the grass as “weeds”..

  2. Mike October 18, 2017 at 4:55 pm #

    PS. My biggest limitation is water – I dont want to jack up the owner’s water bills too much. So be thankful if you are in a wetter area – every garden has some constraints – even if you own the land.


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