This post originally appeared in The Rural Economist
I am blessed, because nearly everyday I come in contact with someone who tells me they’re starting their first garden ever. But every now and then, someone tells me that they cannot have a garden because of where they live. They want to have a garden, but do not know how to do it without getting in trouble. So I ask myself,” How would I go about starting a garden with these restrictions?” I did a little research, and here’s what I’ve come up with as suggestions for those who cannot have a garden.
There are several places that are against a vegetable garden but are perfectly okay with a flower garden. In these locations I would practice covert gardening. There are many herbs that look perfectly at home in the average flower garden. Rosemary for example can be trimmed to look like many topiaries. Thyme can be used as a creeper right against your border. Basil, parsley, and oregano as well as many others can be used as a greenery in the average flower garden. There are also several very colorful varieties of lettuce, decorative cabbages, and kale. Most of the plants that I have listed above can be kept in a flower garden without raising a single eyebrow. If you’re more adventuresome, I have seen peppers and even tomatoes designed for patios placed in a flower garden. You may want to slowly phase these in. Remember, every single step you take get you closer to being more self sustainable.
So what if you’re not even allowed to have a flower garden? Then we start to look at container gardens. Container gardens can provide a lot of flexibility. There are many varieties of tomatoes, strawberries, and even peppers there specifically designed for use with containers. Containers can be kept in the home, on the sidewalk, on the porch, or even on a patio. In warmer climates peppers are perennial not annual, so keeping them so you can leave them outside in the summer and bring them in during the winter. Pepper production is much greater the second year. Now, I’m not saying that you’re going to want to grow corn and peas in a container but it is a start.
This is a subject that every time I bring it up my wife has reservations because of the possibility of mismanagement. Community gardens are growing in popularity all across the country, so the likelihood of having one in your area is increasing every single year. A perfect setup would be that every person that works in the garden would get a percentage of the produce based on how many hours that person works or what kind of investment is made. If there is a community garden in your area, find out who the manager is. Ask questions. Here are some questions to consider asking. Is there a record of how much time is spent in the garden? Who decides how much each person gets off the produce? Who’s responsible for the cost of seeds and for fertilizer? If for any reason these questions and more are not answered to your satisfaction consider passing.
If there is no community garden in your area, you can always look into starting one yourself ,that way you can make sure that it is managed properly. If you are in a small community, you might just have to go to the city council meeting. If you’re in a larger metropolitan area ,you may have to deal with the city planner. There is precedent for this type of program so don’t be afraid to ask.
Community Supported Agriculture or CSA
There are two types of CSAs. One you can just buy shares of the produce or the second, that requires a labor investment. Just like buying shares in a company there is some risk. Years when the growing season is great you can get a lot for your shares and years when the growing is poor you may not get much.
Many only want payment for shares, but if you ask around you may be able to find a CSA that will trade labor for part or all of the cost of shares. Most CSAs will provide a list of what fruits and vegetables they will provide for the share. Many will deliver their produce to you or you can pick it up at the farm.
The last option I will cover is farmer’s markets. Farmer’s markets are the least hands on of all the options that we have listed. Nearly all major cities and small towns have a farmers market. Farmer’s markets are places where anybody who grows food can sell their abundance- provided they are willing to obtain a permit. Depending upon your location, you may have a wide range of options or very few.
This is again one of those situations where you will want to ask a lot of questions. Some questions I would like to ask are as follows: Do you use herbicides?, Do you use pesticides?, Are you certified organic?, and Are you willing to let me go look at your farm?This is not a complete list, but it is a good starting place.
Every step you take, no matter how small can be the beginning of your homestead. Just like the Victory Gardens in World War 2, if we all work together there can be food production at every household.
About the author: This post was written by Gregg Carter who runs The Rural Economist. Please visit http://theruraleconomist.blogspot.com/