I’ve lived in a lot of apartments. They were all tiny and a bit cramped, but I was determined to make them cozy. I filled them with books, coffee cups, and a house plant or two. They grew on me, and I came to love each one of them for being exactly what I needed during the time that I lived in them. In fact, they still are. I recently moved into a new apartment, so I’d have someplace affordable and convenient while studying for my PhD. It’s already proving to be a great place to live.
The one downside to apartment living is the lack of outdoor space. I have a balcony garden stuffed with potted vegetables and flowers, but no space for a true garden. I’d hoped to find a house to live in for exactly this reason. Maybe, just maybe, I’d hoped to convince my hypothetical landlord to let me dig out a small space for some veggies. Ah well, I’m out of luck this time, but if you’re a renter with a house on a bit of land, don’t despair! This guide will help you talk to your landlord about putting in a small garden at your house.
Before we jump into with strategies, let’s look at the two perspectives that are going to be involved in this conversation: yours and your landlords.
You probably have a pretty good idea about where you stand on the issue of a garden at your house. You’re 100% for it! It’s great to be excited, but before you jump in too far, make sure you know exactly why you want your garden. Are you trying to grown food for yourself or your family? Or do you want to create an herb garden, flower garden, or a landscaped place to enjoy in the warmer months? Knowing exactly what you want make it easier for you to tell your landlord exactly that. They will have more information to work with, which only helps you.
Your Landlord’s Perspective
Your landlord will probably have a much different perspective that you. Remember that your home is their investment and your rent payment represents a piece of their livelihood. No matter how much they may like the idea of gardening personally, they can’t allow you to do anything that could cause their property to lose value.
Let’s look at a few potential financial pitfalls from your landlord’s perspective. A messy looking garden will decrease the perceived value of the house. Even if you are willing to keep everything neat, the next tenant may not. It will cost for them to have a lawn care specialist to come in and take care of upkeep, or re-sod the lawn. They may wonder if you intend to ask them to cover upfront cost of putting in a raised bed or establish a garden bed. Remember that while you have plenty to gain from your garden, your landlord only has your gratitude (and some potential “thank you” veggies) to gain.
Come with a Plan
Once you understand where you and your landlord are at, it’s time to come up with a plan. By fully developing your ideas for how you’ll implement your garden, you’re showing your landlord that this isn’t a passing whim.
Start with the basic details:
- Where will you place your garden? If you place it in the front of the house, you’ll need to be vigilant about keeping it tidy. If it’s going in the back, you have a little more leeway.
- How big is it going to be? The larger the garden, the more possible expense it may represent to your landlord. Make sure to choose a size that will be manageable for you both.
- Raised beds or garden beds? Garden beds will give you more room for growing, but raised beds are easier to put into a yard and take out later. Raised beds also have a more attractive curb appeal, which could be the winning point for landlord.
- How will you finance the project? Make sure you have the funds to pay for the installation of the bed, soil, compost, and seeds upfront. If you’re putting in a permanent installation, your landlord might be willing to pitch in, but you shouldn’t make assumptions.
- Will there be any additional cost? You garden will need watering, which could cause your utility bill to go up. You may also need to pay for re-sodding once you leave. Think of any other fees or costs that could become a problem.
Add in the Fine Details:
- What do you want to plant? Are you thinking about flowers or herbs, which may be more of a visual landscaping project, or an annual vegetable garden.
- Will you be planting annuals or perennials? Think about how permanent you want your garden to be, and what parts of it you may want to change from year to year.
- Where will specific plants go? Your landlord may be interested in knowing exactly where each component of your garden. It’s not a bad idea to sketch out a basic map of your idea.
Having the Conversation
Schedule a time when you and your landlord can meet face to face. You don’t want to surprise them with a phone conversation that they aren’t prepared for. Come with all of the information they may need, and be prepared to take full responsibility for your plan. Don’t think of speaking to your landlord as a conversation. Think of it as a partnership. You both want the other person to be satisfied with the eventual solution. Be prepared for compromises. At the end of the day, you may not get the garden you wanted, but that doesn’t mean you can’t garden at all. Your landlord might be willing to allow an extensive container garden, or a smaller plot of ground. The important thing is to be ready to talk it out and find a solution that works for everyone.
No luck? See if your town has a community garden, or find a good CSA.