How to grow vegetables and fruit trees while renting

Anna Matilda has lived in five different rented houses over the past decade – and each has a thriving vegetable crop.

She even has fruit trees that travel happily with her from home to home.

The secret? The permaculture gardener from Naarm (Melbourne) grows almost all of his food in pots.

Anna is reluctant to dig out the rented lawn – and put it all back when she leaves. Instead, simply pack your dishes and take them with you.

We talked to Anna for her best tips on how to grow healthy, organic food mountains in pots – cheaply.

Why is pots so great for growing food in a rental space?

I found myself moving towards pots and containers because I am interested in longer term plants. For example, I have an eight-year-old apricot from which I got 3kg of fruit this year, just two months after I moved out.

Most people think, “Fruit trees, you can only do that if you have land.” But this is not true.

I also have asparagus and rhubarb, all of which are long-term plants – they come into every house.

Growing plants in pots gives you the flexibility to move your garden to the best location.(Delivered by Anna Matilda)

I currently have about 30-40 pots, from tiny herbal pots to fruit trees.

I always follow the number one principle of permaculture – “observe and interact” – when I get into a new house to see where the sun is falling and how much rain is falling in each area. That’s another reason I love dishes. If the plants aren’t performing particularly well, I can try them at another location.

What types of pots are best for growing vegetables?

You can reuse all kinds of utensils: olive oil cans, yogurt buckets, polystyrene tubs, even bathtubs and kitchen sinks. I have to be careful with the money and I hate the idea of ​​having to pay a lot to buy plastic. So I look at the buying, exchanging and selling pages, watching the hard trash.

The pans do not have to be big. For me, it’s about what I can lift for myself once I’m full of earth. My fruit tree pots are only 50 cm in diameter.

Pots of spices and vegetables in a backyard, protecting each other in summer and winter.
Grouping plants can protect them during the more extreme seasons.(Delivered by Anna Matilda)

But it is important to group the dishes tightly. It reduces the surface area / volume ratio, which means that the dishes are less likely to dry out in summer or suffer from frost or cold damage in winter.

And take advantage of vertical space. Hang the salad over the tomatoes so that when you water the salad, the drain goes into the tomatoes. Stack functions so you can do more than one task.

It does not use store flower pots at all. So how do you feed the soil?

I use gardening without digging: layering of organic matter, carbon and nitrogen (via fertilizer). This produces more nutrients for the plants while everything decomposes.

I start with a thick, saturated layer of pea straw at the bottom, which acts as a water reservoir and prevents the pot from drying out. I then alternate between homemade compost, fertilizer (I use worm casting) and carbon material (like autumn leaves and shredded paper) until it’s full.

I plant it in a small compost pocket and by the time the roots reach the edge of the pocket, everything else turns into beautiful soil.

I add a few more layers of compost, straw and fertilizer about twice a year.

What food plants should you start with?

Start with perennial or “cut and come again” crops like kale, rocket, tomatoes. They last a long time and many crops can be obtained from one plant.

But think outside the box. The leaves of the beets conjure up fantastically edible greens. I have had two plants for three years and I take a few letters a week from each. They just keep producing.

Filling pots with plants doesn’t have to be expensive either. Look for small-scale local seed growers or join a free seed exchange in the area. These plants will bloom better in the garden than seeds imported from overseas.

Do you supplement your diet with urban feed?

Yes, in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne I have chestnuts, nuts, plums, apples, pears, quinces, lots of different edible mushrooms, and about 30 edible weeds and flowers.

As a feed collector, you are responsible for protecting yourself. So doing the research is very important. Plenty of books, online groups and workshops are available as a starting point.

A woman is looking for mushrooms in Melbourne to supplement what she grows in her garden.
Anna Matilda supplements what she produces with fodder. He recommends that you do some research before you start. (Delivered by Anna Matilda)

I like the way the ethic of permaculture, “caring for the land, caring for people, fair share,” prevails in the search for feed. Therefore, make sure you treat the land with respect, protect yourself and others, and leave enough space for wildlife and other feeders.

In a changing world that is too much out of our control, if we have a small garden that manages with minimal effort, or if we find food on the street – it gives hope.

Koren Helbig is a storyteller who practices permaculture and grows organic food in the backyard of his home in the small town of Kaurna Land (Adelaide).

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