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Creating a Gorgeous Garden When You Are Renting
If you rent and are a garden lover, it can be difficult to have a great garden. You don’t want to spend a lot of money, as it is not your house and you might have to move. It can be tricky, if you don’t do anything because you feel you only may be there for a year, five years down the track you will wished you had done some improvements. On the other hand, you may develop a fantastic garden and then all of a sudden after only 18 months get the notice of eviction. It can be devastating. You have invested a lot of love, time, money and now you have to leave. Real Estate Agents love it when you say I will look after the garden and I am sure I got one house in South Melbourne because I said that. My mantra is not to spend too much money because I don’t own the property. Another problem is if you have lived in the same house for many years, you begin to feel it is yours, when in reality it isn’t. Moving can be heart wrenching especially when you leave behind some plant friends.
Firstly, you need to choose a property, that has the right amount of sunlight for what you want to grow. You need to identify where north/south/east/west is and it is really important, to work out where the shadows fall and the position of the sun in winter. What may be a sunny front garden in summer, may be a very shady garden in winter. It is a good idea to get the owners approval before you go making too many changes. One house I rented, I didn’t bother to ask whether it was okay to pull up the paving and make garden beds. They may not want to you create a beautiful garden because once you move out, they may not want to look after it. It is heart breaking to drive past and see all your hard work, going to weeds.
To create a great garden in a rented property is easier if the property is small as this means you don’t need to do as much work. If it is a large rental property, you may decide to only develop one area. Another idea is to talk to the owner and get them to agree that if you do the work, they will pay for the plants and whatever else is needed. I often think home owners don’t understand that if you develop a nice garden, this will increase the value of their house and that means money in their pocket.
I have only one rule when creating a garden in a rented property and that is not to buy expensive plants. So I only ever buy tubes (3 inch pots) or 6 inch pots. This limits me spending a lot of money on something I can’t take when I move. I also figure that anything in a tube, will grow into a larger plant over time. Also smaller plants get over their transplant shock and start growing quicker than large plants in pots.
A cheap way to create a garden is to take cuttings of the good old fashioned plants such as geraniums, lavender, salvias, daisies and hydrangers. These plants strike really easily, don’t need a lot of care and grow really fast. You will have a great garden within 12 months. Slower plants such as roses, camellias and deciduous trees take several years before they are ready to planted out in the garden.
If you are renting, you may think you can’t have a veggie patch. Well that is not true. These days you can grow lots of vegetables in pots and there is now a huge range of different veggie growing containers. You can use old wheel barrows, old cut down tanks, old wooden boxes and your can even buy wooden crates from some veggie growing businesses. The same rules apply, good quality soil which is enriched with compost and animal manure, well drained and in full sun.
It is heart wrenching when you have to leave some of your special plants. One way I got around this problem was to plant some of my favourite plants in pots. I have an amazing array of pots in my garden, from huge ones to tiny one. I even use some of them to fill in the gaps of my garden which is one way I change things around when I feel the garden is looking tried and I am sick of the same old look. It is true that moving is a pain, because I have so many but this helps me to establish immediately a new garden when I move and makes me feel more settled.
Another trick is when you find out that you are moving, is too run around the garden and take cuttings. It is really the last thing you want to be doing while you are in this zone, but you will regret it if you don’t. I have two unusual salvias which tolerate the shade and I didn’t want to lose them. So, I took cuttings of Salvia miniata which has glossy green leaves and traffic light red flowers. To take cutting, you need to use a good quality propagation potting mix, not ordinary potting mix because it is not designed to drain for cuttings. So there is a trail of this red salvia being left behind in all the houses I have lived in over the last 10 years.
I have also been known to dig up plants when I found out I was moving. This is what I did with my other shade loving plant – Salvia forskaohlie. It has beautiful blue flowers with white dots on the throat of the flower and will self seed. This is an excellent idea especially if you are moving in winter, as taking cuttings is not always possible. Clean some old pots, get yourself a good quality potting mix and dig away. The only down side of this is when you have actually moved and have a million others things to do, looking after your plants especially in the height of summer can be difficult.
There is a huge array of pots from plastic, to terracotta to concrete to choose from. You can also use old wooden boxes, old oil tins (cleaned) and the good old wine barrel. I have a lavender growing in an old oil that a friend found for me. It is going great guns. The only draw back about pots whatever they are is the big ones are heavy. If you move regularly, it might be a good idea to by a trolley. They take the back breaking work out of moving heavy pots. They are readily available now.
When you are actually physically moving your plants, it is a good idea to get a friend to help, because lifting pots, especially big ones is really heavy and hard work. Last time I moved, I hired a trailer, best thing I ever done. My friends and I loaded everything up and moved them all in one hit, instead of many short trips in my car. I watered them well first, then when we arrived at the new house put them into a shady position until I had worked out where the hot spots were and I was ready to organise the garden.
So you can have a nice garden if you are renting, it just takes a little forethought and organisation. Growing plants in pots offers you a lot of opportunities that you don’t have if you are renting and don’t want to plant into the garden. Growing plants in pots also allows you to change things and keep the garden interesting.
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