A rented garden needn’t feel temporary. Here are some easy steps to making your outdoor spaces feel like home
Here’s how you can make your rented garden feel like home
No longer just a transitional phase before buying a place of your own, renting has now become the norm for many Kiwis. One of the best ways to personalise a home is to create a garden and the good news is you can do this without spending big on expensive plants and structures. Even if you’re planning to move on in six months, you can still have fun growing some edibles and flowers. Here are some ideas to get you started.
What’s the plan
First decide what you want to do in the garden and how much time you’re willing to commit. If you’re on a short-term lease you may only want to grow a few herbs and vegetables, or find a level spot for a portable barbecue and a few chairs. Planning a longer stay? There’s no reason why you can’t create an attractive outdoor living area by planting in pots, buying a few paving stones and painting the odd fence or wall.
Get the lowdown
Most landlords are happy for tenants to look after the garden, especially if it saves them money on maintenance. However, it pays to check first. Even if you just want to build a few raised beds or plant some shrubs, email the letting agent or owner telling them what you’d like to do. Apartments, units and townhouses generally have body corporates and some have rules for balconies or courtyards, so do your homework before signing any lease.
It’s not that difficult to make an outdoor living area for a barbecue and some chairs. Check with the landlord if it’s okay to lay some low-cost concrete pavers or deck tiles on a flat area in the backyard. You’ll need a spade to remove the turf, enough soil to make them flush with the rest of the lawn, and ideally some weed mat below the pavers. Cracked concrete can be given a makeover by covering it with a thin layer of gravel and/or some pavers, and wooden pallets can be repurposed to create a temporary deck. Even a layer of artificial turf or an outdoor rug can work wonders.
Plants in pots
These are the logical choice if you’re renting as plants in pots can move with you, but they’re not so great if you like big plants such as trees and shrubs, which are heavy to shift. Solution: buy some plant castors. Another less weighty option is to plant in plastic pots that you can place inside large stone, terracotta or ceramic containers. To save money on pots check out online auction or freecycle sites, garage sales and the seconds aisle at your local garden centre.
Keep it flexi
If you’re not sure when and where you’ll be moving next there’s no point in investing in big pieces of outdoor furniture. However, there are plenty of cute, portable options on the market these days. Folding tables and collapsible chairs can be stored and packed easily, too.
Lightweight screens are invaluable in a renter’s garden as they’re ideal for hiding ugly boundary structures and providing privacy for not a lot of money. Trellis, bamboo and brush sticks are usually sold in panels, or you could try one of the smart-looking recycled plastic or aluminium options, too.
Many edibles and herbs will thrive in pots or planters if there’s no space for a traditional vege patch outside. If you’re planning to rent your place for only a few months, leafy greens and annual herbs such as coriander and basil are your best bet. Those on super-tight budgets should try sowing from seed and using recycled materials such as polystyrene boxes or spouting (with drainage holes) instead of seed trays. Consider building or buying a secondhand compost bin and/or worm farm to keep potting-mix costs down, too.
No one wants to spend money on plants they may only enjoy for a year or so. But rather than gaze at bare or weed-filled garden beds, try scrounging free plants from friends and family. Many perennials such as daylilies, helleborus, dietes and flax can easily be divided into smaller plants. Other plants are dead simple to grow from seed. Succulents (echeveria, yucca, kalanchoe, dracaena etc) are the go-to plants if you’re looking for easy propagation and general care.
Words by: Carol Bucknell.