High-density apartment living is on the surge — and downsizers swapping spacious yards for tiny balconies may see no need to pack the garden gloves.
Top five micro-gardening tips
- Be creative: Get self-watering pots and a range of boxes to plant into.
- Start small: Grow easy vegetables like greens and herbs.
- Get a worm farm: This provides instant fertilizer.
- Grow upwards: Make trellises and grow things that harvest easily.
- Talk to neighbours: Make communal gardens where possible, share resources and tips.
But organisers of a Canberra workshop on gardening in small spaces say anyone can be a green thumb, no matter how small their home is.
The initiative, jointly run by the Canberra Environment Centre and the Tenants’ Union ACT, covered a range of portable gardening ideas for small balconies, courtyards and backyards as well as tricks to keep landlords happy.
Canberra Environment Centre garden coordinator Karina Bontes said she has noticed a new “wave” of younger people wanting to grow their own food.
“A lot of people consider gardening to be something for the over 50s [age group] and there seems to be a resurgence of young people interested in gardening,” Ms Bontes said.
“And I think it’s really amazing that people in the next generation are growing their own food and being interested in cycles of life and what we get on our plates and being passionate about that.
“So I think young people who are renters who are getting into gardening is a really great sign of what’s to come.”
But she said some apartment renters became frustrated with barriers such as minimal space and lighting, causing them to give up gardening efforts without realising there are other options.
“It’s thinking about what kind of things they might be able to grow, doing small scale composting in their backyards, different types of mobile beds like wicking beds or straw bale beds.”
“[Also] vertical gardening, trellising, how to make good soil, how to get good soil, what things might be important in choosing your site.”
Nicola Hearn from the Tenants’ Union ACT said there were ways to be creative with spaces as small as a window sill.
“A big part of what we do is promoting tenants’ ability to feel like their place is their home, that it’s not [something they see as] just an investment property for someone else, owned by a random landlord or property manager,” Ms Hearn said.
“It’s their home, it’s where they live and things like gardens are important so we try and foster that.”
Benefits of being green
Ms Bontes says growing her own food has had a positive impact on her health and general lifestyle.
“I feel like it’s a big form of taking control of your own life,” she said.
“I feel that it gives you many more options than having to shop at a supermarket, when you don’t know necessarily who’s grown what, what they’ve put into it, how far it has had to come to be in the supermarket, and all of those processes.”
“Where as when you grow your own food you know exactly what love has gone into it, what kind of water, what kind of nutrients and you pick it fresh.
“So I feel like it’s a great way for people to be in touch with seasons, with eating seasonally, which I feel has many benefits.”