Their house, my garden: My war with the landlords

Summer reissue: In the first instalment of a new column about gardening while renting, a planter box is vetoed, the rent is raised, and the value of dirt is brought into question.

First published on September 23, 2023.

Last summer, we barely got one tomato and three beans out of the garden. Everything, weather-wise, went wrong, but mostly we believe it is because our vege garden has been relegated to the margins. By that I mean the rock-lined retaining wall around our front lawn which has been dug to be about a metre below ground-level, so that the basement of the house could be made into a semi-subterranean one bedroom flat, the hole in which I live with my partner. The rest of the house is split into four other flats, which are accessed not via the front lawn like ours, but the original front door a story above, the side, and the back. The whole complex is owned by a couple, or “mum and dad landlords”. 

Around the edges of the front lawn, our vegetables were trying to catch some sun in the shade of little trees which the landlord planted as a sort of fence. The pumpkin tried to make a run for it, climbing up through the big magnolia tree and onto the neighbours fence. Unfortunately even up there the little pumpkins rotted, and one night we caught a drunk man peeing into the parsley from the footpath.

And so, in the depths of winter and $10 cauliflowers at the supermarket, we began to dream of a garden bed where the sun shines, on the other side of the front lawn, closer to the house. It would have to be a planter box, because we knew the landlords didn’t want us to dig into the ground.

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