Gardening While Renting

I ran a poll on Twitter and, with a whopping 4 votes, the public demanded a newsletter about renting while gardening.

During the ongoing coronavirus crisis, it may not be such a bad thing to discuss ways to entertain yourself with a productive hobby.

“I want to garden but I couldn’t grow moss on a log!”

No worries. I’ll focus on dirt cheap methods from the start so you have nothing to lose but time.

“I have no space to garden!”

If you have windows that get any amount of sun, you can likely start growing small plants and sprouting seeds.

Ask your apartment complex about using five square feet to construct a raised garden bed. It is as simple as lining a plot with cinderblocks and filling with fresh soil


Indoor hanging waterbottle planter hack:

Take a water bottle, cut off the bottom and punch holes in the side to thread with string or bungee cords.

Fill bottles with rocks, then perlite, then soil.

Hang in your window.

Pictured are two squash plants I transplanted.


“I have no seeds!”

I got mine cheap from the Dollar Tree in Wheaton, MD. If that isn’t an option, try the grocery store or a hardware store. Visit your local farmers market, maybe they’ll be kind enough to give you seeds. Home Depot or Lowe’s are overpriced. You can order online too but just don’t use Amazon. I have spares and you can email if you want some carrot or pepper seeds.


Green onion hack:
No seeds but want to watch something grow? Pop down to the grocery and buy organic green onions.

Chop the green stalks off for a meal and save the bulb and root.

Place the remaining bulb and root in fresh water and leave on the windowsill to get sunlight.

The roots should refresh and a green onion stalk will regrow. You can do this with a few different veggies and herbs (oregano and green onion pictured).


“I have no planting pots!”

I’ll bet you have T.P. tho.

Use the roll from the toilet paper as a decomposable planting pot. WashingtonGardener gives a step-by-step breakdown on how to recycle your TP rolls:


Six kale and three spinach sprouting under my grow light with TP rolls as support.

Notice on both plants the “seed leaves” (the tall thin leaves on the spinach and the lily-pad shaped leaves on the kale) are dying.

The “true leaves” are starting to unfurl (the typical round spinach and curly kale leaves).

Seed leaves grow from all plants at first and usually are smooth and plain looking. Some people pinch them off when true leaves appear but I don’t unless they start spoiling.


Maybe you don’t have TP but I bet you are like me in that you receive endless amounts of practically useless “Post Marketplace Midweek Mailers”


“where’s the dang ‘unsubscribe’ button on these things!”

Save those pesky mailers. Take strips about 6-7″ wide and roll it around a can of tomato paste, capping one end like you would a roll of coins. What, you haven’t rolled coins before? What are you, a millennial?!

Now you have practically unlimited biodegradable seed-starting pots. They can go from your windowsill directly outside!

You may want to keep the packed in a cardboard box or plastic container to keep them from unraveling. In keeping with our dirt-cheap approach, I’ve packed mine in ramen noodle packaging.

Follow even better instructions here:

How to Make Recycled Newspaper Pots for Seed Starting

Top: Newspaper planting pots
Bottom: squash transplanted to newspaper planting pots. Remember, if you’re cold they’re cold. Bring them indoors if it is chilly.

“I have my TP planters, Dollar Tree seeds, and some dirt from my nearest wooded area, what next?”

Start with seedlings and later transfer to larger pots or outdoors later. Sprinkle 2-4 seeds 2-4″ deep in the soil of your holder and set them by your windowsill or on a shady area of your porch. Water as directed on the packaging. Keep them warm but don’t let them get too hot or cold. Good indoor heat is somewhere around 70 degrees.


Depending on the plant, sprouts should start within about two weeks. Waiting until the “true leaves” unfurl is generally a good indicator you can transplant them to larger containers. Water your plants as instructed on the packet.

Planting indoors involves certain drawbacks lack lack of adequate lighting, air flow, water filtration, and more. Only water when soil a few inches past the surface is no longer moist. Don’t water at night and keep water off plant leaves as best you can. Crack a window if it isn’t too cold to increase airflow.

Plants take a long time to grow so be patient. Prune dead or dry leaves, keep fallen dead leaves out of the plant soil, and rotate your plants whenever you notice they are leaning towards the light.


It will take some time but you will start to see progress with both your plants and your skills. The reward is that you can eventually clean, cook, or share your produce with others!

Left: Garden when I started last Labor Day
Right: Garden now, plus the Problem Tenant Dog

This is just a rough start to get you going. Around mid-April will mark the end of the “frost date” – when it is unlikely for the ground to freeze and kill your plants – so now is the time to start sprouting what you’d like to see in the garden.

I’ll try to get more in-depth in future posts. Let me know by email or at @ProblemTenant what you would like to see more of in the future!

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