Raised garden beds for renters

Green Lifestyle

Renter Chris Godden was restricted in how much of his backyard he could plant until he had the idea of growing vegies in raised beds.


Click through the arrows to see all the images of Chris and Melissa's raised garden beds, and how they make them.

Credit: Chris Godden


Credit: Chris Godden


Peat straw helps fill the crates.

Credit: Chris Godden


Upcycled drink bottles acting as temporary greenhouses for seedlings.

Credit: Chris Godden


The setup; making the most of rented space.

Credit: Chris Godden


The harvest.

Credit: Chris Godden


Chris and Melissa Godden.

Credit: Chris Godden

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When you live in a rental property, you can’t just dig up the backyard and bung in a whole lot of vegies. This was Chris Godden’s dilemma.

Itching to grow his own food and live a more sustainable life, he was hampered by the issue of space. Then he came across a book by The Little Veggie Patch Co. describing the ins and outs of gardening in raised beds.

Chris, a Royal Australian Air Force mechanical engineer from Adelaide, and his soon-to-be-wife, Melissa, baulked at the cost of corrugated iron garden kits and instead opted for something upcycled. They contacted a local apple grower to source old crates no longer fit for transporting fruit, but in good enough condition to use as vegie boxes. Other boxes and a planting bench were made from recycled pallets and timber offcuts. He used four full-size apple crates, two of which were cut in half horizontally to reduce weight, six smaller boxes and a half wine barrel for a planting space of about 6 sqm.

He filled the bottom half of the boxes with pea straw bales to reduce the amount of planting mix needed, then took a ‘no dig’ approach by layering mushroom compost, organic fertiliser, sugarcane mulch, organic potting mix and worm poo. It cost about $600 to set up the boxes. His first box cost $250 as he bought soil and compost in bags. “I soon learnt that buying in bulk was easier and, more importantly, cheaper and produced less waste,” Chris says. And he is pleased with the “massive success” of most vegies he’s planted.

“So far we’ve had carrots, peas, beetroot, spring onions, lettuce, celery, leek, silverbeet, spinach, rhubarb, eggplant, bok choi, pumpkin, zucchini, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, garlic, cabbage, broccoli, radishes, cucumber, chillies, sunflowers, lavender, coriander, basil, parsley, chives, dill, sage, oregano and thyme and a dwarf lemon tree in the wine barrel.

“The silverbeet and spinach ran rampant. Anything we couldn’t use, along with garden scraps, went to our neighbours’ chooks. We were then gifted eggs in return. I struggled with the lemon tree, but figured out what I was doing wrong. The broccoli and cabbage were ravaged by cabbage moth caterpillars, and my dill pickle seedlings keep getting eaten by slugs just as they popped out of the soil. Our garlic bulbs were a little small, some lettuce bolted to seed very quickly and I struggled to get some seeds germinated in little peat pots. They kept drying out or were burnt just as I had them going. That said, it has all been a learning experience and I now have some measures in place to have success with the plants we have struggled with.

“I am out in the garden most days. Coming into summer, I try and give them a good drink in the morning as I head off to work and then I spend about half an hour each evening pottering around tidying things up or just spending time out there.”

The best thing about growing your own vegies? “You just can’t beat home grown, we know what we have (or haven’t) put on our plants, the freshness and flavour is like nothing you can buy, the ease at which we can get what we need for dinner, or even just being able to pick a couple of leaves of lettuce for a sandwich is just unparalleled. Things no longer go to waste in the bottom of the fridge because they’re still growing in the backyard. We want to be reducing our participation in mass-production farming, as some of the stories we have heard are quite scary. And if we do have to supplement with purchased vegies, it’s from a local organic farmers market.”