JoAnne Skelly: Is gardening possible without land?

Our property is 2.5 acres in size. That’s bigger than many people have and huge for folks living in apartments or condominiums. And, some people don’t have any yards at all.

Many of my retired friends are downsizing from acre or half-acre lots, tired of all the work required to keep things up. They’re adapting to their newer smaller homes, apartments, condominiums and other, often landless, properties. Even without the extra land or with only a small yard or patio, they still garden. A lot of my young friends haven’t bought their first home yet and can’t plant on their rental properties. Gardening in pots or tubs allows them to do the planting they want without leaving a trace, if or when they move.

My father was an avid tomato grower even though he lived in a 400-square-foot studio condo. He had a tiny deck and every year he raised one or two tomato plants in pots. He tended his two plants as if he were a farmer and delighted in the flavor of his “homegrown” tomatoes. He also had one geranium he kept going year after year with great pride and joy. My friend, Diane, lives in a rental with a tiny area along a walkway where she can put pots. She fills her space with flowers and herbs, often teaching me about new plants she has discovered on nursery explorations. She has done this in every place she has lived — planting containers full of color and scent and creating a small-scale gardener’s paradise.

And don’t think all gardening has to be done outside. Some people don’t have a patio or deck. A sunny window allows planting indoors, whether houseplants, herbs, flowers or veggies. Whether indoors or out, a landless gardener can have fun with decorative containers, window boxes or anything else that will hold soil. I’ve seen people plant in cowboy boots, plastic jugs, children’s wagons, crates and baskets lined with plastic. It’s all about being creative.

If you’re a landless gardener, choose plant varieties that stay smaller in size, because they’ll work better in containers. Use a soil mix designed for pots. Make sure the container has good drainage, so plant roots don’t sit in water. Put a saucer under the pot so patios or floors aren’t ruined by leaking water. Place in sunny spot and enjoy.

JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment