Start where you are right now.
We all want to fix the world but we don’t want to enhance our own backyard. Our entire planet has endless circular economies all linked together like chain mail. Strengthen your circle and you strengthen the whole. I think enhance rather than fix because it is rare for there to be nothing to start with.
Right now, right here for me is that it is winter on my property but only fall in Albuquerque. A friend has invited me to pick up another truck load of leaves from her property. When I open the bags for composting, I always find pretty pinecones among the debris from her garden. I have used a lot of them to fill my big flower pots up to the brim. They look nice (always a bonus) but even better they shade the soil in the pot and keep it a little cooler for my plant roots and slow down evaporation so I am less likely to lose a potted plant to water stress. Next, I will use them to mulch my raised flower bed. Why don’t I use debris from my Food Forest? It is working to enrich my Food Forest soil and improve water retention. Better to take my friend’s litter and keep it out of a landfill.
Where are you now? Do you have some soil to work with? Are you or your friends and neighbors putting leaves and other garden debris in the trash pickup? This is the best time of year to plan a new spring flower bed. Mark it off, put down cardboard or newspapers, add your leaf litter, put pine bark on top to hold it down in the wind and pacify neighbors. Water well. Beautiful soil in the spring. Never shovel dirt. You can net it down, whatever works. Fall is the best time to start a new bed with no work. Spoiled hay is awesome… especially if it is free. Ask around.
If you don’t have any land, can you request a small plot from your apartment landlord? When I moved out of my house and lived in an apartment for a year until I found acreage… my landlady said she would have given me gardening space near my apartment. It had never occurred to me to ask because the grounds were landscaped.
I rented a cheap ugly attic apartment when I was young and gardened without asking. I started by cleaning out debris. Added a shrub or three, and tucked tomatoes and peppers in the nooks. My landlord put new lino in the kitchen because I was a good tenant. I loved that garden. That is when I read Ruth Stout’s No Work Garden Book. It rocked my world because it linked my garden (hard work) to my forest (no work). I no longer work hard for my garden.
American cities have endless unused spaces. Ask to rent an unused lot. This is very common in Europe and happens here. Seattle has websites that help gardeners find gardens. Better to ask in your neighborhood… close means you can access it more often. Ask someone with a neglected yard.
One other option is to check out tax sales because you can buy an unused lot for back taxes alone. Even if you never build a house, a small shed and a garden can be added. The neighbors will love you. Help the neighbor with their water bill and they will let you use their hose. Even better, plant native edibles and never water.
Ask the city for permission to plant and tend a median. Some even give you plants and send a water truck by now and again. Add a few pretty edibles like blueberry shrubs which are a shrub most of the year and produce lots of blueberries for almost a month.
Even better, find an elderly neighbor who cannot garden, tend their yard for them, and share the produce for garden rent. Please remember to pay for the water since the elderly frequently cannot afford the bill. Plant annual vegetables of course but add a tree or shrub that you grew from seed. Add flowers from seed. Your apartment balcony might become a great place to start trees and shrubs. Even planting one seedling tree makes a difference. Make it a native and when you are gone, it will do fine. Plant a white oak seedling and feed wildlife and humans.
I grab a seed here and there and start them in pots in my kitchen window. I have started so many over the years that I have planted thousands of seedlings for friends, neighbors, folks at church, my son’s garden, anyplace I can find a home.
I have 5 acres now. It is already a forest and I have more trees in my kitchen window than I have space for. I will never plant more than 1 to 3 of any variety so when I get 4 to 6 babies, some have to be rehomed. Gift them to a coworker.
Acreage is often a dream people feel they cannot have. I admit I bought this property for a song. Sort of. I looked every day online, put the word out, and spent a lot of hours learning the area and looking looking looking. I paid in time and energy instead of cash. It was important to me to keep the price down because I wanted land and less dependence on market economy income. My 10 year mortgage is less than half the apartment rent I was paying. I prepay a little each month nd expect to have no mortgage in 3 more years. Six years isn’t bad. There are many small acreages for sale for less than $5000. Adding a market economy house is usually a thirty year mortgage. Adding a native garden is not. Pay off the land and start your trees. Worry about a modest house later. Some places allow a self-contained camp trailer while you are transitioning. I bought one for my Texas property for $1700.
Start where you are now. Plant wildflowers for butterflies in an alleyway behind your apartment.
Enhance your life.