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Introducing Green Elements Into Backyard Farming

Countless Americans desire to be more independent with their food, which is great for the environment. One study found that 35% of Americans grow their own food. This figure has increased 65% in the past decade.

This is good for the environment. US Green Technology has published an article on some of the environmental benefits of gardening.

Some of the environmental benefits of growing your own food are more obvious. Gardening produces plants that clean the air and cool the atmosphere. They also reduce your carbon footprint in more subtle ways, such as reducing the need for aggressive, environmentally reckless farming practices and minimizing the need to transport food.

Green living advocates are encouraged by the growth of people that are gardening. The figure would probably be even higher, except some people in the cities don’t realize it is possible to grow food themselves. The truth is that it is possible to be a green, urban gardener!

Growing Your Own Food the Eco-friendly Way

Are you thinking of living sustainably and growing your own food, but feel like you are confined in a small plot that has you doubting your ability to so? Well, we have good news for you.

It’s possible. Yes, even on that small space in your backyard!

While limited space can be frustrating to every urban gardener, it is still possible for you to grow your healthy natural food right in your backyard. You don’t need to own huge tracts of land to start backyard farming. Growing carrots, onions and rich colorful juicy strawberries is possible. Good news, huh?

Because… let’s face it.

The current food system is nothing but corrupt! The situation is so bad that organizations like the Centre for Research on Globalization have pegged Monsanto as the most evil company in the world. The food we are consuming is not only unsustainable but also unhealthy. Most of the severe health problems people are experiencing are caused or exacerbated by consuming highly processed foods and foods produced using chemical-intensive farming practices.

So if you are willing to escape the ugly part of our food system by growing your own organic, rich in nutrients food, you need to consider backyard farming.

Uhm… What is backyard farming?

A backyard farm is growing and rearing on a mini or micro piece of land, mostly within your neighborhood or backyard for personal consumption.

Backyard farming takes an active approach to farm crops organically, as opposed to buying crops that have been grown and preserved with chemicals. It’s more of taking deliberate action to grow your own nutritious vegetables and fruits and developing an organic and sustainable food system.

And, how much space is needed? Is it possible to grow this food without harming the environment?

You can start as small as a few containers on a balcony to a few acres on your backyard plot. In fact, a smaller area is much more manageable and productive. So, start with the current space you have. Start small.

What foods can I farm in my tiny plot? 

Here are a few easy crops you can grow in your backyard without leaving a large carbon footprint.

Vegetables

Vegetables are the most sought-after plants in most urban farms. And it’s for a good reason. They save you the hassle of having to drive every few days to the grocery store to purchase veggies from questionable sources or highly overpriced “organic” ones.

Some of the vegetables you can try out are; kale, tomatoes, spinach, beets and peas.

Farming vegetables on small yards

  • Container gardening

If you have a tiny yard or live in an apartment, consider container gardening. Container gardening is an excellent choice for people looking to save space or even do indoor farming. While vegetables require constant watering, container gardening saves you water, thus you don’t have to water very frequently.

  • Vertical gardening

The current trend of urban farming is vertical gardening. You can create your own vertical garden using shelves, trellises or even hanging baskets. Just like container gardening, vertical gardens are water efficient and can do well even in a small space.

You can also try raised square beds. Square gardening offers better yields for small space gardens.

How to prepare your soil for urban organic

1. Conduct soil testing for better results

As an urban organic backyard farmer, if there is anything that can limit your plant’s growth its your soil being out of balance. In organic farming, the composition of nutrients in your soil matters a lot. It is important, therefore, that you have your soil tested for all-important soil properties and trace minerals.

2. Raise soil beds

Soil beds help in promoting good drainage in your backyard. Soil depth and management of your crops also become easier. A 30cm soil depth is adequate for your soil bed.

3. Use natural fertilizer

To further improve your soil composition, you need to add manure and organic fertilizers. Here are some of the organic soil additives you can use for the best results:

  • Chicken manure

Add chicken manure at a rate of one handful chicken manure per square meter. Chicken manure is rich in nitrogen and phosphate. It also has good amounts of calcium and potassium. Alternatively, you can also add, sheep or cow manure supplemented with sulphate potash to boost levels of potassium in your soil.

  • Blood and bone- This is rich in phosphate, nitrogen and trace minerals.
  • Good quality compost

4. Mix thoroughly

Mix it all thoroughly with a fork to achieve an even mixture of compost and soil.

5. Add trace elements

For optimum productivity supply your vegetable crops with a diluted seaweed concentrate. Seaweed concentrate supplies your vegetable crops with a wide range of trace elements.

6. Cover your crops with mulch

Cover your crops with 2-3 inches of mulch.

7. Let it settle

Give your farm a few weeks to settle before you plant your vegetables. You can also be propagating your vegetable seedlings as you wait for the garden to settle.

 Fruits, nuts and berries

An alternative to vegetables are fruits, nuts and berries. Here are some of the most common fruits you can grow in a small yard;

Strawberries

These are a classic and a favorite for many backyard farmers. With proper care and attention can easily thrive in jars and containers.

  • Grapes

Grapes are an easy crop to grow. However, you will face stiff competition from birds and animals when harvesting. They also need a trellis or some type of support to grow. Growing them on an arbor makes it easy to prune them and keeps them from outgrowing your small space.  

  • Blueberries

Blueberries require a bit of attention to soil acidity. However, when well maintained, the shrubs can live to produce year after year.

Animals

  • Eggs

Almost every suburban farmer has considered chickens. Chickens can do great even in the smallest of plots. Alternatively, you can raise quails. Quails are quite small and quieter than chickens, making them a great option for cities that do not allow chickens.

  • Meat

Chicken, quails and rabbits can be raised in small farms for meat. In larger farms, you can raise ducks, goats and sheep.

  • Bees

With only a sturdy fence and a small space for a hive, you can rear honey bees in your backyard. Honeybees are less aggressive and can be kept in urban areas for providing honey, and beeswax. They are also helpful in pollination in your garden.

  • Milk

Nigerian dwarf goats are a great source of nutritious milk for a small garden space. You can also use the milk to make your own yoghurt, cheese and even some delicious ice cream.

And… the list is endless.

No matter the crop or animal you choose to grow, be willing to dedicate your time and effort and the results will be worth it…

And don’t let the lack of space stop you. Be creative and just farm whatever works best for you and what you love to eat most. At the end, it all boils down to living a healthy sustainable lifestyle while saving money in the long run.

Making Gardening an Eco-friendly Practice

There are a lot of ways to grow your own food without harming the environment. You can follow these sustainable gardening practices even with a small backyard.

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Different ways of doing backyard farming

“Simply get the sacks, fill them with soil, add manure to the soil then plant your crops and you are good to go,”Different ways of doing backyard farming

Gardens made using recycled wood (Photo by Stella Naigino)

AGRICULTURE

Today when you visit most homes, many have established backyard gardens to cut their expenditure on food.

This has inspired many to do backyard farming but many wonder  how to start and many ask if they can do backyard farming even when they are renting.

Experts say backyard farming is a good practice that is helping families have food sustainability and this has enabled them to spend less on food.

Maureen Nakabugo a backyard farmer at Mona agro farm says backyard farming can be done in many ways. These are

Potting bags
Nakabugo notes that potting bags are small bags that come in different colors but for gardening, black  is preferred. It works well.

“Simply put soil in them and plant your crops or vegetables. Then place them on a stand or a veranda and you keep watering and spraying your crops. They will grow well and the yields will be high, “she says.


Sack gardening
Nakabugo adds that many times people have sacks and just burn them or keep them in the house. These are potential gardens that can be used to make sack gardens.
“Simply get the sacks, fill them with soil, add manure to the soil then plant your crops and you are good to go,” she says.

Open garden
Markmoon Mutaasa a backyard gardener notes that if one has enough space in their backyard, they can simply plant crops in the backyard without forming small gardens.

He says this allows you to plant crops the normal way in a field or big garden. “Like any other farmer you will have to weed, water and spray your crops for good yields,” he says.

Recycle old tyres, saucepans or clothes and turn them into gardens
Mutaasa says that many times people de clutter their houses and throw away old items. She says it would be a good idea to add value to old saucepans, tyres or clothes by turning them into small backyard gardens.

Make wood gardens

He adds that one can also recycle old wood by joining it together to make small wood gardens.

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How to Start Urban Backyard Farming for Profit

By Editor -August 21, 2017

Finding some alternative sources of revenue is always important. If you live in the urban areas, you can create some extra sources of income by investing in agriculture. Even if you have limited space, you can modify your yard and convert it to a reliable source of revenue. With so many restaurants and supermarkets that demand the fresh produce, your creativity will come in handy if you want to tap into this resource. High-end restaurants have a huge demand for milk, eggs, fruits, and vegetables. The size of your garden will have a huge impact on the types of crops you can grow and the animals you can keep. How well you plan your garden will determine your success. Take advantage of the following tips and make your urban gardening dream a reality:

Containers and raised beds

If you have a small farm, container gardening is an excellent choice if you want to grow some vegetables. If you do not have the finances to purchase a greenhouse, you can start with the hardy plants that do well outdoors. Containers hold on to the water for a long time, meaning that they come in handy if you have a limited supply of water. In addition to the containers, you can take advantage of the raised beds and small diesel engines. The raised beds help you to create adequate space for planting intensely. In addition, the raised beds are ideal for the crops that require proper drainage to avoid rotting. With a raised bed, you can water the plants without the risk of flooding or waterlogging that might have some negative consequences.

Vertical gardening

Vertical gardening suits the people who want to maximize on a small space. The vertical gardens add height and help you to get the most of the available space. The best way to create a vertical garden is to introduce some mesh wire and use it to train your vines. Such a garden can help you to grow a wide variety of herbs, fruits, and vegetables for the urban market. Strawberries make an excellent choice for vertical gardening. The eco-friendly diesel engines can suit your vertical garden perfectly, especially if you want to create a vineyard. Be sure to prune the vines to keep them under control since they are renowned for their robust growth.

Fruit trees

There are lots of fruit trees that can grow in your backyard. If the entire space is paved, you can grow the fruit trees in the large containers. Loquats, oranges, and lemons are ideal for urban gardening as a result of their high demand. Instead of planting the large trees that will outgrow the containers and the available space, you can settle for the shrubs that will fit in your garden perfectly. Hazelnuts are ideal in tight spaces since they are modest in size.

Market research

If you have a passion for farming, then you understand the importance of urban agriculture. If you want to invest in agriculture without living in the countryside, you must be creative while planning your garden. The best strategy is to undertake the get as much information on how to start a backyard farm and determine the vegetables that have high profit margins. The profitable vegetables include radishes, celery, broccoli, and spices. Besides having a huge demand, these vegetables will fetch a good price. In addition, they guarantee great profits without having to invest a lot of money. The trick to profitable backyard farming is to have several clients to ensure that you can always sell your products.

Create partnerships

Selling the food you grow is how you are going to sustain your farming business. Fortunately, the demand for locally grown organic food is increasing, so try to find your target customer and reach out to as many of them as possible. Restaurants such as Farm Burger rely solely on local farmers for their burgers and have their vegetables sourced locally and organically.

Determine your goals

There are various reasons to invest in urban agriculture. While some people want to grow the fruits and vegetables for commercial purposes, others are looking for creative ways to feed their families. The prospect of producing food in your property and selling it to turn a profit appeals to most people that have extra space for gardening. The trick for success is to have a reliable source of water.

Rearing chicken

The prospect of rearing chicken in your urban property is a daunting task if you do not understand the risks involved. While the venture is quite profitable, you need to undertake the research on how to build the shed to keep the cold winds at bay. In addition, the chickens are susceptible to the Newcastle disease. Getting as much information as possible about the threats that might affect your chickens will help you to take the necessary precautions to prevent them.

Rabbits

If space is a premium, you can opt to build some hutches for the rabbits. Rabbits will fetch a good price in the urban market due to their meat and fur or breeding for pets. In addition, it is quite easy to find adequate food for your rabbits in the garden as well as the groceries. Instead of building the hatches, you can purchase the cages off the shelf.

Invest in a diesel engine

Whether you want to rear animals or grow plants, investing in a reliable water supply system is vital. If you want to cut the cost of water supply in your urban garden, investing in the diesel engines is a smart idea. The diesel engines have immense power to water your vertical gardens without the hassle. Even if your source of water is quite far, the diesel engine will draw the water from your source and pump it to your plants effortlessly. Since you want to reduce the overall costs, the fuel efficiency of the eco-friendly diesel engines will work to your advantage.

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How To Turn Your Backyard into a Four-Season Farm

Turning your garden into a four-season farm is easier than you think.

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According to Jack Algiere, the Vegetable Farm Manager at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, turning your garden into a four-season farm is easier than you think.

Below, he outlines his plan for eating from your backyard year-round. Each bed is designed in a block and each year the crops are rotated to the next block. Plants should be planted in botanical families so families can live together in the same block of the garden bed. Most importantly: plant what you like to eat.

first spring

Spring, Year One

The key to spring planting is timing: Plant peas, radishes and spinach in March for eating in June. You can also plant parsnips but should leave them in the ground all summer so you can eat them all winter long. Plant Brussels sprouts, collards and Portuguese kale – all good summer greens. Also in April, plant potatoes, Swiss chard, onions, leeks and beets, which you will eat througout summer. In early May, get your nightshades (eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes) in the ground so you’ll be eating them from late July until the first frost. Spring plantings of spinach, beets, lettuce and mustard will be harvested in July to make room for fall vegetables. As soon as there is no risk of frost, plant your tomatoes – but be sure to keep them 2.5 feet apart. Spacing is important – you don’t get more food by planting vegetables closer together! Perennial herbs like sage, rosemary and thyme are a good border for the garden – deer don’t like them.”

first fall

Fall, Year One

Fall plantings can make it all winter if you protect them from the wind and frost. Spinach, lettuce and mustard can be planted continuously from July through October and will feed you from September through winter. Plant kale, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli starting in late July for a fall harvest. Plant carrots and beets in August for a great crop in October. You have to think ahead for garlic: plant in late fall (by the last week in October) for next-July eating.

Plus: How to Store Root Crops for Winter

spring two

Spring, Year Two

Repeat the previous year, but move everything over one bed and use what you learned in the last 12 months. Did you plant too much lettuce? If so, stagger your lettuce planting by two weeks and plant in succession so everything doesn’t ripen at once. Did you overseed or overplant? If things got too crowded, plant less this year. Blocks of vegetables planted together will generally stay the same (so family groups stay intact as the plants move through the rotation). The overall structure shouldn’t change but the varieties can vary.

second fall

Fall, Year Two

You should have the hang of it by now and can get creative. Learn about new vegetables. (Try growing winter cabbages!) Plant bulbs this year, such as tulips and daffodils. As long as rotations are established and you have order, you can experiment with pushing planting times and trying new things. See how the garden reacts to different approaches. Branch out. Have fun and grow what you love to eat.

Plus: Canning 101: How to Preserve Your Veggies

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Become a backyard farmer this winter

Is your garden looking a bit grey now that winter is setting in? Here’s what farmers around Australia are planting this season, and you can do the same in your own backyard!

Not having 50 acres, machinery and farm employees shouldn’t stop you from having a winter crop in your backyard.

This season farmers have just finished planting veggie crops like beans, cabbage, carrots, onions and potatoes. It shouldn’t matter where you live in the country, there is a veggie (or herb) crop that will thrive wherever you are!

Home gardening is a great way to teach kids about where food and fibre come from.
Cool climate veggies

If you’re living in Victoria or Tasmania where the climate is quite cool you can grow a variety of veggies like beetroot, broad beans, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, onions, potatoes, turnips and silver beet.

You can even grow herbs! Try planting chives, coriander, garlic, mint, parsley, rosemary, shallots and thyme over winter.

If frost is a problem try planting your veggies above ground in a container and try to give them as much exposure to sunlight as you can during the day.

Temperate regions

Broad beans, English spinach, green beans and peas are the perfect veggies if you’re living in Sydney, coastal New South Wales and some parts of Victoria.

You can also grow coriander, garlic, marjoram, oregano, parsley, thyme and winter tarragon in these regions.

Dry areas

Inland areas of Australia can get quite cold, therefore tomatoes, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, beans, peas, turnips and all types of herbs are your best friends.

To preserve water use mulch and grow your veggies above the ground in container.

Tropical and Subtropical areas

Subtropical regions like northern NSW and south-east Queensland are best suited to growing broad beans, lettuce, onions, peas, radishes, spring onions and spinach in winter.

If you live in Northern Queensland, the Northern Territory, or northern parts of Western Australia your winter climate is usually like most of Australia’s summer, therefore the list of veggies and herbs you can grow is much longer.

As well as most of the vegetables we’ve mentioned, you can also grow pumpkin, sweet corn, sweet potato, tomatoes and zucchini. You can also grow herbs like basil, coriander, garlic, parsley, and winter tarragon.

General tips for growing winter veggies
  • Expose the vegetable plants to as much sunlight as possible.
  • Try ‘companion planting’ to deter pests. You can do this by planting a vegetable in one row and a strong smelling herb that repels garden pests in another like oregano, basil, lavender or sage.
  • If you only have a small space like a courtyard or balcony, most winter vegetables can grow in pots, and peas and beans can climb a lattice and take up little space.
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Grown & Gathered: How to start a backyard farm

Embrace your inner farmer with this simple guide to growing, gathering and rearing produce in your own backyard.MAR 22, 2017 1:27AM

Many of us dream of throwing in the towel and living off the land, but what if you could do it already in your own backyard?Authors or Grown & Gathered Matt and Lentil Purbrick are passionate about a traditional, pre-industrial food system that they believe is a mindful, sustainable, balanced and nourishing way to eat and live.Here they pay it forward by sharing their small-scale farming knowledge so anyone can have a go.

GROW

We don’t believe everyone should be a farmer. But we do believe everyone should grow something, no matter how small.For plants to grow, three things need to be right: sun, soil and water. Master the ‘rule of three’ and you’re most of the way there.1. Sun – lots of it
Most vegetables and flowers love full sun. The more they get, the more energy they have to metabolise the nutrients in the soil and grow. If the sunniest spot in right in the middle of your yard, then that is where you want to locate your growing area.2. Soil – closing the loop
With the addition of just three ingredients you can turn any soil in to a living, breathing home for your plants, rich enough to feed them and support rapid growth. Those three things are manure, worms and compost.3. Water – plants drink when you drink
In our garden, the plants drink when we drink.: nothing overnight and little bits lots of times throughout the day, creating a moisture zone right around their roots – right where they need it.Easy to grow herbsVolume 90% 

KEEPING CHICKENS

We have multiple chicken houses and each bird has its chosen perch in its chosen home. In the wild, fowl don’t normally for groups larger than 20 birds, so we provide enough pens for them to replicate this behaviour.To keep chickens happy, healthy and laying, all poultry require free access to: grain, pulse and seed mix; seaweed meal and unrefined salt; clean, fresh water and food scraps.

A PLACE TO LAY

This has to be large enough for them to quietly hang out in, have nice thick, clean straw on the bottom, and be a little private – something with a top and sides and a small entrance is perfect – so that they feel comfortable and safe – this really makes a huge difference.If they don’t seem to be getting the point, leave a golf ball in the laying box to encourage them to lay in that spot.

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KEEPING BEES

We keep bees more for the pleasure of the experience than the bonus of honey and bee pollen. The honey and bee pollen are great, we just don’t make that the focus. Bees pollinate nearly every vegetable and fruit that we grow, so ensuring that they are around is just common sense.Tips for keeping bees

  • We have a top bar hive and highly recommend it because it’s so easy to work with.
  • Always set your bees up in the shade with a clear take-off and landing path.
  • Bees are super docile, unless you are robbing them of their honey, so don’t fear them.
  • Collect bee pollen, but not too much. We collect bee pollen every now and again with a pollen catcher.
  • Don’t harvest too frequently or too late. We occasionally rob the honey stores – but never take more than a third and only between summer and early autumn.
  • When you rob the hive, be very careful not to break the honeycomb or expose any honey, because bees will stick to it and that’s that.

A GARDEN CHECKLIST

  • Position your growing area in the sunniest spot.
  • Define paths and beds to avoid walking all over your growing area, make the beds no more than twice as wide so you can comfortably reach while kneeling beside them.
  • Introduce worms – you can get composting worms from your local nursery.
  • Mulch – cover your paths and beds with a thick layer of straw.
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BACKYARD FARMING: CREATING A SMALL, SUSTAINABLE MICROFARM FOR YOUR FAMILY

Growing some of the food that you and your family consume is a great way to save money, eat organically, and live a more self-sufficient lifestyle. As food prices continue to go up, more and more families are turning to backyard farming as a way to access higher quality foods without spending a fortune. Whether you have an acre of land outside of town or a small city lot, you and your family can benefit from turning your backyard into a microfarm.

basket of vegetables

WHAT IS BACKYARD FARMING?

Backyard farming—also referred to as “urban farming” or “urban homesteading”—is a way for those who live in more populated cities and neighborhoods to transform part of their property into a small farm or “microfarm” as a way to grow and produce their own food. The term “backyard farming” is sometimes used to make a distinction between traditional gardening (where you might plant tomatoes or peppers in the same area of your yard each year and hope for the best) and a more deliberate and planned approach to growing your own food. 

However, the term “farming” as it is being used here is not to imply that you need to grow things on a larger scale or produce crops to sell to the public. Backyard farming uses a concept known as “permaculture,” which is a system of designing an organic garden that works alongside nature to encourage the growth of fruits, vegetables, and flowers. 

CREATING A BACKYARD FARM FOR YOUR FAMILY

In many cases, families are creating backyard farms simply to grow food for themselves. These small-scale farms can range from simple produce gardens to more sophisticated farms with various types of plants, animals, bees, and more. Any family can create their own small-scale backyard farm in the form of a container or raised bed garden; it can even include some backyard chickens, goats, or even a beehive for honey. Here are some tips for getting started: 

PLANT A DIVERSE GARDEN

garden row

The first step is to just get started! Plant your favorite vegetables, berries, fruit trees, and nuts in a small square-foot garden. If you are limited on space, consider growing vegetables and herbs in raised bed gardens or vertical gardens. Even if you live in an apartment, you can still grow small container gardens or even window plants. As you get more comfortable with your backyard farm, you may want to consider growing more than your family needs and sharing with your friends and neighbors or selling at your local farmers market. 

LANDSCAPE WITH EDIBLE PLANTS

Since you’re planting a garden anyway, why not use this opportunity to improve your backyard’s landscaping as well? Many plants can perform double-duty in the garden, providing you with cover, foliage, color, and visual interest while also producing food for you and your family. For example, fruit trees flower in the spring and can provide shade that keeps your house cool in the summer months, and edible flowers such as pansies and nasturtiums can make beautiful additions to summer salads. 

BRANCH OUT TO ANIMALS

chicken

If you live in a city or suburban neighborhood, it is likely that you can’t keep a cow in your backyard (and trust us—you wouldn’t want one in a small yard). However, many cities allow various types of small backyard animals, such as: 

  • Chickens – Backyard chickens are becoming increasingly common in many suburban and urban farms. If you are interested in harvesting your own eggs rather than buying them at the grocery store, consider starting your own chicken coop. For small backyards, keep bantam (miniature) hens. 
  • Quail – Quails are small and quiet and are allowed in some cities where chickens are not. Their eggs are small, but they can produce just as many as chickens do. 
  • Goats – Many backyard farms keep Nigerian dwarf goats, which can be milked. If you live in an area where livestock is permitted, consider keeping a couple of these goats for milk and making your own cheese. 
  • Sheep – Some backyard farms keep Shetland sheep, a small breed of sheep that is known for its beautiful fleece coat. Adult sheep are typically shorn once a year, and their wool is often used to make clothing and other worn items. Sheep can also be used to produce milk. 
  • Rabbits – Angora rabbits are commonly kept for their incredibly soft fur, which can be woven blended with sheep’s wool to create an incredibly soft material for handmade clothing and other items. They don’t require a lot of space, and they do well in cages and hutches; however, it’s best to keep them in an enclosed space that’s large enough for them to play and explore. 

Most of these animals can also be raised for meat in larger backyards. Before adding animals to your backyard farm, check your city ordinances to see if livestock is permitted within city limits. If they do allow it, more than likely there will be size and/or weight limits. 

KEEP BEES FOR HONEY

Honey bees are another great option for backyard farms. Most cities allow bees and, with bee populations declining due to pesticides, habitat loss, and other factors, raising bees can be beneficial not just for you but for your entire community. What’s more, bees don’t just provide honey—they also provide beeswax, which can be used in many natural beauty recipes, including lotions and balms. Beekeeping doesn’t require much time or space as long as there are plenty of available nectar sources. 

CONCLUSION

High food costs and the growing demand for transparency and higher quality foods has led to an increase in backyard farming. Instead of spending millions of dollars making sure our lawns look good and pouring chemicals on them to make them greener and get rid of unwanted plants, we should be creating microfarms in our backyards. 

If we all farmed our backyards—even in small container gardens—we could greatly increase the availability of local food and reduce food costs dramatically (and become more self-sustainable in the process).

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Backyard Farming: How to Homestead in the City

Growing some of the food that your family consumes is a great way to save money and eat organically on a budget. As food prices continue to go up, more families turn to backyard farming as a way to access high quality food without breaking the bank.

The Rise of Backyard Farming

Food cost concerns and the desire for higher quality food has fueled the rise of backyard farming. There are an estimated 20 million acres of lawns in North America. We spend millions of dollars a year growing a mono-crop (grass) and pouring chemicals on it to make it greener and kill unwanted plants.

If we all farmed our yards, even in small container gardens, we would greatly increase the availability of local food and reduce food costs. This trend of backyard farming is growing with creative homeowners finding dozens of ways to homestead in the city.https://5175abf404dc2d692dacd123b6f6ea5b.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Backyard Farming For Your Family

Some families are backyard farming simply to grow food for themselves. These small scale urban farms range from simple raised bed gardens to elaborate mini-homesteads with various types of animals, bees and ponds.

Any family can start some kind of small-scale backyard farm. This may just be a container garden or larger raised bed garden. It could even include backyard chickens or a beehive!

The book Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less) explains many of the ways to farm in a small yard. It provides sample garden plots and explains how to organize a small lot for the most growing potential. The authors have a highly-productive microfarm on one acre. They keep chickens, rabbits, goats and sheep on an acre, as well as having a large garden, fruit trees and nut trees and beehives.

Backyard Farming for Profit

Many families also have profitable backyard farms that supplement or replace a family income! I didn’t realize how profitable a small backyard could be until my friend Daniel recommended the book The Urban Farmer: Growing Food for Profit. The author is a commercial urban farmer who grows food for farmers markets, restaurants and for his own consumption.

I was fascinated with the concept and after researching, I found that many people make $30-50K in supplemental income on as little as 1/10 of an acre of land! These creative mini-farms range from basic gardens to greenhouses with raised beds. Others have hives of honeybees, aquaponics systems for fish and vegetables, or chickens.

Ways to Try Backyard Farming

I’d encourage all families to grow or produce something in their own yards. There are so many health benefits to gardening and even just to spending more time outside. There’s also an intangible benefit to directly connecting with where you food comes from, even in a small way.

Our family has tried to move toward living as locally as possible and growing our own food as much as we can. While we only have an acre, I’ve been amazed at how much our land can provide, and we don’t even utilize most of it! Even our small garden helps reduce our food bill and our kids have learned where their food comes from by helping grow it. My son’s beehive is a source of local honey and small income for him as well.

If you don’t already, consider backyard farming in one (or all) of these ways:

1. Just Grow Something!

Even those in apartments can grow small container gardens or window plants, and those with land can consider much larger scale gardens. Start with a small square foot garden if you are new to gardening or stick to vertical gardening if you are tight on space.

A small garden has two benefits:

  1. Provides food– Even a small garden provides some food that is fresher and healthier than grocery store produce.
  2. Reduces lawn space– Lawns may look nice but they have to be maintained. Instead of spending time mowing, watering, fertilizing and weeding, that same time and space can now produce food! Replacing some grass with an edible plant is a great way to make your yard more eco-friendly.

Even if you only grow a few microgreens in your kitchen, start growing something on your own!

If you are more ambitious, consider growing more than your family needs and sharing with friends or selling at a farmers market. Or grow flats of microgreens in an inexpensive greenhouse and sell to local restaurants. A flat of microgreens can sell for $20 and some backyard farmers sell 50+ of these a week to restaurants. They grow quickly and with minimal overhead, so they are a great starting crop.

2. Branch Out to Animals

If you live in a city, you likely can’t have a cow in the backyard (and you wouldn’t want one in a small yard!). But many cities allow various types of small backyard animals:

  • Backyard chickens are increasingly common, even in cities.
  • Rabbits can be raised for meat, manure for fertilizer, and entertainment, and are also allowed in many cities.

3. Generate Some Buzz

Honey bees are another great backyard option. Most cities allow bees, and with declining bee populations, raising honey bees can help your entire community. This website has a lot of great information to get started with beekeeping.

Bees also don’t just provide honey! I use beeswax in many natural beauty recipes, including lotion bars, and homemade lotion.

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What is Backyard Farming

Backyard Farming sounds crazy at first. Urban Farming or Urban Homesteading does not sound much better.

We don’t want to be these people:

Yet, more and more people are beginning to see that there is a real benefit to growing our own food and making things at home. There are many reasons for this including the high price of foods and concerns about food quality.

Food costs: The cost of food continues to rise, and families are beginning to demand higher quality options like organic produce which cost even more.

Quality concerns: It is impossible to be sure of the quality of food that one buys at a store.

Even if you have the means and ability to shop somewhere like Whole Foods and purchase only the highest quality items, can you ever be sure what you are really buying?

Is an organic carrot from the store really better just because it costs twice as much? Sometimes “organic” means that they dumped certified chemicals onto the crops instead of non-certified organic varieties.

Neem oil is natural but perhaps not meant to be extracted and dumped in large quantities, onto unnaturally large fields of carrot.

This is not a dig on commercial farmers. They do their very best to supply the products that consumers are asking for. But as consumers, we have another option which is to grow some of our own food and make some of our own products.

What is Backyard Farming?

Backyard Farming or Urban Farming is a movement where regular people who live in typical houses in typical neighborhoods are turning part of their property into mini or micro farms.

Personally, I use the term farming in order to make a distinction between ordinary gardening where one throws the same tomatoes in the same spot of the yard every year and hopes for the best, as opposed to a smarter, more deliberate approach to maximizing the harvest.

This approach uses a concept known as permaculture. Permaculture is a style of organic gardening which uses “nature” as a tool to encourage the growth of fruits, flowers, and vegetables as opposed to always fighting against nature.

There are many articles on this site devoted to this concept. Take a look at the “Growing” section of the menu.

The term farming as used here is not to imply that one needs to grow things on a large scale, or to sell their crops to the public, but rather to emphasize the idea of taking an active approach to organic gardening at home in order to dramatically improve the results regardless of however much one wants to produce.

Having said that, using these techniques, the following things are able to be accomplished, if one were so inclined, on a typical suburban property.

  • Grow all of the salad ingredients for your family
  • Produce enough Asparagus to eat every night for a family of 5 for 3 months out of the year.
  • Produce apples, pears, plums, and cherries
  • Grow hundreds of dollars worth of organic raspberry, blueberry, or blackberry
  • Produce a bounty of melons, carving pumpkins, and every other vegetable you can think of. Heck, peanuts if you want to.
  • Chicken eggs (if allowed), and all sorts of other things we discuss on this site.

What’s with the name

We use the term backyard farming because it gets closer to the mindset of what our goal is. “Backyard” meaning that we are doing this at home and “Farming” because we are applying a more systematic or purposeful approach to growing food.

It is gardening. More specifically, it is organic gardening. We incorporate permaculture and other natural concepts in order to take our organic gardening to the next level.

The Goal of Backyard Farming

The goal with backyard farming for me is to do these the types of things mentioned in the above list on our property without anyone really noticing or caring. Many of the above examples can be incorporated beautifully into a suburban landscape and actually improve the overall aesthetic of one’s property.

Driving through a nice suburban neighborhood, one immediately sees very well-maintained, beautiful landscaped properties. Yet none of the plants in these suburban landscapes can be used by the families that live there. This does not have to be the case.

Why not replace that ornamental plum tree with an actual plum tree…Kale instead of hosta. Blueberry shrubs instead of poison shrubs… you get the point.

With a well designed backyard farming project up and running, neighbors will compliment how well your property looks as you bring them goodies from the garden all year long.

With Backyard Farming you will potentially reap more benefits than with traditional hobby gardening. 

  • Lower grocery bills, possibly significantly lower.
  • Save time and energy per piece of food grown
  • Eliminate fertilizing and much of the watering and weeding
  • Eliminate rototilling and a lot of digging and raking
  • Reduce waste by composting items that you may be throwing out now.
  • True happiness when you begin to eat your produce and realize, perhaps for the first time, how much better everything tastes

But My Yard is not Big Enough

You would be surprised how much can be grown in the smallest areas using techniques discussed on this site.

I live in a typical Cape Cod house on a quiet street in a medium sized city in North Central Ohio. I have neighbors very close on both sides and in the back. In total I have about 0.3 acres of “land” which consists of a small front yard and a decent sized backyard enclosed with a chain link fence.

I have a tiny 1-car garage, a small patio, and typical yard tools.

I have space to grow enough fruit, flowers, herbs, and vegetables as I could possibly ever use, with space left over for a lawn to play badminton.

Getting Started

Begin by reading the articles on this site. Additionally, there are a lot of resources available on the net and in books on the following topics. Our articles provide great links to the resources we think are the best. When I began, I explored topics such as:

  • Small space / patio / container gardening
  • Permaculture, Hugelkultur
  • Organic soil, hydroponics, vertical gardening
  • Propagation techniques

Truth be told, I have spent over 20 years researching gardening and permaculture and have learned a great deal. I decided to make this website to share some of the things that I have found because I did not see a lot of folks doing it from my perspective, the suburban setting.

Living in a “nice” neighborhood, I wanted to do these cool things I was reading about but in a way that blended with the environment around me. I did not want to have a junkyard of pallets, weird structures, goats, and random dirt patches. Nor did I desire to have a wild food jungle.

My style is to take the traditional, generic dentist office-looking landscape found in suburbia and replace the plants in that type of design with food, medicinal herbs, and flowers.

Implementation

Just begin, but start small. Incorporate little things one at a time into your landscape, see what works and what doesn’t and then slowly expand.

Fruit trees are your friend. The ultimate goal of the permaculture “food forest” is basically to have tons of food growing everywhere on your property that requires little to no maintenance. and produce large quantities of high calorie foods year after year. And even in cold Ohio, using Backyard Farming techniques, we can grow so many different kinds of fruit like cherry, apple, peach, plum, apricot and lots of berry and nut trees.

Have a look at my article on Backyard Farm Design, and then check out The Secret to Soil Fertility.

Take a look around Try Backyard Farming and I hope you will incorporate some of these concepts into your Urban / Suburban lifestyle!

Thanks for reading, and please share this article if you found it helpful.

Also, plan to check out all of the products recommended here at Try Backyard Farming, sorted into categories.

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Start Your Own Simple, Super-Productive Backyard Farm

Yearning for a more self-sufficient lifestyle? The solution might be as close as your own backyard. Whether you have an acre outside of town or a tiny city lot, you can benefit from making the most of your yard’s natural assets. The key is to treat your yard like a microfarm that needs investment, enrichment, harvesting and replenishment—and manage it accordingly.

Reduce lawn area. The typical swath of sod requires regular feeding, watering, weeding and mowing. With many communities mandating outdoor watering restrictions, not to mention environmental concerns about chemical fertilizers and emissions from gas-powered mowers, eliminating some or all of your lawn can be a positive step in creating a more earth-friendly, sustainable yard. One alternative is to simply tear out the turf and plant low-maintenance native, water-wise grasses, xeriscape plants or drought-resistant ground covers; you’ll reduce water use and have more time to enjoy your yard.

Converting lawn space to a vegetable garden goes one step further because land that previously sucked up resources can now generate abundant food. Growing your own produce still requires time and attention, but your investment is paid back in delicious edibles rather than do-nothing grass. A home compost pile can provide natural fertilizer to enrich soil while proper mulching can reduce the amount of water and weeding needed.

For step-by-step instructions about how to eliminate grass in preparation for a garden, read “Turning Sod Into Garden Soil.”
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Landscape with edible plants. Many plants can do double-duty in the garden, providing color, foliage and visual interest while also producing food for you and your family. Fruit trees, many of which flower in the spring, can provide shade that cools the house in summer months. Dwarf varieties are a good choice for smaller yards, and fruit-bearing bushes such as raspberry, currant and blackberry can add structure to the garden and bear sweet berries for many years.

Produce plants can also be colorful, practical alternatives to flowering annuals. For example, scarlet runner beans are fast growers with showy red flowers and edible pods. Rhubarb’s giant ruffled leaves and vivid red-to-green stalks make unusual garden accent plants, and red and yellow cherry tomatoes provide bright pops of color. Edible flowers such as pansies and nasturtiums make pretty additions to salads, and nothing beats the sunflower for charm and height in the back of a sunny garden. Grapevines can be trained up a trellis or over a pergola, and colorful Swiss chard can be planted in hanging baskets. Ground covers such as strawberries, oregano and creeping thyme can fill in spaces under taller plants.

Grow the produce that makes sense for you. Consider what you buy and eat most, and plan your garden accordingly. If you make smoothies for breakfast, you might want to grow strawberries or kale for a ready source of ingredients. Perhaps your kids favor broccoli and peas, or you use a lot of fresh spinach and lettuce for salads. If you’re into beer making, you might consider growing your own hops. If you love to cook, you might grow hard-to-find gourmet foods such as haricots verts or French fingerling potatoes.

Periodically review your garden’s output from a financial perspective and calculate the cost of purchasing produce versus growing your own. If you love golden raspberries, which can be expensive and scarce at the store, you might save money by cultivating a few canes. On the other hand, if local sweet corn is three ears for a dollar in your area, it might make more sense to invest your time, money and garden space to grow another crop.

Re-evaluate your efforts at the end of the season, too. Were the beets a bust? Did you end up with a plethora of zucchini and not as many tomatoes as you’d have liked? Make adjustments to next year’s garden plan so you’re investing time and resources growing the things you will most eagerly eat and use.

Grow up.  No matter what size yard you have, you can grow more food in less space by planting some crops vertically. Grow vining plants such as pole beans, peas and cucumbers straight up, supported by posts, teepees or cages. Vines can be coaxed to trail up a downspout, and trellises, wires or netting can also be attached to fences. Sprawling plants such as tomatoes, melons and squash can be trained to grow upright on heavy cages or trellises.

While they may need a little more attention to be sure they get plenty of water, vegetables grown vertically are less likely to be attacked by ground-dwelling slugs and snails, and they’re less susceptible to fungal diseases because of improved air circulation.

Use your rainwater. If you install rain barrels under your downspouts, you can collect and use the water that accumulates after a storm to irrigate parts of your garden. Commercially made rain barrels are available in many sizes and materials, and typically range in size from 50 to 80 gallons. Look for a model that has an overflow valve that kicks in and directs water away from your home when the barrel reaches capacity, a fine-mesh screen to keep insects out, and a spigot valve at the bottom to connect to a garden hose. You can also make your own; find instructions in How to Make a Rain Barrel. As a simpler alternative, you can simply place large stockpots outside when it rains and use the water for irrigating small spaces.

Not all states allow rainwater collection, so be sure to check regulations in your area. Even if you can’t install a rain barrel, you can still benefit from thundershowers by planting moisture-loving plants such as watercress, chervil or sorrel near areas where your gutter downspouts drain, or, if you live in a rainy area, creating a rain garden (get instructions in Reduce Stormwater Runoff with a Rain Garden). Also, enriching your soil will increase its ability to absorb and hold moisture—and reduce the amount of water that flows away from your property and down the storm drain.

Raise small farm animals or bees. Do you have a yard with a sturdy fence and space for a hive, coop or shed? Honeybees, fowl and small animals are increasingly being permitted on residential properties in many places; check your local zoning ordinances and research licensing or permit requirements. A modest flock of laying hens can supply your family with eggs, and the birds’ droppings provide excellent fertilizer. For milk, you might consider Nigerian Dwarf goats, which grow to about 70 pounds and can produce up to three quarts of milk a day. Honeybees are rarely aggressive and can often be kept in urban areas; in addition to providing honey and beeswax, they’ll help pollinate your garden. You can read much more about all of these possibilities.
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Make your own soil enhancements. A compost heap or bin will complete the circle of life in your backyard, turning garden trimmings and food scraps into rich humus. Digging in compost improves garden soil by adding nutrients and organic matter, and it helps plants grow because the roots can reach deep in soils that aren’t compacted. Best of all, everything you need to make compost is usually readily available in the yard: grass cuttings; leaves and leaf mold; clay soil clumps; garden debris; and plant waste (just don’t add diseased plants or invasive weed plants that are in seed). You can find instructions to make a compost bin out of reclaimed shipping pallets (often available for free from area stores) in DIY Shipping Pallet Compost Bin.

Spreading a protective layer of mulch on top of soil and around plants reduces water usage and combats weeds. Organic mulch will also improve soil as it decomposes, and many yards already have materials that are perfect for the task—from grass clippings and leaves to pine needles and compost. If you need more mulch than your yard provides, you can always offer to clean up your neighbor’s yard in exchange for autumn leaves. Read more about compost and natural fertilizers in All About Organic Garden Fertilizers.


Harness the Sun

Dry your clothes for free. Electric clothes dryers are among the most expensive home appliances to operate, costing the average family $100 in annual utility costs. Hang damp laundry on a clothesline instead and take advantage of free sunshine and breezes to dry your clothes. The savings don’t stop there: Your dryer should last longer with less use so you’ll save on repair costs; during warmer months you’ll avoid adding heat to the air in your house; and line-dried clothes often last longer because the fibers aren’t worn from the movement in the dryer.

A few municipalities have banned clotheslines for aesthetic reasons, but a retractable clothesline, a collapsible model or a small standing rack may work for you. For stiff clothes such as cotton towels and blue jeans, a five-minute final tumble in the dryer after drying on the line will generally soften the fabric. Of course the biggest reason of all to hang laundry outside may be the fresh, clean aroma of sheets dried in the sunshine.

Power lights and small electronics. Even if you’re not ready to invest in rooftop solar panels, you can still channel your yard’s sunbeams into a free energy source. Consider solar-powered lights for nighttime illumination around your yard. The panels absorb sun power during the day and gradually release the light in the darkness. If you invest in portable accent lights (some look like candles or Mason jars), you can also bring them inside to cast a warm glow at your dinner table.

If you’re tired of replacing the batteries on your electric toothbrush, you can capture the sun via small solar chargers that will power rechargeable AA and AAA batteries as well as USB-compatible cell phones and GPS units. (Read more in Energizer Rechargeable Solar Charger.) Other easy-to-use solar gadgets include sun-powered radios, calculators and flashlights.

Try solar cooking. If you live in a dry climate where the days are typically sunny and hot during harvest time, you can preserve a variety of fruits and vegetables by dehydrating them in the sun. Dry the beans you pick from your garden, preserve your tomatoes by sun-drying them, and make your own fruit leathers and dried fruits such as plums and peaches—free of the preservatives and additives sometimes found in commercially dried foods. You can purchase a solar food dehydrator or make your own; for complete instructions read “Build a Solar Food Dehydrator.”

For even greater versatility, you can harness sunbeams to power a solar oven. On a sunny day, you can cook rice, eggs, chicken or fish in an hour or two, and if you have three to four hours you can cook vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and beans or even bread and muffins. Read more at “Making a Solar Cooker for Free.”


Healthy Enhancements

Our yards can also be places where we can enhance our health. Consider these ways your yard might become your at-home health ally.

1. Create a relaxing retreat. We become calm in the presence of breezes, birdsong and the gentle sounds of moving water. Consider creating a relaxation oasis in your yard by sectioning off a portion, planting wonderful-smelling plants all around (try lavender, lilac or lemon balm) and installing a fountain or other water feature. Add a comfortable chair and go to your private oasis whenever you need a moment of pure serenity.

2. Build an outdoor yoga studio. Exercising outdoors is one of the best things we can do for ourselves. Cordon off a section of your yard with an outdoor privacy screen or a trellis planted with vining plants. Make sure it’s somewhere where the ground is flat. If you need a hard surface, LifeBoard is a portable hard floor designed for yoga practice on carpet or outdoors. It’s made out of 50 percent recycled and 100 percent recyclable materials and available from Amazon for about $100.

3. Grow your own medicine. Medicinal herbs—including chamomile, lemon balm, calendula, echinacea, yarrow and more—are easy to grow and transform into homemade medicinal products such as tinctures, teas and skin balms. Read about our 10 favorite, easy-to-grow medicinal herbs at The Medicinal Herb Garden: 10 Best Herbs to Grow.


Backyard Farm Bloggers

Visit these websites for ideas and inspiration from real-life people who are making the most of their urban and suburban gardens, and sharing their photos and experiences online:

Tenth Acre Farm
Amy Stross and her family tore out their lawn and planted an edible landscape in their suburban lot in Cincinnati.

Battery Rooftop Garden Blog
Gardening 35 stories above Manhattan, a team of intrepid growers raises everything from peaches to potatoes in a lush rooftop garden.

Urban Homestead
The original urban homesteaders, the Dervaes family farmers harvest 3 tons of organic food each year from a 1⁄10-acre garden on a city lot in Pasadena, California.