Can you homestead in the city? The answer is YES! While you may not have acres of land, you can definitely grow lots of food, make your soaps and cook from scratch even in an apartment. Learn more about urban homesteading.
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What is urban homesteading?
Homesteading means many things to many people. The key to homesteading is the end goal. In this community, most people are trying to become more self sufficient. Think of urban homesteading as a kind of farming and homemade life on a more finite scale.
Essentially, anyone who lives within a city or urban setting, is by nature, limited in space. This limitation means that you may not be able to grow all the grain you need or own a milk cow. But it doesn’t mean you can’t aim for producing as much as possible on your small space.
How to homestead in the city
You can easily begin an urban homestead within city limits. Even mega cities such as New York, Chicago and L.A. However, the ability to grow food and keep different animals will vary greatly on your access to any plot of land.
We will start with the smallest home and work up to a typical family home in a city. All of these different city settings will allow for some creative solutions to producing your own food and making your own goods from home.
There are also many resources you can check out to learn about homesteading in smaller spaces. The Backyard Homestead is one of the best books out there on how to do have a homestead in a city.
The apartment homestead
In many large cities, you might be completely restricted in access to the outdoors. The most restrictive urban homesteading is in a small apartment. But there are a few solutions you might have available to you. First, your windows. Hopefully you are lucky enough to have a balcony, but if not, start with an indoor herb garden in a south facing window.
If you do not have a south facing window, any window (except north facing) will be fine, but you might want to invest in some supplemental lighting, especially in more northern parts of the U.S.
Herbs are not the only thing you can grow in the window. If you have excellent window access, you can even grow self fruiting trees like figs. Other vegetables also do well indoors and may not need help fertilizing. This includes carrots, potatoes, mushrooms and kale.
If you do choose plants that are normally pollinated by bees may just need a little help. Squash, tomatoes and legumes will need the pollen moved from male to female flowers. This can easily be done with hand pollination using a q-tip. If possible, the bees and other bugs will love you if they can live on a balcony or porch for some part of the year.
You can even produce your own compost through vermicomposting. Keep your kitchen scraps in a nice container with a charcoal filter in the kitchen and give them to your worms.
If you are lucky, there might be a neighborhood community garden for you to grow food in. Or you may even have access to the roof of your apartment complex where you could potentially garden or keep bees. Check out this book on how you can guerrilla garden too!
The townhome homestead
In a small lot, you can definitely do all the things you would in an apartment with a few more additions. The biggest change will be access to outdoors which will likely be much more than an apartment which might have none. This access can provide more sun and necessary pollination for your edible garden.
Perhaps you are lucky enough to own a small home or townhome with little backyard or porch area. In Texas, we had a townhome with a backyard just a 20 feet wide and 30 feet long, most of which was occupied by a stone porch. Even this small of an area can grow a great deal.
The key to such a small area is to focus up and take advantage of container gardening. In many of these areas, there is a fence in which you can espalier fruit trees against and trellis so many vegetables. With careful consideration, you can pack in beans, peas, squash, vining tomatoes, etc. up a good trellis and along fences.
Vertical garden planters can put a lot of plants in a small 3-D area that contains everything the plants need. You might have space for a small composting system, especially a rotating one that can be aerated easily. With the fresh compost, you can help fertilize your plants, indoor and outdoor.
The backyard (or front yard) homestead
Now, we live in NW Louisiana on 1/8 of an acre. We do urban homesteading in Shreveport, a city of 200k people. We have a large shady backyard and a reasonable front yard that gets morning sun. The house faces East and we get a lot of sun in the late evening from the West into the backyard. Depending on the size, location and spread of the house, you can use all the elements from the small and apartment homestead but add more!
In this setting, you can easily have chickens for eggs and/or meat, rabbits for meat and/or fur, bees, several raised garden beds and many trees, some can be espaliered if needed. There can also be room for an edible hedge. Good options include blueberry bushes which can serve as a border as well as provide food.
The anywhere homestead
Any place you live that has a kitchen will allow for a multitude of homemade and self sufficient options. Often all you need is a stove and a few ingredients and you can make all sorts of things, sometimes cheaper than store-bought!
Hopefully if you live in a city, there is a local farmer’s market where you can stock up on seasonal produce. Then learn to pressure or water bath can your food for homemade pantry items. One of my favorites is to make chicken stock from a local pasture raised chickens as well as chicken soup.
You can also purchase flour and other items in bulk and produce your own bread, baking mixes, even cereal and crackers. All of these things can be made right in your own home no matter where you live. You can even make luxurious soap for you and your family with customizable recipes.
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