Farming in small backyards: Urban homesteading.

Farming in small backyards vs growing gardens simply for ornamental reasons, which are now as outdated as owning a Prince Albert tea set that may almost never be used. Farming in cities and towns, known as urban agriculture, is the future and possibly the planet’s saving grace.

Where to start when considering farming in small backyards?
Combine edible and ornamental plants, insect and animals and micro-climates to create a sustainable ecosystem. The outcome should be a beautifully space to harvest food and also relax in.

Edible and ornamental plants are grown side by side as companions (see https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/28/companion-planting/ ) to attract beneficial, and deter harmful pests. This really works! Your need for pest control will drop dramatically. Always plant successively so that you harvest today, next week and the week after from the same type of plant by sowing plant types 10 days apart.

Container gardens are a great consideration in regards to farming in small backyards: turn a little (possibly rented) outdoor space or window area into a small urban farm. This is an easy and cheap answer to most people.

Most importantly, the focus needs to be on polyculture (a word to describe growing many different plant types together) which will maximize yields. Combining climbing plants on a corn plant (which acts as a trellis) with pumpkins at their feet (to shade out weeds and help with water retention) is a great example. In order to do this successfully, you will need to feed your soil with compost. This is a great opportunity to stay within your own loop and use your own kitchen and garden waste to create soil food (see how to compost easily: https://gardeningeden.net/2019/11/06/diy-compost-easily)

Animal inclusion does not come easier than keeping quails (for smaller gardens) or chickens. Quails can be kept in a mobile upside-down chicken-wire “box” that allows them to move on bare earth but be protected from predators. They can thus be constantly moved to new spaces. Make sure the size of this wire-basket is big enough to allow their bodies to take up only 10% of the entire space and the rest is for moving around. Provide water and top-up food. Chickens and quails provide free pest control, fertilizer and eggs. It’s a win-win situation.

Ornamental plants are grown to attract pollinators or feed your bee hive if you have one. Group larger numbers of flower plants and herbs together because insects need spot these plashes from far away or they will fly to your neighbour’s. Would you like to see a plant list of pollinator attracting plants? Check these out: https://gardeningeden.net/2019/10/30/bee-gardening/
Alternatively, keep your own bee hive. It’s never been this easy. Check out the mason jar method: https://gardeningeden.net/2019/11/25/is-mason-jar-beekeeping-method/

Flowering plants for shade that pollinators will love

Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have large, or sunny, gardens to grow theur own food in. And in order to have a successful vegetable garden, pollinators and bees are essential. To know if your garden gets enough sun to grow food in, you can simply put a solar-energy toy outside. If it runs, you have enough sun to grow most vegetables and the pollinator-attractive plants in-between. Kerp your sunny space for vegetables and your pollinator-friendly flowering plants for shade wherethere is not enough sun.

Bees, butterflies, moths and other pollinators will love your ornamental, but shady garden – and in turn they will work on your pollination sector for free. Please share your own shade-loving plant names and tips with us in the comment section below.

Below is a list of gorgeous flowering plants for shade:

Astilbes will handle shady spots with moist or wet, sandy, loam or clay soils. They have gorgeous colourful flower spikes and multiply by means of clump-formation.

Hydrangeas offer old-world charm and fantastic food and housing to our pollinators. Shrubs vibrates with life especially during their spring and summer flowering period. As long as they are never too long in deep shade, but as little as a bit of morning sun, you will find them low-maintenance and a pleasure.

Begonias are firmly on the favorite list. They add beauty and vibrancy to shady patios.Tubers can be replanted the following year if stored dry over winter.

Chaenomeles (flowering quince) are perfect plants for cold and shady conditions. They bare gorgeous flowers and scented yellow fruits.

Coleus foliage always energizes the space it grows in. The coleus varieties differ in colours, ranging from greens to purples, yellows, oranges and reds – plus textures can be velvet-soft, scalloped-edged or fringed.

‘Burning Hearts’ dicentra are easy to grow and charming with its deep red, heart-shaped flowers from spring to summer. This perennial will thrive in low-light beds.

Cornus florida is a dogwood variety that does not need sun and will tolerate semi- to full-shade. It carries gorgeous white spring flowers and reddish-purple autumn / fall foliage color.

Aristolochia macrophylla, or Dutchman’s Pipe, is famous for its unique purple flowers, dense foliage and fast spreading habit. A climber worth having in gardens that lack sun.

Hellebores are easy to grow evergreens (or just about) and often referred to as Lenten rose due to their spring flowers. They thrive in shade and struggles with sun.

Impatiens is a highly shade tolerant plant with many varieties to choose from, including Impatiens balsamina or Impatiens rosulata.

Lily of the valley is gorgeous… even in dark corners. They don’t need much maintenance and will spread happily by themselves while also providing your with gorgeous, albeit highly poisonous, white blooms.

Myrtle is a drought-tolerant, sun or shade shrub that is tough enough to make a great hedge. Pollinators love the white blossoms.

Pelargoniums are tough by nature and love to please. They have thrived in every type of soil and sun-quality garden and will flower almost on neglect. They have many varieties to choose from with bright reds, pinks and purples flower options.

Please send us your pictures, challenges and success stories in the comment section below, so that we can all learn together!