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Farming in small backyards vs growing gardens simply for ornamental reasons, which are now as outdated as owning a Prince Albert tea set that may almost never be used.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 ) 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:

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:
Alternatively, keep your own bee hive. It’s never been this easy. Check out the mason jar method:

Closed loop system garden is pure logic

Nature recycles organic matter and nutrients back into the same soil and thus boosts sustainable and regenerative environments.

Keep it all in the family with a closed loop system garden. Providing food and habitat for insects create a barter system in which they offer pollination and pest control part of the deal.

When you look at an untouched environment, you will see closed loop system garden, or environment systems, in action. Nature recycles organic matter and nutrients back into the same soil and thus boosts sustainable and regenerative environments. When farming or gardening, this method is gold as you preserve nutrients and carbon levels within the soil.

In closed loop system gardens, the following will be included:

  • Chop and drop de-weeding practices return the nutrients to your soil that the weeds took. By leaving the weeds on the soil surface, you are also adding a protective mulch layer and thus protecting the soil from UV rays plus improving water retention.
  • Always keep and use pruned materials such as twigs and branches for other uses. Bigger material like branches can be stacked to create raised beds in a Hugelkultur method. Twigs can be placed in a basket-shape around seedlings to provide much needed wind and sun protection.
  • Fallen leaves can be raked up and used as a wonderful mulch in vegetable gardens, flower beds and around bigger plants as they (when brown) are high in carbon. Or instead of raking, use a lawn mower with a bagging attachment to shred and collect leaves fast. A 6cm layer of shredded leaves is perfect to discourage future weed-growth but make sure the soil that is already weeded though!
  • Grass clippings can occasionally be used as mulch too, as they are nitrogen-rich, an especially great choice for vegetable gardens.
  • Look at your space and how water acts when it rains and consider planting alongside swales as they are wonderful water-directing and retaining solutions. Swayles are a fantastic and important step intothe world of closedloop systems garden. Material from your garden can be used to fill the swales, such as rocks removed from your soil, prune clippings and rotten wood.
  • Build habitats from unwanted garden material by leaving heaps of twigs, for example, against a tree trunk. This will provide much-needed protection for certain wildlife while also helping the soil retain water. Stacking rocks and twigs together to form a beneficial insect hotel is another great idea.
  • If your garden is also your own food source, all kitchen waste can be buried in shallow trenches. Incorporate paper and some. compost or comfrey leaves to activate decomposition. This method ensures constant soil food, free of charge.
  • Chickens are often in the closed loop system garden as they will turn your unwanted green matter into manure which will in turn be the best addition for your compost heap. They are also excellent pest-control and will reward you with the best eggs
  • Aquaponics = fish and plants. This method is incredibly successful and edibles grown this way are typically nutrient dense.
In a closed loopsystem garden, a you smile, I smile attitude wins – where everyone wins. Insect hotels provide habitats to creatures whose greatest challenges include where to stay. On our side, they offer free labor. A win-win situation.

In short, a closed loop system garden are also called “zero-waste farming. Look at everything and the space around you and ask yourself what you can do if you were not going to spend a penny. You will be surprised at all the solutions waiting to be used around you.

Swales are easy methods to harvest and retain water. Gardens that include this water-savvy method, just about need no additional irrigation.

Please send us your pictures, challenges and success stories so that we can all learn together!