There may always be challenged when it comes to growing food in the city. However, there are things you can do in order to start farming right where you live.
The homesteading life has never been more of a popular dream. It can be used as a hedge against the fragility of corporate employment as a psychological antidote to the intensity of modern life. More and more people are finding wans to bring their food production on site to their urban or suburban yard.
The obstacles can make it difficult to begin. Below are some ideas that might help you getting started working under those challenges and head towards a better life.
1. Neighbors And Regulations
When the community around you does not support you, it can be very frustrating. In order to be successful in urban farming, you need to get your neighbors and other community members on board. The lack of support can vary from not being invited to community events to being sent reports from the city by not following guidelines. It would be great if everyone would mind their own business and leave each other alone. Unfortunately, participating in something that is unusual such as growing your own food (GASP!) will often cause eyebrows to be raised or worse.
I am fortunate to live in an area where we all think very similarly. However, I know that there are some communities that are not as lucky. There are some basics I have learned to help keep the community be okay with a productive garden:
- Start small. It does not help your case to begin with 20 raised beds in your front yard. When you start discretely, a little at a time, your neighbors will never realize how big your garden is.
- Consider “stealth edibles” and naturalistic plantings. Not all gardens have to be rows of corn in order to be productive. You can also consider attractive perennials like fruit trees or shocking exotics like asparagus.
- Be discrete and considerate. You now that in a community of neo-colonials a Portlandian front-yard garden is going to be out of place and will stick out like a sore thumb. You need to work with the layout of your property and community to find discrete places to starts your productive crops. Keep everything maintained. Avoid animal smells and do not leave a ton of woodchips in your driveway for a great length of time.
- Involve your neighbors. It may seem troublesome to reach out to your foe but a simple line like, “Hey, how’d you feel about…” can do a lot of good to a community. It also helps a lot to show up with a fresh salad with crops you have already been growing under their noses. As supportive as our community is, we made sure we asked around before adding raised beds in the front yard. We also take duck eggs over to the neighbors and making sure we are not being too noisy or smelly.
2. Soil Quality
If the soil in your yard is low grade, it would not hurt to think about building raised beds or remediating the soil already there.
A lot of urban areas suffer from poor soil quality and origin. There is a good chance that the best you will have to work with is biologically moribund fill dirt. One reason raised beds are so popular is that they allow you to use your own soil that is ready to go and keep it separated from the underlying dirt. If you are concerned about toxic contamination in your soil you can build fully closed-bottom raised beds. However, you need to know that this calls for extra maintenance. A soil test can be expensive but may help you rest at ease about what toxins or metals are in your soil.
Permaculture techniques are becoming increasingly popular. Fans have reported success in building soil essentially from scratch. There are a wide variety of techniques from obscure practice to edging towards the mainstream. In order to discuss the holistic approach to agriculture in detail, we would need a hefty book. However, the soil building of ideas of using layers of scrap wood are easily adaptable. Other soil building variations like lasagna beds can also work. Do some research and find out which works best for you.
3. Lighting And Layout
Often urban or suburban yards are not designed for farming. Narrow side yards maximize real-estate value; mature trees provide attractive shade, privacy, and summer shade; expansive driveways provide parking for multiple cars, SUVs and motorhomes. But none of these things helps grow a crop! At a certain point, you’ve got to accept the reality of where you live, but clever solutions can work make the best of it.
Container gardening, also useful if dealing with poor soil quality, is a great solution that can turn decks, driveways and patios into productive yard space. Perhaps lacking in grandeur, container gardening is actually ideally suited to many crop types. Potatoes, peppers and tomatoes are classics, as are zucchini and summer squash, and, of course, herbs. If the pot is big enough, even dwarf fruit trees can be made to work. Containers can be raised up on sturdy shelves (my grandfather did this with his tomatoes to overcome an irksome fence), moved into shelter when necessary (consider wheeled pot stands), even grown on a balcony or deck.
Making your urban or suburban garden into a productive space may involve compromise, it may involve patience, and it will certainly involve some ingenious outside-of-the-box thinking. But if you want to take the plunge into the homestead lifestyle, then you’re already ready for these challenges. If there’s one piece of advice that I can share, more than anything specific, it is to remain flexible with your dream and to let it change and mature to fit the circumstances of your life.
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