Backyard farming — sometimes referred to as urban farming, container gardening, or micro-farming — is a way to transform your yard, patio, or even windowsill into a thriving garden. From smaller gardens that grow vegetables, herbs, and fruit to larger operations that include beekeeping and chicken coops, backyard farming encourages sustainable living and healthy eating among multiple other benefits. Here are some tips to get started.
Benefits of Backyard Farming
Planting and growing your own produce is an amazing way to live more self-sufficiently, eat organically, and avoid the middle man by going from “farm” to table in your own home. In fact, if more people farmed at home, the accessibility of local food would increase and prices in stores and farmers markets would decrease.
Planning your garden and backyard farming is also a great way to spend quality time outside with your family. If you have children, gardening can teach them the importance of responsibility and teamwork, as well as basic math, measuring, and science concepts.
Additionally, backyard farming is an excellent stress-reliever. Sunlight is a great source of vitamin D, which encourages production of serotonin and dopamine — a.k.a. the “happy” chemicals in the brain. In one study where participants who gardened over the course of 12 weeks saw a significant improvement in their moods and alleviation from depression symptoms.
Getting Extra Help
While you spend time in the garden with your family, enlist the help of a personal assistant to help with some of the planning that goes on behind the scenes. They could gather what’s needed for DIY planter projects, schedule out the best dates to plant each crop, order other necessary materials online or over the phone, and even water or weed while you’re away at work.
Backyard Farming Locations
If you have a sizable back or front yard, you’re in luck — you’ll have a lot of space for backyard farming, and can find optimal locations for plants that have different sunlight needs. If you live in a condo or have a smaller amount of space, don’t fret. Backyard farming is possible just about anywhere.
Square Foot Gardening
Square foot gardening uses small wooden-framed garden beds, usually 4’-by-4’, and a grid dividing that space into 1’-by-1’ squares. If you’re tight on space, this uniform, organized approach to gardening might be the right choice for you. Square foot gardening is also a smart option if you’re just beginning to learn the tricks of the trade, since it requires less management and upkeep.
If your outside space is limited, consider growing upward via vertical gardening. This method encourages vegetables, herbs, and flowers (especially those with vining habits such as tomatoes) to grow vertically instead of horizontally on the ground. Vertical gardening sees your plants grow upward on a trellis, garden netting, or a number of other creative DIY options. Check out online tutorials to learn tips for vertical gardening and give it a shot!
Container gardening, or potted plant gardening, is a practical choice for those of us with no yard space. This method of gardening can be done on a deck or patio as well as a windowsill, as long as the sun exposure is right. Container gardening is an easy way to incorporate different herbs, plants, and produce in small spaces, each with their own portable pot. Imagine having an entire herb garden right outside your condo door or on your kitchen windowsill!
When to Plant
Deciding when to plant is a big part of pulling off a successful backyard farming harvest. Consider your local climate and the time of year it is. In the Pacific Northwest, we don’t start seeing regular sun until May and sometimes even June, so waiting until mid-spring to start your backyard farm might be your best bet, depending on what you are planting. Almanac.com has a helpful gardening calendar guide; all you need to do is type in your location and see when the best dates are to plant your crops.
What to Plant
Again, consider your climate and timing before you plant a certain type of vegetable or fruit. Snap peas, cilantro, carrots, broccoli, chard, and lettuce are among the many vegetables that take kindly to the Pacific Northwest climate. As for fruits, Seattle is a great place to grow berries such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries.
Check with your city’s zoning regulations first, but many places allow households to raise chickens on their property. Most chickens lay 250 to 300 eggs per year, so consider that while you decide how many chickens to raise. Check out your local livestock or hardware store, or talk to farmers at your local market to find out where to purchase chicks.
You can either order or DIY your own chicken coop, but make sure you do the necessary research so that you have enough space and can provide a good home for your chickens.
Raising chickens can be a great option for those interested in farming their own eggs — eating better in the process. Chicken manure is also a great fertilizer for the rest of your garden!
Whether you’re starting a larger-scale backyard farming project complete with chicken coops or are just setting up your windowsill containers in your condo in the city, backyard farming is an activity that is accessible and enjoyable for everyone.