Farming in cities and towns is not a new idea – urban agriculture has been around for centuries (at least). What’s new about it today are the options available to urban farmers and the types of ways that literally anyone, no matter their home’s type or size, can grow food for themselves.
Especially popular in the suburbs, backyard permaculture is the idea of creating a sustainable ecosystem within one’s own back yard. By combining plants, animals, and the micro-climate, backyard permaculture enthusiasts attempt to create a sustainable ecosystem that provides a place to relax, enjoy, and possibly harvest food.
Raise a Few Backyard Chickens
One of the best ways to reduce your dependence on industrial agriculture and the inhumane conditions that many chickens and other animals are kept in is to reduce your meat importing by producing your own. Backyard chicken keeping is a popular way to quickly and easily get into urban farming without spending a lot of money or the need for a lot of space for gardening. Chickens require relatively little space for the amount of eggs and meat they produce and are easy to care for.
Probably the most popular way for urbanites to get involved in gardening, container gardens are a great way to turn a little outdoor space or window area into a small farm. Simply by using containers as a place to plant food crops, urban farmers can grow many fresh vegetables and herbs for themselves without a lot of money or work. There are no legal hoops to jump through and supplies and information are readily available to help.
An extension of the container garden, the patio garden is usually similar, but on a slightly larger scale. Many apartments and condominiums have patios that look out over the neighborhood and, more importantly, have good access to sunlight. These can be turned into little gardens growing all types of produce. Many patio gardeners combine containers with hanging pots to creates a three-dimensional urban farm on their deck.
Polyculture for Small Gardens
Those with a very small space to grow food in are likely to use polyculture as a way to maximize yields and diversity in their crops. Simply put, polyculture is the mixing of plants within a garden in order to have several plants (and crops) at once. Growing lettuce at the foot of corn plants, for instance, can provide both commodities in a small space. Combining climbing plants on a trellis with bush-type plants at the trellis’ foot allows the same. This intensive method gives high yields for small spaces, but requires a lot of input to the soil to make it fertile enough for the plants.
Composting can be done just about anywhere and most kitchens can save 30% or more of their trash by composting. Traditional compost bins outdoors can keep the garden in full supply of nutritious soil additive. Even those indoors can use composting through vermicompost (worms) and kitchen composters made to go under the counter. There are a lot of options and composting is the best organic, natural way to build soil for any type of garden.
Another popular alternative for urban farmers is to keep bees. Many have rooftop beehives, back yard hives and flower gardens, and more are popping up nationally as people embrace this way of getting fresh, healthy honey.