Homesteading, Gardening, and Off-Grid Living

Urban Homesteading for Beginners: How to Be Self-Sufficient in the City

By: Zac Friedman

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When most people think of homesteading, they imagine living in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by miles of farmland. You don’t have to live on a farm to homestead. You can do it in the city too! Even if you live in an apartment. Urban homesteading is becoming more and more popular, as people are looking for ways to become more self-sufficient.

If you’re interested in learning how to start your own urban homestead, this guide is for you. I’ll walk you through everything you need to know, including setting up a garden, preserving food, raising chickens, and much more. So read on. You’re about to become a lot more self-sufficient!

Urban Homesteading Ideas pin

What is Homesteading?

Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency and sustainability. It is characterized by subsistence agriculture, homemaking, and craftsmanship. Homesteaders live on their own land. Usually in a farmhouse. They work their own land.

The homesteader’s goal is to be as self-sufficient as possible, relying on their own resources to meet their needs. Crops are grown for food and livestock is kept for meat, dairy, and fiber. Homesteaders often have a vegetable garden, chickens, goats, and other small livestock. Most homesteaders produce just enough food for themselves and their families.

Homesteads are often located in rural areas, where land is less expensive and more available for farming. However, homesteading is not limited to rural areas and can be done in urban settings as well.

homesteading is a lifestyle that can provide a sense of satisfaction and self-sufficiency. It requires hard work and dedication but can be immensely rewarding.

Greens growing in a raised garden bed

What is Urban Homesteading?

Urban homesteading is a term that is used to describe a variety of activities that can be undertaken in an urban environment to promote self-sufficiency and sustainable living. It can include growing food in a garden, keeping chickens or bees, and preserving food. Urban homesteading often combines elements of both traditional farming and modern urban agriculture.

By producing some or all of their own food, urban homesteaders are often able to reduce their reliance on supermarkets and other commercial food sources. This can have a positive impact on both their personal finances and the environment.

an average urban home
You can homestead in an average suburban home

The main difference between an urban homestead and a traditional homestead is the scale. An urban homestead is much smaller. Maybe just a backyard or balcony. Not everyone has access to a large plot of land. Not everyone can live in a rural area. Urban homesteading can be a nice compromise.

Many people who practice urban homesteading find that it helps them to connect with nature and their food in a way that is not possible in a more traditional suburban or city lifestyle. It’s a great way to enjoy the benefits of natural living and city living.

Urban Homesteading Ideas

It’s easy to get started with urban or suburban homesteading. In this section, I’ll outline a few ways you can begin homesteading in your backyard, on your balcony, or even in your apartment.

Carrots freshly harvested from a garden

Plant a Garden and Grow Your Own Food

If you live in an urban area, it may seem like growing your own food is not an option. With a little creativity, you can homestead right in your backyard. Regardless of the size of your space, you can always find a spot to grow a few vegetables. With a bit of effort, you can create a garden that fits your space.

The simplest option is to plant a small garden in your backyard. To increase productivity, you can grow in raised beds. If you only have a patio or driveway, you can grow in pots and containers. To optimize the space you have, grow on shelves or in hanging containers to make use of vertical space.

Raised garden bed with greens growing
Growing in a raised bed is a great way to improve productivity.

Another option is to grow hydroponically. This method doesn’t require soil. It’s perfect for small spaces or even growing indoors. You could grow fresh produce in a spare room, garage, or basement. This makes it possible to homestead in an apartment.

Before planting your garden, do some research to find out which vegetables grow best in your climate zone. Think about how much sunlight your garden will get. Consider growing heirloom varieties that you can’t get in the local supermarket.

What Can You Grow on an Urban Homestead?

On an urban homestead, you can grow a surprisingly wide range of crops. You can grow vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers, mushrooms, and even fruit trees. Exactly what you can grow depends on the climate where you live and how much space you have. In this section, I’ll list a few crops to consider.

A woman showing off her vegetable harvest
Vegetables

Growing vegetables is a core part of homesteading. A few vegetables you could grow include:

  • Potatoes

  • Cabbage

  • Kale

  • Tomatoes

  • Squash

  • Carrots

  • Beets

  • Lettuce

  • Peppers

  • Green beans

  • Onions

  • Broccoli

  • Garlic

  • Cucumbers

  • Zucchini

  • Pumpkins

  • Peas

  • Corn

a small indoor herb garden
Herbs

Herbs are fast growing and can be grown in a small space, such as a windowsill. They’re perfect for urban homesteads. A few types of herbs to grow include:

  • Basil

  • Chives

  • Cilantro

  • Mint

  • Oregano

  • Rosemary

  • Sage

  • Thyme

Fruit Trees and Nut Trees

Trees can continue producing year after year. They can also provide shade for your yard.

  • Apple

  • Pear

  • Plumb

  • Citrus

  • Walnut

  • Almonds

An apple tree
Other Crops
  • Mushrooms

  • Sunflower seeds

  • Various types of legumes

Raise Backyard Chickens and Other Small Livestock

More and more urban dwellers are interested in keeping livestock, as a way to reduce their reliance on the industrial food system. While keeping livestock requires additional work, it can be a rewarding experience. Of course, you’ll also have access to fresh, healthy food.

Depending on your local bylaws, the climate, and the amount of space you have, there are a number of different types of livestock you could keep. on an urban homestead. In this section, I’ll outline a few options to consider.

Backyard Chickens

Backyard chickens

One of the most popular animals to keep on an urban homestead is chickens. Chickens are a great way to get started with raising livestock. They’re relatively easy to care for and don’t take up much space, making them a good option for those living in an urban area. They’re affordable to keep. Chickens can also provide a steady supply of fresh eggs and meat as well as fertilizer for your garden. They also make great pets. It’s a lot of fun watching them peck around in your yard. Children love them.

Before you can start keeping chickens, you need to make sure that it is allowed by your city’s bylaws. Most cities allow you to keep a small flock. Once you’ve checked that, the next step is to build or buy a chicken coop. Chickens need a safe, warm place to sleep and lay their eggs, so make sure to choose a coop that is weatherproof and predator-proof. With a little effort, you can soon be enjoying fresh eggs from your very own backyard chickens.

For more info, check out my guide to raising chickens vs ducks.

Beekeeping

An urban beekeeper

Beekeeping is another option that is gaining popularity, as urban bee populations have declined in recent years. There are many benefits to keeping bees on your property. Not only do bees help to pollinate your vegetables and fruits, but they also produce honey that can be used in your home or sold at a local farmers’ market.

Beekeeping is a relatively easy hobby to get into, and it doesn’t require a lot of space. A small beehive can be placed on a roof or patio, making it a perfect addition to any urban homestead. Plus, the process of caring for bees is fascinating. If you’re looking for a way to add some sweetness to your urban homestead, consider keeping bees.

Getting started with beekeeping is fairly expensive. You’ll have to buy a bee suit, hive, smoker, and a few other tools. There is also a learning curve. Once you have the necessary tools and knowledge, the hobby is very rewarding.

Rabbits

Rabbits in a hutch

Rabbits can be a great option for urban homesteaders, as they are affordable, easy to care for, and take up little space. In addition, rabbits reproduce quickly, so urban homesteaders can soon have a steady supply of fresh meat. they can also provide fertilizer for your garden. A hutch can be easily built or purchased. Rabbits can be fed a variety of vegetables and grains.

Quail

Quail are a popular choice for urban homesteaders for a variety of reasons. For one, quail are small, so they don’t require a lot of space. People have actually kept quail inside of their homes. Additionally, quail are prolific egg layers, so they can provide a steady supply of fresh eggs. Quail provide excellent meat. They are more nutritious than chickens. Quail are also relatively easy to care for. For more info, check out this guide to raising quail.

Other Livestock

A pigeon

Some other livestock options for an urban homestead include pigeons, pigs, goats, llamas, or horses. Some species take up more space than others. You’ll also need to check your local laws before raising any livestock.

Practice Traditional Skills

Growing your own food, cooking from scratch, preserving food, baking, woodworking, and sewing, are all excellent traditional skills to have. Not only are they useful homesteading skills, but they’re also great ways to save money and make yourself more self-sufficient.

Food preservation is a particularly great way to improve self-sufficiency. You’ll have an abundance of foods from your garden. You can preserve them through canning, dehydrating, freezing, and fermenting. I’ll talk more about food preservation in a later section.

Sewing, knitting, quilting, and crocheting are also incredibly useful homesteading skills. You can make clothing or repair clothing, blankets, and other household goods.

If you’re interested in living a more sustainable lifestyle, there’s no better way to start than by honing your traditional homesteading skills. You may be surprised at how much you can produce right in your own backyard homestead!

Go Homemade: Cook From Scratch

homemade bread

For urban dwellers who want to enjoy self-sufficient living, making homemade foods is a great way to get started. The best way to do this is by cooking from scratch. This means avoiding processed foods and instead making meals from basic ingredients.

Baking bread, for example, can be a satisfying way to use flour, water, and yeast to create delicious and wholesome food. Similarly, broth can be made by simmering bones and vegetables in water. Dairy products like yogurt and cheese can be made at home using milk and live cultures.

By taking the time to prepare these foods from scratch, urban homesteaders can enjoy the satisfaction of knowing they are creating healthy, homemade foods to feed their families. As an added bonus, homemade food almost always tastes better than storebought.

Foods you can make from scratch include:

  • Bread- You can make french bread, sourdough, whole wheat, and more.

  • Sauces- Pasta sauce, pizza sauce, etc.

  • Jams and Jellies- Homemade jams and jellies contain less sugar and no high fructose corn syrup.

  • Broth- Reduce waste by using bones to make broth.

  • Sausage or ground meat- Making your own saves money.

  • Soups- Chicken soup, chowder, split pea, lentil, tomato, etc.

  • Pasta- Homemade pasta has a much nicer flavor and consistency than storebought.

  • Dairy products- Cheese, yogurt, ice cream, butter

  • Brew Your Own Drinks- Make homemade beer or wine.

  • Deserts- Cookies, pies, cakes, deserts, etc.

Compost

A compost bin with green waste

For gardeners, compost is an essential ingredient for healthy soil. Compost recycles food scraps and yard waste into a nutrient-rich material that can be used to improve the quality of your soil.

To start a compost pile, you will need a bin or container. You can buy a compost bin or tumbler, make one yourself, or repurpose some material such as a garbage can or plastic tote into a compost bin.

Add a mix of green and brown materials to your compost bin. Green materials include items such as food scraps, lawn clippings, coffee grounds, etc. Brown materials include things like dead leaves, newspaper, hay, sawdust, and twigs. You can also add eggshells for extra calcium and manure for extra nutrients.

To compost effectively, you need to maintain the right ratio of green to brown materials. You also need to ensure that the compost pile is moist but not too wet.

Once your compost pile is established, it will begin to heat up. This speeds up the composting process. You can also add composting worms. After about six weeks, your compost should be ready to start using in your garden. For more info, check out this great guide to making compost.

Food Preservation

Preserving food is a useful skill to know on a homestead. If you produce a surplus, you use a number of techniques to make the food last through the winter. For example, if you grow too many tomatoes, you can make pasta sauce and can it.

Food preservation is still a useful skill, even if you don’t have a lot of space for a vegetable garden. You can buy in bulk and preserve food from the farmer’s market or grocery store.

Canning is a great way to preserve fruits and vegetables, and it can be done in a small kitchen. All you need is some jars, lids, and a couple of basic tools. The jars can be reused year after year. My grandma used to can fresh peaches and cherries from her fruit trees every year. She and my grandpa enjoyed them all winter long.

canning tomato sauce

Dehydrating is another option. You can dehydrate foods in the oven or a dehydrator. You can start by simply slicing and dehydrating some fruit such as apples, bananas, or grapes. You can also dehydrate meats and make your own jerky or dried fish. To add flavor, you can smoke meats as well.

You can also freeze food to preserve it. Freezing is easy to do. It also retains vitamins and minerals in food. Consider buying a large chest freezer to store your frozen fruits, veggies, and meats.

Fermenting is another ancient method of preservation that is making a comeback in recent years. It is easy to do and doesn’t require any special equipment. Make your own kimchi or saurkrout.

Pickling is another way to preserve food. This process involves placing food in an acidic solution (usually vinegar) or a brine (salt). This process preserves the food. This process is similar to fermenting.

You should also learn how to properly store dry goods such as flour, rice, oats, beans, and grains so they don’t spoil. If you properly store these items they last for months or years. Buying dry goods in bulk and storing them is a great way to save money.

Urban homesteaders should take advantage of these food preservation techniques to ensure they have access to fresh food all year round. In my opinion, food preservation is one of the most useful skills for an urban homesteader to learn.

Collect Rainwater

In an urban environment, rainwater can be a valuable resource. Collecting rainwater in barrels or other containers is a great way to reduce your water bill and provide water for gardening or cleaning.

While rainwater harvesting is legal in most states, there are some regulations that you need to be aware of. In general, it is legal to collect rainwater on your own property for personal use. However, you may need a permit if you plan to store a large amount of rainwater or use it for commercial purposes. In some places, it’s illegal to collect rainwater. Check your local laws before you start collecting rainwater.

With a little planning and research, rainwater harvesting can be a great way to reduce your impact on the environment and save money.

DIY

DIY projects are a way to save money and add personal touches to your home. DIY can also be a great way to reduce your environmental impact. By repairing and reusing existing materials, you can keep them out of the landfill and give them a new lease on life.

By taking on your own DIY projects, you can also avoid the need to hire expensive professional contractors. So whether you’re looking to save money or reduce your environmental impact, DIY is worth considering.

Of course, you won’t want to DIY everything for safety reasons. For big plumbing and electrical jobs, it’s best to hire a professional, unless you’re certain that you know what you’re doing. For small jobs, you can learn as you go.

Reuse and Upcycle

Urban homesteading isn’t just about growing your own food. It’s also about self-sufficient living and using every resource you have in the most efficient way possible. One of the best ways urban homesteaders can be efficient and sustainable is to reuse and upcycle as much as possible.

That could mean recycling, composting, and even reusing grey water. It could also mean finding ways to upcycle recyclables and other materials into useful homesteading supplies. For example, you can use old jars and containers to make planters, or turn used tires into garden edging.

By being creative, you can save money and reduce your impact on the environment at the same time. So next time you’re ready to throw something away, think twice. There may be a way to give it new life on your urban homestead.

Forage

A basket of mushrooms

Foraging can be a great way to get in touch with nature. It’s also a great way to find local, sustainable sources of food to supplement what you grow in your garden.

Exactly what you can forage depends on where you live. A few common foods include mushrooms, berries and other fruits, greens for salads, flowers, nuts, seeds, roots, and shellfish. It is legal to forage on many public lands. You can forage for food year-round.

It is important to do your research before heading out into the woods. There are many poisonous plants that look strikingly similar to their edible counterparts. It’s also important to be aware of the legalities of foraging in your area. In some places, it is against the law to collect certain plant species.

A good guidebook can be an indispensable tool for a novice forager, helping you to identify edible plants and mushrooms and avoid potential dangers. In many areas, there are also foraging classes available. With a little preparation, foraging can be a fun and rewarding experience.

Install a Solar System

A house with solar panels on the roof

If you own your own home, installing solar panels on your urban homestead can save you money and help you live in a more environmentally conscious manner. Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity, which can be used to power your home.

A solar system can reduce or eliminate your electric bill, and you may even be eligible for renewable energy tax credits from your utility company. In addition, solar panels add value to your home and can help you become more self-sufficient.

Learn How to Sew

Sewing can be used to repair clothes, patch up holes, and even make your own clothes from scratch. It’s a useful skill to have, and it can save you money in the long run. Plus, it’s a satisfying feeling to be able to repair or make something with your own two hands.

Learn How to Fish or Hunt

A fishing rod on a boat

Learning how to fish or hunt can be a great way to get protein if you don’t have room to raise livestock on your urban homestead.

Fishing is a relatively easy skill to learn. You can buy a license and teach yourself to fish. You can fish in many different types of environments including streams, rivers, lakes, and the ocean. Pretty much everyone lives within driving distance of a body of water where you can go fishing.

Hunting is a bit more challenging, but it can also be very rewarding. You may need to take some classes to learn the necessary skills. It can also help to go out with some experienced hunters. If you’re lucky enough to live near a forest, you may be able to find deer or other large game nearby. You could also go after small game such as rabbits or squirrels. Hunting can provide you with a lot of meat, which can last for months if properly stored.

Hunting and fishing can be a great way to provide food for your family. Going fishing or hunting can also be a great way to spend time with family and friends.

Start Small

Homesteading life can be expensive and time-consuming. It’s also a lot of work. If you try to do everything on this list all at once, you will get overwhelmed and burned out. You’ll also spend a lot of money.

Instead of doing everything at once, start small. For example, maybe this year you start a small vegetable garden and make a compost pile. Next year, you could add a few laying hens and expand your garden. The following year, you could start canning and dehydrating food.

You can gradually add new homesteading projects as you have time and money. This will make the transition to a more self-reliant lifestyle much easier. It won’t feel quite so much like work. It will be fun.

Make Your Own Sustainable Cleaning Products

Making your own cleaning products is a great way to avoid the harsh chemicals found in many store-bought products. Not only are these chemicals bad for the environment, but they can also be harmful to your health.

Luckily, there are a number of natural ingredients that can be used to clean your home. For example, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice are useful for their antibacterial properties. Best of all, these natural ingredients are typically much cheaper than their chemical counterparts.

Shop Local

People shopping at a farmer's market

There are many reasons to shop local. When you buy from a local business, you know that your money is going back into your community. Less fuel is burnt transporting locally produced food and goods. By shopping local, you can help to boost the local economy and reduce your impact on the environment.

FAQ About Urban Homesteading

In this section, I’ll answer a few frequently asked questions.

How Do I Start An Urban Homestead?

There are many ways to start urban homesteading, but there are a few key things you’ll need to do to get started.

  1. Find a suitable location for your urban homestead. This may be a backyard, patio, community garden plot, or even just a spare room in your apartment.

  2. Make sure you have the necessary supplies for taking care of your plants. This may include soil, pots, fertilizer, a watering can, a shovel, a hoe, a rake, a trowel, gloves, etc.

  3. Start growing some plants. This can be done by starting seeds indoors or purchasing young plants from a nursery and planting them in your garden.

  4. If you’re interested in keeping chickens, bees, or rabbits, you’ll need to buy or build housing for your animals. You’ll also need to purchase feed and other supplies. Be sure to research care and housing before raising animals.

  5. Finally, homesteading is about using your resources wisely and becoming as self-sufficient as possible. This means conserving water and energy, recycling, and composting.

  6. Keep learning. Teach yourself new homesteading skills. You could learn about food preservation, cooking, sewing, foraging, fishing, building, etc.

With a little planning and effort, backyard homesteading can be a great way to live a more sustainable and self-sufficient life.

For more in-depth info, check out my guide to starting a homestead.

Flowers in the window of a suburban home

Can I Save Money by Becoming an Urban Homesteader?

For those interested in saving money, urban homesteading can be a great option. While the initial investment can be costly, urban homesteaders often find that they save money in the long run.

By growing and preserving food through canning and freezing, urban homesteaders are able to cut down on their grocery bills. Producing food and cooking is cheaper than buying food at the supermarket or eating out.

It is important to consider the expenses before you commit. You’ll need to buy gardening equipment, seeds, soil, cooking and canning equipment, etc. If you keep livestock, you’ll have to pay for feed and veterinary care. The costs add up.

You’ll also want to consider the value of your time. Those who do not have the time or inclination to put in the work may find that it is not worth the effort. If your only goal is to save money, you could probably save more by working a second job or side gig rather than producing food. However, for those who enjoy the work, homesteading can be a great way to save some money.

How much land do you need for an urban homestead?

One of the great things about urban homesteading is that it doesn’t require a lot of land. In fact, you can get started with nothing more than a backyard or balcony. If you have an apartment, you can even urban homestead in a spare room or garage. Of course, having more land will give you more options for growing food, but it’s not necessary to get started.

Even if you live in a studio apartment, you can still urban homestead by growing herbs in a windowsill or starting a small-scale composting system in a bin in your kitchen. So don’t let the lack of land stop you from getting started. Anyone can urban homestead.

An average suburban home
You don’t need much space. You can homestead in a suburban home or even an apartment.

Is Urban homesteading good for the environment?

While some people urban homestead for the sake of self-sufficiency, others do it as a way to reduce their impact on the environment.

There are many ways in which homesteading can be beneficial for the environment. For one, it is a very efficient way to use land. Rather than having a large yard that is only used for growing grass, urban homesteaders make use of every inch of space to produce food.

In addition, urban homesteaders often practice organic gardening methods, which are more environmentally friendly than traditional methods. Fewer herbicides and pesticides are used.

Finally, by producing food, urban homesteaders reduce their reliance on transportation systems that contribute to pollution and carbon emissions. No gas is burnt transporting foods from the farm to your home.

In conclusion, urban homesteading is a great way to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Not only does it allow you to be more self-sufficient, but it also helps you reduce your impact on the planet.

A vegetable garden

Final Thoughts About Urban Homesteading

As you can see, there are many benefits to urban homesteading. It’s a great way to live a more sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle. If you have the space and the resources, I would highly encourage you to give it a try!

Have you ever considered urban homesteading? Share your experience in the comments below!

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