If you live in a big city, you may think that a garden or urban farm is not possible. Think again!
In fact, you can grow the produce to sustain you and your family in a way that contributes to both your health and the environment in a sustainable fashion.
To get you started we’ve developed this Urban Farming & City Gardening Guide for Beginners to walk you through the basics and to give you some ideas of what to look into next to make your urban farm or urban homestead a reality.
So, What Is Urban Farming?
According to GreensGrow, “Urban farming is growing or producing food in a city or heavily populated town or municipality.”
It’s also important to note that urban farming is not the same as city gardening though they both involve the same labors; an urban farmer sells their end product whereas as a city gardener consumes their own products.
We use the terms interchangeably here but it’s important to recognize that there is a slight difference and yes, you really can make a profit from urban farming.
So, for this article urban farming is about growing food and its other objectives include:
- Selling your produce for a profit
- To increase the local variety of available plants
- To increase the local animal diversity
- To bring others together
- To help other people learn how to urban farm themselves
- To contribute to the well-being of your community
- To help a poorer neighborhood grow and become self-sufficient
Where Can You Carry Out Urban Farming?
You can carry out urban farming in any small space: that means on roofs, in warehouses, in your backyard, on a brownfield, allotments, vacant lots, and even in your own home.
You should be aware, though, that many cities will have ordinances regarding fences, grass length, how you can water plants, the use of hell strips (that is the land between your street and the sidewalk), preserving wild bird life, weeds, compost piles and animal husbandry.
So, you need to do a little research before you begin to make sure that what you want to achieve on your urban farm is legal.
How Do You Go About Urban Farming?
There are several key farming techniques which are used to grow food in small spaces and these include: hydroponics, aquaponics, and vertical farming.
Let’s take a look at each of them in turn!
Hydroponics is the science of farming without soil. In essence, it’s a way of growing plants in water that’s been packed with nutrients that allows them to grow.
To get into hydroponics you need top quality water (no tap water just won’t do) and that means it needs to be filtered and then pH adjusted to be plant friendly (it must be slightly alkaline). A way to oxygenate the water (because otherwise the plants drown). Something to support the plant roots (to prevent them from breaking up) and of course, nutrients for the plants to feed on.
Fortunately, the process of setting up hydroponics in an urban setting is pretty easy. Check out this video for an example of how it’s done!
Aquaponics takes hydroponics to the next level. It involves raising fish (in water, obviously) and allowing them to provide a natural form of fertilizer to feed the plants that are growing in that water.
Then, in turn, the plants are there to help filter the water and keep it clean so that the fish can grow up in a healthy fashion.
Yes, the beauty of aquaponics, at least when it’s done right, is that it’s a completely sustainable eco-system with each part of the system driving the health and well-being of the other parts.
If you want to set up an aquaponics system at home Rob Bob will walk you through it in this video.
Vertical farming is essentially the action of growing crops in layers that have been stacked over each other in a vertical fashion.
This requires something akin to a book case but designed for plants that allows shelves of plants to be placed in a vertical tier.
The great thing about vertical farming is that it’s ideal for use in the home because it takes up very little footprint at all.
Here’s an easy DIY vertical garden to get you started:
Yes, just like the name suggests you can create mini greenhouses for use in an urban environment.
These are brilliant for creating temperature-controlled environments to get sensitive crop species to grow just about anywhere.
They don’t have to cost a fortune to make either and many people have been able to come up with ways to make a mini greenhouse for just a few bucks.
If you’d like to see what making a mini greenhouse entails this is a great tutorial:
If you’re on a budget, you might want to try this!
What Else Do You Need To Get Started With An Urban Farm?
OK, by now, hopefully you’ve had a chance to think about the kind of agriculture that you might want to get involved with to start your urban farm.
We didn’t touch on animal husbandry because we think chickens and goats, etc. are pretty ambitious for a first project but they might be something to consider for the future.
Now, it’s time to look to some other practical considerations to get your farm moving in the right direction.
A Place To Farm
Where are you going to grow? You need to have this important detail ironed out fairly early in the process. Ideally, you want land that is either free to access or which is very cheap to access.
You can ask around the neighborhood if you don’t have any yard space to get started but it might be a good idea just to go small and start with a little vertical farming in your own living room too. In the long run, rooftops and warehouse space can be super economical.
Some Crops To Farm
You’re also going to have to think about the kind of crops that you want to grow. Edible weeds are a good place to start because they’re always easy to grow and add a little touch of flavor to the meal, their scarcity value can also make them quite profitable when you come to sell them too.
Ideally, for your first project, you want to choose something hardy that doesn’t require too much attention because then you’re most likely to succeed and find yourself motivated for future projects.
Pest Control Considerations
One thing we strongly recommend you spend some time looking into is organic pest control.
Even when your farm is entirely indoors, sooner or later you’re going to find yourself with some sort of disease or infestation of insects in your plants. You want to deal with them in a manner that keeps the end product healthy and environmentally friendly.
Any Business Licensing That You May Need
You may also, depending on where you are based in the world, need a license to operate as a business or to sell your finished products.
It’s always a good idea to research this and get the paperwork done ahead of time.
There’s no doubt about it. Urban farming is the future.
It allows us to eat a healthier and more varied diet. It makes a profit that allows us to invest in other areas of our lives.
It’s also a lot of fun and a great learning experience.
In the long term, you will find that others join you in your efforts and that it can play a huge role in developing a sense of community.
Be kind to the planet and to yourselves and start an urban farm, today.
Interested in more slick tips & tricks for sustainable urban living check out our Urban Homesteading Guide here.