Simple ways you can turn your home into a mini homestead
By Crystal Sands
It wasn’t that long ago that urban gardening was the norm. People gardened in their front yards and on their balconies, and a little chicken coop could often be found in the backyard. While these practices fell out of fashion for a time, trends are often cyclical. As food prices continue to rise and more people have a desire to eat delicious food that is both healthy and affordable, more people are revisiting traditional homesteading practices.
If you have been thinking about how you might turn your home into a mini homestead, there are a few easy ways to get started. Small steps can make a big difference in the short term and long term. It doesn’t take much to become a homesteader, even in small spaces, which means you can be eating fresh, delicious food in no time.
Garden in containers: You don’t have to till your soil to have a garden. Raised beds can be placed in your yard, and you can use small containers, such as food-grade buckets and gardening bags, to grow food on your porch, deck, or balcony. If you are new to gardening, start by planting food items that are sturdy and easy to grow. Green beans, tomatoes, and leafy greens are easy to grow and quickly provide you with food.
Create an edible landscape: If you have a flower garden or shrubs around your house, you already have a great place to grow food. Making the shift to an edible landscape can be easy. When you plant your flowers, look for edible flowers. And among your flowers, you can plant a wide variety of foods that are beautiful, will blend in with your flowers, and will also put food on your plate. Beautiful, edible side gardens could include mixes of edible flowers, such as hibiscus or sunflowers, right alongside purple cabbages, green lettuces, and herbs.
Additionally, if you have decorative shrubs, you can replace them with edible shrubs. Here in Maine, blueberry bushes grow well, are easy to care for, and will provide you with fresh blueberries in the summer. You can also create hedges with raspberry or blackberry brambles. The stalks spread quickly and also grow well here.
Plant fruit trees: Fruit trees will take a few years before they bear fruit, but planting fruit trees sooner than later means you will have fresh fruit before you know it. Depending upon the age of the fruit trees you plant, you could be eating apples, pears, or peaches within two to three years. Just be sure to purchase your fruit trees from a local vendor who specializes in fruit trees that do well in Maine. Doing so will increase the chances your trees thrive and are hardy enough to survive in our growing zone.
Get backyard chickens: Chickens are not allowed inside the city limits in Bangor, but hens and even roosters are allowed in surrounding areas. Just a few hens can make a big difference in your homesteading efforts. Chickens are excellent for converting food waste (your food scraps) into eggs, and their poop can easily be composted to become the fertilizer for your gardening. The initial setup for chickens can be expensive, but because chickens provide both food and fertilizer, they are an important part of the homesteading cycle in the long run.
Start a compost pile or bin: If you have chickens, you will want a compost pile, because composted chicken poop is a perfect garden fertilizer. But even if you don’t have chickens, a compost pile or bin is a great idea for any homesteader, no matter the scale. The secret to good compost is creating a good combination of carbon-rich items, such as leaves, branches, and coffee grounds, and nitrogen-rich items, such as manure, food scraps, or green grass clippings.
There are so many wonderful resources available for free to help you get started. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension website provides instructions for everything from compositing to choosing the right fruit trees. The important thing is to start small and grow as you are ready, because the benefits of fresh food to your health and food budget will be noticeable relatively quickly, and the benefits to your overall happiness from growing your own food and becoming more self-sufficient are immeasurable.