Space is a precious commodity, no matter where you live. And if you’re a homesteader, space takes on an entirely new meaning. When most people think of it, they picture wide skies, pastures, and fields of crops. But every homesteader knows you don’t need acreage (or even a house for that matter!) to be successful at it. Your space might dictate the type of homesteading you can pursue, but these tips will help you become as self-sufficient as possible.
Know your goals
While it’s perfectly fine to dive in and grow crops or raise animals, this isn’t the most efficient way to start. Before you so much as install a chicken coop, get a plan. It’s easier to save space if you master-plan your homestead, using every inch of your home and yard, accounting for long-term growth.
Think about what your goal is and how it fits into your space. For example: growing and raising your own food is a great way to have control over your health and wellness, saving you lots of money to boot. But you’ll need space to store it all after a harvest. Turn a closet into the pantry, buy a good chest freezer, and insulate the space under the front porch or staircase for cold storage. Now you’re ready to dive in and get your hands dirty!
Too often we look at our homestead in terms of acres. While horizontal size is important, we have to remember that vertical design is an option too. A vertical homestead design helps you do a lot more on your land with way less acreage.
For gardening, consider growing on trellises. Hanging pots can also hold a wide variety of foods like herbs, strawberries, lettuce and peas. Raised bed planters are also successful when you use techniques like 3 sisters planting – growing corn, beans or peas, and squash together to use every inch of the soil. If you’re really cramped for space, consider growing high-density crops like mushrooms. They have a high yield and need very little space to grow.
When you’re short on space, everything has to have multiple functions. Embrace permaculture for multi-functional homestead structures. For example, install a greenhouse that doubles as a chicken coop during the winter. Chamomile, coriander, dill, fennel, basil or lemongrass will grow right under an apple tree, warding off bad bugs while the tree provides shade for the hottest side of your house. Sometimes a good plan just needs a little creative thinking!
When Your Space Is Really Small
If you live in an apartment in the city or have a home on small lot, never fear! You can still do plenty homesteading with limited space. Here are my favorite homesteading tips for the spatially-challenged.
1. Hang dry clothes
Stop relying on your dryer to dry your clothes. Opt to hang-dry your clothes instead. Your clothes will last longer and, during summer months, it can even cut your A/C bill. Set up a clothesline in your yard. Build it vertically so you can plant below the line. Water will drip and give a little extra moisture to your plants. If you live in an apartment, consider using an indoor drying rack.
2. Window or balcony gardens
While raised gardens are a great way to grow fruits and veggies, you might not have enough yard for it. If you’re in a pinch for space, create a window or balcony garden.
Maximize space on window sills and balcony rails with special planters. Shield your home from the sun with vertical planters on a balcony or patio.
3. Yard share
Homesteading is a beautiful tradition built on cooperation. See if you can use land owned by friends, family, or even in your community garden. Many people would be happy to put their land to use, as long as they get a cut of your harvest!
4. Dual purpose animals
Sheep and pigs are fun homesteading animals, but they require a little more room. Make the most of a small backyard with small, dual purpose animals. Yes, chickens are a popular choice and provide both meat and eggs, but rabbits are a great choice too for their meat and pelts. You can even raise quail in a garage using a vertical hutch.
Don’t get stuck on the idea that you need 200 acres to be a homesteader. Make the most of the space you have with these clever tips. And we welcome you to add your own in the comments!