When planning to start your own backyard farm, one of the most important factors is thinking about the space that you will require and if the space you have is enough for growing your desired vegetables and fruits.
When the amount of space is larger outdoor, the possibility of raising larger animals is more because there is more room for them to roam and graze, and also, the quantity and diversity of plants that you can then grow are many more. The least space that you will need is, at the very least, a queen bed size i.e., 6 x 4 ft.
The tools that you can use for backyard farming are very few as compared to actual farming.
Backyard farming can be done in a traditional manner, where you will need your hands, spade and a scissor. Any other tools that you require are easily available with non-existent prices.
You can buy tools on “Craig’s List” and garage sales. Apart from these, more tools are needed if you decide to keep and raise your own livestock.
Your biggest expenditure will include the livestock enclosure. The easiest farms to maintain as far as budget is concerned would be the chicken farms.
Chickens can be allowed to roam around, as the free ones are always healthier and happier as they get an adequate amount of exercise and hence, produce more nutritious meat and eggs.
You need to plan the amount of investment you are ready to put into your backyard farm before you can start. Once you decide upon the budget, figure out your space and buy your tools, it is time to start thinking about how you would like to organize your garden. Which crops you would like to grow there. What grows best in what weathers. Each crop also has a separate requirement of soil and water.
This chapter deals with what all you will be doing once you have gotten started on your very own backyard farm. These are all the things you will need to know.
Soil. One of the most important things for backyard farming is to prepare the soil.
“Deep soil preparation” helps in building the soil structure by loosening it to a depth of 60cms. An ideal soil structure has both pore space, for water and air to move freely, as well as soil particles, to hold them together nicely. Aerated soil holds water much much better than compact soil, hence requiring less water. It also helps in minimizing erosion as well as supporting healthy plants.
For preparing the soil in your backyard, first decide where you want your growing beds to be and where you want your paths to be. Use a digging board and a digging spade with a D-handle to dig up your trenches. The soil will keep improving from the combination of double digging and growing of roots, so keep at it.
Composting. Worm composting is the use of worms for the recycling of the fruit and vegetable scraps and other organic material into valuable soil amendments. These are called Vermi compost.
Worms can eat food scraps that become compost as they pass through their body. This compost is then used to grow plants. The worms are eating nutrient rich veggies and fruits and hence, turning them into nutrient rich composts.
Worm composting maximizes the microbial biodiversity with the compost pile which is correctly built, using plant material from the farm, food scraps from your kitchen and the soil that you dug out. Compost is used by plant material to return the nutrient and carbon to the soil.
This helps the soil regain its fertility, making sure that the waste is minimized. It also helps in challenging bad soil conditions like high or low pH levels. Using compost can lead to the decrease of the usage of purchased organic fertilizers.
For worm composting you will need: 1. Soil. 2. Mature Material. 3. Immature Material. 4. Roughage.
Take a container in which you can keep your food scraps as well as the soil along with your worms.
You should keep in mind the amount of food scraps that you wish to compost when choosing your container. A good sized bin is about five to ten gallons big. The bin should be shallow rather than deep, as these worms prefer to live near the surfaces and don’t go deeper than 4 – 6 inches.
You can choose a plastic, glass or wooden container because no matter what material you choose, the worms will make their compost. Cover these bins with loose fittings lids which allow air into the bins.
If you take care of your worms by creating a favorable environment for them, they will produce compost continuously. After about three to four months, your bin will be full of compost and the amount of bedding will be reduced.
This is the time to harvest the bin. You should push all the soil and food scrap to one side of the bin, removing any large pieces of food or newspaper. Then, you should wait for the next two to three weeks, by when the worms will move over to the other side.
Cover half the bin, where the soil is located to help make this procedure faster. When this has happened, you can remove the compost and replace the bin with fresh bedding.
Companion planting is a technique of mixing the growth of vegetables, herbs and flowers together as to grow healthier plants. You can protect your plants from insects and diseases by planting different combinations of vegetable herbs and flowers together. While some plants can benefit others, there are some which have the opposite effect.
1. Natural Fertilizers. Legumes such as beans, peas and clover fix nitrogen making it accessible for plants around them. Corn provides a support system for the beans and intern bean fixes nitrogen for the corn.
2. Pest Repellents. There are plants that exude chemicals from their roots or leaves which can act as natural pesticides. These repel or suppress any harmful pests. An example of this is marigolds which release a chemical that repels nematodes.
3. Weed Suppression. There are plants that release chemicals which can suppress any growth of unwanted plants or weeds. Hay from grain rye used as mulch, leeches chemicals that prevent weed from germinating. These do not harm any other vegetable seedlings.
4. Beneficial Habitats. Some plants attract predators and provide them with a home. These predators feed on the problem insects.
5. Spatial Interactions. The taller sun-loving plants which can offer shade such as pumpkins or swash grow under the corn. The corn can also hide the pumpkins from the insect pests. It also helps in moderating the soil temperature.
Intensive planting is a technique that enhances and lets plants and roots grow in an uninterrupted manner by transplanting seedlings in a close, off set spacing manner so that their leaves barely touch when they grow.
This helps in creating a mulch over the soil. The living mulch will result in creating a small climate difference between the normal temperature and the temperature of the soil. It retains the moisture and retains and protects the soil from wind and water exposure. This keeps the roots healthy.
With intensive planting, you do not need to put in as much labour as normally, while it also minimizes the weed growth. This type of farming is great if you want to start on your own seedlings transplantation. Your plant will be the healthiest if the roots and leaves are in balance with one another.
Using intensive planting along with deep soil preparation as well as worm composting, are the three things you need for a good and sustainable way to farm in your backyard.
Carbon is the plant material, also called biomass, that has a lot of complex cell structures and mature material for building of composts.
Carbon farming focuses on the growth of crops that have a large amount of mature material to help sustain soil fertility. It is done in at least 60% of the area.
Important cereal crops like “Maize, Sorghum, Wheat, Rye, Millet, Rice and many more” come under Carbon farming. It hence, also has a diet factor.
Calorie farming is the technique of growing a complete diet in the smallest area possible. This is a great technique to use in the case of you having a very small backyard or a terrace or balcony. Basically calories are the total energy that we intake from any food item.
Calorie farming focuses on specific root crops which are calorie rich but at the same time yield in the smallest of areas. Potatoes, Parsnips, Leeks, Garlic and Artichoke are all examples of such crops. These crops are generally about a 30% of the area of the farm in your backyard. The remaining 10% of the area is allotted to vegetable crops. Since this is so few, choose vegetables with maximum Protein and Vitamin content in them.
The most commonly used method of irrigation for backyard farming is Drip Irrigation.
Drip irrigation is basically a precise, direct and gradual technique of getting water to the garden soil. It provides water frequently to the roots of the crops.
It helps make plants healthier as well as conserve water as it uses only fifty per cent of the water used by sprinklers while being twenty per cent more water effective than them.
The main advantages of drip irrigation are:
- Drip irrigation can help you save water, time and money.
- It is a great choice if your grounds shape is unusual or if the landscape is irregular.
- Drip irrigation is successful up to a whooping 90 % or more.
- It can be modified very simply as time passes by and the plants develop and change.
- It helps with conserving the garden soil nutrients and helps lessen the garden soil erosion as well as the draining of nutrients.
You can set up drip irrigation very easily. You can even set it up to work on auto-pilot, like sprinklers. Though it is better to do it by hand in the times of bad dry spells.
Drip irrigation also needs equipment called the micro-spray heads, which squirt in tiny spots, as compared to dripping emitters.