Backyard farming is a method of growing food that helps our planet by making the soil more fertile, using smaller areas for higher yields of food products, minimizing water wastage and decreasing the use of pesticides and insecticides on crops.
To get started, the first steps to take are finding the space and tools to go ahead with the plan and planning and organizing the garden itself.
Table of Contents
The Importance of Space
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.
Tools of the Trade and Livestock Enclosures
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.
Planning and Organizing the Garden
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. To make it easier for you, here is a list.
Plants and Crops
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.
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.
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:
2. Mature Material.
3. Immature Material.
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 given 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 gardening 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:
1. Drip irrigation can help you save water, time and money.
2. It is a great choice if your grounds are unusually shaped or if the landscape is irregular.
3. It is successful up to a whooping 90 % or more.
4. It can be modified very simply as time passes by and the plants develop and change.
5. 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.
Drip irrigation systems are generally very easy to design, construct and put in to the backyard. This is the reason why they are the most common ones.
That brings us to a close on what we can grow from the green family. This chapter talks about the best animals to raise on a farm and how to do so. You will notice that the below list does not include cow. Chicken, rabbits and goats are the best animals for livestock agriculture in backyards as cows are too big and need much more space than even the largest of backyards.
The first question to be answered here is what is the advantage of raising chickens. There are various reasons to make this decision. These reasons are:
1. Fresh eggs
The first and foremost is fresh eggs. Hens start to lay eggs when they are about 6 months old. They continuously lay eggs every 1 to 2 days for many years to come.
Chickens are amazing when it comes to composting. They can turn almost any food scrap in your kitchen into a nutrient rich compost. They absolutely love vegetables, bread, bugs, grains and meat scraps.
3. Landscaping and Insect Control
If you allow your chickens to roam outside of the coop they live in, they will slowly landscape your garden, especially around your trees and shrubs. They can hunt down insects like highly trained ninja assassins. They also love the fresh grass and plant shoots and hence, will weed your garden once you have it established.
Yes, that’s right, chickens make amazing pets. They will, oh so coolly… eat from the palm of your hand, sit in your lap and follow you around the yard. They will come to you in case you call and wait for you at the door. Your kids will absolutely love them.
The first 60 days of caring for a chicken are more difficult. For this, you will need a chicken brooder. The flooring of your enclosure will need to be made of pine shavings and corn cob bedding are great. Keep paper away. The temperature must be monitored to be at 90 to 100 degree F for the first week and after that it needs to be decreased every week by 5 degrees F. However, please be very careful of any fire hazards which may occur. The chickens will need a chick crumbles and chick waterer to feed it. Also they should be around people, so have your kids play with them!
After the first 60 days are over, life becomes much simpler. You will need a chicken coup which is about 2 to 3 square feet per chicken. This coup is required as you need to keep the local chicken predators in your mind and keep them very safe.
For flooring, the pine shavings are still the best. It is suggested to keep the deep litter method for much less need of any maintenance. Use vegetables, bugs, bread and chicken scratch as snacks or treats and buy pellets as their main food.
Chickens are the easiest animals to rear and can be raised in the smallest of area.
From pets to the most amazing sources of wool, manure and meat, backyard rabbits make for fun and easy animals to keep in your backyard. The original cost of rabbits is way more than chicken, but they can live in just as much of a small space. There are many different breeds of rabbits that you can get but each of them serve a different purpose on the farm. For example, “The Mini Rex” is the everyday pet rabbit, followed by Dutch, Mini-Lop and Netherlands Dwarf. On the other hand, The Angoras are famous for their luxurious fur and are an excellent breed for wool. And finally, The Californian, New Zealand and Giant Chinchilla are bred for their tasty, high-quality meat which has no other match in the world.
On the whole though, the main reasons for breeding rabbits is to be able to produce potent and relatively weed and seed free manure. An average rabbit generates 1 pound of manure per week. These are less likely as compared to some other manures for the purpose of burning your plants. Rabbits make great fertilizers and are a great choice for any plants that will need any kind of heavy feeding, such as roses and azaleas.
If you are thinking of getting pet rabbits for that backyard farm, the most economical approach is to purchase a hutch. So that way you will need only one habitat. You will need to think of constructing a feeder, a nesting box, a watering device and a wire hutch. Do not even try to use a wooden hutch as the rabbits will destroy it for sure.
So, do you want to have some goats in your backyard? Do you have the space to keep goats? Goats need a room in your backyard which is specifically for a goat pen and a goat house. The storage space for the goats’ food and other goat-related supplies such as straw also need to be kept here. Each goat will need an ample floor space to sleep, a generous space to feed at the feeding trough, and access to an outdoor enclosure.
To keep your goats in the space you build, you will need a good fence. Goats are notorious escape artists, so the fence will have to be smarter than they are. The posts need to go deep into the earth and the fence needs to be in the very least 5 feet high.
Firstly, make sure that there aren’t any poisonous plants and trees in the area of fencing. The goats need two kinds of food in their diet. The first is known as roughage. It is what they get from grazing the leaves, plants, grass and similar things. In the case that there is a shortage of roughage in your backyard, provide them with hay or alfalfa. These are high in fiber. This aids the goat with digestion. The second kind of food is any grains. This is to give them high energy to compliment the high fiber foods. Barley, corn and oats are great examples of these.
Goats also need minerals, which you can give them by forming a mineral block, which they’ll eat as and when they need it.
Goats will also need some clean water. This need for water always increases when it is a very hot, dry day. A goat can drink at the very least 4 gallons of water every single day. So, you will have to make sure that you have a bucket or stock tank that is large enough so that they will not easily run out of water any time during the day. You will also need buckets and bowls and feeding containers and also feed storage containers. A hay feeder can be very handy to have along with a mineral feeder.
Having a goat is more like having a dog or cat as compared to having a chicken. They are more pets than anything else. They also require more time and energy. The life span of a goat is also longer than that of rabbits and chickens. You will need to spend an hour a day, i.e., half an hour in the morning and the same time in the evening with the goats to check up on them. They can be much more tiring than the other two and also require more space. They are more personable and also have the ability to make you and your children very happy.