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30 Ways To Start Your Urban Homestead in the City

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Homesteading in an urban area can be challenging, but there are still numerous ways to incorporate self-sufficiency and sustainability into your lifestyle. Be sure to save this list of 30 ideas for homesteading in the city as you start to plan out your first urban homestead!

woman tending to herbs on rooftop balcony garden

When my husband and I first got married, we lived within city limits of a big(-ish) city. We didn’t start our life together planning to homestead, but we quickly realized that homesteading and living in a like-minded community was something we wanted to do. While we waited for the perfect opportunity to come along, we found ways to incorporate homesteading on our small lot in the middle of town.

This is something you can do, too. Whether you choose to start just one activity on this list, or all of them, every single step counts. Maybe you plan to eventually make a big move and buy more property. Or, maybe you don’t. Either way, it’s a great idea to learn as you wait, and put in the hard work to learn as you go!

small garden on city homestead

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1. Container gardening

It couldn’t be easier to grow herbs, vegetables, and even small fruit trees in pots on your balcony or windowsill.

Container gardening is a method of growing plants in pots or containers, making it ideal for urban dwellers with limited outdoor space. To start a container garden, choose a variety of containers such as pots, buckets, grow bags, or window boxes. Select a well-draining and nutrient-rich potting mix, and determine the type of plants you want to grow. Place the containers in areas that receive adequate sunlight, water regularly, and fertilize as needed. By providing the right growing conditions and care, container gardening allows you to cultivate a thriving small garden, even in the heart of the city.

2. Vertical gardening

Vertical gardening is a technique of growing plants vertically, utilizing walls, trellises, or hanging structures to maximize space in urban areas. To start vertical gardening, select plants that vine, climb, or trail. Install vertical structures like a freestanding vertical planter or trellis against walls or fences. Plant your chosen crops at the base of the structure and provide support as they grow. Vertical gardening makes the most of limited growing space, bringing greenery and productivity to an urban environment.

vertical planter on small back porch with chicken tractor behind

3. Community gardening

Starting a community garden in the city is an excellent way to bring people together, promote sustainability, and cultivate a sense of shared responsibility. To begin, gather a group of like-minded individuals who are interested in participating and contributing to a vegetable garden. Next, find the right location to make good use of, whether it’s a vacant lot, a rooftop, or any shared space. (Make sure you get permission!) Finally, organize a meeting to discuss your goals, plan the layout, and distribute tasks. The great thing about gardening with neighbors is that costs can be shared, and more hands typically mean more successful crops!

4. Indoor gardening

Indoor gardening offers a green oasis within the confines of a city dwelling, bringing nature indoors and allowing you to enjoy the benefits of nurturing plants year-round. To start indoor gardening, choose plants that thrive in indoor conditions. Kitchen herbs like rosemary, basil, parsley, or thyme work well. You can also grow leafy greens and any plant variety that is tolerant of low light. You will still want to place any plants near windows or in areas with a good amount of natural light. Using grow lights is also totally appropriate (you can watch how we set up a DIY grow light stand in this video). Indoor gardening not only enhances the aesthetic of your living space, it also promotes cleaner air and provides a satisfying connection with nature in an urban environment.

5. Microgreens

Growing microgreens indoors is a simple and rewarding process. Grab a tray with drainage holes and fill it with a nutrient-rich growing medium like potting soil or coco coir. Sprinkle seeds evenly over the surface and lightly press them into the soil. Mist the seeds with water and cover them with a lid or plastic wrap to create a humid environment. Then place the container in a well-lit area, preferably near a window or under grow lights. Mist the soil regularly to keep it consistently moist. Within a week or two, you will have flavorful microgreens ready for harvest!

If you want to make growing microgreens SUPER simple, check out this excellent starter kit from True Leaf Market. They have high-quality seeds and growing supplies, and I love ordering from them!

assorted microgreens growing in tray

6. Vermicomposting

Vermicomposting is a composting method that utilizes worms to break down waste into nutrient-rich compost. To vermicompost in an urban setting, you will first need to find a suitable worm bin. Any plastic container with a lid and ventilation holes will work, or you can purchase a composter with trays. Fill the bin with shredded newspaper or cardboard, and add red worms. Then place the bin in a cool, shady spot indoors, away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures. Add to the compost pile by feeding the worms any food scraps that exclude meat, dairy, or excess oil.

7. Rainwater harvesting

You can harvest rainwater for watering plants or cleaning from rooftops, balconies, or downspouts. Install a rain barrel or container with tight-fitting lid beneath these collection points to capture the rainwater. Direct the downspout or use a diverter to channel rainwater into the container. Implementing rainwater harvesting provides a sustainable water source for many uses around your home.

8. Aquaponics

Aquaponics is an innovative way to grow plants by raising fish in a reciprocal system, even in a city environment. You can start by setting up a fish tank for any hardy fish like koi, goldfish, or tilapia. Connect a grow bed or container filled with a growing medium, like gravel or expanded clay pellets, to the fish tank. The fish will produce beneficial waste and the plants in the grow bed will absorb the nutrients, which acts as a natural filter for the water.

9. Beekeeping

Many people don’t think of beekeeping as a homesteading practice for the city, but it may be much easier than you think. It’s also beneficial to the urban environment. Always check local regulations first and educate yourself on safety and techniques. After that, choose a location like your backyard, a rooftop, or a community garden to set up your colony of bees, regularly checking in on their health and activity levels.

lavender orpington rooster roaming in backyard

10. Backyard chickens

Nothing compares to the taste of a fresh egg from your own backyard! Always check your local ordinances on raising poultry before starting. When my husband and I wanted to incorporate the homesteading lifestyle despite living the city, one of the first things we did was get a small chicken coop/tractor for our backyard. Chickens are actually relatively easy to care for and are a great starting point for a small homestead in the city.

11. Balcony rabbits

Rabbits can be easily raised on a balcony or other small spaces outdoors. Whether you want to breed and sell as pets, meat, or for manure, rabbits can be an efficient choice for a small urban homestead. Again, check first with your local regulations.

12. Quail

Quail are very small birds that require less space compared to traditional livestock, making them ideal for urban settings without much space. Secondly, quail are efficient egg layers, providing a sustainable source of fresh eggs for personal consumption. And thirdly, they are low maintenance and require less feed than larger livestock. Their manure can also be used as fertilizer for the garden.

13. Mushroom cultivation

To get started cultivating your own mushrooms, select the type you want to grow, considering growth requirements and preferences. Choose a growing medium (this might be straw, sawdust, or a mushroom growing kit). Maintain proper temperature, humidity, and ventilation to create an optimal growing environment. Depending on the mushroom variety, you will need to provide specific conditions for fruiting, such as exposure to light or darkness. Mushroom cultivation as part of a backyard homestead is a rewarding and sustainable way to grow your own food with limited space.

14. Herbs and medicinal plants

No matter where you live, you can start studying the beneficial properties of herbs and medicinal plants. Whether you choose to grow them yourself, source them from other local farms, or a reputable company like Mountain Rose Herbs, there are endless benefits to starting your herbalism journey today!

full jars of tomatoes that have just been water bath canned

15. Canning

Over the last couple of years, I’ve fallen in love with canning and how well it preserves foods. Canning is not just for people with huge gardens, which you may lack as a city dweller. There are so many benefits to learning how to can, and it’s a great way to preserve seasonal fresh produce from farmers markets or the grocery store. Canning allows you to buy seasonal produce in bulk at the best prices, and preserve it to enjoy all year long. Steam canners are a fairly new thing that take water bath canning to a whole new level of ease.

16. Dehydrating

Dehydrating food maximizes resources and allows your to enjoy long-lasting nutrition. Plus, dehydrated foods are lightweight and compact, making them ideal for small kitchens or pantry areas. It’s a great way to preserve excess produce from the grocery store or a local farmer. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly way to get started on your food preservation journey, there are some great dehydrators for under $100.

17. Fermentation

Fermentation is not nearly as intimidating as it sounds, and is a great place to start for those wanting to homestead in the city and learn food preservation techniques. It’s a skill that is important to have in case of emergency, not to mention there are some absolutely delicious fermented recipes to try including fermented pico de gallofermented hot sauce, and more.

fermented hot sauce in mason jar

18. Sprouting

Similar to growing microgreens, sprouting is easy, fun, and gives you as an urban homesteader a delicious homegrown source of nutrition to add to salads and recipes. To practice sprouting, simply soak seeds such as greens or legumes in water and then allow them to germinate. The moisture absorbed activates enzymes that result in in the development of young sprouts rich in vitamins an minerals, making them a nutrient-dense addition to a healthy diet.

19. Solar energy

Learning how to use alternative forms of energy is an important aspect of homesteading. One of the easiest ways to make your home more sustainable no matter where you live, is to install solar panels that generate renewable energy.

20. DIY cleaning products

Making your own non-toxic cleaning products is a great way to get started homesteading in the city, or even just living a more natural, sustainable lifestyle. Just swap some of your conventional cleaning products for homemade ones like this

sourdough breads baked while homesteading in the city

21. Bread making

Bread making (particularly sourdough bread) is a personal passion of mine, because it’s so satisfying and can be done by anyone wanting to grow in from-scratch cooking or homesteading skills. You can learn to make bread no matter where you live. Learning how to bake bread is cheaper and more nutritious, and can be really fun. 

22. Cooking from scratch

Along the same lines, cooking from scratch aligns closely with the principles of homesteading, even for city dwellers. I love that from-scratch cooking promotes self-sufficiency and a deeper connection with my food. You can regain control over your nutrition, reduce reliance on external food systems, and cultivate a healthier lifestyle by beginning to prepare your meals without pre-packaged ingredients.

23. Sewing

Although I am not much of a seamstress myself, I know that sewing is a traditional homesteading skill that can be beneficial even in an urban setting. By learning to sew, you are engaging in a form of self-sufficiency. Sewing empowers us to reduce our reliance on mass-produced, disposable goods, promoting sustainability and a conscious approach to consumption.

24. Crocheting or knitting

Crocheting or knitting allows city dwellers to create their own clothing, accessories, and home decor, which promotes self-sufficiency and reduces reliance on mass-produced goods. It can also be a calming and enjoyable hobby to practice no matter where you are.

tomato seeds in glass jar tipped over and spilling out

25. Seed saving

Seed saving is an often overlooked aspect of gardening by newer homesteaders, yet it’s so valuable. Not to mention, it can easily be done even if you have just a few plants. Allowing plants to go to seed and then properly saving them preserves resources and helps you gain confidence in a valuable skill, should store-bought seeds not be readily available.

26. Herbal remedies

Using natural and herbal remedies are a vital aspect of homesteading in the city. By cultivating and utilizing herbs, you can harness the healing properties of plants as an urban homesteader. Whether as a preventative, or to treat various sicknesses and ailments, herbal remedies are a sustainable alternative to commercial pharmaceuticals and reduce dependency on external healthcare systems.

If you’re brand new to natural remedies and are ready to have your herbal medicine cabinet stocked in 48 hours or less, you will definitely want to check out Easy Growing Health, my own natural remedies mini-course!

27. Homemade soap

Learning to make your own soap can be a great way to jump into living the homestead lifestyle while in the city. It’s a fun hobby that allows you to experiment with different scents, colors, and textures in creative ways. The benefits of making homemade soap extend beyond cleanliness and hygiene, offering a sustainable approach to personal care in an urban environment.

28. Upcycling and repurposing

Repurposing plays a significant role in urban homesteading, enabling city dwellers to embrace sustainability, reduce waste, and foster a self-sufficient lifestyle. By repurposing and upcycling, urban homesteaders can creatively transform unused items into functional and valuable resources. It reduces reliance on buying new products, saves money and minimizes environmental impact. 

nectarine tree growing in a pot while homesteading in the city

29. Permaculture

Applying permaculture concepts like companion planting and soil regeneration help to maximize any urban space. If you are mainly interested in gardening while homesteading in the city, you should definitely look more into permaculture and how it can benefit your growing goals.

30. Foraging

Although you may not own acres of land, you can still forage in your own city neighborhood! Plants like dandelion, plantain, and dead nettle are typically in abundance even in urban yards. There are many common “weeds” that can be used both medicinally and nutritionally, bringing a whole new meaning to the term local food! I highly recommend keeping a compact book like this Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants on hand so you can reference wherever you live.

homesteading in the city: a summary

Whether you live in a small apartment, townhouse, condo, or other urban-style dwelling, you can get started homesteading in the city a plethora of different ways! If you want even more specific ideas on how to get started, enter your email address below to receive an instant download for this FREE ebook called Homestead Anywhere: a guide to learn how to blossom wherever you are planted.

homestead anywhere ebook

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