Urban Homesteading Part 1: Growing Your Own Veggies

Interested in growing your own food but have no idea where to start? Here you go!


by Lindsey Mills | staff writer for The Snap Mom

I am a southern country girl stuck in the ‘burbs. My toes long for a long walk in the grass, or a barefoot horseback ride in the afternoon! I am trapped in a concrete jungle surrounded by nosy city-folk neighbors. BUT, I am making the most of my situation. One day, we will afford to move out on some acreage, but for the time being we are urban homesteaders! What does that mean you ask? By basic definition, it means to live a self-sufficient and/or sustainable lifestyle without being in the country.  We grow veggies, and we also have backyard chickens for pets and to lay eggs! In this first edition, I want to focus on growing a garden. It’s a fun family activity; kids love to help! And you get (mostly) free food! 

Choose a style  

There are a few ways you can go about this, even on an apartment balcony! Pots, hydroponics, raised beds, and/or in-ground beds are all options. Some determining factors are the size of your yard, if you want to be able to move things, how much soil you have access to, or how much you need to control the soil. Pots and raised beds give you more soil control, but means you have to buy more soil material. In-ground beds are cheaper because you don’t have to buy all the soil. However, they are also more easily overcome by weeds, and you have to work with what’s already in the soil. Raised beds give you much more control of the contents, but it’s a bit of investment to get it started from scratch!

We have an in-ground bed but here is a good example of an above ground:

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In-Ground:

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Choose a location

We are in Florida, and it’s HOT. Sun burns gardens. Pick a spot that doesn’t get too much late-day, scorching sun. As you can see in my picture above, we installed a sun shield so that the spring/summer garden gets some protection. In the fall I roll back the shields for more sun. You want 4-6 hours of direct sun a day, especially for fruit-bearing plants (this includes veggies 😉 ). And lots of water! You want the surface to dry out, but if you put your finger in the dirt an inch or two, it should be damp. I water 2-3 times a week if it doesn’t rain.

Choose your medium

Organic or no? We choose all organic, and we have found many great ways to bulk it up on the cheap! We add all our fruit and veggie scraps, shredded paper, leaves, and chicken poo. We also add lots of Black Kow manure and peat moss. These help keep moisture and nutrients in the soil.

Test before you plant!

Get a test kit at Home Depot, or better yet, take a sample of dirt to your county extension office. Research what you need to add, and plan a whole growing season just for preparing your plot. Florida is naturally sandy, and that doesn’t make nice veggies on its own!

Supplements you might need:

Bone Meal for phosphorus and protein

Blood Meal for nitrogen

Diatomaceous Earth Food Grade (kills bugs but people and pet safe!)

Azomite for 70 minerals and trace elements

Worm castings (err…poop) are the best thing for a garden! Worms love paper and leaves so keep plenty of those things in your dirt and you will have worms!

Now what the heck do I plant??!

I use some seeds and some starter plants. I have a hard time with broccoli, kale, and spinach from seeds, so I usually buy starters of those. Radishes and carrots are very easy to do from seed.

You will want to look up when to plant in your area [http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/].

In Florida, most people plant spring gardens in February/March, and fall gardens in September/November. Florida is great for growing year-round.

Fall/winter: Kale, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, peas, radishes, tomatoes, potatoes.

Spring/summer: Beans,corn, tomatoes, broccoli, squash, zucchini, watermelon, cantaloupe.

I like seedsnow.com, they have great non-gmo seeds!

Growing your own food is so rewarding! If you are really scared, try herbs first. It’s definitely a learn-by-doing hobby. You will have green thumbs before you know it!

Look for Urban Homesteading Part 2: Backyard Chickens soon!


 About the author:

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Lindsey is a scrunchy wife and mom to two adorable girls. She is also the salon owner of Southern Roots and works part time doing hair. She loves animals, gardening, and is very involved in her home church.

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  3. […] by Lindsey Mills | staff writer for The Snap Mom […]