How to Start a Suburban Homestead

Updated: Apr 7



Is it possible to start homestead on less than an acre?


The short answer is: YES.


Before purchasing our homestead, we weren't sure what exactly we could afford. We were under the impression that if we didn't have 100+ acres, we could never be successful or self-sufficient. We were wrong!


We did some research and found out that there are people who are not only completely self-sufficient, but are making a full time living from only a half of an acre. There are people in the suburbs growing all of their own food in their backyards. There are people in apartments raising bees on their balconies.


It absolutely can be done. You can successfully homestead in your limited space.


The first step is determining your homesteading goals. Are you wanting to become completely self-sufficient? Maybe you're looking to supplement your food with a healthier/cheaper alternative? Are you wanting a few fresh eggs in the morning or would you like to be processing your own chicken meat? How much work/time can you to invest in your homestead?


Once you've determined what your goals are, next is determining what you'll need. How much are you trying to grow? What animals do you want? If you're wanting to be completely self sufficient, determining stepping stone goals may be your next step. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will a homestead, of any size. After you've determined what you need as far as plants, animals, fruit trees, etc., the next step is mapping out your property.


Start by drawing out a rough shape of your property's outline, including measurements. It doesn't need to be perfect, but it helps if it is at least somewhat to scale. Include your house, any sheds, pools or whatever is outside, including trees and existing flower beds. Do this in pencil. After you've done this, take a good look at your paper, then start brainstorming where everything should go.


Where is your septic system? You may not want to plant fruit trees there. Do you have a close neighbor? That may not be the best spot for your chicken coop. Is there an area that you wish had more privacy? That might be a great place for a grapevine. What about shade areas? Sunny areas? Over the next few days, take a look at what areas get the most sun/shade and take note of this.



Ask yourself these questions while making your plans:

-What are my goals for my homestead?

-What animals am I able to keep in the space I have?

-How can I create edible landscaping?

-How much garden space do I need to feed my family for one year?

-What areas do I want more privacy in?

-What areas are my neighbors closest to?

-Are there any zoning, local codes, laws or H.O.A. I need to adhere to? What about a set-back line?

-Where are my pipes, septic tank, electrical wires, etc? (By law, you should call 811 before digging)

-Where should I plant trees to avoid root damage to my foundation, driveway, etc?

-What gardening methods are going to help me make the most of my space? Do I need plan for container gardening, vertical gardening, raised beds or a different method all together?





A map will help you figure out how to maximize your space, determine what gardening methods may work best in your situation and spot out flaws in the design. I bought a sketch book to draw out rough drafts, but loose graph paper for actual "blue-prints." It really doesn't matter how you get your plans down, as long as they're in front of you and somewhat organized.


Your plans might look something like this:



I drew this example of a 1/4 of an acre with space to spare, to show how much one can do even in a suburban backyard.


Let's break it down:

At the front of the house, I drew in the fruit trees adjacent to the berry bushes and by the driveway. The type of fruit tree will determine how to plant away from the driveway. Here I have three drawn, but more may fit depending on the variety. This is just an example. I wanted to include solar panels and a rainwater tank, considering these can be important steps in becoming more self-sufficient.

Did you know solar panels are available in kits?




I purposely drew the veggie garden beds uneven. Some veggies require more/less space than others. Along the sides of the house we have 40' of space. If I made those veggie beds 10' wide, along that 40' wall, I'd have about 400sqft' of garden space on either side of the wall. That's 800sqft'. If I included the beds at the end of the rows, I could easily add an additional 200sqft', bringing my total to 1,000sqft'.


Most people have a patio or some type of back porch that takes up some space in the back. For demonstrative purposes, let's just say the patio is 20' long. We now have 40' of wall space to work with. Let's use up 10' of that space for a rain water collection system, so we're down to 30' for garden space. With a 10' wide bed, that would be an additional 300sqft' of garden space. We're up to 1400sqft of garden space.

On the back end of the property, I have included a greenhouse. It's 6x10 but could be larger. The veggie beds in the back are 6x10. There are three of them, but I intended the third one as space to grow a garden for the chickens, so I won't count that one in these calculations.


There are greenhouse kits available on Amazon for someone looking to get started this summer! Put it up in a weekend and move your plants in there for an extended growing season!


With the two 6x10 veggie gardens, we're up to 1520sqft' of garden space(greenhouse not included.) To put that in perspective, that's equivalent to a 38'x40' garden bed. That's enough for a family of four to have 380sq.ft' of garden space per person. This isn't counting the herbal/floral garden at the front of the house.


There's enough space in the back for a 10x20 chicken coop or larger. This could provide eggs and meat. This could also be space for ducks, rabbit, quail or even a pig or two. There's also a possibility for bee boxes! Depending on the layout, several bee boxes will fit in a relatively small space. This all depends on the layout of the property!


To go back over this list, from this example only, we have: Multiple fruit trees, a space for a floral/herb garden, solar panels, a rainwater collection system, 1520sqft' of vegetable garden space, a green house, berry bushes, a chicken coop, chicken garden and bee boxes. This is all on a 1/4 acre lot, with room to spare.


Everyone's results will vary depending on their situation, but it is possible to start a homestead on 1/4 acre or less! Remember, you don't have to be 100% self-sufficient and growing your own food to be a homesteader. Start at a level that is comfortable and affordable for you, even if that's a few tomato plants in a five gallon bucket. Homesteading is what you make it, just don't let your space limit you!




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