Overwhelmed by what you need to learn? Not sure where to start? You can get started learning urban homesteading skills by focussing on these key ones first.
Does it feel like you need to learn so much?
Yes, there are lots of new skills to learn as well as taking old skills you might already have and applying them to homesteading.
It can seem overwhelming at times. However there are some key skills that you can focus on first and once you have mastered them, you can move on to other skills that are nice-to-haves.
Let’s start off with looking at mindset, as that’s a skill that can have a tremendous impact on getting results.
I know, it’s tough. Having kids and so many family obligations is sometimes overwhelming. I have had many of those days and sometimes weeks where I wonder how I can get everything done and why there are so many obstacles and challenges to overcome.
That’s why setting up and maintaining an urban homestead may be the last thing on your mind.
However you’re reading this blog article so I’m assuming you ARE serious about growing food for your family. And hopefully you plan to involve the whole family in your journey to healthier, fresher food.
So the right mindset is going to be the key to achieving success. And specifically let’s look at having an abundance mindset.
An abundance mindset says that there is always more than enough. Enough time, enough money, enough space and enough knowledge.
A scarcity mindset on the other hand is based on the thought that there is never enough. Not enough time, not enough money, not enough space and not enough knowledge. It stops you from achieving success and ends up just making excuses for you as to why you can’t have your own family garden.
An abundance mindset seeks solutions to problems instead of wallowing in the problem itself and blaming others. You start to ask yourself “how can I get this done” and “what do I need to do right now” instead of “I’m never going to figure this out – it’s too hard”.
So work on chaining your mindset. I plan to write more about this in a later article if there is interest.
So you’re probably thinking: “but Marc, the right mindset is great, but I don’t actually have any time to grow my own vegetables.”
Nope, wrong mindset again. That is clearly showing a scarcity mindset. Instead you need to make the time and treat growing food at home as a higher priority in your life.
Everyone says they don’t have time and are too busy. Families especially. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Getting started with homegrown food will be an investment in time. But like all investments of time or money, the payoff at the end is worth it.
Here are some tips on how you can manage your time better and achieve results in your garden. Remember that actions produce results.
- Evaluate what you do each day and each week, down to the hour or even 15 minute intervals. Write it down and after a week or two look through the list. What are you doing that is taking up most of your time and is it something you can scale back? You might for instance be surprised at how much time you spend on social media!
- Schedule regular time in your garden. Even if it’s just one hour a week on the weekend. This WILL help you. Except for emergencies that crop up, make this a non-negotiable time. Check out the bonus time schedule for busy families that was included with this book.
- Consider getting up earlier. Especially in summer, early mornings in the garden are magical and in hot areas mornings are probably the only time you feel like getting some work done in the garden before the day heats up.
- Curb your online time at least until you get your garden established. This for most people is a time suck. The one place you may want to check once a week is the Facebook group for this book. Mainly to ask a specific question to get an answer rather than spending a few hours trying to research it on your own.
- Involve your whole family. Kids like to play in the dirt, so give them something to do that will help you. What they produce won’t be perfect but it sets them up for getting results later in their lives.
- Get help in your garden and other areas of your life. Hire a student in summer to help you in the garden once a week or once a month. Or maybe you can hire a housekeeper to clean the house instead of you cleaning on a weekend morning. Or get your groceries delivered to save that hour or two.
- Look into time saving gardening techniques such as these:
- Automatic watering/irrigation systems to avoid having to hand water
- Mulching heavily so you don’t have to weed
- No-till gardening so you don’t need to double-dig your beds
- Setup trellises and other plant supports before the plants get too big, then you can tie them up or train them as they grow
- Use row cover so you have less insect pests to deal with later
I’ve also covered this topic in this article: Effective Time Management: 7 Tips For The Busy Homesteader
I’m a bit biased here as my other passion is woodworking!
However having woodworking skills will help anyone have a more successful homestead.
And it doesn’t take much to learn some simple woodworking skills. Learn how to cut wood, drill holes and fasten wood together with screws.
Wood can be used in so many ways on an urban homestead. Here is a short list of the most popular uses but there are many more that you can find examples of on my Garden Structures Pinterest board:
- Raised garden beds – grow your vegetables in a more controlled environment
- Stakes, Trellis and Obelisks – support pea, bean, cucumber, melons, squashes
- Tomato Cages – support tomato, eggplant and pepper plants
- Compost bins – make quality compost at home
- Greenhouse – extend the growing season, start seedlings, grow greens year-round, grow heat-loving vegetables and fruit
- Cold Frame – start seedlings, grow greens year-round
- Arbour – support for grape vines, kiwi vines, etc.
- Pergola – provides shade
- Potato boxes – vertically grow a bumper crop
- Furniture and Decks – place to sit and relax and enjoy a home-cooked meal grown in your garden
And it helps to use the right lumber and focus on not only functionality but aesthetics as well. You likely want your garden to be visually pleasing when you’re able to look out into your garden from inside the house and have your garden visible to your neighbours.
One goal with homesteading is to become less dependent on outside sources of energy. So learning some simple skills in electronics can get you started in harvesting sun and wind energy.
What specific skills do you need for these types of projects?
- Soldering wires together
- Setting up a solar panel
- Setting up a wind turbine
- Setting up a battery bank to store harvested energy
- Choosing and adding sensors to various systems for moisture, temperature and light
- Setting up a simple Raspberry Pi or Arduino board to accept inputs and have code react to those inputs
There are lots of online resources for learning these skills.
This harnessed energy can be used in the following ways:
- Greenhouse ventilation
- Pumping water from water barrels
- Running an aeration pump to make compost tea
- Running pumps for hydroponic and aquaponic gardening
- Running drip irrigation on a schedule
Your plants need water. Even if you have regular and adequate moisture from rain, if you have a greenhouse you’ll need to water there.
To save time, you should setup automated watering wherever you can. The most water-efficient systems are drip irrigation.
You can setup drip irrigation with a simple garden hose running out to where you need the water, but that should be considered a temporary solution.
For a more permanent solution, consider the expense and work to install in-ground water supply pipes to the locations you need water at. Then you can install a timer and more or less set it and forget it.
While you can get someone to come and do this for you, it can be quite expensive. Running pipes and joining them together is relatively easy.
You may just need some help designing the system but companies that sell drip irrigation system parts will have some information on choosing the right system. And I like the guide put out by Lee Valley, very simple to follow.
Working with Nature
This can also be seen as a mindset skill.
You ARE going to run into problems. Insects, mammals and birds are going to munch on your plants. Disease is going to wipe out a whole crop. Plants won’t grow
How you solve these problems determines how successful you’ll be in the future.
Some ways that you can work with nature rather than against it:
- Leave weeds be in areas where they don’t compete with your food crops as weeds can attract beneficial insects and some weeds are a food and medicine source
- Attract beneficial insects by planting flowers
- If you do need to weed, do it at the best time that nature provides
- Don’t use any synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides
- Provide nesting boxes for mason bees to help fertilize fruit trees
- Embrace sharing some of your veggies and fruit with the neighbourhood mammals, including racoons and deer and use exclusion tactics such as fencing rather than scare tactics to keep animals away from your food crop
- Work within your climate by growing the right crops at the right time with some use of season extenders such as row covers, cloches, cold frames or a greenhouse to grow earlier in spring and later into the fall
Home Medicine and Beauty Products
Note: This does not constitute medical advice. Always check with a licensed health practitioner for any ailments you have and be careful making your own “medicine” and other remedies.
If you grow herbs, edible flowers, and weeds you can make effective home remedies.
- treat illnesses such as cold, sore throats, coughs and digestive issues with tinctures and other remedies
- treat cuts, scrapes and light burns with poultices
- make your own infused oils to use for massage, baths, diffusers, etc.
- make beauty products such as lip balms, lotions, soaps and shampoos
The advantage of these products is that you can control what goes into them.
For more information The Grow Network is a good, reliable source.
Plus my book Herb Gardening for Beginners covers 40 herbs with 80 culinary and medicinal recipes!
Black gold. That’s what compost is called in many gardening and homesteading circles.
And it really is priceless. Once you start making your own compost and see how easy it is and how much benefit it provides you’ll want to make more and more of it!
Setting up compost bins can be very simple or you can go the route I went and build some custom bins.
At first composting may seem intimidating, especially all the talk about greens and browns and having the perfect ratio. But by simply adding a variety of plant materials to your compost, you’ll not have problems.
Remember to also regularly turn your compost to accelerate decomposition.
Once your compost is ready, use it to top-dress your garden beds and containers. Your plants will thank you!
There are so many ways to save money homesteading.
With the money you save, you can buy better tools, buy that expensive fruit tree you always wanted, use it to buy a gardening book or course, or use the money you saved elsewhere in the household.
I’ve listed 21 ideas in this post but there are so much more. You don’t really need long lists though to save money.
It’s more a matter of being flexible and creative. Anytime you need to buy something, think if you can either make it yourself or use something else that you already have at home.
It also will make you and your homestead more sustainable, which benefits the environment. Too much is being thrown away that still could be used, forcing the production of more and more goods.
This is crucial when you’re growing your own food. You WILL have those bumper crops of vegetables and fruit where you’ll wonder: what do I do with all of this abundance?
Learning ways to preserve your food is the only way to deal with the onslaught of an apple tree producing bushels of apples or a zucchini plant pushing green or yellow fruit at you every day!
Here are just some ways you can preserve the harvest:
Just-in-time harvesting: This is more of a harvesting technique than preserving technique. What you’re essentially doing is harvesting when you need something so you don’t need to preserve or store anything.
Fridge storage: When most veggies are ripe, they need to be picked, otherwise quality will go down the longer you wait. Most vegetables can be stored in the fridge for a few days up to a week or so.
Freezing: We’re likely used to this method as who hasn’t picked up a bag of peas at the grocery store to add to stews and soups in the middle of winter. You can freeze your veggies as well. Some veggies can go straight in while others need to be blanched for which you can follow my process here: Blanching Vegetables For Freezing: A Step-By-Step Guide
Canning: This is a more efficient way to preserve vegetables than freezing as once the food is processed, it can sit on a pantry shelf for months without costing you any money. You can do either water bath canning or pressure canning. Go to https://www.freshpreserving.com for instructions from the leading canning supplies company, Ball.
Dehydrating: There are two ways to dry vegetables and fruit: you can either use the power of the sun in summer to naturally dry food or you can buy a dehydrator and dry indoors under more controlled conditions. Great way to preserve fruit for long-term storage.
Fermenting: Sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles are all forms of fermenting. This is a very old preserving technique in times when fridges, freezers and high pressure canning was not yet available.
Storage: All you need is a cool, dry, frost-free location that is protected from animals that you can use to store onions, carrots, winter squash and other vegetables that lend themselves well to storage. Some people will store in damp sand, while others will simply lay out the vegetables on shelving.
Cooking: Keep in mind that will all of these techniques you can preserve your harvest but then use the veggies later to make a pasta sauce or salsa or stew and then preserve that (usually by freezing or canning) if you make a big batch.
Whether you preserve your harvest or cook it right away for one of your meals, you’ll need to prepare the food before eating it.
It can really just be as simple as:
- grabbing a bowlful of lettuce, a few tomatoes ripe off the vine and maybe a cucumber and wash, chop and mix together with some homemade simple dressing and you have salad
- picking some berries and tossing them on cereal for a tasty breakfast
- taking your favourite vegetable such as broccoli or cauliflower, divide up the florets and steam lightly and serve with a drizzle of soy sauce or salad dressing
- making a tasty stir-fry with a rainbow of different coloured vegetables
- making a chili, stew or soup with a mix of vegetables, served with a fresh loaf of homemade bread
- baking a pie or some muffins with your own fresh fruit
For tasty recipes for a plant-based diet, check out Plant Based Gal. Julie is a fellow blogger that is passionate about preparing vegetables and fruit in new ways to avoid the boredom trap of yet another green salad!
As with anything new, you do need to take time to learn some new skills if you don’t already have them. Urban homesteading does lend itself well to someone that likes to learn new skills and apply them in practical situations.