Urban homestead: owning vs. renting

Q. I came across your website while researching a project I’m working on. I’m currently working as an horticultural intern at Brooklyn Botanic Garden in New York City. As part of the internship we’re required to do a project on any horticultural or environmental topic of our choice. My choice is urban homesteading. I’m extremely interested in learning how to live a self sufficient lifestyle in an urban area and would love to share any information i come across. Your website has been extremely helpful so far, but I’m having a little trouble with specifics. Such as how little space/land can you work with, and is it necessary to own your home ( I’m sure I have more questions… but these are the two that i feel i need to answer before i can really move on with other information). I would greatly appreciate it if you could take a moment to respond.


A. We have 1/5 an acre (our lot is 66′ x 132′) and 1/10 of this is cultivated. From this 1/10 of an acre we harvest over 6,000lbs of food. Of course, additional land/acreage would be helpful to be become more self reliant. There are degrees of self-sufficiency and this can be limited to a certain degree living in the city. Basically, how much land determines how much you can be self-sufficient (and even your diet). If you were, say in an apartment you could only grow a small percentage of your daily food. It’s a matter of degrees. However we encourage people to do what they can with what they have. Any steps to lighten our footprint are better than waiting around for “the perfect situation.” Imagine if neighborhoods planted vegetables, fruits and herbs instead of ornamentals. You alone, may not be able to grow everything you eat, but if we worked as a community in a combine effort, neighborhoods may be able to produce a sizable percentage of
their diet.

It best to own your land/house if you want to invest long term in fruit trees and perennials plants. If you are growing annual vegetables such as tomatoes and lettuces, then renting wouldn’t be a problem (unless you have a landlord who gives you problems). Planting in pots is another option, in case you have to move you can take your garden with you.

On the subject of productivity, I forgot to mention that in the front yard the edible landscaping is majority herbs and edible flowers. We really don’t need that many herb plants and such except for our clients. So, we really could boost our productivity if we did away with a few patches of herbs and edible flowers and planted fruit or veggies instead.

One guy wrote saying that he thinks that we could harvest 10,000 – 12,000 lbs from this place (1/10 acre garden). That would be something if this were true.

The possibilities are endless once you eyes are open to a whole new world

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