Old MacDonald Had An Urban Mini-Farm

One of the best ways families can go green is by growing their own organic veggies. But did you also know that it’s also possible to raise your own chickens so that you can enjoy fresh eggs too? You just need to set up your own little urban farm! It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a lot of outdoor space – you’ll be surprised at the possibilities you have even in a compact city garden. Here are some very useful tips that can help you get started with your urban farm. And remember, even if you decide to just grow a few veggies in pots on the patio, you will be feeding your family with healthy fresh food, with no air miles, pesticides and you had fun along the way!

Split Your Space

If you fancy growing vegetables and keeping chickens in the same garden, you will need to effectively split up the space. That’s because you shouldn’t let chickens onto your vegetable patch as they will scratch it up and could damage the plants once they start to grow. Trust me, I have fallen victim to this a few times! The chickens had great fun though!

So, it’s necessary to allocate some of your garden as a veg patch, and make sure that it is surrounded by a fence or some chicken wire so that all your crops can grow without being disturbed by the chicken!  Make sure the wire is strong and do your research how to fox proof your space. Even though chickens can’t fly, they can jump very high. We have one girl who can easily clear 6ft!

Equip Your Shed

You will need lots of different tools once you start your own little urban farm. For starters, you should ensure that you have plenty of gardening equipment that can help you look after all your crops. If you plan on working in your shed and have lighting installed, you might want to go to selectra.co.uk and find out about smart meters. These can help you monitor your energy use and ensure your farm stays within its budget. Fix water buts to your home and shed too, so you reduce the need for using the garden hose. We have 4 water buts in total, which saves gallons of water needed to water all of our veggies.

Use your shed as growing space too. We have attached hanging baskets to our shed. Our shed is huge and in full sun, perfect from growing tumbling tomatoes.

Find A Chicken Coop

You need to find an appropriate coop or hutch for your chickens to live in. If your shed is big enough, you might want to just place some straw in one corner so that they can sleep in there. That’ll save you buying a specific house for them. It is important to remember that you might not be able to let your chickens roam freely if you live in a built-up area. But you can still let them outside – you just need to make a run for them. You can have a go at making your own, but most pet shops stock them. Looking at chickencoopsandhouses.co.uk, you can see that there are runs and coops of various shapes and sizes.

We have a kids wendy house as a coop. I can easily get in to clean and collect eggs, and my husband fitted a drop down steal door to make letting them out in the morning easier. The wendy house was an on-line freebie and works just as well as any expensive coop.

Breakfast time.

Start Small

Start by growing just a few things in tubs first or dedicating a small patch of your garden for growing space. Taking on loads as a newbie can be daunting and can be really disheartening when things go wrong. Take time to plan your garden, what you want to grow and do your research when the best time to sow and plant out.

Keep your eyes peeled for a cheap greenhouse for sale. The plastic pop up ones are fab for small sheltered spaces, but glass houses are best. You can buy small ones, and will have far greater success growing in a proper glass house.

Sell Your Eggs

If you find that you have quite a few eggs left over after your family have taken the ones that you need, you might like the idea of selling some. To do this, you should buy some egg boxes (or ask your family and friends for any old ones!) and clean off the eggs before you pack them. Make sure you don’t wash them, though, as this can damage the protecting film that helps them last longer. Don’t say that your eggs are free-range though, as you might be breaking regulations, especially if your chickens can’t get out of your garden. But if you feed your chickens organic food, then you can advertise them as organic eggs.

Enjoy your new urban farm!

Grow Your Own Veg: Common problems solved

Some of you will have been following our journey  living a more self sufficient lifestyle. This summer we have been working hard growing lots of yummy fruit and vegetables. Most with success, but we have fallen on our backsides a few times with some hiccups. Just yesterday, all of my brussel sprouts fell victim to caterpillars. Ruined!

 For all of the wonders that growing your own vegetables can bring, there’s no doubt it can also be rather frustrating. It’s a process that is never as simple as one would hope. You can’t just plant seeds and then sit back, let the magic of nature take its course and produce a yield bountiful enough to feed the entire family – it tends to involve a lot more trial and error than that. Trust me… I seem to go through a LOT of errors, during my trials! 


Of course, that’s all part of gardening isn’t it? Learning as you go, picking up new skills, refining the ones that you had. It’s all part of the fun. If, however, you find yourself continually hitting a wall when it comes to your vegetables, it can be disheartening to the point you feel you might as well not bother. It’s a huge learning journey, that can be so frustrating. But believe me, once you figure it out, the rewards are huge. Nothing tastes better than the amazing food that you have grown. It’s fresh, full of flavour and so much better for you than shop bought versions.

So, before you give up entirely, it’s worth considering these questions to see if there’s any room for improvement on your technique.

Do You Have The Right Equipment?

It’s one thing to have the right soil, raised beds, and tools – but that’s not all you need for successful vegetable growing. You’re going to need, ideally, a greenhouse 6 x 8 feet in size, fleeces to protect your seedlings, potentially even a cold frame if you want to start the growing season as easily as possible. Luckily for us, our greenhouse was a gift from a family friend. Since we’ve had the greenhouse, the amount of food (and our success) has certainly more than doubled. 

It is possible to grow your own veg without a wide variety of different equipment, but it’s definitely easier to get it right if you have got everything you need to hand. It might seem like a lot of money to spend on something that’s already proving problematic, but these big items will last for years and years once you have made the initial investment. The investment doesn’t have to be huge either. Lots of our equipment has been picked up from second hand selling pages and sites, carboots and eBay.  

Are You Spacing Your Plants?

If you’re short on space or just more accustomed to growing flowers, it can be surprisingly easy to plant vegetables so close together that they have no chance of survival. As a general rule, the bigger the vegetable – such as broccoli, cauliflower, swedes – the more space it’s going to need to grow. We have 4 giant pumpkin plants, that currently have taken over the space equivalent of an average garage!

If you really want to get spacing down to an exact science, then you could try square foot gardening. This method has exact spacing required for each type of veg, so you can’t go far wrong if this has potentially been an issue for you. 

I still fall victim to myself when it comes to spacing. This year my peas ended up in a big tangled mess, because I tried to cram too many close together. I did get a harvest from them, but nowhere as many as I could have had if I had put more thought into spacing. If plants are too close together oxygen and light reaching the plants can be compromised.

Are You Using The Right Food?

Once again, it’s possible to grow vegetables without using an additional plant food – but it definitely helps if you give your seedlings a helping hand. You could try a natural food or fertiliser; egg shells, for example, can be particularly effective when it comes to encouraging growth- and eggshells can also act as a natural slug repellent. You could opt for something store-bought to give your plants the best chance of survival. I still like to buy natural based plant foods and avoid any heavy chemicals. 

If you’re concerned about chemicals, then focus on learning to read labels or stick to natural options. Even used coffee grounds can give vegetables an extra boost when it comes to reaching their potential, so give everything a try before you give up. You can make your own fertiliser from stinging nettles soaked in rain water. Trust me, it stinks but the rewards are huge! Have a Google and look at how to make your own fertiliser. 

READ!

Head to the library, charity shops and browse online and read as much as you can about your grow-your-own journey. Knowledge is key. I am a member of some fabulous allotment-keepering pages on Facebook, with many of it’s members being full of essential information, gathered from years spent at their own allotments.