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Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Our Summer with a Community Garden Plot

By Alyssa Craft

Tags: gardening, community gardens, urban homesteading, apartment gardening, Idaho, Alyssa Craft,

Two years ago to date, Jesse and I decided that we wanted to buy land in a rural area of the country to build a homestead 100% from scratch (we have since done that… follow our progress on our blog here!). We wanted to build our own home, grow a thriving garden, have a sustainable household, and be as self-sufficient as possible. However, when you’re living in a tiny apartment in a big city, a goal such as that seems incredibly far away, almost so far that you wonder if it’s out of reach.

Living in the middle of a city in an apartment with no yard, but a strong desire to practice homesteading skills.

In order to prepare for our homesteading adventure, we knew we would have to save a substantial amount of money to buy land, make the move and do basic property development to even be able to live on our land in an RV. We moved into the cheapest apartment we could tolerate to live in (it was downtown where things were frequently stolen from our porch and the roof leaked).

We were so excited about the possibility of homesteading in our future; so much so that we wanted to get started right away, even though we were in a tiny apartment that didn’t have a yard or even a porch that received any sun! Somehow, we discovered that our city offered community garden plots through Parks & Recreation, so we gave them a jingle to get the scoop.

community garden plots - parks and recreation

We didn’t have a yard but we did have access to a community garden plot through the city.

Upon getting the information from the city, we learned that a 10x20 community garden plot would only cost us $50 for the entire year, including water. We sent in our payment immediately, received the combination for the lock on the gate, and headed to Lowes where we would buy way too many packets of seeds to stick into the ground!

vegetable seeds for community garden

In total, we planted five varieties of tomatoes, three varieties of bell peppers, purple potatoes, lettuce, sugar snap peas, corn, radishes, watermelon, pumpkin, lettuce, garlic, onion, basil, parsley and nasturtiums. Let’s just say we had big plans and high aspirations for our first garden.

I wanted to do research on how to plant, what to plant, what the soil composition needed to be, enrich the soil, and all of that stuff. Jesse was of the mindset that we should just stick seeds in the ground, give them a little water, and see what would happen. So that’s what we ended up doing.

10x20 community garden plot

A motivating, fulfilling, exciting experience even though 75 of our vegetables were a complete failure.

Even though we were each working 70 hours per week, we made time every single day to water our garden and do basic maintenance. We even tossed on some fertilizer a couple of times when the primary color of foliage was yellow.

While most of our crops failed completely (like the corn, garlic, onion, watermelon, pumpkin and nasturtiums), some of our veggies seemed to thrive despite the fact that we were complete garden-rookies!

Nothing was more fulfilling than harvesting our vegetables and going home to cook a delicious meal.

first vegetable harvest from community garden

We learned that we did indeed love gardening and that we all need to start somewhere.

While goofing around with a 10x20 garden plot may sound silly to some people, I think it was extremely important to us for a few reasons:

It helped us to stay focused on our goal of having our own homestead: At the time, our dream of having our own land to start our own homestead seemed far-fetched. At the end of a long day of computer work, we got to unwind at our garden plot (even if only for 10 minutes) and feel what we were working towards. Every day being at the garden felt amazing, and it physically reminded us of our dreams and goals.

We learned that we really did like gardening: It’s one thing to say “Oh, I would LOVE having a garden one day” but it’s another thing to experience it. If we hated gardening, we wanted to find out sooner rather than later. Good thing that wasn’t the case!

We learned new things: Even though the garden wasn’t a high priority to us, we did learn a thing or two about our crops. We learned what grew well, what struggled a lot, why certain crops failed, which crops were susceptible to disease, and more. While we still have a lot to learn to have a thriving garden, we came out of this experience with more knowledge than we started with which is what’s important.

Our #1 biggest takeaway with this community garden is that where there’s a will, there’s a way. In our case, we dreamed of having our own homestead but just because we weren’t there yet, it didn’t mean that we couldn’t do ANYTHING homestead-related.

We still feel very fortunate to have found the community garden opportunity and would encourage others to try it out if they’re interested in gardening or homesteading, but don’t have the space or resources to create a garden of their own!

The next challenge is to start our own garden on our very own homestead.

After two years of slaving away to meet our goals, Jesse and I purchased our very own 5 acres of land in rural Idaho in September of 2015. Even though we have a lot of work ahead in our future to develop our property, we look forward to starting another baby garden this spring. Subscribe to our blog if you want to follow along our journey!

Alyssa Craft moved to Idaho after purchasing 5 acres of land where she will build an off grid homestead from scratch with as little money as possible. She is blogging about the journey from start to finish in hopes of inspiring others that wish to take a similar path. Follow her many DIY projects, including building with reclaimed materials, building an off-grid hot tub and milling lumber with an Alaskan chainsaw mill. Follow Alyssa on her homesteading blog, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. View Alyssa’s other MOTHER EARTH NEWS articles here!

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