With less than an acre of land to work with, planning the layout of your Tall homestead is critical to your success.
Once you’ve decided to take up the reins of providing more of your own food, the next logical step seems to be to start planting the seeds of all those lovely, fresh vegetables.
Hold that thought for just a moment, though. Before even one seed hits the ground, it’s crucial to do some planning and designing.
This is important for homesteads of all sizes, but when you’re working with less than an acre, every inch counts, especially if you’re investing money to build infrastructure; you want to make sure everything goes in the right place the first time.
The first step is to draw out your available space as closely to scale as possible. I use a measuring wheel to get the dimensions and graph paper where each block equals a certain number of feet. Include the outline of your house as it sits on your property and any solid fences or walls. Mark permanent features like trees or your patio or porch. This gives a reasonably accurate map of your homestead.
The next step is to orient it to the cardinal directions, North, South, East, West. This is important because you want to take full advantage of your exposures. You can do this with your smartphone, a compass, or if you prefer to go old school, you can put a stick in the ground on a sunny day and measure the shadow every hour from 10am to 2pm. The shortest shadow will be South.
Now it’s time to go outside and observe. Your garden will need at least 6-8 hours of direct sun. Use a copy of the homestead map you created to mark how many hours of sun each area receives. The most consistent sun will be along the South side of your property if you are in the Northern hemisphere. If you’re observing during the winter, keep in mind that trees that are bare now will have leaves that may block the sun to your garden. The sun in the summer will also be higher in the sky than it is during winter. A privacy fence that blocks the sun in the winter may not be an obstacle when the sun is higher during the summer months.
Next, mark utilities on your map. Where are your hose bibs? Where is electricity available? That will be handy to know when you start thinking about the layout of your garden beds or caring for your animals. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to contact your utility company and have any underground utilities marked in case you plan to dig to extend a water line, plant a fruit tree, or so you don’t locate a garden bed on top of it. In the US, the number to call for this is 811.
If you’re going to have animals, now is the time to plan for them. Rabbits tend to do well in cold weather, but really suffer in the heat. Put your rabbitry, on the North side of your property, sheltered by a building or wall if possible and don’t breed them in the hottest part of the year.
Quail are easiest kept in housing with low ceilings and a floor that slopes forward. Most commercial quail housing is built with wire floors so droppings fall through. It does make it easier to keep them clean but it’s hard on their feet (imagine standing barefoot on woven wire all the time), so cover at least 1/3 of the floor area with cardboard to give them a place to get off the wire. Quail are good flyers, so keep the ceiling of the cage low or they will have enough room to fly up and hurt themselves. Many quail break their necks this way. The other option would be to keep them in a tall, aviary-like enclosure. This makes it hard to collect the eggs though because they’ll be all over the floor of the aviary.
Chickens and quail will do alright when the temperature begins to drop if they area protected from the wind. They are capable of raising their own body temperature to keep themselves warm. Just make sure their housing is sheltered from strong wind.
The other things you might want to include in your planning:
- Beehives (check your city ordinances first)
- Compost bins
- Perennial beds
- Fruit trees
- Herb garden
- Medicinal garden
- Trellised plants (grapes for instance)
- Espaliered fruit trees (trees trained to grow flat against a wall or fence)
- Raised garden beds
- In-ground garden beds (good for corn)
- Container garden areas
- Edible landscaping in your front yard
- Chicken / Rabbit grazing
- Tool sheds / storage sheds
- Food preservation areas (outside kitchen for canning? Drying racks for root crops?
You can do a lot on your Tall homestead and do it very well when you’re armed with the information you need to plan it all out first.
What would you like to do with yours?
This post is part of the Patios to Pastures series. Find posts you might have missed here: