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Garden State Gardening: Homesteading Tips for Small Spaces

Homesteading is all about being self-sufficient through agriculture, home preservation, and more. That may seem daunting, but taking small steps towards sustainable living is very rewarding. Plus, those small steps feel even more manageable when you start with small spaces.

From clipping your own basil to harvesting and canning fresh tomatoes, even small spaces can make for great gardens. With that in mind, we asked a few of our favorite NJ homesteaders for tips on gardening in small spaces. They gave us some brilliant advice that will have you feeling like a homesteader pretty quickly.


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No Outdoor Space, No Problem!

Apartment dwellers, have no fear; there’s plenty that you can do to use your space and get great results. In fact, Ally and Rob Dwyer of Dutch Hill Homestead are not new to apartment gardening. Even though they now live on a two-acre plot of land in Marlboro, that wasn’t always the case.

Apartment Gardening example

While living in an apartment, they found ways to grow some of their own food. The Dwyer’s say the first step is to visit your local liquor store and ask for wooden wine boxes. These serve as the perfect pots for small spaces! You can also do the same thing with pallets on a balcony. It may sound crazy, but they also suggest asking your landlord for some space outside. The Dwyer’s have had luck getting a space to garden; but even better, their rent was reduced once they took on the project (talk about a bonus). After all, a lovely garden isn’t just a source of food, it looks pretty, too.

If space it too tight for a wooden box or pallet, there’s still hope. Convert an extra closet or small shelf with plants and growing lights, and you can still produce some, well, produce. The same can be done with a hydroponic system (but more on that in a future article coming soon!)

Of course, you can always join a community garden plot where other gardeners can show you the ropes. This may seem like a last resort, but it’s actually a great alternative to gardening at home.

What to Do With Your Yard

If you’re lucky enough to have even a small yard, there are homesteading options for you. Outline a section of the yard with stones or wood so you can garden inside a fixed space. Ally and Rob suggest starting off with some hearty herbs like rosemary, lavender, thyme, and sage. Ground cherries are also fun to grow and once you plant them, they keep coming back every year!

Small Space Gardening Example

(Easy) Things to Grow

There’s no need to swing for the fences on your first garden, so why not start with something easy? It’s best to give yourself a break and grow something that will make you feel like a master gardener.

“Some of our best growers in New Jersey include basil, rosemary, sage, and tomatoes, but lettuce is so easy to grow. Fill up your planter (or wine box) with some free dirt from the township; sprinkle your seeds, tell them you love them, enjoy doing it, water them, and watch them grow!” says Ally Dwyer.

You’ll also have more success if you find out your growing zone and read plant and seed packages. Many of these will let you know if they need full sun or shade, and how to plant them.

Homesteading Advice for Beginners

“Remember, it’s all an experiment, just like life. Don’t get stuck on being a perfectionist. Just start growing, it is the least you can do for the planet. All you have to do is give your plants some love, water, and sun. There is nothing better than being in the dirt and being connected to Mother Earth.” say Ally and Rob Dwyer.


Images: © Ally & Rob Dwyer / Dutch Hill Homestead