Whether you’re starting a new backyard farm or looking to assess and update your existing backyard farm, here are 20 things to consider. Backyard farming is a process and we are all constantly learning new skills, assessing what’s working and setting new homesteading goals for the future. So how do you avoid making mistakes when you’re backyard farming? We’re sharing everything that’s on our minds on our own backyard farm!
We’ve been backyard farming for over a decade and have made many mistakes over the years. The key is to learn from these and continue moving forward. Hopefully this list will keep you from making some of the same mistakes and reach success.
Learn from Other Backyard Farms
Learning from other people’s backyard farming mistakes is way better than making your own mistakes. There are so many ways to hear other people’s homestead stories. If you haven’t checked out the Homesteads section of this site, take a look. You can also look for online blogs that describe what people are doing, what’s working, and what’s not working. One thing to keep in mind is that you may have very different goals and definitions of homesteading success, so keep an open mind when you’re hearing other stories. It’s also helpful to find someone backyard farming in a similar place as it can give you new ideas to try.
Set Homesteading Goals
Setting homesteading goals is something you should do every year. It doesn’t have to be super complicated, but it is helpful to decide what you’re working towards. Many homesteading goals take years to achieve, so you will want to plan ahead and take small steps towards building those dreams. Just like building healthy soil is a long-term project, so is keeping backyard animals and setting up gardening systems. If you are new to everything consider creating a small backyard farm.
We’ve got some resources on backyard farm planning to help get you started.
Learn a Few New Homesteading Skills Every Year
Learning is part of creating a backyard homestead. It’s important to strike the balance between continuing to be an active learner and also limiting yourself to a few new skills that you can perfect. If you are just starting out, it is tempting to try to learn everything at once. Once you learn a new backyard farming skill, it take a while to try it out and decide how it works for you.
Some of the skills you can consider include woodworking, canning, knitting, etc.
Don’t Overdo It
This ties into the last comment about learning a new skill – don’t try to tackle too much and end up with homestead burnout. Everything involving gardening and raising animals takes time – both the learn new skills and to set up and develop. Take on the right amount each year so you can maintain it in the future.
Use the Right Tools
Having the right tools make a massive difference in the long run. How many times have we refused to get the right tool and made 10x the work. This doesn’t mean you need to run out and grab all the best tools right now, instead make it part of your yearly goal to put money into new tools. You can see some of my recommendations for the essential tools and supplies. When you purchase high-quality tools it will ultimately save you money in the long run. Our strategy is to find cheap tools at yard sales or as hand-me-downs and slowly invest in a few new high quality tools every year.
Avoid Adding too Many Backyard Animals All At Once
This one I know from experience. The year after my 3rd child was born we doubled our chickens, brought home our first 2 goats, got two rabbits and some ducks. It was too much and we found ourselves building animals shelters, adding fencing, and neglecting other parts of our backyard. If you are adding backyard animals, make sure you add on at a rate that gives you time to care and learn how to care for each new animal to create a happy and healthy backyard barnyard.
Find Resources Online for Backyard Farming Ideas
There are so many resources available online to learn about homesteading. You can find youtube videos, first-hand blogs, articles about anything you want and more. I encourage you to find the resources that work for you. I find Pinterest a great way to find and collect information and inspiration.
Have a Plan Before You Plant
Even if you set overall homestead goals, make sure you create a specific plan for your garden. Where will you put perennials and annuals? Are you planting what you will eat? We always have the most success in our garden when we have a plan.
Take the Weather into Account on your Backyard Farm
When you spend time online drooling over beautiful photos of someone’s produce only to try growing the same crop in your own garden with no success? You will have the highest level of homesteading success when you plant things and raise animals that thrive in your climate. Working with your weather will save you time and money trying to overcome obstacles. A great example of this is raising chickens. If you choose breeds that thrive in cold weather, you won’t have to spend time and money (and stress) trying to keep your chickens warm.
Learn more about weather and climate on your backyard farm.
Find Local Resources and Advice
The internet is great, but finding local resources is a great way to learn from people who are growing things near you. You can look into joining a local gardening a homesteading group, talk to people at the farmers market, or just make friends with the people raising goats down the street. Having a friend of mentor nearby to share ideas with in key to homesteading success.
Experiment with a New Garden Method
Don’t get over-confident and stop trying new things. It’s worth trying something new every year in the garden. You may not adopt an entire new gardening method, but there are things to learn every time you try something new. You can see more information about different garden methods to experiment with here.
Create a Backyard Farm that you want to Spend Time In
This is really important to keep your backyard farm from becoming just a place of work. You want to find ways for you to spend joyful time working and relaxing in your backyard. This looks very different for each person. Do you want a backyard full of birds? Would a hammock encourage you to spend time relaxing in your backyard? Do you want a place to entertain? Backyard farms can be beautiful (or not)! Decide what will give you the most enjoyment.
Work with Your Yard and Resources
If you are intent on make a large traditional garden bed but have horrible clay soil, you may face a constant battle – instead you may want to create raised beds. Do you have a natural part of your yard that stays wet? Can you plant something here that loves wet feet? Take a careful assessment of your yard and decide to work with your yard and resources.
Use your Backyard Farming Budget Wisely
Whether you have an actual budget for your yard or not, you will likely have some limit on what you can spend. It is entirely possible to spend so much money on your garden set up that your crops end up costing 5x the amount you might buy from a farmers market. Decide what items will move you forward the most – it is tools, new compost, a better raised bed? How you spend you homesteading budget will make a big impact on reaching your goals.
Attract Pollinators for Backyard Abundance
Raising bees is wonderful for your garden, but you can also help attract other pollinators. It’s good for your garden AND it’s good for the earth. Encouraging pollinators will boost your harvest. Read more about creating a bee-friendly garden or yard. You can also consider adding backyard bees.
Create Amazing Soil
Amazing soil in the foundation of a healthy backyard farm. Whether you’ve never focused on your soil, or you have been working for healthy soil for years, this should ALWAYS be on your list of things to work on. Get your soil tested and create systems for building compost. If you have animals, consider how raising animals can benefit your soil and work this into your overall plan. If you want to know how to start a backyard farm – starting with your soil is a great idea.
Create Backyard Farming Systems to Save Time and Money
I am all about creating systems that make backyard farming easier. If there is a system in place, maintaining your garden or animals becomes much easier. A great example of this is to create a complete rainwater management system. If you start the year by investing time in setting up this system, you will ultimately save time (and water) used in moving hoses and sprinklers around the yard. Experienced backyard farmers spend their money wisely and some will move from this on to backyard farming for profit.
Decide How Backyard Farming Fits into the Rest of Your Life
When you are setting homesteading goals and deciding what you want from your backyard, it’s often easy to get caught up and overlook how backyard farming fits into your entire life. Are you planning to travel this year? Do you work a lot in the summer and need to create a system for controlling weeds?
I believe that thinking creatively upfront about your priorities will help you avoid feeling frustrated and resentful about the work it takes to run a backyard farm. We love to travel, so we have a series of house sitters who are excellent and can step in, but we’ve agreed not to take on more animals for a while until we decide to slow down our travels.
Buy One New Homesteading Book
Just like it’s helpful to learn new skills and find great online resources, you should purchase a new homesteading book each year (or get one from the library). This pushes you to keep working towards new homestead knowledge and there is something about having a book on your bedside table that encourages you to pick it up and thumb through it when you get the chance.
Eat the Food You Grow
Sure it’s great to grow new food and add animals to your homestead, but how many times have you brought in a harvest only to be completely overwhelmed by a huge amount of perfectly ripe tomatoes. If you don’t know how you will eat, preserve and store your harvest, think about it now (not when your kitchen is full of tomatoes!) Do you need a canner, do you want another freezer?
Consider Going Green and Exploring Sustainable Backyard Farming
There are many ways to go green on your backyard farm. Everything from using fertilizer to adding green energy, to reducing your carbon footprint is an integral part of creating a sustainable backyard farm. Learn more on our go green pages and make the commitment for a healthier earth.
Get your guide to backyard farming by visiting our START HERE page.