When you first start down the path to homesteading, one of the major considerations is where you will build your homestead and how much space you need.
It takes years to build a homestead and establish systems and garden spaces. If you plan to homestead, it is important to find a space and stay in that space to give yourself time to grow fruit trees, build garden beds and more. Depending on your goals, you can homestead on many different sized plots of land including 1/4 acre, 1 acres or more.
In this article, we will explore everything you need to know to start homesteading on 5 acres from what to include on your homestead, how create a layout for backyard farming 5 acres, and a few of our top tips for getting started.
We have homesteaded on 1 acre, 2 acres and have spent the last 10 years on our 5 acres homestead here in NH. While we don’t use all 5 acres actively at the moment, we have been working hard to get systems in place to take advantage of the space and resources we do have.
Whether you already have 5 acres and are deciding how to create a 5 acre homestead layout or are looking to buy a homestead – you can find lots of considerations and information to help. You can also scroll down for some specific design ideas for laying out your 5 acre homestead. You can also find more information on planning your homestead on our planning pages.
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Can you Homestead on 5 Acres?
The first question is: can you homestead on 5 acres?
The quick answer is that 5 acres is enough to build a homestead and feed a family. While 5 acres is enough to homestead for more people, it’s important to consider specifically what works for you and your future plans.
Whether 5 acres is enough for your family and your specific goals is another question. Before you can decide if 5 acres is enough to homestead for you, consider the following questions:
- How is the soil on the land?
- What resources are available? Water, sunlight, etc)?
- What is the topography of the land?
- How close is the homestead to other amenities (jobs, stores, etc)
- Are there rules and reguations that might limit your homesteading?
- How will your homesteading plan impact the community (neighbors, environment, etc)?
- What are your long term goals?
- Do you plan to be fully self sufficient?
Is 5 acres a lot of land? this of course depends on your perspective – for people coming from a city, 5 acres will feel huge, but of course the opposite is also true. So exactly how big is five acres?
Five acres is equivalent to approximately 21,780 square meters or 2.137 hectares. To put it in perspective, a standard American football field, including both the playing field and the end zones, is typically about 1.32 acres in size. So, five acres is roughly equivalent to almost four football fields placed side by side.
Key Considerations When Homesteading on 5 Acres
Once you’ve identified your 5 acres homestead, the next step is to assess your property and take stock of what challenges your may face and what resources you have available. Using the questions above begin considering how these elements will play into your 5 acres homestead plan.
Self Sufficient Living on 5 Acres
Self sufficient farming 5 acres is possible, but will require additional planning. You will want to consider your food needs throughout the entire year including whether you plan to eat a vegetarian diet or whether you will raise meat. You will also need to consider growing grain and how you will store your food throughout the winter. Most people homestead on 5 acres are not completely self-sufficient.
Soil will form the base of your homestead in many ways. It’s important early on to assess your soil. The best way to do this is to do a soil test. Typically your local cooperative extension through the USDA can help getting your soil tested. You can purchase test kits online as well and while this may not give you are detailed a picture, it is a good place to start.
Water is important no matter where you homestead. Some years you will have too much and some years you won’t have enough. Just like with sunlight, you will want to consider the slope of your property. Do you have a water source like a pond? Are you on a well? Is there part of the property that needs increased drainage or water catchment? The amount of water will also determine which plants you grow.
Learn more about water management on your backyard farm.
The amount of sunlight on your property will dictate what you can do on your property. If the slope of your land goes to the north, you may want to avoid growing a garden or fruit trees as sunlight will be limited. You will also need to decide whether you will cut down trees or create a shaded area on your property. We tap our sugar maples in the spring and prefer to have a row of trees to the south of our house. This provide shade in the summer.
Growing vegetables and fruit trees requires sunlight so you may need to clear some of the homestead of trees to get enough sunlight.
Your overall climate will also dictate what you can or can’t grow on your homestead. While there are some things you can do to take advantage of microclimates on your property, your climate will ultimately dictate what you can grow.
Read more about understanding the climate on your backyard farm.
Topography of the Land
The overall topography of the land is important. As mentioned above, the topography will have impacts on the amount of sunlight as well as the flow of water. It will also dictate where you acn build buildings. When you create your 5 acre homestead plan find ways to work with the existing topography on your property.
Proximity of the Homestead
Most people do not make a living homesteading although many people will use their homestead for a side income or if you are homesteading in retirement. Knowing this, if you are buying a new homestead, you should consider proximity to your job, family, friends, or stores. If you have an hour commute just so you can be on 5 acres, how much time will you have to homestead?
Rules and Regulations
Check for the local rules and regulations in your town and neighborhood. You may be limited on raising animals and even growing food. You may also have difficulty getting permits to build outbuildings.
Even if you are allowed to keep chickens on your homestead, how will this impact your neighbors? Are you upstread of a sensitive environmental area? Will raising animals impact the health of these sensitive area?
When we decided to add solar panels to our homestead, we talked with our neighbors about where we would place the panels. While we still had the final decision, talking to the neighbors meant that everyone was happier in the end.
What to Include on your 5 Acre Homestead
Once you’ve thought through some of the major considerations, you can start creating a list of everything you may want to include on your homestead. Below are some of the most popular things to add to your homestead. I also encourage you to get your free copy of our ebook: The modern homestead and read through suggestions on deciding on the best homestead ideas.
Here are some starting points for things to have on your homestead. There a lots of additional things you can add to your homestead:
Garden: A vegetable garden is the perfect place to start with your 5 acre homestead. If you are starting from scratch, consider starting small and building over time. Design room to grow. You may also want to consider multiple garden spaces. Try to place one of the food gardens near your home. Grow herbs and other frequently used crops in this garden. You will also want to position your garden on a south face or flat slope. Consider the access to water and whether you will need to fence this space.
Fruit Trees: fruit trees are something you should start early on. They take years to begin producing. You will want to think carefully about where to put your trees since they are difficult to move. You may decide to build an orchard in one area, or place your fruit trees around your 5 acre homestead. We’ve done a combination and have one part of our homestead with about 7 trees and more trees spread around the property.
Berry Bushes and Perenial Food Crops: In addition to your garden, you may want to consider a berry patch. There tend to take up a lot of space, especially if you want enough berries to preserve. Consider raspberries, elderberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries. You should also consider other perenial crops like asparagus and rhubarb.
Chickens: Chickens are often the first animal people add to their homestead. They are generally easy to care for, fun, and supply delicious eggs. You will want to plan for a coop and run and keep in mind that you may want more chickens in the future.
Bees: Bees are another common homesteading animal. Bees can be kept in a small space and in addition to honey also help with pollination of your fruit trees and other crops. If are interested in bee keeping, you should consider getting started by taking a beekeeping course. Read a bit on how to get started with beekeeping.
Other Backyard Farm Animals: There are many other animals that you may want to consider adding to your backyard farm. Depending on your set up you will need to consider how you will provide shelter, pasture, food and water. Common backyard farming animals include: goats, ducks, geese, turkeys, pigs, cows, and sheep.
Learn more about choosing the best homesteading animals.
Energy and Water: Most homesteaders are supportive of becoming more self-sufficient. This includes conserving energy and water. You may want to consider water catchment and renewable energy sources. Several years ago, we invested in solar panels and a series of rain barrels. Consider what makes sense for your homestead.
See more about how we manage water on our homestead.
Storage: As your homestead grows, so do your tools and supplies. If you begin preserving food, you will also have food to store. This means you should consider where you will store the tools, hay, and produce from your homestead. Not every homestead needs a barn, but you will need indoor and dry spaces to store some supplies.
Community Space: Homesteads don’t need to be ugly and you should consider how you will enjoy your homestead. Would a patio or a garden bench add to the overall homestead?
Greenhouse: a greenhouse is an important element if you are looking to extend your harvest. This can be everything from a hoop house to a glass greenhouse or even row covers. You will want a sunny site near a water source for your greenhouse.
Compost: A compost system is important on your backyard farm. Consider where this will fit into your plan. It should be easy to reach but also not in a place that will be a problem if it attracts animals (our needs to be in a spot that our dog won’t get into.
Other Elements for your Homestead: there are so many other things that can be included on your homestead based on your overall goals and your exact set up. A few other possibilities include: maple trees to tap, mushroom growing area, outdoor kitchen, gardening or work bench or a childrens or bee garden.
Setting Homesteading Goals
Once you’ve thought through what to include on your homestead, take some time to set homesteading goals. I know from experience that it is easy to bite off more than you can chew on your homestead. As you createa your goals consider what needs to happen first and what can be done over time. You can use our free resources for planning your homestead and setting goals.
5 acre Homestead Layout
To get started designing your homestead on 5 acres, you will want to get an overhead layout of your property. You can do this by using google earth or drawing out your property boundaries. Follow the steps below to create a 5 acre farm layout:
- Draw your boundaries
- Place the existing elements on the drawing (buildings, driveway, pond, trees). If you are starting from scratch, mark the elements that already exist. Note anything you will be taking out or moving. Use pencil for the remainder of these steps.
- Mark South on your drawing/map. If there is a lot of slope on your property, mark this.
- Start by adding the elements you want closest to your home: gardens, chicken coop, compost, etc.
- Continue building your plan making reference back to your homesteading goals.
- Once you have everything on your drawing, take a holistic and critical look at the 5 acres homestead as a whole. How does everthing fit together? Did you miss anything? Do you have the right access to the different elements (can you can a lawn mower or wheel barrow through)?
Below you can see a general layout of our 5 acre homestead:
There are endless ways to design your homestead and you should keep in mind that this is just a starting point, over time you will shift and tweak the design. If you are looking to measure exactly the space you need, here are a few measurements to help you plan our your design:
- Vegetable garden: 100-400 square feet per person
- Fruit trees and berry bushes: 50-100 square feet per tree/bush
- Herb garden: 10-20 square feet
- Compost area: 10-20 square feet
- Greenhouse or hoop house: Varies based on the desired capacity
- Chicken coop/run: 2-3 square feet per chicken – plan 5-10 chickens for a family
- Rabbit hutch: 4-6 square feet per rabbit
- Goat or sheep pasture: 200-400 square feet per animal
- Pig pen: 100-200 square feet per pig
- Horse or cow pasture: Several acres per animal (depending on the breed and grazing capacity)
Below if another possible layout for homesteading on 5 acres.
How to Get Started on Your Plan
Once you’ve created your plan for homesteading on 5 acres, it’s time to implement.
Take a look at what already exists and make a plan for building your 5 acre homestead. While it can be hard to slow down your process, whenever possible spend additional time implementing systems in your backyard farm. This will save time in the long run. Systems you should consider as you building your property for homesteading on 5 acres:
- Water System
- Soil Management System (compost, etc)
- Weed control
If you are starting homesteading on 5 acres from scratch, your first step will be to look for a property. You should use the ket considerations above when selecting your property and do your due diligence. There are some thing you can change about your property (cutting down tree to create more sunlight) while there are other things you can’t control without significany work (slope, climate zone, water, soil).
In our 2 acre homestead in upstate New York, our soil was heavy clay soil and low lying. This meant that the soil water often water logged. To overcome this, we created raised beds and brought in a low of soil. When we moved to NH finding good soil with drainage was non-negotiable. Decide what matters most and what you are willing to deal with.
Our 5 Acre Homestead
We’ve been building up our property and have been homesteading on 5 acres for over 10 years. We’ve implemented many of the options desccribed above. Over this time here are a list of some of the things we’ve included on our 5 acre homestead:
- We’ve created a large garden area with some perennial crops (rhubarb, asparagus, and strawberries) and plenty of space for vegetables. This is split between a large garden and a series of raised beds. We also have an herb garden.
- Extensive berry patches with blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, elderberries, and black raspberries
- Fruit Trees: Peach, cherry, apple, plum, paw-paw, and persimmon
- Maple Trees – enough to tap for a full year of syrup.
- Compost: we have a compost bin with 3 areas to rotate piles. We’ve had a worm bin as well to help create extra rich soil
- Animals we have or are currently raising: Goats, Chickens, bees, ducks, llama, rabbits, and dogs.
- We installed solar panels
- Rain barrels installed with drip irrigation
- Extensive flower gardens to attract bees
- Plan in place to preserve food by canning or freezing in a chest freezer
Looking for more resources for homesteading on 5 acres: Start with our resources for Planning Your Homestead.