urban gardens

Grow Your Own Farm on Less Than an Acre

Garden Girl’s urban farmstead proves you don’t need lots of space to grow food for your family.

RODALE NEWS, BOSTON, MA—At some point or other, you may have daydreamed about owning a farm, enjoying acre upon acre of row crops and meadows, maybe even waking up to freshly laid chicken eggs for breakfast. This farm fantasy may seem out of reach for most—especially those living in the city—but after a group of visitors mingled about Patti Moreno’s urban organic farm in her small Boston backyard Wednesday, it’s easy to see that urban farming isn’t about space, just what you’re motivated to do with it.

THE DETAILS: Moreno, founder and host of Garden Girl TV, and contributor to Organic Gardening magazine and Farmers' Almanac, routinely opens her home to visitors and neighbors and shares her extensive knowledge on urban gardens and farming. Wednesday, as part of this year's Natural Products Expo East trade show (it runs through Saturday in Boston; check back for more Expo reports over the next several days), she guided visitors through her raised-bed vegetable and edible flower gardens and small fruit orchard, around her 7,000-gallon pond and homemade chicken coop, and wrapped things up on her porch in front of kitchen and container gardens full of herbs and fresh lettuce. (She and her husband skim green duckweed, the world’s smallest flowering plant, off the top of the pond and use the high-protein food to feed their chickens—talk about efficient!) Visitors also enjoyed a lunch featuring Moreno’s urban-garden veggies, prepared by local chef Nadine Nelson, owner of Epicurean Studio.

WHAT IT MEANS: It’s not about the acreage, but what you do with it. On less than an acre, Moreno not only provides food for her family and many of her neighbors, but also has helped build a strong sense of community through healthy food and urban gardens. She herself lost and kept off 70 “post-pregnancy pounds” by burning calories working in the garden, and then eating the healthy food she grows.

Don’t have a lot of space? No worries. Here are some Garden Girl tips for the beginning urban gardener.

Believe in yourself. While Moreno is certainly an inspiration, she wasn’t born with a green thumb. “I grew up in New York’s concrete jungle,” she says with a laugh. “Central Park was nature to me.” She says she learned many lessons in her organic gardens through trial and error. “Failures are learning opportunities,” she says. “Move on, and know why it failed. If you don’t know, find out.”

Utilize unsightly fences and vertical space. If you live in the city, chances are chain-link fencing sits on some parts of your property. “Say, ‘I’m going to beautify it, make it a green wall,’” suggests Moreno. Use the fences as trellises for crops like cucumbers to climb up—the climbers willl hide the metal fence and provide cheap, healthy, organic food for your family. If you have a porch, you can grow vine veggies in a pot and let them climb a lattice.

Start small. Start with a single raised bed or a container or two to grow something your family likes to eat. This time of the year, you can grow lettuces for fresh salads, and can continue growing into the winter by building or buying a cold frame. If you want to grow out of containers, Moreno suggests checking out IKEA for affordable, galvanized containers that provide a nice urban contemporary flair to your property. For more information on organic gardening, visit, and tap into the hundred-plus hours of sustainable urban living videos on Garden Girl TV.

Photos from Gardern Girl Patti Morena's tour of her urban garden:

Boston "Garden Girl" Patti wowed and other Expo visitors with her garden tour.
Duckweed from Moreno's backyard pond makes great feed for her chickens.
Extensive use of containers and raised beds helps Moreno grown an amazing amount of food and vegetation, all on less than an acre in the middle of a city.
Fresh food and a sturdy homemade shelter keep backyard chickens happy.


Published on: September 24, 2009

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health food and health children - this is just great, aslo no needed to buy pharmacies anymore, most of illness are treated by the traditional methods of the people

It is inspiring to read

It is inspiring to read that a simple farm can be started even by living in apartments which offer limited space for growing food (and chickens!). It always saddens me to see people with land only to let it go to waste, while they ‘forage’ for food in their local supermarkets. With a little gardening services this wasted piece of land can actually be one that can sustain the family for all their food needs, saving them even more money in the long run than buying vegetables in the bargain aisle.

It’s hard to believe

Great tips! It’s hard to believe you can actually own your own farm with less than an acre, but evidently, it is possible!


Great post

This is a great example of urban farmsteading or homesteading. The next step is making it easier (but still safe) for urban farmers who want to go beyond growing for themselves and their families to sell some of their products as value-added products, even if just for a sideline stream of income. Regulations in some locations are starting to be restructured for this purpose. But first, people like these folks need to show how much is possible in the urban environment, thanks to them for leading the way -

galvanized containers

You are kidding, right? who wants to grow anything eatable in them? don't we get enough "garbage" in our body from other things without adding that can be avoided? Lining it with plastic ? I don't think so, because it will break down, you get hung up on it and who wants to take out all the soil every year to check the liner? those big black plastic tubs are horrible. yes they work great, as long as you don't have them in the sun or shield them, because they get HOT and kill the roots from the plants you have in there. Litteraly cooks them. Stick with untreated wood and if you don't got much room, make your "beds" like carrying boxes. Of the ground and you can move them around. Each box got a certain veggie and easy to switch the next year. Use your imagination.

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