Build Your Homesteading Library With These Must-Read Essentials

A baker’s dozen of books to prep your lawn, balcony or fire escape for growing (and reap what they sow).  

We’re going to brazenly use the phrase Urban Homesteading here because not only is it perfectly descriptive (a perfect way to describe the pioneering antics of urban dwellers, who make up 80% of this nation, getting back to their agrarian roots, is it not?) but also because it rings true to the populist movement rocketing from city to suburb, and blooming at every fire escape in between.

To be an Urban Homesteader is to be the new American Gothic, except the old man farmer sports a hipster ‘stache and the spinster daughter is not a spinster, thank you very much, but a kick-ass and fully self-sufficient woman who can grow her own turnips and eat them, too.

Want to be just like her? Awesome. Except, how does one actually go about growing turnips? Here are 13 books on today’s fastest growing urban movement. Surely one of them will lead you to homegrown salad munching bliss.

The Urban Homestead : Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City is considered an essential handbook for urban gardeners and farmers. The authors Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen founded the blog Root Simple and are responsible for sparking territory disagreements on the electronic frontier by challenging the Dervaes family on their move to trademark the term “Urban Homesteading” and, effectively, the movement.

Urban Farm Handbook: City Slicker Resources for Growing, Raising, Sourcing, Trading, and Preparing What You Eat by Annette Cottrell and Joshua McNichols teaches city-dwellers how to wean themselves off of commercial supermarkets.

Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living by Rachel Kaplan and K. Ruby Bloom offers a comprehensive how and why to backyard DIY, including worm bins, rainwater storage systems, medicinal herbs and more.

The Ultimate Guide to Homesteading: An Encyclopedia of Independent Living by Nicole Faires promises to teach you everything you ever wanted to know about self-reliance, preparedness, survival, and sustainable homesteading. A rather encyclopedic statement.

In The Essential Urban Farmer authors Novella Carpenter and Willow Rosenthal share their experience as successful urban farmers with practical blueprints.

Chick Days: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chickens from Hatching to Laying by Jenna Woginrich is about chickens. What more can we say? That’s deserving of an exclamation point: chickens! How to raise ’em, love ’em and (let’s be honest here) eat their eggs humanely.

The Backyard Beekeeper’s Honey Handbook: A Guide to Creating, Harvesting, and Cooking with Natural Honeys assumes a certain level of beekeeping experience, but gets into practical guidance on a back-to-the-earth beekeeping lifestyle and artisan cultivation of honey varieties.

Urban Farming: Sustainable City Living in Your Backyard, in Your Community, and in the World by Thomas Fox will, we quote,”walk every city and suburban dweller down the path of self sustainability” be it in a high rise apartment, community garden or itty bitty terrace.

The Integral Urban House: Self Reliant Living in the City is an older book (circa the 70s) that is considered by many of today’s homesteaders to be the bible of the urban agriculture movement. It teaches readers to treat their homes as a mini-ecosystem for growing fruit and vegetables, raising chickens, rabbits and fish, recycling waste and heating with solar energy, all within a typical 1/8-acre city lot.

Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre by Brett Markham, on the other hand, is for urban farmers with just 1/4 acre of land to work with.

The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre! might be geared towards more of a suburban or sleeper community homesteading audience as it even offers advice on how to keep a cow in your backyard.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Urban Homesteading by Sundari Elizabeth Kraft because sometimes an idiot’s guide is the only fence between you and an edible  harvest.

Food Grown Right in Your Backyard by the boys from the Seattle Urban Farm Company breaks edible gardening down into digestible chunks with case studies and photographic montages, more of a 1-2-3 than an A-to-Z guide to homesteading in your own backyard.

This list should be rather exhaustive, but if there are any books you think we’ve missed, please feel free to add to our library by leaving a comment below!

Image: Elaine Faith

K. Emily Bond

K. Emily Bond is the Shelter Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in southern Spain, reporting on trends in art, design, sustainable living and lifestyle.