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Want to learn more about living closer to nature in the big city? Get started with these essential urban homesteading books for beginners (and everyone along the journey!)
When I was just starting my urban homesteading journey (although I wouldn’t have necessarily had the language to call it that) I didn’t know where to look for resources.
I would find a book or blog here or there that approximated what I was looking for, but it was very difficult to find comprehensive material that covered all the skills I wanted to learn.
Instead, I would learn how to pickle veggies from a local chef, learn how to bake sourdough bread from YouTube, and learn how to garden from what I could piece together from my dad’s advice and few books.
(There was also a lot of flying by the seat of my pants!)
To be honest, urban homesteading is a lifelong journey, and you will always be learning and experimenting. That’s what I love about it!
However, I wanted to share the list of books I wish I had at the outset to jumpstart my urban homesteading journey and make the process a little smoother.
This post is all about the best urban homesteading books for beginners.
What is Urban Homesteading?
Before we get into my favorite urban homesteading books, a little definition is in order.
You may be wondering, “What the heck is urban homesteading?”
According to Wikipedia, homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. Basically, a homesteader lives off the land to generate their own food and meet their basic needs.
Homesteading usually consists of subsistence agriculture (growing food just to feed yourself and not for profit), preserving food, and sometimes production of clothing and other goods.
Homesteading is typically practiced in rural areas where folks have access to lots of land for growing food, etc.
In contrast, urban homesteading is the pursuit of some aspects of self-sufficiency in a more densely populated setting that sets constraints on land ownership.
What are the Skills of Urban Homesteading?
I see urban homesteading as an adaptable set of skills that is less about self-sufficiency and rugged individualism and more about reducing dependency on the products of capitalism. It’s about engaging with the natural world and leading a deeply satisfying life.
What are these skills? I see the core tenets of urban homesteading as gardening, preserving, and foraging.
Others may include clothes making, animal husbandry, and hunting or fishing. (These are great, I just haven’t gotten that far myself. If you have any resources in these areas, please feel free to share!)
As such, I’ve organized my urban homesteading book recommendations by these skills, as well as some general books that cover a wider range of homesteading topics.
Urban Homesteading Books
by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen
This book was the first comprehensive book on urban homesteading I ever picked up, and has since served as my bible.
In fact, the cover of this book was where I first saw the phrase ‘urban homesteading,’ and something just clicked. I knew I had found my life’s passion.
Coyne and Knutzen are the real deal, growing food and raising chickens on their 1/12 acre lot in Los Angeles for the past couple decades.
This book covers most of the essential skills of urban homesteading, including small-space gardening and urban foraging.
The authors give you plenty of step-by-step projects to get you well on your way to growing pounds of your own food no matter how small your space. (Seriously, no excuses! You don’t even need a backyard–they LOVE container gardening.)
by Carleen Madigan
This is probably the best-selling book on urban homesteading, and with good reason.
The comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know to grow and preserve your own food.
Grow a bountiful crop of fruit and veggies, raise your own animals, and even keep bees in the city with this all-encompassing book. Then when you’re done, preserve the harvest for next year with Madigan’s tips to dry, can and otherwise preserve foods.
Preserving – Urban Homesteading Books
by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine
I almost don’t need to put another book on preserving in this category because this is the widely-acclaimed GOAT.
Originally published in 2006 and since selling over a million copies, the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving was updated in 2020 with over 400 new recipes to match the needs of the modern-day home cook with expanded sections on fermentation and low-sugar canning.
There’s truly something for everyone to learn in this tome, from the beginner to the experienced home-canner.
New World Sourdough: Artisan Techniques for Creative Homemade Fermented Breads; With Recipes for Birote, Bagels, Pan de Coco, Beignets, and More
by Bryan Ford
While not technically a preserving technique, I tend to lump sourdough and other ferments under this category because fermentation is the process of preserving food without the need for refrigeration.
It’s how our ancestors did it, and it happens to create some of the world’s most complex and delicious foods!
Sourdough bread is perhaps the most appealing of the fermentation projects to the modern consumer.
This book brings the ancient process of sourdough into the new world with some truly innovative recipes. My mouth is watering.
Gardening – Urban Homesteading Books
by Lee Reich
PhD-level gardening expert Lee Reich offers low-impact gardening techniques that work to restore the health of your soil and keep weeds at bay.
The best part? These techniques involve minimal human intervention and are based on the tenets of permaculture. (AKA, skip the annual backbreaking tilling and weeding.)
Basically, Reich emphasizes healthy soil achieved through natural techniques as the best bet against unwanted pests.
This book is not necessarily for the urban homesteader, but gardeners of all kinds can learn from his methods.
The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year, No Matter Where You Live
by Niki Jabbour
To be honest, this is probably not a beginner’s book (Unless you’re really ambitious! Otherwise, I would start with the general urban homesteading books mentioned earlier.) but I thought it was a worthy book to include here.
Jabbour is a seriously impressive gardener, growing veggies year-round in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
I don’t know if you know, but Canada gets COLD. Jabbour helps gardeners who might otherwise be limited by the seasons extend their harvest, and therefore increase production.
I love Jabbour’s book because by applying her techniques, gardeners in cooler climates will reduce their dependency on imported food in the colder months.
Foraging – Urban Homesteading Books
by Ellen Zachos
I absolutely love this book for beginner foragers.
This book features 70 edible weeds, flowers, and mushrooms that commonly grow in urban and suburban areas.
The best part is many of these plants and fungi are probably familiar, you just didn’t know they were edible or how to prepare them!
Along with full-color pages and helpful tips for identification, Zachos provides easy recipes for each plant.
This post was all about urban homesteading books.