The best books for aspiring urban homesteaders

Who am I?

For me, backyard composting is more than just a way to lessen how much waste I send to the landfill. When you compost you transform items that many people consider garbage into a valuable soil amendment for your garden. You are creating something with real value that can help plants thrive and act as a carbon sink to help reduce negative impacts of climate change. Composting is so easy and rewarding that I really want to see everyone give it a try.


I wrote...

No-Waste Composting: Small-Space Waste Recycling, Indoors and Out. Plus, 10 Projects to Repurpose Household Items Into Compost-Making Machines

By Michelle Balz,

Book cover of No-Waste Composting: Small-Space Waste Recycling, Indoors and Out. Plus, 10 Projects to Repurpose Household Items Into Compost-Making Machines

What is my book about?

In No-Waste Composting, you’ll discover the hows and whys of composting and find over a dozen practical step-by-step plans for building both indoor and outdoor composting systems that require a minimal amount of space. Build a DIY worm-composting system for a cupboard or garage. Craft a layered, composting system from terra cotta pots.  Construct a simple outdoor compost bin from repurposed wooden pallets. Use upcycled wire fencing to build a mobile composting system on the driveway.

Whether you’re just starting your no-waste journey or you’re a seasoned recycling and repurposing pro, No-Waste Composting is an invaluable tool to have at your side. This book is part of the Cool Springs Press No-Waste Gardening series, which also includes No-Waste Kitchen Gardening and No-Waste Organic Gardening.

The books I picked & why

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Fruit Trees for Every Garden: An Organic Approach to Growing Apples, Pears, Peaches, Plums, Citrus, and More

By Orin Martin, Manjula Martin,

Book cover of Fruit Trees for Every Garden: An Organic Approach to Growing Apples, Pears, Peaches, Plums, Citrus, and More

Why this book?

Fruit Trees for Every Garden was an excellent guide for me as I dream of planting my small backyard orchard. You can tell by reading the text that Martin really knows his stuff and as you read it feels more like an old friend sharing their wisdom over coffee than reading a textbook. The photos are lovely and warrant checking out the book on their own. Martin also dives extensively into the importance of using compost when planting trees, so he earns big points from me.


The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden

By Kim Flottum,

Book cover of The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden

Why this book?

This book was exactly what I needed to better understand what is involved in starting a beehive in an urban setting. Flottum starts his readers with the bare-bones basics and builds from there. He also goes into what he calls “Extreme Urban Beekeeping” with tips on considerations for those of us with close neighbors. I have not started beekeeping yet, but Flottum has inspired me to add it to my list of future endeavors. 


The Chicken Chick's Guide to Backyard Chickens: Simple Steps for Healthy, Happy Hens

By Kathy Shae Mormino,

Book cover of The Chicken Chick's Guide to Backyard Chickens: Simple Steps for Healthy, Happy Hens

Why this book?

I love reading books by authors whose passion for a topic bleeds into their writing. You can tell when you read this book that Mormino loves her chickens and has spent a lot of time working with and thinking about how to best raise them. There are many books out there about raising chickens, but for me, Mormino’s book was just the right length and detail and covered all of the topics you would need to bring some feathered friends into your life.


Preserving Everything: Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and More

By Leda Meredith,

Book cover of Preserving Everything: Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke, and Store Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk, and More

Why this book?

Becoming more self-sufficient requires that you be able to preserve what you harvest to eat in other parts of the year. Meredith nails the topic of how to preserve many different foods in a delicious and easy way. She covers dozens of methods while keeping the text light and fun. Much of the book reads like a cookbook with a twist. How could I not fall in love with a book that teaches you how to make spiced slow-cooker pear butter?


Square Foot Gardening: A New Way to Garden in Less Space with Less Work

By Mel Bartholomew,

Book cover of Square Foot Gardening: A New Way to Garden in Less Space with Less Work

Why this book?

This book cracks the code on how to get the most veggies out of a small, raised bed gardening system. It is no surprise that this book seems to have spurred a whole movement and fundamentally changed the way many people garden. I really appreciate how Bartholomew lays out the steps and techniques to consider and gives the spacing needed for specific types of plants. He also incorporates compost into his raised beds, so he gets a high five from me.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in honey bees, organic gardening, and chickens?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about honey bees, organic gardening, and chickens.

Honey Bees Explore 16 books about honey bees
Organic Gardening Explore 18 books about organic gardening
Chickens Explore 23 books about chickens

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Tastes Like Chicken, Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?, and The Chicken Health Handbook if you like this list.