Beyond Vegetables: 5 Other Foods You Can Raise in Your Backyard

Plenty of people have dabbled with growing herbs or vegetables in their yards, on their balconies or even on windowsills and kitchen counters.

Growing your own food means you can buy less, while also knowing exactly where your food comes from. What you may not know, though, is that with a little space, time and effort you can expand the edibles you raise yourself to include some pretty interesting things.

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock


Bees have been in the news a lot lately because many bee colonies are suffering from colony collapse disorder, which often wipes out half of a hive within a year. Bees are an integral part of our food system, since they pollinate many of the plants whose fruits and vegetables we commonly eat, so the drop in honeybee populations is troublesome.

For this reason and because many people are turning to local foods, urban beekeeping is growing in popularity. Plus, honey doesn’t need to be processed in any way before you eat it, so while raising bees for honey does require some know-how, once you understand the steps you’ll have a ready-to-eat sweetener right in your yard.

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

The Logistics

To begin beekeeping, you’ll first need to assess your surroundings. You should consider whether your community would welcome bees, since some neighbors may be allergic to bee stings or be apprehensive. You should also consider how much sun the hive will get and whether food (read: plants) and a water source are nearby.

Next, you will need to obtain beekeeping equipment. A hive will obviously be required, and this consists of a hive body (where the bees live), frames (the structures where bees create honey) and bottom boards (which go underneath everything else). You’ll also need a bee suit, a smoker (which emits smoke to calm the bees) and a hive tool (which is used to remove the frames of honey). For descriptions of these and other items, visit Apartment Therapy’s article about basic beekeeping equipment. Don’t forget you’ll need to buy bees, too!

Once your hive is up and running, bees will make honey on the hive’s frames, which they then cover with wax. You can remove the frames and wax coating, extract the honey and put it into jars. Depending on conditions, you could get up to 200 pounds of honey from your hive each year, according to the American Beekeeping Federation.

Further Resources

To learn more details about beekeeping, visit the American Beekeeping Federation, whose website offers a series of documents that explain the process to beginning beekeepers. The University of Minnesota’s Bee Lab also sells helpful manuals and videos.

Apartment Therapy has an accessible series of articles about beekeeping. In addition to their list of necessary equipment, they also explain the extraction process.

Want to purchase everything you’ll need? Check out Beekeeping Starter Kit.

Read: Local Honey Extracted and Delivered…by Bicycle?

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  1. Great ideas! I’m actually planting some dwarf fruit trees this weekend, though I wish I had the space to raise a chicken or two as well.

  2. raising chickens is a pain. my sisters are free range and live in our suburban backyard. they poop everywhere constantly and it smells BAD, and they also eat every living growing thing that you might happen to have around. If you are going to get chickens i recommend one or two small ones. any more than that and they start to become a big hassel. oh and if you have dogs/cats/rabbits, they try to peck at them, leaving marks.

  3. I HATE these ideas of “growing” goats, chickens, fish, bees, and/or other live animals in the backyard! 1) Grow up already! Milk is for babies… or sick people living in 3rd world conditions. It’s not for well-fed Americans with an abundance of better food choices at their nearest supermarkets.2) In order to have milk, goats (like dairy cows) must be pregnant and given birth all the time. Why do we want to rape goats and separate mothers from babies for a little flesh, milk, or cheese that the adult human body doesn’t need anyway? 3) Recognizing that goats are “intelligent, social animals” then take a knife to their throats after they looked at you as a friend who fed them is nothing short of teaching the next generations immoral lessons of betrayal. That goes the same for chickens and fish too. 4) Factory farm conditions in a residential neighborhood is nothing to crow about. That picture of fish crowded into a tiny tank is SICKENING! Fishes also think, feel, and have a central nervous systems of brains, lungs, and hearts just like humans. So what about their quality of life? Crowded, dirty conditions induce high stress levels in aquatic life just like they do in animals. In all, be kind and considerate to your neighbors, neighborhoods, and other sentient beings. Please forget about this disturbing, immoral, and shallow-thinking trend of raising/killing your own animals in the backyard for food or anything else.

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