M & C’s goal was simple. Grow more of their own food.

They also wanted to upgrade their compost bins, create a tick barrier for the yard, build raised beds & install a rain barrel.

The Basics

Season: Summer 2014 – Fall 2015

Location: Burlington, VT

Size of Property: 0.35 acres

Key Features: Great front yard sun. Limited backyard sun with lots of tree cover. Backyard abuts forest. Challenging to keep the two family dogs out of backyard gardens. Excellent rainwater collection potential with large roof area and gutters. Front yard is open to passersby and is a more social space. Backyard has views into the forest and is quiet and contemplative.

M & C were looking to boost the functionality of their property so they could enjoy the outdoors and grow food more easily.

Step 1: Assessment & Design

We began by:

  • assessing how the site was functioning
  • discussing how they were moving around and interacting with the property
  • creating several potential layouts and weighing the pros and cons
  • envisioning the end result

Step 2: Building & Creating

Then we worked with M & C to:

  • make a project list based on all the new elements for the backyard
  • determine which where top priorities and which could happen later
  • budget each project and the overall work for the season
  • dig in and get to work

We worked through the project list s as we did, the world in their backyard began to look more and more like the picture on the paper that was the site design.

Mari and Charlie had a clear idea of what they wanted and prioritized the proposed projects easily.

Step 3: Upgrade the compost

The old plastic compost bin had not been doing a very good job of turning waste into soil so it was retired. In it’s place a 3-bin compost bin was built with an open top and drop-in slats. The new compost bins have enough space to accept kitchen scraps, garden material, leaf litter and yard waste all while storing up to a yard of finished compost.

Step 4: Build raised beds

With a raised bed vegetable garden M & C could put the compost to use growing veggies for the table. There was space on the south side of the house that had been overgrown and overlooked. The beds were put here where they could wrap around the house, peeking out at the front lawn giving passersby a hint of the gardens. 

Step 5: Connect the rain barrel

A rain barrel located under a downspout near the garden provided water for keeping plants lush through dry spells.

Step 6: Watch it grow

M & C had soil, water & gardens in place. We offered our services to help them establish the vegetable garden and offered coaching as the garden took off. One of the most important parts was watching how the new pieces of the backyard homestead worked into M & C’s lifestyle and creating plans to build upon the successes.


used for this project

What Our Client Said

about our work with them.

Urban Homesteader Vermont’s meetings with us to discuss the design ideas were very helpful and informative.

 They communicate about their visits and thoughts on the progress of the garden & compost on a regular basis.

The combination of soil, water, and plants has helped M & C build a beautiful and productive backyard garden. In addition to bringing in a wide variety of vegetables for the dinner table, M & C are sending surplus veggies from the garden to a local food gleaning program, connecting their garden to the broader community.

Step 7: Watching it grow & evolve

New projects continue to arise as earlier ones are completed and the backyard homestead grows more interesting, unique and productive.

At the end of the first growing season we revisit the site design, observe what has worked and what can be improved upon, and lay the plans for the next season which will surely be a return to this homesteading adventure.