Lately, Asheville has been seeing a big rise in backyard farmers. From those dedicated to helping the environment by raising bees to those looking for healthier, more environmentally friendly alternatives to supermarket eggs and large production agriculture fruits and vegetables, backyard farming is certainly growing in popularity. Here at Couch Mountain, a sustainable community in the mountains of Asheville, NC, we encourage our residents to take up backyard farming, because we see the benefits it provides to families, and to the environment. If you’re interested in starting your own backyard farm, whether that’s a small vegetable garden, a chicken coop, or even a beehive, here’s what you need to know:
There aren’t many ordinances restricting what you can and can’t do with your backyard garden, so really, the choice is up to you. Couch Mountain provides our residents access to a year-round greenhouse and an expansive community garden that our residents can cultivate together. If you’re looking into starting your own backyard garden, here are a few tips to consider for Asheville’s unique growing conditions:
Consider raised beds
Up in the mountains, winter comes early, and summer comes late. The growing season is shorter, and less predictable because of the weather patterns the mountains dictate. One way to avoid killing your crops during unexpected frosts is to build raised beds. Raised beds are much easier to tend to since you don’t have to bend over as much, and because they don’t allow for much weed growth. Most importantly for backyard farmers in Asheville, raised beds stay warmer than gardens directly planted in the ground. Since they’re a much smaller surface area, and they’re raised above the rest of the earth, they maintain a more stable temperature year round, which lengthens your growing season.
Mulch and add nutrient-rich soil
The North Carolina red clay is great for native plants, but it’s not always as welcoming for crops like fruits and vegetables. Fruiting plants need readily accessible nutrients, which can be hard to come by in the packed clay we have here in Asheville. To make sure your plants get the nutrients they need for a good harvest, you’ll want to add in some nutrient-rich growing soil, compost, or even manure. Then, be sure to mulch over the top of your freshly-mixed soil, so it doesn’t blow away, and plants are kept insulated from extreme temperatures. If you’re not sure how much compost or manure to add, again consider raised beds. They make it easy for you to only use the amount of added nutrients you need, because they give you a fixed area to work with.
Once your garden beds are set up, get to planting! With regular care, your backyard garden is sure to take off—bringing you plenty of fruits and veg to last through the winter.
Chickens are another aspect of backyard farming that’s become increasingly popular. Relatively self-sufficient, chickens are a great way to get started with backyard livestock farming. They’re cute, they make great pets, they can clean up your yard and garden, and best of all—free, fresh breakfast every day! With the rising cost of eggs, chickens make a great option to get all the farm-fresh eggs you could ever need, right out your back door. If you’re considering adding chickens to your Asheville, NC backyard farm, here’s what you need to know:
Asheville City Ordinance – Most cities have rules and regulations on how many chickens you can keep, for what purposes, and where. Asheville is a bit more strict than in other cities, but keeping chickens is still pretty easy. To keep backyard chickens in Asheville, you must:
- Obtain a permit. It’s only a $25.00 fee, and once you obtain your permit, you won’t have to be re-inspected each year. Asheville is pretty lax about keeping chickens, once you get your permit, and so long as your neighbors don’t have a problem with your backyard flock.
- Not keep a rooster. Roosters can become aggressive, they’re loud, and they generally cause problems. Asheville does not allow backyard farmers to keep roosters. Luckily, you don’t need one for eggs, and you’re probably better off without one anyway. If you really, really want a rooster, you’ll have to obtain a full farming permit.
- Have a coop big enough for all your chickens. Chickens are, unfortunately, prey for just about every predator on the mountain. Keep them safe with an enclosed run, and a coop that locks up tight at night. The city requires you have a coop that’s large enough for the number of chickens you’re keeping, and they will come out to inspect before your permit is granted.
- Keep your chickens 10 feet from the property line. This is new for Asheville, actually. In the past, city ordinance stated that your chicken coop must be 100 feet from any neighbor’s house, but since many people living downtown wanted to keep small flocks, and the majority of the city’s population was for sustainable backyard farming, the ordinance was changed to just 10 feet from your own property line.
Chickens are a great way to get started with backyard farming. They’re fun, low maintenance, and if you have kids, they’re an awesome introduction to “where your food comes from”. Best of all, Asheville makes it pretty easy to keep ’em.
Like chickens, bees are also gaining some popularity in the backyard farming communities. While the obvious allure is honey, backyard beekeeping is legitimately helping save the world. Honey bees are pollinators—they’re what makes trees, vegetables, fruits, and basically every plant on the planet grow. So, without them, we’d be without the things we need to live and thrive on this earth. Keeping honey bees is actually even less maintenance than chickens: once you get your colony, you pretty much just let them do their thing! If you’re considering keeping beehives in Asheville, NC this year, here’s what you need to know:
Asheville is even more easy going about bees than chickens. Essentially, you need a permit, which again costs $25.00, but in most cases, you don’t even need an inspection. The city doesn’t come out to reinspect beehives every year, so your permit is really just a one-time deal, and from then on you just have to pay the $25.00 and you’re good to go!
The only other stipulation on beekeeping is where you place them. Asheville law states they must be 100 feet from anyone else’s house. This makes sense because bees like to be somewhere peaceful and secluded. After you’ve got a location for your beehive, you can purchase a colony, and start reaping the benefits of the honey they produce.
Asheville is a wonderful place to start backyard farming. There are a number of local farmers and organizations around who are happy to help answer any questions you might have, and there are even backyard farming classes! If you’re looking for some advice on keeping bees, chickens or starting your backyard garden, check out the Asheville Urban Farm School, or For Villagers, an urban farm supply company that also provides classes and helpful information about backyard farming in Asheville, NC.
And if you’ve always wanted to start a backyard farm, but never had space, Couch Mountain is calling you! A sustainable mountain living community just outside of Asheville, NC, we provide our residents with access to an expansive community garden and a year-round greenhouse. We also encourage backyard farming of animals like chickens, bees, and even goats! For more information about our available properties, head to our website, call our office at 866-936-5263, or request more information online today!