Dervaes Suburban Homestead – Path to Freedom Micro-Documentary…This video is a case-study of a family that lives in the suburbs just 15 minutes south of Los Angeles, the Dervaes, and they grow 6,000 pounds of food per year, enough to feed 4 adults and make $20,000 per year on their excess food.

In the resources we provide below, you’ll see ways to do even more than what the Dervaes are doing.You can quickly create healthy soil and produce even more food, in more varieties, with much less work.

In the suburbs, ALL of the urban gardening methods and techniques apply, plus you are more likely to have at least a small front yard or back yard that you can also work with.  Those yards are typically filled with gardens of non-edible plants, like grass, or sometimes just rocks and bushes.  What a waste of space.  Instead, with a little thought and not much effort, that space can be converted into abundance.

In the tabs below, you’ll first see step-by-step instruction on how to garden like the Dervaes do, using the conventional raised-bed garden method. In the 2nd tab you’ll see instruction on a BioIntensive method to get 400% more yield than the traditional raised-bed garden, via the John Jeavons Grow BioIntensive: A Beginner’s Guide. This is good basic information to understand, even if you don’t end up using all or any of their methods.

We say this, because in the 3rd tab you’ll see alternative gardening methods that let nature do more of the work. Ruth Stout calls her method the No-Work Garden. Paul Gautschi calls his the Back to Eden Garden, reminiscent of a time when nature did almost all of the work. In the 4th tab you’ll see examples of the Permaculture approach to Suburban Gardening/Homesteading, resulting in excellent soil creation, much greater yields, and much less labor, making it truly hyper-effective… and the results will blow your mind!

Suburban Systems


Here are instructions on the traditional way to create your own raised-bed garden, should you choose to include these in your Suburban Garden design (if you’re on a tight budget, the costs could be cut in half by simply planting seeds instead of splurging on seedlings, and using manure and straw or wood chips, like the Ruth Stout or Back to Eden methods do, as demonstrated in this “Instant Garden” method that Geoff Lawton uses… The purpose of the raised bed would simply be to hold in the mulch, and the raised bed could even consist of logs or cinderblocks instead of the typical wood frame… an 18 inch high raised bed gives roots plenty of space and makes it so that you don’t get an achy back from bending down so far).

The presenter is John from and the first video is 72 minutes long, with most of the discussion being on the soil. The second video is a demonstration of how to install the automatic drip irrigation system and how to select, layout, and plant seedlings (notice how he mentions the beneficial bacteria, fungi, and rock dust, which were all mentioned in the Core Concepts video for optimal plant health)


Tip: To optimize the traditional raised-bed system it is best to use a “no-till” method, where you never compact the soil and you simply add mulch on top. This leaves the complex subsoil environment in place, and the mulch keeps the weeds from sprouting and the water from evaporating, greatly reducing your watering needs and making it easy to pull any weeds that do make it through. Lawn clippings are a ready source of mulch, and fresh clippings are nitrogen-rich. If plants are close to fruiting, however, let grass clippings go dry and brown before using. Fall leaves, straw, and seaweed can be used as mulch.

When planting, simply part the mulch to sow seeds or seedlings, then fold the mulch back in place as seedlings take root. When adding amendments like compost, just place it on top of the mulch and it will soak in with the rain. In between crops, consider planting a green manure crop like peas, vetch, rye, or buckwheat. Before the “green manure” goes to seed, simply trim it to ground level using garden shears and leave the clippings in place, or simply cover it with a heavy mulch like seaweed, creating a “lasagna” effect. This enables you to re-plant without disturbing the soil and saves the work of tilling and weeding that usually comes with traditional raised-bed gardening.

Also, if you want to see an inexpensive way to put a miniature greenhouse over your raised-bed garden, as a way to extend your growing season, go to our “Alternative Structures” section.


A LOT of middle-class people who live in the suburbs would love to have the benefits of a garden, but just don’t have the money to do a traditional garden or just do have the time for a traditional garden, because they’re always working. They pay a “Lawn Care” service to keep their grass looking nice, but what if there was another option for them… what if there was a professional that could replace their lawn with a garden, a “Garden Care” service that would install and maintain gardens for them, for a weekly fee, of course.

A hyper-productive garden could not only give the residents fresh food, more nutrient dense and way tastier than the commercial food from grocery stores, but a hyper-productive garden might produce extra food. That food could then be sold by the Garden Care service for a profit… if done well, there might even be enough profit to make money for both the Garden Care service and the home owner. If something makes money, seemingly everybody want to do it. Just imagine, if someone could actually make money from the production and sale of food from your own back yard, with someone else doing all the labor, might people want to do it?

Here are the examples of some entrepreneurs in Oregon and California who make a good living by installing and maintaining gardens for people in the suburbs, and selling the food to local Food Cooperatives / CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). This completely re-defines urban food production and distribution, and makes for a more robust system that can weather any economic storm that might impact our country. If they can do it, why can’t you?

Their websites are (Portland) and (in Los Angeles and San Francisco).


How To Grow More Vegetables – 4x the productivity per unit of area with double digging to improve soil and intensive planting to crowd out weeds.   This is an effective example of traditional organic gardening.

This is not quite as hyper-effective as the Permaculture approach that Angelo Eliades demonstrates in his video in our “Urban” section, where he just tosses a mix of seeds on the ground, like nature does, and then thinning out the ones you don’t want, and tossing all the scraps on the ground to compost in-place.

However, if you want to do traditional organic gardening, these tips will put you in the same league as the pro’s!

Note: This requires labor, as it requires planting seedlings, preparing a garden bed, transplanting the seedlings, and creating compost.

Here is the 276 page Guide: How to Grow More Vegetables (6th Edition 2002)

Below is a great video series that he produced as a Beginner’s Guide to these concepts.














This video is a summary case study of Ruth Stout’s No-Work Gardening approach. Once you watch the “Core Concepts” video in our Soils section, you’ll understand why her method works, and how the causes of her success can also become your success (hay is the source of lignen for the fungi and cottonseed meal provides nitrogen for the microbes).

In this video, Ruth Stout shows us how easy gardening can be. In 1930 Ruth and her husband moved to the countryside just outside of Redding, Connecticut.

Initially Ruth used conventional gardening techniques for her 45 x 50 foot garden, which required her to have to wait for someone else to come and plow before she could plant. The plowman was frequently late or had mechanical failures, which would cut into the already limited growing season (last frost in early June, first frost in late August). Plus, the manual labor of traditional gardening became more than she could handle.

In 1944 Ruth decided to add 8 inches of hay mulch and just plant without plowing, to see what would happen, and had surprising success.

This led to the development of year-round mulching, which virtually eliminated the labor of traditional gardening. She found that by simply adding an 8 inch layer of hay mulch on the ground, she didn’t need to dig, weed, plow, hoe, or even water the ground.

This minimalist approach led to many articles in the magazine, Organic Gardening and Farming, and several books, including:

  • “How to Have a Green Thumb without an Aching Back: A New Method of Mulch Gardening,” (1955)
  • “Gardening Without Work: For the Aging, the Busy & the Indolent,” (1963)
  • “The Ruth Stout No-Work Garden Book: Secrets of the year-round mulch method,” (1973)

(In case you’re wondering, the subtitles in this video are Hungarian)


Paul Gautschi’s Back to Eden Garden is very similar to Ruth Stout’s method, except that he uses thick layers of wood chip mulch instead of hay mulch, and he adds in chicken manure for the nitrogen, instead of using cottonseed meal. This is how you create excellent soil, so it really doesn’t matter what kind of soil you have, or if you’re planting on rocks or asphalt. The solution to any soil condition is simply to add more mulch and manure… period.


If you are okay with limiting your plants to water-based minerals, and are okay with adding man-made fertilizer, the Mittleider Method is a very popular method that combines elements of soil-based gardening and hyrdroponics. The growing media is usually sand and sod. It works well if you follow their very precise formula, but you must constantly be purchasing the supplemental 13 mineral nutrients. It costs about $14 for the micronutirent premix, which you combine with 16-16-16 NPK macronutrient fertilizer, and Epsom Salt to make 60 lbs of food for the plants. It is applied at ½ oz per linear foot in the garden.

Mittleider Gardening Course

We’ll show you some case-studies of hyper-efficient suburban homesteads in the ensuing videos in this section.


This is what the permaculture design process looks like to create a hyper-efficient suburban homestead.


In this video Geoff Lawton takes a tour of community gardens across the US and highlights some of their best-practices. Be inspired!


This is an example of why a cold climate and short growing season is no excuse for not having abundant production coming from the suburban home. In this video, Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates show a hyper-effective way to do what the Dervaes were doing, still on 1/10th of an acre, but without the favorable climate or year-round growing season. In the cold climate of Massachusetts this suburban food forest grows 200 perennial vegetable crops that don’t have to be re-planted year after year, naturally increase in production levels year after year, with minimal work, creating soil in the process. They had such success that they ended up writing a book about it, titled, “Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre and The Making of an Edible Oasis in the City.”


This is an example of Permaculture applied in a cold climate to create a suburban food forest on just over 1/10th of an acre, in Calgary Canada (Hardiness Zone 3). Rob and Michelle Avery took a Permaculture Design Course from Geoff Lawton at Permaculture Research Institute (PRI) in Australia, then decided to apply the principles in their working-class suburban home.

The difference between their property and their neighbor’s property is staggering. They did it with a short growing season and winters that get to 50 degrees below zero. If your climate is equal to or any better than that, then this could be you!


The ultimate expression of suburban food production would be an if an entire suburb was designed to be a food forest. Well, that’s exactly what Michael Corbett did at the Village Homes suburb in Davis, California (near Sacramento, with only 21 inches of rain annually).

There are 273 homes on 30 acres (about ¼ acre lots) and they capture the water coming from the road, have food forests along the walking paths, passive solar homes, a community kitchen garden, a community vineyard and nut orchard, chicken coops, medicinal plants, local honey production, and a 30 year old food forest canopy that provides both shade and excessive amounts of food for the residents. If necessary, the resident could get 70% of their food from their own suburb, without having to pay a dime. Now THAT is Food Abundance, and it can be replicated anywhere.


This is Geoff Lawton’s Urban Permaculture DVD where he shows how to use miniswales, food hedges, water tanks, vertical gardens, grey-water reed beds, aquaponics, worm towers, rocket stoves, spiral herb gardens, compost tumblers, medicinal herbs, strawbale chicken houses, etc. in the Suburban space (Note: this DVD is no longer available for sale to the general public).


If you have implemented anything you have seen or read here and would like to tell us about it, please use this form. (Please do not use this form for customer service as it will not reach the correct department)