front view of urban garden flanked by pair of cottages

The Agricultural Block

Agricultural outdoor rooms on the edge of a neighborhood can provide fruits and vegetables to neighborhood restaurants, but there is a hidden benefit that might be greater. Ask children “where does food come from,” and the overwhelming answer is “the grocery store.” Few children living in town know any farmers at all, and much of our food now comes from outside our nation’s borders. Bio-intensive agriculture is “good-neighbor” agriculture, requiring far less industrial equipment but more farmers for the same acreage. It is essential to Agrarian Urbanism, because industrial-scale farms can’t fit into a neighborhood and would annoy the neighbors with the sound of heavy equipment at daybreak, the smells of large-scale agriculture, and the spraying of a host of chemicals. This means we need to raise a generation of children who aspire to be “craft farmers,” and find their work to be really cool. This means they need to see them at work… regularly. What better place to see the work of the craft farmers than in agricultural outdoor rooms on the edge of their neighborhood to which they can walk or bike anytime they choose?
The outdoor rooms of all SmartDwellings should be landscaped primarily with edible things, but outdoor rooms in sub-urban parts of neighborhoods may actually be large enough to produce more food than the families occupying them can eat. This half-acre site hosts two SmartDwellings and income-producing garden rooms. Tending one acre of bio-intensive gardens is a full-time job for one person and feeds 20 people or more according to bio-intensive experts, so a couple living in one of the SmartDwellings could have one person with a regular job and the other who is a part-time farmer who feeds the couple plus about eight other people. Rent from the second cottage could help pay their mortgage. The name is the "Agricultural Block" because it could be a tiny block of just two lots, but it could also be these two lots in a larger block.

Overall Views

birds-eye front view of agricultural block Here's the birds-eye view from the front, with a SmartDwelling to either side and the largest garden room in between.

overhead view of urban garden flanked by pair of cottages This is the view from directly overhead.

front corner birdseye view of urban garden flanked by pair of cottages This is the front corner view; this is the first image showing the fruit trees, which were omitted from the images above for clarity.

back corner birdseye view of urban garden flanked by pair of cottages Here’s the back corner bird’s-eye view.


These patterns may occur in many forms in other designs, and not all are needed to create a good design.

front porch and rain barrel for rainwater harvesting

Porch & Rain Barrel

Here’s the front porch of one of the SmartDwellings, with the rain barrel that captures the water from the front half of the house. Another rain barrel captures rain on the back half of the house.

strawberry plants along drive strips in urban garden

Strawberry Park

Because this site is in a more rural area near the edge of a neighborhood, auto access is from the street, not a rear lane. But bio-intensive gardening wastes no harvestable soil, so the parking spaces beside the SmartDwelling double as a strawberry garden. What about oil dripping from a car engine? Any good farmer doesn’t want their crops spoiled, and will get the engine fixed (and replace the oily soil, of course). How about the car shading the strawberries? Shady days are normal in most parts of the country; just move the car (and its shade) to a different place every day.

raised beds in urban garden laid out in a circular design centered on a tilapia tank

Raised Beds & Tilapia Tank

The raised beds in the front garden radiate out from the tilapia tank in the center. Tilapia are fish well-adapted to tight quarters; they thrive in bodies of water too small for other fish to survive, and are therefore perfect for gardens in town.

fruit trees form the border of an urban garden

Fruit Border

The trees lining the sidewalk are fruit-bearing, of course. They are planted in the only grass on the site. Grass is the highest-maintenance plant material in a neighborhood, and should be used only where it is needed. It is suitable under fruit trees because you can walk on it to tend the trees and harvest the fruit, unlike almost any fruit or vegetable plants.

rain channels in urban garden feeding raised cistern

Rain Channels & Cistern

Rainwater isn’t just harvested from the rooftops. There are also rain channels through the garden rooms that carry rainwater to the base of the cistern tower, into which it is then be pumped up and stored until it can gravity-flow to where it's needed.

fence with perennials like fruit espaliered to top half and vining vegetables below

Green Fence

The green fence surrounding the rear half of the site is harvestable. Fruit trees and other perennials are espaliered to the top half of the fence, arching over the vining annual vegetables on the bottom half.

arbor in urban garden for vining edible plants like grapes


The arbors that run the width of the site are a perfect place for growing grapes, muscadines, or scuppernongs. Its shade provides a cool place to take a break from toil in the soil.

dinner table in outdoor room surrounded by hedges of berry bushes

Dinner Garden

The dinner garden is the outdoor dining room, surrounded by a berry hedge. Because it's most likely used in the evening, it doesn't need a tree in the middle for shade.

outdoor living room centered on fruit tree

Outdoor Living Room

This outdoor living room is huge. Good outdoor rooms can be built for about 20% of the cost of indoor living space, so if outdoor living space is designed well enough that it can stretch the seasons and reduce indoor space needs by 20%, then the outdoor living space is essentially free.

chicken coops at end of arbor in urban garden

Chicken Coops

Chicken coops sit at one end of the arbor, near the green wall. Chickens benefit a garden in many ways, and are also an excellent source of protein. Roosters, however, should never be introduced to a more urban garden because they crow. At daybreak.

compost drums between raised bed, arbor, and barn

Compost Drums

Compost is essential to enriching the soil of a garden, but an imperfectly-tended compost heap can be a stinky nuisance in a neighborhood, but compost drums eliminate that problem.

red urban barn with metal roof for passive cooling


The barn is tiny… only 16 feet deep and 24 feet wide. This one is designed to look like classic rural barns, but it could also be designed to blend in with the neighboring houses as well.

brick barnyard between red barn and cistern tower


Every barn needs a barnyard where gardening work of many types can be done on a paved surface in full daylight. This one is paved in brick, but other paving material can be used as well.

bee hives against green wall

Honey Bees

Honey bees are in crisis around the world today for reasons that are not fully understood. Bee hives such as these at the other end of the arbor are therefore a good idea on two counts: to be sure the fruits and vegetables get pollinated, and as a very local source of honey.

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