There are many things to worry about when you have your mind set on preparing for the worst of outcomes. One of these problems is providing food for yourself when the SHTF, and that only compounds on itself when you live in the city. Undoubtedly there are advantages to living in a city, but how can you have a successful homestead in a city? To be even more specific – Is it even possible in an apartment?
This article will outlay all the basics you need to know to get you started on your homesteading adventures in your apartment. You will learn life hacks to get the most out of your space and gain the knowledge you need to have meaningful yields from your urban homesteading adventures.
Your first step is developing all of your growing areas into something worth growing vegetables in. This includes any window space, kitchen window, or balcony if you have one. If you have a balcony with one of those sliding glass doors, you have a jackpot regarding growing space in an apartment.
Any windows you do have will need to be cleared away of furniture as this will be your only way to get sunlight to your plants. You will also have to keep your window blinds or curtains open for the entirety of the day to get the little amount of sunlight that you do get. This can raise the issue of people being able to see what you are doing, but the risk is a necessary one.
Once you have designated the growing areas; you will need to plan out how you are going to use your growing pots, vertical gardens, staggered gardens, hanging baskets, trellises, planter boxes, and balcony pots. All of these are available for you to maximize your growing space.
Any wall that gets a decent amount of sunlight will beg for a vertical or staggered garden. The vertical garden is built as one unit stacked on top of each other so you can grow in many beds within the same amount of space. Staggered gardens would be best utilized on the balcony or next to a sliding glass door. If you have a big enough window, it could be used from the wall next to the window and staggered out in front of it. Staggered gardens are best described as the descending rice fields you see in the mountains. It’s a great use of space as you can have different levels of dirt for various plant’s needs in one area.
You will also want to set up your trellises along walls for vine plants you may choose to grow. If your space is too limited for trellises, you can always use hanging baskets for growing them. Other plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, and leafy greens like spinach do well in them as well. The best part is harvesting as all you need to do is pick them off like apples in a tree unless you are growing greens. It’s important to note that you want to keep an eye on how much sunlight you are getting with hanging baskets as they tend to get a lot which could be detrimental to your leafy greens.
If you have a balcony, you will want to maximize your growing space on it because it will most likely be the area where you receive the most amount of sunlight. This is a great opportunity for planter boxes and balcony pots. There are many options for you to choose when it comes to these, so the best advice is to find something solid and built to last. You will find out quickly if it’s cheap when you come out in the morning to find your planter box spilled out on the ground.
The balcony rails can also work as a trellis. You may need to add some cross sections to it, but it will work perfectly for you if that is an option you need.
It’s important to stress this one more time as it will save you a lot of headaches. Do not buy cheap pots, planters, or materials for building. You need these things to last you a long time, and if the SHTF you might not have the opportunity to replace something that has broken. It’s better to fork out the few extra dollars on the thicker better pots, than the flimsy ones that you can break with your hands if you tried hard enough.
You will need soil for your garden, and hopefully a lot of it. Unfortunately, you will have to buy this probably, or if you are patient and resourceful enough, you can find someone who is selling or getting rid of their top soil. Either way, you will need it unless you are going a hydroponic/aquaponic route.
Once you have the right amount of soil, you will need to keep the microbial bacteria happy, and that means providing organic material to the soil from time to time. Without a doubt, the best way to do this is composting.
With compost, you provide the soil with all of the vital and subtle nutrients we find in healthy soil. It’s the only sure way of accomplishing this without having to spend a dime. The only problem is the limited space in the apartment.
For making compost in an apartment, you will need a compost bin to put all of your table scraps – excluding meat and dairy – into. These bins vary in sizes, and a lot of them will have an easy way to turn it so oxygen gets to the microbes so they can break down the material into compost.
Ideally, you will want to “hot compost” as opposed to “cold compost.” This simply means that the mixture of nitrogen-rich content(Roughly 30%) to carbon-rich content(Roughly 70%) is at the perfect ratio for the bacteria to do what it does best. When done correctly, you will be able to have usable compost in a fraction of the time. It typically takes “cold compost” to be ready anywhere from 6 months to a year! This is a massive difference to hot compost which can be ready in as little as two weeks.
There are other factors to hot composting that need to be addressed if you want to be successful. You have to ensure that the compost is always moist. It should be as moist as a wet sponge. The next thing you will want to make sure you do is to “turn” the compost. This is essential because the bacteria is aerobic, meaning it needs oxygen to thrive and work. If you can compost within your apartment, it should be in a bin that is easy to flip or turn.
If you are unable to make your own compost; you will have to buy it, or you should expect to get less and fewer yields over time, and eventually degrade the soil to something that won’t give life anymore. There are many varieties out there, but the best option is anything organic. You really don’t want to use Miracle-Gro, or anything similar. They will grow big plants, but the additives they are introducing into your soil are harmful to a healthy lifestyle. Finally, in case of the SHTF scenario, make sure you have a surplus of compost if you have to buy it.
Collecting water is one of the most important aspects to homesteading, and for the needs of an apartment homesteader, it becomes vital to your garden’s survival. You will also be extremely limited to what you can do in regards water collecting. The simplest method at your disposal if you have a balcony is setting up gutters to collect water. The outlet will have to go into a bucket, but bringing out as many plants as possible when it is raining, and collecting what you can from the gutters will help tremendously.
Your other option is creating a water collector from a tarp, four poles, and a bucket for the water collection. All you need to do is set it up when you know you will have rain. The four poles suspend the tarp above the bucket, and at the low point, a hole in the tarp will pour water into the bucket.
This is the easiest way to collect water. You will undoubtedly turn some heads by doing this, but the benefits far outweigh the negatives for this one.
Hydroponics / Aquaponics
I won’t be going into too much detail here, but suffices it to say you can get either of them going in your apartment for relatively cheap.
These systems use a growing medium instead of soil to grow plants. With the hydroponic system, you will need to add additives to your water for the plants. While the aquaponic system uses fish to fertilize the plants, and the water is filtered and recycled back to the fishes.
Aquaponics stands apart from hydroponics on the fact that you can also raise fish for consumption, and not have to pay for those additives that a hydroponic system needs. Both will require electricity to run, and the aquaponic system will need more because of the aerator for the fish tank.
This can be a potential problem in a SHTF situation and we have outlined some ways you can make your entire hydroponic or aquaponic system work without electricity in the article stated previously.
Due to your limited space, there isn’t much you can do in this regard. Your only option is to install solar panels on your balcony – if you have one. This could potentially take up valuable growing space, and the growing space should always take priority. The best advice is to hire a professional to assess your situation and tell you your options, or if it is even worth it.
You could also install a wind generator on your balcony, but the output probably won’t be great. Experiment with these options and get some professional advice if you really want to collect solar or wind energy for your power use.
Because you live in an apartment, you won’t be able to raise much of anything in regards to meat. You have fish from the aquaponic system, but you are very limited to what you can keep after that. Chickens are completely out of the question so you really only have one option. Rabbits.
Mostly kept as pets, they are a good source of protein when there is nothing else. They are very easy to keep and take care of, and the investment isn’t too steep considering the situation. You could potentially feed them entirely from your garden if you are capable of growing enough produce.
The best part is their birth rate. It’s a common saying, “They breed like rabbits.” This statement is entirely true. The gestation period for rabbits is roughly 30 days, and they tend to give birth to a litter of 4-12! The problem then becomes, “Do I have enough space for all these rabbits?”
As the chicken is the ultimate homesteader animal; the rabbit is arguably the ultimate urban/apartment homesteader animal.
Turning your apartment into an urban homestead will be a challenge with ups and downs to learn from. What is important is to use this article as a guideline and not the end all to truth.
There are always innovations and new techniques to try when it comes to homesteading, and this holds true to urban homesteading. Even if you are in a one bedroom apartment, you can turn that into a homestead, and be prepared for the challenges that the future may throw at you.