Prepping for Apartment and Condo Dwellers Part 2

Minimalist-Apartment-Balcony-Garden-DesignGreetings. Well, I’m still talking to the apartment dwellers amongst us this week, and probably for a couple of weeks more. Today I’d like to focus on the idea of farming… or gardening at least. More and more, preppers are putting in vegetable gardens, building greenhouses and working their way towards homesteading in general. At least, if you follow what they’re writing, it seems that way.

But this seems to be just one more thing that leaves the apartment dweller out of the loop. The average apartment doesn’t seem to come with a nice big backyard, with the ideal soil for gardening. But that doesn’t mean that apartment dwellers can’t do a little farming in their apartment. While I wouldn’t recommend hauling in a foot of topsoil to cover your carpet (the landlord would probably get angry) there are a number of things that can be done and done rather easily.

To start with, look out your sliding glass door, if you have one, and see if there’s a balcony there. If not, don’t walk out the door, no matter what. But if there is, then that’s a good starting point. Many apartments come with balconies, which I have yet to understand the purpose of. They really aren’t big enough for much more than one chair and a small barbecue grill.

Nevertheless, a balcony is a great place for a garden. You can even turn it into a greenhouse by closing off the outer end with viscueen (6 mil thick clear plastic sheeting), allowing you to extend the growing season. With the balcony area closed off and the door opened a crack, you can probably keep it warm enough on your balcony to garden the better part of the year. You might even be able to get in two or three harvests, depending on where you live.

This balcony greenhouse is going to work the best if you combine it with a concept that has gained a lot of credibility in the prepping community, that of vertical gardening. In case you haven’t heard of it, it’s basically container gardening, with the containers mounted to something vertical, which allows you to have multiple rows of containers in a small space.

Do a search on the internet, and you’ll be able to find a huge number of pictures of people’s vertical gardens. One nice thing about them, besides the efficient use of space, is that you can use just about anything to make them. I’ve seen vertical gardens made of empty soda bottles, milk jugs, and cans. So there’s no reason to spend money on the more expensive flower pots.

You don’t have to limit your vertical garden to your balcony either. Why not go green and decorate your apartment with plants by building a vertical garden in your living room. Just make a structure, something like a trellis, on the wall opposite a window. Then attach your containers to it.

In order to get sunlight to this vertical garden, you will probably have to redirect the sunlight coming n your windows. This can be done a number of ways, but probably the cheapest is to buy collapsible photo reflectors on eBay. I just did a quick search and found two for $5.59.

The other problem with gardening indoors is pollinating, a critical step in the process of growing fruit or vegetables. Typically, this is done by bees and butterflies. But you probably aren’t going to have too many of them in your apartment. So, you’ll need to pollinate the plants by hand. To do this, take a small artist’s paint brush or a Q-Tip and lightly wipe the filaments and stigma on the inside of the flower (that’s the stuff sticking up in the middle).

Larger plants, like dwarf fruit trees can be planted in large pots and put in the corners of your rooms. Most of the dwarf varieties produce a lot of fruit for their size. You just need to be sure to give them lots of water and fertilizer during the fruit growing season.

You can also grow melons in pots. As crazy as it might sound, most melons, like cantaloupe and watermelon are actually creeping vines. Plant them in a good sized pot and allow them to crawl along the ground. You can “train them” keeping them under and behind the furniture, where they are out of the way. It might look a little weird to have a watermelon growing behind the sofa, but who cares? It can make a great conversation starter with your friends.

Finally, don’t forget about simple container gardening, putting plants on windowsills and countertops, as well as hanging plants. Strawberries and tomatoes can both be grown upside-down, out of the bottom of hanging plant baskets, so you can get double duty out of any hanging planters you have.

Two things that are going to be very important to your apartment gardening efforts are water and fertilizer. You may have trouble with water, as it is, so think this through and make sure you have adequate water storage. Since you won’t really have the room for composting or using a manure-based fertilizer, you’re going to have to use chemical fertilizers. Buy the most concentrated mixtures you can, so that you don’t have to waste a lot of room storing them. Fish emulsion is the best, but it doesn’t smell all that good.

So, there you are. You may not be able to grow enough food in your apartment to feed yourself in a crisis, but you can definitely grow enough to help extend your food stocks. That makes it worth the effort, and the plants will add nice decor to your home.

So, get planting. I’ll be back to give you more apartment ideas. Until then, keep your powder dry and your survival equipment close at hand.

Dr. Rich

PS: This is something that will work for anyone, even apartment dwellers, who wants to take their food production off the grid.


  1. Pingback: Prepping for Apartment Dwellers - part 4 | Self-Reliance Association

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