Most of us who think about homesteading don’t usually imagine living in an apartment. I think the things that most come to mind are sprawling gardens, barns and paddocks, and other things: but not apartments or small spaces. However, Urban Homesteading is swiftly on the rise and it’s a great thing. Sustainability doesn’t have to be limited to rural areas, nor should it be. Livestock probably won’t be an option in an apartment, so for the purposes of this particular series, we’ll focus on gardening. That definitely doesn’t mean you can’t keep livestock in the city. Urban Chicken keeping is a flourishing trend, and even keeping rabbits may be a possibility. Always do your research first, respective of those things.
Gardening in an apartment
Most people don’t realize that balcony gardens can range from a full on garden to something as simple as a window herb box. You have a plethora of container gardening options to choose from, and depending on your space and exposure: more options than you think.
If you are working with a balcony and not a small area on the ground floor, you’re probably working with what’s known as a microclimate. All this means is that the ground climate is different than the climate on the balcony space. Even amongst different balconies, there are different climates. Think about it this way: if you live on the south side of the building and the balcony is south facing, it’s going to be different from someone who lives in an interior area, where their balcony is more shaded. With a little research and planning, you can have a successful garden while living in an apartment.
Your first point of research is to be sure your apartment will allow for it. Most will, but it never hurts to be sure.
This is, of course, the most obvious starting place in small space gardening. Before you bust out your Baker Creek catalog, evaluate the conditions in your space, just as you would any other garden. When considering space in an apartment garden, it’s more important that you think about it in 3D. Look up, look to the side, you have much more space than you probably think.
Heat, Sun, And Wind
One of the very best investments an urban homesteader can make is a sun calculator. Luster Leaf offers one for about 20 dollars on Amazon and this helps if you don’t particularly have the time or inclination towards busting out the stopwatch. You can also use Suncalc.net to check out sun exposure in a geographical area, but it won’t be as specific to your balcony.
In order to be successful in your gardening efforts, this is critical. If you have the funds to do so, you can also work with grow-lights, indoors. We’ll also go into that later in the series.
After sun, the next concerns are heat and wind tolerance. One of the biggest downfalls and assets to balcony or rooftop gardening can be the fact that they do get very hot. Most vegetables will vary in heat tolerance, and vary some more depending on the stage of growth. Understanding which stages certain plants are more sensitive to heat will help. For instance, you might want to germinate the seeds indoors and then transfer them with some, but with others, you may want to wait until they are fairly mature. The flip side of that is the cold. This is something that urban and rural gardeners have in common: always pay attention to your zone. While the microclimate of your balcony will differ slightly, it won’t differ enough to ignore that.
If you do have issues with wind on your balcony, either consider planting crops that don’t mind or, create some windbreaks. This can be something as simple as putting plants in pots near the floor or something more complex, like installing a trellis with some climbing plants more immune to the wind to block things. Again, though, take care about sunlight exposure when doing this.
So, there are your first steps towards apartment gardening.
Over the course of the coming weeks, we’ll go into more tips, tricks, and useful resources you can use. If you’d like your blog post included, please let me know, and where relevant, I’ll be happy to include it. If you have any questions about container gardening or apartment homesteading- please do ask, and we’ll feature that in a future post.