Are you stuck living in an apartment and yearn for the homesteading lifestyle? Stop dreaming and waiting: apply these apartment homesteading ideas now.
Do you dream of a homestead one day, where you own a decent sized piece of land and live off the land and be as self-sufficient as possible?
But right now you’re stuck in an apartment or condominium or townhouse with a tiny postage-stamp sized lot. Those dreams of your homestead seem so distant and unreachable.
However not all is lost. You CAN actually find ways to live a homesteading lifestyle in the middle of a city.
Here are 21 ideas to get you started.
Note: Make sure anything you do in your apartment or balcony does not violate any rules your landlord or strata has in place. Check first to avoid being evicted or fined.
1. Have A Homesteading Mindset
In general you need to start having a homesteading mindset even before you can have your own homestead. All of the other 20 ideas are great to have, but if you don’t set yourself up to try them and make an attempt, you’ll never get anywhere and it doesn’t bode well for when you one day have your dream homestead.
Homesteading requires you to set goals and have a desire to achieve your end results, despite setbacks and failures. You also need to let go of perfection as nature has it’s own way and you really can’t control it 100%.
2. Grow a salad container garden
This is as simple as it gets. Save money on the expensive take-out salads at work or school and grow your own!
- Find yourself a nice container that is about 12-14 inches (30-35cm) wide at the top. And a good 12-16 inches deep (30-40cm).
- Fill it with a lightweight potting soil.
- Plant a tomato transplant in the middle. Best is to stick with a cherry tomato.
- Surround the tomato with three lettuce transplants evenly spaced around it.
- Add in one to two basil plants (you can even buy these at the grocery store) between the lettuce.
- Water well and place it in a sunny location on your balcony or patio.
- Every week or so give the pot some diluted seaweed fertilizer.
- Pick the tomatoes, lettuce and basil to make a fresh salad!
3. Grow Your Own Strawberries
As I wrote in my case study of Balcony Barbara, start small if you want to start growing your own food.
Strawberries at the grocery store are expensive and usually tasteless. Plus they have travelled many miles to get to the grocery store.
Growing a small container of 4 or 5 strawberry plants will give you enough strawberries to put on cereal in the morning or on ice cream in the evening for dessert.
You do need some sunlight although you can also grow them hydroponically under grow lights if you don’t have a sunny balcony or patio.
4. Grow herbs
Herbs are great for cooking, teas and making infused oils. They love growing in pots, perfect for a balcony garden.
Mint grows well even in shadier locations and you can cut a few sprigs for a nice hot tea or an infused water in summertime. Keep it well watered.
Lavender can be used in baking but also makes a great infused oil or soaps. Ideally place it close to your patio door so that you brush against it as you walk by.
Rosemary is great in potato dishes. It loves heat so find a warm spot for it.
5. Grow Edible Flowers
Add some life and colour to your balcony or patio or even indoors by growing edible flowers.
Decorate a salad, cake, cupcakes or cookies with some pansy or nasturtium flowers.
Create home remedies for illnesses. Calendula flowers are great as they have antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties.
6. Grow Micro Greens Indoors
This is becoming quite popular and has spawned lots of home businesses.
You can very easily get started growing a flat of micro greens in your apartment. You just need some supplies, especially a grow light stand and good quality seeds.
They grow fast and often you can get more than one harvest from one seeding. If you have room for two flats you could have one just becoming ready to harvest with another one a week behind.
7. Grow Sprouts In A Jar
Despite the popularity of micro greens, sprouts are still popular. All you need is a jar with a cheesecloth or mess top and certified seeds for sprouting (these are guaranteed to not have any pathogens). Keep the seeds rinsed and watch them sprout and fill up the jar.
You can have fresh sprouts in just days for your sandwich or salad or stir fry.
And there are so many different types of sprouts, you’ll want to start a few jars!
8. Start A Worm Bin
If you have some plants, one of the best fertilizers for them is worm castings. Yes, worm poo!
You can easily start a worm bin in a $4 plastic tote bin. There are lots of good instructions online including this post from the US EPA.
And when you have too many worms you can give them to other apartment-dwelling friends to start their own bins.
The bin can be stored on a balcony so long it doesn’t get too much direct sunshine otherwise you will cook the worms (ewww!) Or you could store it indoors as typically worm bins do not smell so long as you control what goes into them.
9. Preserve food
Take advantage of the cheap prices and availability of fresh, organic vegetables and fruit in summer and fall by preserving it to use in winter and spring.
If you don’t mind the work it is cheaper than buying pre-made preserves and tinned food. Plus you can control the ingredients.
If you grow your own food, you likely won’t have enough to preserve in large quantities. But even if you get just a few jars of jam out of a small harvest of strawberries (you would be amazed at what a few plants will produce!) it is worth it.
There are many preserving techniques but here are my favourites:
- freezing – you can get small chest freezers that fit in apartments)
- water bath canning – make sure to follow good instructions (these are from Ball, a leader in canning supplies) to avoid botulism
- dehydrating – get a stacked dehydrator to dry fruit and vegetables
- fermenting – sauerkraut, kimchee, pickles, etc.
- storing – you might be able to store onions, potatoes and root crops on your balcony in winter if it doesn’t get too hot or cold
10. Cook Most Of Your Own Food
We are surrounded by all of these boxes, bags, clamshell containers and frozen trays of every imaginable processed food. It’s affecting our health and well-being. And it makes us dependent on mega-corporations.
Instead you can start by buying whole foods, especially fresh vegetables and fruit, preparing them at home using simple recipes and enjoying a meal where you know what each ingredient is (and can pronounce them all!)
Homemade pizzas for instance are so much better than the store-bought frozen ones and much cheaper than take-out or delivery. It just takes 15 minutes in the morning before you go to work to prepare the dough and let it proof and then another 15 minutes or so when you come home to prepare the toppings and pop it in the oven for 10 minutes at the highest setting.
The main excuse for not cooking is being too busy. But you can batch cook on the weekend and have healthy food all week. Or invite friends over and have them help you prepare a meal while you socialize.
11. Get A Community Or Allotment Garden Plot
If you don’t have the right space (or no space) to grow your own vegetables and fruit, consider getting a plot in an allotment garden or community garden. In most cities these are cropping up and quite popular.
You may have to be on a waitlist to get in and there usually is a fee. However it will expose you to what it feels like to have your own garden and go through the whole growing process from seed to harvest. You can learn a lot that you can later apply to your dream homestead.
It can also be a great social activity as you’ll meet other gardeners and hopefully strike up a friendship or two. You can learn from the more experienced gardeners and often gardeners will share their produce!
12. Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Program
If you want to support local farms, signing up for a CSA is a great idea. You help support the farmer and in turn get healthy, organic produce delivered to your door weekly or bi-weekly. In some cases you may have to pick up your box from a central pick up location as not all CSAs will deliver to an apartment building.
It also is a great way to eat more seasonally and to try new vegetables and fruit. When we used to get a CSA box biweekly, we were constantly being introduced to new vegetables and now are growing them in our own garden!
13. Go to Farmer’s Markets
You can also support local small farmers and homesteaders by buying from them at local farmer’s markets. Not only do you get fresh, healthy produce but it gives you a chance to chat with them about how they grow food. Another learning opportunity for when you have your own place.
Often there are also vendors selling homemade crafts, cleaning products and even furniture and toys. This supports the local economy and there is much less waste from excessive packaging you get with commercial products.
14. Make infused oils
If you have your own fresh herbs, you can make infused oils. These are great for putting in the bath, massages and roll-ons for headaches, insomnia and colds. Or you can use the culinary infused oils for cooking.
These are easy to make so long as you have basic supplies on hand. If you don’t have your own fresh herbs you can always buy from at the grocery store (make sure they are organically grown!), farmer’s market or get them from a friend that grows them.
Kami McBride has a great video I followed to make my first infused lavender oil and it turned out great, other than a bit cloudy as I skipped the step of straining it.
15. Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies
It’s becoming more common to find eco-friendly cleaning supplies. But they tend to be more expensive and you still have to be careful about the ingredients and read the labels carefully!
Or you could make your own cleaning supplies to save money and control the ingredients. Just requires some easy-to-find ingredients.
Garden Therapy has a great post on an all-purpose cleaner and I find that having this is usually enough to clean almost anything.
16. Make Your Own Beauty Products
In addition to having eco-friendly cleaning products, what you put on your skin has an impact on the environment and on your health.
Our skins are the largest organ in our bodies and absorbs toxins readily.
And if you’ve ever looked on the ingredients list of a mainstream beauty or toiletry product, you’ll see so many words you can’t even pronounce!
So again I will refer back to Garden Therapy for lots of articles on how to create your own soaps, lotions, etc.
17. Go On Farm Or Homesteading Tours
Farm and homesteading tours are educational and get you out to talk to local farmers and homesteaders. You can learn a lot from them on what it takes to grow food.
Often they’ll also have fresh produce for sale!
You can also find out if they have a CSA program or find out if they have volunteer or work opportunities so you can get your hands dirty and learn in your spare time.
It’s also a great way to simply get out into the more rural areas to escape the city.
18. Install Mini Solar
If you have some sunlight hitting your balcony or patio, you can buy a small solar panel (often marketed to camping enthusiasts). With this solar panel you can at least charge up your portable devices such as tablets and phones.
I have a small 40watt panel setup to provide a USB charging port in our kitchen and also run some ventilation fans in the greenhouse. I’ve covered how I set this up in this post.
You can even use it to power grow lights indoors or to charge up a power bank that can run grow lights into the evening.
You could also use it to run circulation pumps if you are growing plants hydroponically.
19. Make It At Home
Homesteading is not just about growing your own food. Most homesteaders try to be more self-reliant or self-sufficient and make a lot of things themselves instead of buying everything.
Some ideas for DIY projects we’ve already covered in the other points. There are even more ideas such as:
- making your own greeting cards
- sewing, knitting or crocheting your own clothes
- baking your own bread and other baked goods
- building furniture and accessories from wood – if your condo building has a woodshop, consider taking classes and then use the shop
- solar oven – you will need enough sunlight on your balcony or patio of course
Think carefully every time you go to buy something: is this something I could make myself? And you could also make some extra money by selling what you make.
20. Teach others
With some of your newfound skills, you could volunteer to teach others at a local community centre, school, strata meeting or your workplace.
Maybe it’s just to share your experiences with photos and information or you could also actually teach a workshop on how to grow herbs on a balcony for instance.
A great way to learn how to monetize your future homestead as many homesteaders do so by blogging and selling eBooks and courses.
21. Help Out On A Homestead
If you have farms or homesteads within driving distance, consider volunteering or working there one day a week. By doing so you will learn valuable skills and get a taste for what homesteading is to see if it’s something you would like to do. And whether or not you will be able to handle it.
You might even be able to get some fresh produce in exchange for your time!
So don’t let limiting thoughts stop you from adding some aspects of homesteading to your daily life. And look forward to the day when you can take what you have learned and apply it to your dream homestead!
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Tranquil Garden Urban Homestead, Victoria, BC