Where to start? Low budget, live in apartment

Tineke Carlson
Tineke Carlson Posts: 3 ✭✭✭
edited December 2020 in The Urban Gardener

I have just discovered this community in the last couple of days. I really would like to start growing food for my family, especially considering the oncoming food shortages. My problems are that I live in an apartment, winter is on its way, and my husband and I have a relatively tight budget. We would love to move down to TN and buy some land, but right now we're stuck in WI. (Zone 5, I think)

Can anyone give advice on how to start growing our own food and the possibilities out there?


  • JodieDownUnder
    JodieDownUnder Posts: 1,482 admin

    @Tineke Carlson a warm welcome to TGN. You’ve chosen the right forum, full of friendly, like minded people from around the globe.

    My advice to you would be keep it simple. Grow from seeds or seedlings. If you have a patio or some outside area that gets some sun, then your 1/2 way there. Grow in containers, preferably recycled, punch or drill some holes for drainage. Start off with potting mix. Start off with food you like and know. Try micro greens, broccoli and alfalfa are nutritious and easy to grow. Lettuce, kale, mustard greens, herbs etc. Use TGN to look up ideas and advice on how to grow. There are courses to help you. All the best for your home grown adventure.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,356 admin
    edited December 2020

    Welcome, @Tineke Carlson! I see you found the introductions. ;) Be sure to check out the Rules as well when you've got a moment. I left a link below for your convenience. You will also find FAQ here, which you might find helpful.

    I moved your question over to The Urban Gardener in the Garden: Growing Food category. This will get you a bit more replies.

    Urban Gardening is certainly a topic that's been discussed here & we do have other members who are trying to figure their apartment situation out just like you. You are certainly not alone.

    As far as where to move? We have had a couple of discussions regarding this, and what to look for (so important), but if you are wanting specifics on a certain area, post that as a separate question, perhaps under Personal Journals. I know that you will get a lot of replies for that question!

    I should have added...no question is too small and no question is stupid (unless you already know the answer...then the question still isn't stupid, but it would have been wiser to take the time to ask another one!). Ask whatever you need to know. We are here to try our best to help you succeed.

    Anyway, again, welcome here. We are so glad that you've found us.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,501 admin

    Welcome @Tineke Carlson. You could start with some of the TGN Academy courses. They are free to Street Team members and are very good introductions to a lot of things that you might encounter in providing for yourself. Everything from seeds to harvest. And livestock for when you are ready to make those choices. Learning about herbal medicine is another good way to start providing for yourself and can be done now while you are waiting for a larger space. But as a herbalist, I am a bit biased.:)

    There are discussions on the forum about "farming" chickens in small spaces by using quail. Lots of posts about growing microgreens and sprouts to supplement your greens. Some of us have been discussing growing mushrooms at home. I have just ordered two kits. Blue Oysters and Lion's Mane.

    The blog articles contain a wealth of information as well.

    Don't be afraid to ask questions. Lots of very knowledgeable people here on TGN.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,356 admin

    @Tineke Carlson You should be able to find a lot of answers right within this category! Torey's suggestion above are very good ones.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,501 admin

    @Tineke Carlson There is a newly updated blog article on TGN's home page on composting in a small space. Great place to start.

  • flowerpower *
    flowerpower * Posts: 257 ✭✭✭

    @Tineke Carlson Perhaps the first place to start is by buying food and figuring out how to perserve and store your food. Once we grow food, saving and storing it for the winter is an important challenge.

  • NarjissMomOf3
    NarjissMomOf3 Posts: 113 ✭✭✭

    Torey mentioned the book Stocking Up. It is a very good one!

  • Sharie
    Sharie Posts: 276 ✭✭✭

    Growing indoors can get pretty expensive as you'll probably need grow lights. See if you can find a spot to guerrilla grow next spring. Buy seeds now and save seeds from organic produce that you're eating now. Squash, potatoes, beets are good ones that last a long time and don't require a lot of maintenance. If you have a balcony you can easily do tomatoes and peppers in pots. They like to have warm roots. Grow herbs in pots now. Basil, rosemary, whatever you like to cook with. Keep a light on them during your waking hours so they don't go to seed. If you're worried about food shortages, sprouts can offer nutrition but not a lot of calories. I try to always have a years supply of collagen for protein and sprouts in case there's an emergency situation. These days you never know what can happen. A freezer full of food is great but if the electricity goes out, you need to be prepared.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,911 ✭✭✭✭✭

    You have received some good advice in this thread, and there is more around the TGN site.

    Thoughts to consider:

    • Grow sprouts and shoots on a windowsill; all you need is some cheap metal bread pans, soil, and a few seeds
    • Look around your town to see if there is a community garden where you can get a plot free or very cheaply
    • If renting from an individual, ask your landlord if you can have a small garden on the property
    • Look into Community Supported Agriculture in your area. You may be able to purchase locally-grown vegetables relatively cheaply.
    • Learn to can. There is a small up-front investment for a canner, jars, and lids, but you can reuse the canner and jars many times, and you can can food cheaply.
    • Learn to cook unprocessed vegetables and fruits. Even if you are buying rather than growing them at first, you'll be eating a healthier diet, and the skills you developed will be very useful once you start growing your own.

    Best wishes to you in this Christmas season!

  • Tineke Carlson
    Tineke Carlson Posts: 3 ✭✭✭

    Thanks for all the responses! I've already got a hand in canning and preserving and making everything from scratch. Sadly, I live on the concrete/parking lot side of our apartment building. I'll work on seed saving, reading books, and figuring out composting! Thank you everyone! All of your suggestions are appreciated.

    Merry Christmas!

  • Gail H
    Gail H Posts: 359 ✭✭✭✭

    A fun way to start growing food is to regrow from food scraps. There are a lot of online articles that discuss how to do this. It's free and in my experience, things that are already growing are easier to keep growing than starting things from seeds. Celery is wonderful and easy to regrow and if it doesn't take, you're not really out anything.

  • Tave
    Tave Posts: 952 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Tineke Carlson, I also live in a second-story apartment with all brick and no dirt. But I have a patio (full sun) in the back and a small area (shade) by my front door. I designed a composting bin/black soldier fly trap using a large bucket that is by my front door. I share the fruits of my labor and seedlings with my neighbors to reduce potential complaints. In fact, my neighbors now have almost as many plants as I do:)

    On the patio in full sun, I have tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, sun-loving herbs, a baby plum tree, a baby persimmon tree, and a baby loquat tree. I plan on keeping them pruned to dwarf size. By my front door, I have a shade-loving poleo (South American lemon verbena) and mint. As soon as they finish fixing the stairs, I have permission to put my Bolivian cucumber where it can vine up the support beams of the staircase.

    Even if you could get permission to use a community patio or the roof, you could grow more than you think. Happy gardening!

  • dipat2005
    dipat2005 Posts: 1,225 ✭✭✭✭

    I too live on the ground floor next to the parking area. There is an 11" by 15 or 20 feet of ground space to grow something. I had a small child plant three geranium leaves. We are supposed to put our geranium's inside during the winter. This child has kept those leaves watered and they are growing. Maybe because the plant is up against the stucco wall. In your case I would grow vegies inside and take them out to your step on a sunny day. I have a south window and put my plants (from outside) into a tub and they seem to like the sun from the south window. I just replanted Swiss chard and Spinach. I have Kale plants that didn't do so good outside because of the smoke and ash and they didn't like it inside either. I found some seeds so I had to try the inside first. I hope this helps.

  • Tave
    Tave Posts: 952 ✭✭✭✭✭

    This series looks likes it's going to be a good one. She has her garden in a closet, so cool.

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 2,018 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Tineke Carlson Welcome! You will find this group is very welcoming and willing to share. Not judgmental and very caring. One thought on your lack of gardening space. You may want to think about your friends and family that have land. Would any of them be interested in gardening but maybe not have enough time, or not know where to get started. If not maybe you could find someone in your neighborhood that has some land and make friends. Either way, offer to help with creating and/or working the garden in return for a share of the food and the learning.

    You may also look into your local food bank. Talk to whomever is in charge and see if they have access to land for use in a garden for the use of the food bank. In many cases you can also have access to some of the food or at the least make friends with folks where you could work into sharing with them in the future. You never know, you might find someone who really wants to garden but needs help and you could help provide you both with food security in our uncertain future.

  • NarjissMomOf3
    NarjissMomOf3 Posts: 113 ✭✭✭

    Thank you. It is amazing what you can grow indoors. Might try it very soon.