With everything that has been going on in the world recently, becoming more self-sufficient has become a high priority for many people. But what about people who rent or live in apartments in urban areas? Fortunately, you'll find many different ways to start apartment homesteading in whatever space you have.
Limits on space, supplies, or bylaws just make the urban homesteader more innovative. These tips will give you an introduction to apartment homesteading, and what you can do to get started homesteading today.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Why Homestead in an Apartment?
Apartment homesteading might seem bizarre to some urbanites. Why bother learning to preserve food when you live in a city so close to near-unlimited amenities?
As we’ve recently witnessed, those amenities might not always be so readily available. If you know how to grow or make these necessary items, you will save money. And you'll lower your reliance on store-bought goods.
Everybody has their own idea of what homesteading looks like. Yet, in reality, it includes any self-sufficient activity you undertake to support yourself or your family.
Apartment homesteading might start with something as small as composting or learning to bake your own bread. You could even try growing herbs indoors on a windowsill.
Another common reason people begin homesteading in an urban setting is to learn skills in preparation for a move off the grid. Or maybe they want to get a taste of the self-reliant lifestyle.
If you’ve always dreamed of living in a little cabin off the grid but you’ve been stuck working a 9-5 office job in a city, urban homesteading provides the ideal escape.
And finally, one of the most popular reasons for urban homesteading relates to our impact on the environment.
By growing or making some of the consumable items you use daily, you will lower your personal carbon footprint, making a better world while saving you money.
What to Know About Apartment Homesteading
Before you get all excited and decide to build a chicken coop on your balcony, you’ll need to check your local bylaws.
Each municipality/county will have its own bylaws and regulations for micro-farming and raising small livestock in urban areas. You might be surprised by what kind of weird local bylaws your county may have in effect, so do a bit of research to start.
Although they rarely have specific laws managing homesteading activities, you should also check any state laws that may affect your specific homesteading activity in a city.
For renters that want to start a small garden, check with your landlord first. They might also have some insight into what grows well in that area and any past gardening successes or failures they’ve had there.
If you have access to a small space to start a vegetable garden, get your soil tested first.
Due to a few different things (mainly leaded gasoline), much of the soil in urban areas has shockingly high levels of lead. If you have high levels of lead, don't eat produce grown in that soil until you remove the tainted soil.
And if you have high levels of lead in your soil, don’t be discouraged. Fruiting plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers don’t absorb much lead from the soil, so try planting those in high-lead areas.
You could also add composted materials and phosphorus to the soil to adjust the PH level and lower the health risks posed by the lead concentration.
To learn more about lead levels in urban soil in the United States, check out this paper from the International Journal of Environmental Research & Public Health.
How to Learn More About Apartment Homesteading
With endless information so readily accessible online, it makes learning new homesteading skills much easier.
Many universities and government departments have learning extensions with free resources and educational material on everything from canning and preserving produce to raising rabbits for meat.
These seven websites will help any aspiring homesteader learn how to successfully become more self-sufficient:
- University of California - Urban Agriculture
- University of Maryland - Agriculture & Natural Resources
- Oregon State University - Plant Diseases
- EPA - Growing Gardens in Urban Soil
- United States Department of Agriculture - Urban Agriculture Tool Kit
- Oregon State University - Poultry & Rabbits
- North Carolina State University - Homesteading
Each of these resources has extensive websites and information on every subject of homesteading, so spend some time familiarizing yourself with everything they offer.
Another option is an old-fashioned book. Check out our list of 21 Best Homesteading Books for Beginners for practical advice and inspiration too.
Don’t set high expectations and expect to become an expert homesteader in one day. No matter how many resources you read, nothing beats hands-on experience.
Just as our ancestors did, there are certain homesteading skills you will have to master through old-fashioned trial and error.
However, another thing our ancestors did to solve problems was to ask friends and neighbors. If you know any locals, neighbors, or friends who have some homesteading experience, ask them for advice. Most people interested in homesteading will be more than happy to help.
5 Easy Ways to Start Apartment Homesteading
For those living in an urban environment, having your own homestead may seem like a far-off dream. However, there are many activities and things you can do in a limited space to start homesteading.
Try one of these five ways to start apartment homesteading and increase your self-sufficiency.
A potted herb and vegetable garden will work perfectly with a balcony or backyard garden. If not, any windowsill with enough light can grow potted herbs.
Start Canning or Pickling
Some people think pickling only refers to cucumbers, but you can pickle just about anything.
Pick up fresh produce at a farmers market, or harvest your own micro garden and pickle the fresh vegetables to make your own tasty and long-lasting snack. Or grab a few pounds of apples and learn how to make your own homemade applesauce.
Make Your Own Cleaners & Soaps
Learn how to make homemade, all-natural cleaners to reduce your need for harsh storebought cleaners and soaps.
Using natural ingredients found around the house, you’ll save money and help the planet. Check out these cleaner recipes from HGTV.
Air Drying Clothes
This one might seem a little simple, but it’s an easy way to save money on electricity costs and will keep the temperature cool in your apartment during those hot summer days.
Find an area on your balcony to string up a clothesline, or try crafting a basic drying rack from scratch.
Depending on where you live, your city likely already has a “green bin” or a similar composting program.
Most urban folks fill up their green bin for the city to come and pick up, but homesteaders know better.
Save your compost and use it to fertilize your plants with homemade plant food. You limit your waste and dependence on a city service while gaining precious nutrients for your food supply.
Start Homesteading Today
No matter what your current living situation involves, everyone can start homesteading in some capacity.
Start small and do some research. Think realistically about what you can do to increase your self-sufficiency and what kind of commitment will take.
Learning new skills can be frustrating and time-consuming, but when you reap the rewards of a successful harvest, it will all be worth it.
Leave us a comment with your own favorite homesteading idea for urban dwellers!
This was great information. I never thought about lead in the soil.
This is really good information. I never would have thought about testing the soil, great tip!
I own a home but hadn't thought about how people can homestead in an apartment. Great tips, and a reminder that no matter what your circumstance, you can do this!