Apartment "Farming"

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SiameseUrbanite
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Apartment "Farming"

Post by SiameseUrbanite » Wed Apr 10, 2019 9:26 pm

A number of threads on farming over the years have assumed that one has or can relocate to a property with land.

Yet, for those of us in an urban environment (and without access to community gardens), what can one easily grow indoors or on a small balcony? What herbs, small veggie plants, or other things have you had success in growing in your apartment?

Being in Thailand, I am thinking of doing some basil, chilies, and a few other common ingredients in our Thai cooking. It's not a lot for long-term survival, but it will surely be rewarding to have a few, fresh items around.

And you? What have you grown in your city apartment or similarly small space? As well, what failures have you had? It's always good to learn from one another here.

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Re: Apartment "Farming"

Post by JeeperCreeper » Thu Apr 11, 2019 1:30 am

I know my mom likes her AeroGarden, she uses it for basic herbs and makes her own seasonings. I think that's a good start.

From there, you can always beef up the veggie growing with more hydroponic systems... ironic pun intended.

Then again, I know nothing about any of that stuff
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Re: Apartment "Farming"

Post by Zed Hunter » Thu Apr 11, 2019 8:02 am

Sprouts of all kinds do not require soil. You can use a cake or pie pan for small ammounts.

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Re: Apartment "Farming"

Post by Stercutus » Thu Apr 11, 2019 4:55 pm

One of the early pioneers of the survival movement had a technique for growing sprouts that he claimed would keep him feed all week with a few seeds. I recall reading the article but am drawing a blank on the name.
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Re: Apartment "Farming"

Post by manacheck » Fri Apr 12, 2019 10:27 pm

Sprouts are an excellent method of quickly growing a fresh vegetable without much notice, special equipment, or additional purchases (unless it's something like chia seed, which needs something like soaked ceramic, to grow).

When my funds for food are low, I have survived on lentil sprout onigiri. Lentils take a few days to sprout; they don't sprout as fast as mung beans. It requires planning in advance. A pound of lentils is easy to find, costs about a dollar, and that makes maybe three or four weeks worth of rice balls, twice a day, not including the rice, apple cider vinegar, nori, and any condiments (like homemade pickled ginger. ACV and some sugar, brought to boil, poured over thin sliced ginger, sealed, and left to pickle a week or two in the fridge.)

For most sprouts, all you need is to stick them in a container that can hold water, soak them for a few hours or overnight, and then rinse them with fresh drinking water once or twice a day until they're sprouted enough to eat. Sprouts don't even need light. Light encourages leafing, actually, so they're good to be in a cupboard with doors away from light.

I use a glass mason jar as my container. If I have to move the jar somewhere I screw a lid on and can stick it in a backpack or pocket for several hours if need be. The sprouts don't care unless it's too long between them getting new air access, in which case they get strong in flavor and then eventually may rot. (Maybe that's like the basic method that was referenced?)

I'm also interested in learning some information on other vegetables that could be added to an indoor, very limited space garden and do not require a lot of direct sun, which is the main issue, it seems. Clearly I'm not an experienced green thumb here. Maybe others have some more experience.
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Re: Apartment "Farming"

Post by Ellywick » Sun Apr 14, 2019 9:38 am

I have a decent backyard, but in many ways have to treat it as a small space because of the fact it slopes steeply down and I don't have the funds to terrace it at this time. I use a lot of containers along with my small raised bed. I think containers and vertical gardening could get you a decent amount of veg and herbs.

My big question would be: what type of light do you get? And when you say small balcony, what is the square footage? I also don't know what the temperatures are throughout the year in Thailand (guessing warm and wet?) which would affect what plants might grow well on a balcony. Greens and herbs dont always like super hot, sunny temps.

That being said, all types of spinach, greens, and small herbs can grow in an over the closet hanging canvas shoe holder attached to the wall right outside the house. A lot of greens and sprouts can also grow on a metal shop shelf inside the house with cool fluorescent lights attached to the shelves as grow lights. You would need to get a timer for the lights if you went that route. I even have a friend who successfully grows mini salad tomatoes indoors under her grow lights in winter.

Also, snow peas, green peas, green beans, vining squash, and melons of all types can grow decently well in 3-5 gallon containers if you give them something to trellis on. Peppers do great in 2 gallon containers, which aren't as big as you would think. I grew 3 types of peppers (6 plants total), 6 tomato plants, chives, garlic chives, rosemary, 2 types of basil, thyme, sage, oregano, and chocolate mint in pots on my 5' x 8' patio. I didn't have much patio left, but I had a decent amount of veg and herbs throughout the growing season, in addition to what I planted in my raised bed.
Enough to use my dehydrator a few times and freeze some. This year I added a vertical planter with Kale, spinach, etc which seems to be doing well as greens have a fairly shallow root system and don't need a lot of space.

It's doable, it just takes a lot more planning IMO than someone who has tons of space and sun. You have to water more often and supplement with more fertilizer due to nutrients running off and being used faster in the small amount of soil (but only for heavy feeders- lots of herbs love crappy soil). I'm growing a lot from seed this year and that also seems to be going well.
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Re: Apartment "Farming"

Post by Stercutus » Sun Apr 14, 2019 12:45 pm

I was able to locate that article on sprouting by Kurt Saxon.

https://www.survivalplus.com/foods/The- ... akfast.htm
From this day to the ending of the world,
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Re: Apartment "Farming"

Post by SiameseUrbanite » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:47 pm

JeeperCreeper wrote:
Thu Apr 11, 2019 1:30 am

From there, you can always beef up the veggie growing with more hydroponic systems... ironic pun intended.
Some friends in Chiang Mai city (in the north of our country) have been doing lots of hydroponics. Thanks for reminding me of that. I will ask them if there are any suitable systems available for an apartment.
manacheck wrote:
Fri Apr 12, 2019 10:27 pm
Sprouts are an excellent method of quickly growing a fresh vegetable without much notice, special equipment, or additional purchases (unless it's something like chia seed, which needs something like soaked ceramic, to grow).

When my funds for food are low, I have survived on lentil sprout onigiri. Lentils take a few days to sprout; they don't sprout as fast as mung beans. It requires planning in advance. A pound of lentils is easy to find, costs about a dollar, and that makes maybe three or four weeks worth of rice balls, twice a day, not including the rice, apple cider vinegar, nori, and any condiments (like homemade pickled ginger. ACV and some sugar, brought to boil, poured over thin sliced ginger, sealed, and left to pickle a week or two in the fridge.)
Sprouted lentil onigiri sounds great. Mass-produced onigiri are very popular here at 7/11 and other convenience shops, and I guess I could start making them at home. Out of curiosity, what kind of lentils are you using? Brown? Red? Green?

Also, out of curiosity, do you recommend any instructions or tutorials for making your sprouted lentil onigiri? I would really like to try it.
Ellywick wrote:
Sun Apr 14, 2019 9:38 am

My big question would be: what type of light do you get? And when you say small balcony, what is the square footage? I also don't know what the temperatures are throughout the year in Thailand (guessing warm and wet?) which would affect what plants might grow well on a balcony. Greens and herbs dont always like super hot, sunny temps.

That being said, all types of spinach, greens, and small herbs can grow in an over the closet hanging canvas shoe holder attached to the wall right outside the house. A lot of greens and sprouts can also grow on a metal shop shelf inside the house with cool fluorescent lights attached to the shelves as grow lights. You would need to get a timer for the lights if you went that route. I even have a friend who successfully grows mini salad tomatoes indoors under her grow lights in winter.

Also, snow peas, green peas, green beans, vining squash, and melons of all types can grow decently well in 3-5 gallon containers if you give them something to trellis on. Peppers do great in 2 gallon containers, which aren't as big as you would think. I grew 3 types of peppers (6 plants total), 6 tomato plants, chives, garlic chives, rosemary, 2 types of basil, thyme, sage, oregano, and chocolate mint in pots on my 5' x 8' patio. I didn't have much patio left, but I had a decent amount of veg and herbs throughout the growing season, in addition to what I planted in my raised bed.
Enough to use my dehydrator a few times and freeze some. This year I added a vertical planter with Kale, spinach, etc which seems to be doing well as greens have a fairly shallow root system and don't need a lot of space.

It's doable, it just takes a lot more planning IMO than someone who has tons of space and sun. You have to water more often and supplement with more fertilizer due to nutrients running off and being used faster in the small amount of soil (but only for heavy feeders- lots of herbs love crappy soil). I'm growing a lot from seed this year and that also seems to be going well.
Tons of great suggestions here! I suspect some of them will require research to see what will match our, as you correctly guessed, hot and humid climate. Off the top of my head, I would guess our Thai climate goes from 15 - 40C (something like 60 - 105 F) with 75-100% humidity throughout the year, which varies only ever so-slightly from one season to the next.

As for my particular situation, My apartment's balcony faces almost due north, so I get a lot of direct sun much of the day. The space is roughly 100cm by 210 cm (roughly 40 in by 82 in). At least 12cm or so of the length is lost to an aircon unit. I ordinarily dry clothes outside but wouldn't mind putting a few potted plants out there to get started with a more self-sufficient lifestyle.
Stercutus wrote:
Sun Apr 14, 2019 12:45 pm
I was able to locate that article on sprouting by Kurt Saxon.

https://www.survivalplus.com/foods/The- ... akfast.htm
That's awesome. Will read through it now and also bookmark it for long-term reference. Thank you!

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Re: Apartment "Farming"

Post by manacheck » Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:28 pm

Ellywick wrote:
Great post! Not OP, but thanks from me too.
SiameseUrbanite wrote:
Sprouted lentil onigiri sounds great. Mass-produced onigiri are very popular here at 7/11 and other convenience shops, and I guess I could start making them at home. Out of curiosity, what kind of lentils are you using? Brown? Red? Green?

Also, out of curiosity, do you recommend any instructions or tutorials for making your sprouted lentil onigiri? I would really like to try it.
I think that the green ones are called "french lentils", here. I find they sprout very nicely. The brown ones sprout just fine, too, and are what I use now due to availability, but the smaller french lentils are great. I have not tried sprouting red lentils or yellow lentils, as they are only available locally, split. Split beans won't sprout, or I'd try it.

My recipe for sprouted lentil onigiri is a mercilessly thrifty thing. But sure! You can let me know if you try it out.

I'll tell you some details about the lentil sprouts first, since how much they're sprouted does affect both taste and firmness. And the timing, too, I suppose.

A few days prior to making this onigiri, I put about a handful of lentils in a jar with some fresh water, soak overnight, and rinse then drain daily, keeping the sprouts away from light if it's feasible. Once the sprouts first emerge, I let them grow some, because when they first sprout, if you cook them, the lentil bean that remains will get mushy. So let them grow... probably until the tail is maybe an inch long?

In warm weather, sprouts grow faster. It can take maybe 3 days for that point. (If you try it, you'll figure out the right timing quickly.) Oh- and while they grow, I shake the jar sideways right after the rinse water is drained, so they don't tangle up too tightly as they grow, and get scrunched in the jar. Otherwise they're harder to separate, when you go to get a handful of sprouts later.

I let the sprouts that aren't immediately used continue to grow, up to a few more days (depending how fast they grow.) Once the sprouts start growing tiny roots or leafing, they've grown past their peak, and I have to make sure to right away finish using them before they become unpalatable.

So, once the sprouts are just long enough, I start that day using them, because they will keep growing, and a scant handful of baby lentil sprouts will make a packed jar full of long sprouts in quick order.



Once the sprouts are ready:

For a meal, I like to use about 3/4 C of long grain white rice, solely because the long grain rice is much less expensive than medium or short grain rice (either of which are preferable to long grain if you have it.) Long grain rice is fine and can become sticky once it's cooked- as long as you do not wash the starch off first, and as long as not too little- or too much- water, is used.

I use a single person's rice cooker with a 2C capacity, so 3/4 C dry rice fits it nicely. I put in the water appropriate for the rice I'm using (around 1 1/2C I think?), adding just a little extra water, maybe a table spoon or so, so the rice will turn out sticky and not dry, then stir it briefly so it won't stick. Itake as many sprouts as I want, and put them right on top of the rice/water, for a layer. This helps too, so when the rice cooks the starch of it splatters out of the steam hole less. I put the lid on, turn the cooker on, and let it steam until the rice is finished. The sprouts steam on top of the rice as it cooks.

Once the rice is done, I carefully splash on a bit of apple cider vinegar, to my taste. (You can substitute sushi or rice wine vinegar, or make your own sweet vinegar using sugar and mirin added, but plain apple cider vinegar is cheapest here and it's a relatively gentle vinegar, taste-wise, so it's cheap and unfussy.) I don't find I miss the extra sweetener for this kind of onigiri. Some people don't even add vinegar to onigiri at all.

I take a bamboo spoon and gently turn the rice over several times, while it's still in the rice pot, just like you do for sushi rice. This helps the rice get sticky as a result of the vinegar's interaction with the starch and heat. I take two sheets of nori, cut them in half, put my triangle onigiri mold over the first piece, spoon rice in, press the rice, fold the nori, and then put it on a plate with the seam side down while it's all still warm/almost hot. Repeat until it's done.

There's probably nicer methods that could be done, like putting the sprouts only in the middle, or adding sesame seed outside, but this method is less fuss and it requires almost nothing for ingredients. It generally makes me about 3 hefty onigiri, and leftover is about half the rice needed for a fourth onigiri, so that one gets extra nori. ^^

When I have the condiments, I like eating this kind of onigiri with some home pickled ginger. And a favourite dipping sauce to make, using a spoonful of mayonaise, some srircha sauce to taste, a bit of wasabi, and a couple tablespoons of soy sauce, to cut the spicyness. Kind of irreverant, and I don't always have the ingredients for that extra when I'm making this, but it's good together and adds some creamyness and diversity.

If you're making onigiri by hand, I understand that a traditional method (in lieu of seaweed) is to wet your hands and rub a little salt between them before handling the rice, so it won't stick. I bet a little chopped dried dandelion leaf in the rice along with the sprouts would make a nice bitter complement to the plain clean salt flavor. Or some finely ground up spruce needles, mixed in with that salt, to give the outside a pine flavor. Mmmm :ooh:

Anyways, it was a winding reply, but I hope it was helpful. Sometimes I get caught up in trying to be comprehensive.
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Re: Apartment "Farming"

Post by NamelessStain » Tue Apr 16, 2019 7:50 am

Have you looked into grow boxes? Here is one that I have used in the past:

https://www.agardenpatch.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grow_box

I'm trying to remember what I searched on to find plans on how to make them yourself, but I am drawing a blank. Sorry.

BTW, you will need vertical space, my cucumbers plants grew over 9 feet high and from one pot (8 plants) I was harvesting 5# every week and making them into pickles for about 3 months.
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Re: Apartment "Farming"

Post by SCBrian » Wed Apr 17, 2019 2:57 pm

NamelessStain wrote:
Tue Apr 16, 2019 7:50 am
BTW, you will need vertical space, my cucumbers plants grew over 9 feet high and from one pot (8 plants) I was harvesting 5# every week and making them into pickles for about 3 months.
I can attest to this mans prowess with his vegetables and his boxes. :ooh:
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Re: Apartment "Farming"

Post by NamelessStain » Thu Apr 18, 2019 7:39 am

SCBrian wrote:
Wed Apr 17, 2019 2:57 pm
I can attest to this mans prowess with his vegetables and his boxes. :ooh:
Thanks SCB, I appreciate it.

BTW, they are known as Sub-irrigated planters. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sub-irrigated_planter

Plenty of sites online to show you how to make them. Key is to use potting mix and not potting soil. The mix is better at wicking water up from the reservoir.
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