Survival Gardening Indoors?

If you don't have enough light coming in, add more with grow lights. Photo credit missellyrh (creative commons license)

Survival gardening indoors – is it possible?

Hypothetically… but I have some more ideas that go beyond trying to feed yourself in an apartment.

Jess writes:

“Hi David,

Grow_Or_Die_Cover_WebI have thoroughly enjoyed reading Grow Or Die. In the last, well.. two days, I couldn’t stop reading! I have never had a green thumb, but grew up watching my father pull it off wonderfully. Unfortunately, I was unable to learn from him long enough before he passed and have since turned to books to help teach me what I need to know about gardening.

My husband and I are very firm believers that preparing for negative outcomes of the world is wise. We have a plan to get to where we want to be, which is to have land, homestead, and survive without as much dependence on worldly things.

In our attempts to reach our goal, we are making sacrifices to save financially to get us there. And that means apartment living in Tennessee. Just for a season. I feel this may be ridiculous to ask and quite useless, but is there ANYthing I can grow inside with little to no sunlight availability (and without allowance to set plants outside whatsoever)?

I fear that if I cannot start something now, I will be too terrified of my killer anti-green thumb to successfully garden when we once again get in a house on property.

I’m a native-born Kentuckian and have recently moved here to Tennessee and know little of the soils in this region. Any advice on indoor and small space gardening, as well as what to expect for this regions soil would be wonderful! Or rather, what resources could help me with these concerns.

You seem to be a wonderful inspirer through all you do!

Sincerely and God Bless,


Jess, thank you for the kind words. I appreciate it and I feel for you being stuck in an apartment, watching the world burn – sometimes literally. I’ll give you a few options and you can see what works for you.

Indoor Grow Lights

Have you considered getting some grow lights and setting up an indoor garden area?

Something like this might be good, though you can also run with some cheap, bright fluorescent bulbs for growing good greens such as kale, lettuce and perhaps even some radishes.

gardening indoors for survival

If you don’t have enough light coming in, add more with grow lights. Photo credit missellyrh (creative commons license)

It takes more light to grow crops that fruit, such as tomatoes, beans and peppers: make sure you have lots of light if you want those.

A timer that will run for 12 hours or more, then go off to simulate night is a big help. I know some people run the lights for 18 hours.

Personally, I’ve always gardened in the yard or in pots when renting but if I were completely constricted in my options, I’d go for a dedicated small space indoors.

Borrowed Land

Do you go to a local church? Have friends or neighbors with space?

Screw up your courage and ask them if you can have a little space to practice gardening.

Many people would love that… particularly people who would like to grow a garden but never got around to it. Busy people might also be interested, if you promised to share produce. Be sure to let them know you’re a beginner and will make mistakes, though.

There is a lot of good land sitting around in Tennessee.

Tennessee has lots of wide open space. Though this is probably too open, there are lots of backyards that might be "borrowed" for gardening

Tennessee has lots of wide open space. Though this is probably too open, lots of backyards could be “borrowed” for gardening. Photo credit Lin Mei (creative commons license)

I used to live there and we passed acres and acres of empty ground as we drove from place to place.

Don’t be shy!

Join a Community Garden or Gardening Club

There are a lot of people like you that you haven’t met yet. Start looking up meetup groups and community gardens.


A beautiful community garden. Photo credit Scot Nelson (creative commons license)

You’ll get to meet lots of other, more experienced gardeners as well as beginners. Gardening is hot right now and new community gardens are popping up in the most unlikely places. Connect, share and get started. If you can spare a few hours a week, this is a very good option.

Stockpile for Emergencies

Stockpile food, guns, gold, silver, cash, ammunition, redundant medical supplies and personal care products.

Without your own land, you are vulnerable as you already know. Double up on storable goods when you go shopping, since things could get ugly quite quickly… because… what if the lights go out?

Additional Articles Related to Survival Gardening Indoors

I’ve written more articles on small space gardening and gardening indoors for survival… you can glean some more information from these:

Self-Watering Container Gardening

Survival Foods For Tennessee

From the Inbox: Composting in an Apartment

Balcony Gardening

Three Ways To Garden Without Land

God bless – and thanks for getting in touch. Gardening indoors for survival – in a complete way – is very difficult; however, I think you’ll be able to break out and find some land with some pavement pounding.

I pray you get your own land soon. Get in touch when you do and I’ll share what I know about Tennessee gardening. I grew there for six years and had great success.

Also, get the book Gaia’s Garden if you want inspiration on how you can grow with nature in a permaculture way… it’s quite inspiring.

And pick up Gardening When it Counts by Steve Solomon. That’s a fantastic resource.

To round those out, grab Carol Deppe’s book The Resilient Gardener. Very good information there on survival crops.

Don’t give up. You can grow!

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  • Another idea for very-small-space growing would be culinary and medicinal herbs. I am just starting to learn about growing these myself – I seem to have a knack for oregano, dill (the swallowtail butterfly’s caterpillars love me for this), parsley, and lemon balm. The one plant species I have never been able to kill (and have not tried to!) is aloe – so hardy it has survived me for decades.

  • Jess could also consider growing sprouts instead (sproutpeopleDOTcom). No need for light or soil. Sprouts are fun to grow too.

    • Yes! I considered adding sprouts to the ideas; however, I haven’t done much with them except back when I was creating my own malt for beer some years back. Good suggestion.

  • There is a lot of information available online and on YouTube about building your own small, affordable, expandable and portable hydroponic system for use in limited space such as an apartment.

    Even if you don’t live in an apartment, containerized gardening can produce a surprising amount of food. My mother and brother scoffed at the very idea of container gardening until I talked them into trying it. (My mother had cancer and keeping up with weeding, insects, and too much or not enough water was a pain in the you-know-where.) They were both astonished at how productive container gardening could be! Now, most of their produce comes from containers.

  • Thank you, David, for the thoroughly helpful response! I’m looking forward to reading the resources as listed and finding a plan to get started! Now to keep a 1-year-old and 3-year-old out of whatever indoor green things I try to grow 🙂

    • You bet. I have children as well – they love being in the garden. Eventually, they also figure out what’s okay to pull as a weed and what isn’t. It’s worth losing the occasional bean plant. You’re going to do great.

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