The first prep that makes sense when you become a prepper is to stock up on food, by buying extra of some of your normal shopping. More baked beans, more salmon, more rice, more vegetable oil, more sugar, more tinned potatoes (I have an addiction to those, I confess). All sorts of things. More of that another day.
Then people realise they need water – water’s cheap, but its heavy, really heavy, so thats often a question of some 5 litre bottles and a few bottles of purification tablets, maybe a water butt. More of that another day too.
The question of growing your own comes up then: for people with a garden, the obvious answer is to get out there, and start digging and planting. Much, much more of that another day, another week, another year, its an endless topic!
But plenty of people don’t have gardens, or aren’t physically able to garden. And people with gardens want even more space. What can we do? This post is an introduction to answering that question. All of the topics I’ve listed below will eventually have their own posts on the blog, sometimes several of them, this is just a preliminary overview.
Making growing space inside the house
I have some ideas about houseplants that might help. They’re not the complete answer, naturally, but neither is the average suburban garden, you couldn’t feed a family on the produce from a garden, nor even a single person. But little bits help, they really do, and if there’s an emergency of some kind during winter, or an Icelandic ash cloud much worse than the last one (so much so that its dangerous to go out because of the size of the jagged ash particles), growing more inside the house is really the only way to get extra produce.
So, this is about a regular prep, as well as for potential medium-term emergencies: a bad winter can see a lot of snowstorms, so that ekeing out your stores becomes something that’s really useful. It can save you money and food miles, as well.
Growing plants indoors, of course, needs work: the temperature can’t vary too wildly for some of the plants I’m describing, though some, frankly, are as tough as old boots!
Long lasting herbs are great to grow indoors – mint, rosemary and lemon balm in particular. All are best grown out of doors, to be honest (except maybe in the very north of Scotland?), but they’re reliable producers of greenstuff with lots of micronutrients, so they’re worth having. They can all be used for teas as well as for food.
If you have a conservatory or even a large window or French doors, you could actually use the space nearby to grow ballerina trees, or some form of mini fruit bush. It would be a talking point, which you might not want, and in any case most people need their conservatories for extra living space, but its possible, thats the thing.
One perennial plant thats very easy to grow indoors is aloe vera – its so easy to grow that anyone you know who has one, will actually be eager to give you a plant – it grows like crazy. Its great for the skin, to help blisters, rough patches, healing burns. It also helps clean the air.
Some plants are always going to be house plants because they help purify the air inside a house. There are a few basic ones, pretty unremarkable: Spider plants, mother in law’s tongue and English ivy are the most common. There are plenty of others, such as weeping figs, Warneck dracaena, ferns and peace lilies are all helpful in their own way.
Annual plants that are usually grown under cover such as chili or basil can be grown in the house too. A little bit of care is needed, especially to ensure that they get enough light, but its definitely possible.
Plenty of shop-bought vegetables can also be recycled once or twice in the kitchen, to provide extra salad greens. Carrots and spring onions, in particular – once you’ve eaten the bit you want, pack the root into a little flowerpot, or in the case of carrots into a saucer of water, and They Will Come.
Small, fast-growing salad veg can also be usefully grown indoors in ordinary times, especially in early spring when you want some salads but the weather isn’t really cooperating, and the shops are charging for the equivalent weight in gold. Radishes, lettuces, salad burnet, cress, baby greens of almost any food plant, all sorts of things.
Starting off your seedlings indoors can be a real help – even if you’re not trying to get a start on the season, your little seedlings will be safer from pests, and from bad weather like late frosts and hailstones. Nowadays, its recommended to grow them in plugs, or the insides of toilet rolls, or pouches made from newspaper – their little roots won’t be disturbed by onward planting, as they would be if they were being taken from a seed tray.
Sprouting is an incredibly important way of providing fresh greens for you and your family from stored food. I’d never spend money on a sprouting kit, when the home made version will do perfectly well, but I’ve found that the jar needs to be a fair bit bigger than the average jamjar, so a store of bigger jars – that used to contain mayonnaise, or beetroot, for instance – is a good idea.
Locations in the house
What about where the pots go? You want as much light as possible for nearly every plant mentioned above: if you have a secure conservatory, a lot more options open up for you. If you have a porch, many of the same options exist there (although there’ll be a lot more winter traffic in a porch, and any plants still there could well be quite stressed by that environment). Windowsills that are wide enough are helpful to put plants on, or a shelf opposite a good-sized window for a lot of plants, or hung from the ceiling. Big plant containers can go on the floor, of course, and all of these ideas will look good in the present day, in mostly ordinary times.
However, if there’s a medium-term problem such as I described above, with ash clouds or a prolonged spell of bad weather, we need more than a pleasant amount of greenery: we need as much as we can get. So you can line your windowsills and your conservatory floor with plants, pots and saucers all touching one another; you can have a row of a dozen or so old jamjars with sprouted seeds in various stages of growth. You could even fit an extra plant shelf halfway up a window, to double the available growing space, as long as it wasn’t too noticeable from outside. Venetian blinds, for instance, hide a good deal, as long as there’s no light on inside the room.
If things need to be even more intense, you could get going with vertical indoor planting – I have quite a few spare pieces of trellis, for instance, and that could be secured to a wall and hung with plantpots that are each secured by a long twist of wire.
There are some even more complex systems to get into, if you have the room, the money and enough available time to study it and get it going – keeping it going is even better: aquaculture, aquaponics, hydroculture and hydroponics are all possibilities. For me, they’re still in the future, and I’ve still not even researched them, but if anyone has any experience of them, I’d love to hear.