In this article, I’m going to cover the importance of indoor vegetable gardening for preppers. Indoor vegetable gardening is an important aspect of food security – even if you have a large outdoor garden. The good news is, even if you live in a small, urban apartment, you can grow some of your own food. And any food that you grow will help supplement the other food you store in your prepper pantry.
Indoor Vegetable Gardening for Preppers
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Now, let’s dive into indoor vegetable gardening for preppers. We’ll start by taking a deep dive into the benefits of indoor vegetable gardening.
Indoor Vegetable Gardening is Not Subject to Weather Issues
The first benefit of indoor vegetable gardening is that you don’t have to deal with weather issues. Weather often impacts crops. While certain issues, such as drought can be dealt with by watering more, other issues such as extreme heat, or on the other end of the spectrum, a freak ice storm, can kill your outdoor vegetable garden.
And while in many cases you can still water your garden during a drought, if a drought is severe, your city or state may put water restrictions in place or may charge exorbitant prices.
Indoor Vegetable Gardens are Less Likely to Have Issues with Pests
The next benefit of indoor vegetable gardens over outdoor vegetable gardens is that indoor gardens are less likely to be decimated by pests.
Now to be fair, people with indoor gardens do sometimes have aphid or other insect infestations. I personally have never experienced this, but many other indoor gardeners, including those who grow food hydroponically in systems like an AeroGarden (Amazon), sometimes experience this problem.
Needless to say, aphids and other pests do not naturally inhabit indoor spaces, so if you get them, they were brought in from outdoors, or from a potted plant you brought that was already infested.
Indoor Vegetable Gardens are more Covert than Outdoor Vegetable Gardens
If you grow a vegetable garden in part (or in whole) to provide food security, then you need to consider the security level of your outdoor garden.
Even in good times, home gardeners deal with theft of their carefully grown fruit and vegetables. In bad times, with rampant food shortages, theft would be much more likely.
The good news is, indoor vegetable gardens can be very covert. Technically, you can grow food in a closet, without anyone having any idea that you’re doing it. I grow food out in the open, meaning in my living room, but if times were really bad, I’d move all of my AeroGardens (Amazon) into an upstairs bedroom, a place guests would never have a reason to go into.
Growing Food Indoors Makes it More Possible to Meet Your Food Storage Goals
While all of the benefits of growing food indoors that I listed above are true, for me the biggest motivating factor is that my indoor vegetable garden makes it more likely for me to meet my food storage goals.
Food Storage Amounts for Fruit and Vegetables
If you’ve ever looked at the recommended amount of food you should store per person, for a year, you likely felt a bit overwhelmed. This is especially true for those of us who live in small homes or apartments. If you have a huge basement where you can store a ton of food, you may not be quite as overwhelmed. However, even if you have the room, the sheer amount of food you are “supposed” to store is quite overwhelming.
Let’s take a look at some of the numbers.
Recommended Fruit and Vegetable Servings
The recommended number of fruit and vegetable servings per person, per day, depends on the source. But most agree that you should have at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day. Since that’s the minimum, that’s what I’ll consider in this article.
Before I get into the recommended number of servings, it’s important to define a serving. In most cases, a serving of fruit and vegetables is 1 cup, with leafy greens requiring 2 cups to make a serving.
How to Store Fruit and Vegetables in Your Prepper Pantry
Now let’s look at a couple of ways to store fruit and vegetables in your prepper pantry, and how much you’d need to store, per person, to have a one-year supply.
Canned Fruit and Vegetables
Canned food is the most obvious and most common way to add fruit and vegetables to your long-term food storage.
Canned vegetables tell you right on the can the number of servings in a can, so at first glance, it’s easy to figure out how much you need to store.
According to the label on the can of green beans pictured above, the can has 3.5 servings, with ½ cup being a serving. The first problem with that is that it’s only a half a cup per serving, instead of a cup.
Once you drain the liquid off, and consider the serving size to be 1 cup, instead of a half a cup, I’m going to say that one can of green beans has 1 ½ servings per can.
Doing the Math
If you do the math, you’ll see that if you want to have 5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day, and if each can has 1 ½ servings, you will need 1216 cans of fruit and vegetables for a one-year supply for each adult. That’s a lot of cans!
My husband and I currently live with my elderly mom. For 3 adults, we’d need 3,648 cans of fruit and vegetables to have a one-year supply. We live in a smallish (1400 square foot) home, and there is absolutely no way we could find room for that many cans of fruit and vegetables!
Storing Dehydrated and Freeze Dried Food in Your Prepper Pantry
I’m a big fan of dehydrated food, in large part because it is easy to store, has a long shelf life, and takes up less space than canned food. Dehydrated food makes it possible to store more food in less space.
I’ve found Augason Farms to be the most reasonably priced freeze dried and dehydrated vegetables. In addition to growing food and storing canned goods, I recommend stocking up on freeze dried and dehydrated food. In addition to carrots, they have several other fruits and vegetables, proteins, and complete meals.
Doing the Math
So, let’s do the math when it comes to how many #10 cans of dehydrated food you’d need to store to cover a year’s worth of vegetables for one person.
On the label of the Augason Farms dehydrated carrots, it says it has 40 servings. But let’s look at how they define a serving. It says ¼ cup dry, which is about ¾ cup prepared. So, they are more generous with serving size compared to the servings listed on the can of green beans.
You would need at least 40 #10 cans per person, for a one-year supply, or at least 120 cans for a family of 3.
This is still rather daunting, but more doable than the canned vegetables.
Now, if you’re feeling a little depressed right now, let me say that I can totally relate to you. I feel depressed and overwhelmed every time I look at the numbers that people say of what you should have on hand in your prepper pantry. For a one year supply, it is just overwhelming and depressing, because for me anyway, it’s absolutely impossible.
Growing Vegetables Indoors Gives Hope!
So now I want to get into something that has given me some hope.
In the box in the image above, I have 480 little grow sponges – and the box is only partially full. I have 8 plastic bags that are smaller than a gallon size Ziploc bag, and in each of those bags, there are 60 sponges.
AeroGarden Grow Sponges
Those sponges are growing medium that work in an AeroGarden (Amazon), and each sponge represents a lot of food. For instance, I may grow a small cherry tomato plant, and grow let’s say 50 cherry tomatoes. Or I may grow a head of lettuce, that I harvest from for a couple of months. So, while they are very small, they have the potential to produce a lot of food.
A very conservative estimate is that each sponge will provide me with 4 servings of vegetables. It’s likely at least double that. However, I don’t want to exaggerate, so let’s assume that each grow sponge represents 4 servings of vegetables. Since I have 480 sponges in the box, that represents 1920 servings of vegetables. So, to feed my family of three enough vegetables for a year, I’d need two of these boxes.
Compare that to needing 3648 cans of vegetables, or 120 #10 cans of dehydrated vegetables.
All of a sudden, storing up enough food to feed my family for a year feels much less daunting.
What You Need in Addition to Grow Sponges
Of course, the grow sponges in and of themselves don’t grow anything. You’ll need an AeroGarden, seeds, and AeroGarden nutrients, all available on Amazon.
Pro Tip: You can start with just one AeroGarden, and then expand from there. I now have more than 20! If you want help deciding which AeroGarden models are best for you, be sure to check out my article AeroGarden Comparison: How to Pick Your Perfect Indoor Garden.
Some people that are really into growing food in an AeroGarden have an entire room or basement dedicated to indoor vegetable gardening. But the good news is that it’s not necessary. As I mentioned before, I have more than 20 AeroGardens, and I have them spread out throughout the house.
Now to be fair, I want to say that there are certain things that you cannot grow in an AeroGarden. You can’t grow really big plants. In the largest AeroGarden, the AeroGarden Farm XL models, you can grow certain varieties of slicing tomatoes, but in most AeroGardens you’ll only grow small cherry tomato plants.
And other than radishes, you can’t grow root vegetables. Do you’ll need to purchase those vegetables and can or dehydrate them.
AeroGardens Can be Expensive
AeroGardens can be a little bit pricey and when I first heard about AeroGardens, I was kind of put off because of the cost of them. So if you feel that way, I totally understand!
Thankfully, I’ve learned various ways to save money on an AeroGarden. For instance, instead of buying AeroGarden pods, I use these pods from Park Seed, on Amazon. I also use my own seeds that I purchase from True Leaf Market.
Also, if you don’t have the budget for an AeroGarden, you can pick up an iDoo garden. I personally think that AeroGarden is better quality, but many people rave about iDoo gardens (Amazon) as well.
Indoor Vegetable Gardening – Growing Sprouts!
Sprouts are a fantastic way to grow a lot of food in a small space. Yes, you heard that right. No matter what type of living situation you have, whether it’s a tiny apartment with no balcony or even any good natural light, this method will work for you. And the best part? You don’t need grow lights or anything fancy. All you need is the willingness to try something new. So, are you ready? Let’s talk about growing sprouts and microgreens!
The Difference Between Sprouts and Microgreens
Now let’s talk about the difference between sprouts and microgreens: you usually harvest sprouts after about 5 days, whereas microgreens are harvested at around 10 days and are, of course, bigger. But the great news is that, unlike with an AeroGarden where you need to add nutrients, microgreens and sprouts grow so quickly that all the nutrients they need are already included in the seed. This means no additional purchases are required.
5 Pound Cans of Sprouting Seeds
I buy all of my sprouting seeds from True Leaf Market, in 5 pound cans. The 5 pound cans are more economical, and the seeds are viable for at least 5 years.
These cans of seeds are fantastic because they’re sealed and last at least five years unopened. Once opened, I transfer the seeds into Mason jars, vacuum seal them, and only open one jar at a time. This way, a can of seeds lasts me for several years.
Now, onto the actual process of growing the sprouts. I have two different sprouters – the Easy Sprouter, which consists of an outer cup and an inner cup, and a stackable type sprouter, which I prefer as it allows me to grow six trays of sprouts in one small space on my kitchen counter.
The Basic Process of Growing Sprouts
The process is simple. I start a new tray of sprouts every day, and by the fifth or sixth day, I have a fresh tray ready. This means that every single day, I have fresh sprouts available.
So, just how much food can you produce from a single can of sprouting seeds? Well, to give you some context, a can of dehydrated carrots of the same size produces about 30 servings of vegetables.
But with a 5-pound can of sprouting seeds, I ended up with six pint jars of seeds. It takes about a teaspoon of seeds to grow a tray full of sprouts. With 96 teaspoons in a pint (liquid measurement), and six pints per can, each teaspoon of seeds produces about two cups of sprouts or microgreens. Considering that you need two cups of leafy greens for one serving, there’s the potential for a whopping 576 servings of vegetables in one can! That’s quite a comparison to the 30 servings in a can of dehydrated carrots.
How Many Pounds of Sprouting Seeds Do You Need?
Now let’s dive into some numbers and explore how we can maximize the potential of sprouting seeds. Let’s start with a simple question: How many 5-pound cans of sprouting seeds would you need for 5 servings of vegetables per day, or 1825 servings per year?
Now, remember that a single 5-pound can of sprouting seeds can yield approximately 576 servings of vegetables. If we do the math, you’ll find that you would need just a little more than three cans per person per year to meet this goal. Now, isn’t that amazing?
But let’s be real here. As much as we love sprouts, eating nothing but them for an entire year would probably get a bit monotonous. And food, especially home-grown food, should always bring joy, right?
Mix Things Up a Bit!
So, while it’s great to know the potential of sprouting seeds in terms of feeding people and saving space, it’s equally important to mix things up a bit. For my family of three, if we were to rely solely on sprouts for our vegetable intake, we’d need 9 5-pound cans of sprouting seeds per year. But variety is the spice of life, and I believe that applies to our diet too.
That’s why I recommend combining sprouting with other methods of growing food at home, like using an AeroGarden. This way, you can have fresh produce all year round, without having to eat the same thing every day. It’s about creating a balanced, diverse diet that’s both nutritious and enjoyable.
The Backbone of Your Vegetable Needs
Think of sprouting and AeroGardening as the backbone of your home-grown fruit and vegetable supply. They provide the bulk of what you need, while taking up very little space. To this, you can then add variety by supplementing with canned goods, dehydrated foods, and other items that you can or dehydrate and store yourself.
It’s all about finding the right balance and combination that works for you and your family. And the best part is, you can adjust this system as needed, based on your taste preferences, dietary needs, and the space you have available.
So there you have it! A simple, effective, and versatile way to ensure you have a steady supply of fresh, nutritious vegetables all year round.