Gardening for Free 101

1) Find Land.  Hartford has empty lots filled with grass scattered across the city.  They’re kept for development, but there’s not a whole lot of that going on these days.  We contacted a local association of city institutions that owns a bunch of empty lots about using the land for 2-3 years while they reevaluated its development potential.  While there have been some complications with our insurance policy, we’re optimistic that this will come through.

2) Get dirt(y).  Unfortunately, land does not equal soil.  We didn’t have the money to test the soil on our garden plots, but as it’s located in the middle of historic urban Hartford, there is a significant risk that levels of heavy metals (especially lead) are high.  Fortunately, generous Flamig Farm in Simsbury agreed to donate 60 yards of soil.

3) Budget Bed Building.  Buying wood to build raised beds for soil is fairly expensive.  While purchased beds are more aesthetically pleasing, you don’t need neatly cut fresh lumber to hold a pile of soil in one place.  Used lumber from people who are desperately trying to get rid of it works nearly as well, and is free.  We’ve also had a lot of success getting used tires from auto-dealers and tire shops.

4) Seedle-ings.  First, plant seeds indoors in trays early in the season.  Then transplant them to the soil when they’re ready.  However… another great option is to contact nurseries and garden stores in June and July to ask for donations of seedlings.  Especially moving into late June, nurseries will be more than happy to give away hundreds of seedlings, which they will no longer be able to sell as it becomes late in the season.  You will not get the best of the plant kingdom, but you may just end up with 50+ trays of heirloom tomatoes on your lawn.

Next installment: Eating for Free 320

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