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After 13 months without income, here's how I'm building a food forest

Posts: 538
Location: Oregon 8b
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The pandemic has left me with a lot of free time to plant my food forest... but it's left me without income to invest in plants. My state has completely botched unemployment and I've only gotten payments for 2 weeks out of the last 13 months. Determined to not let all of this free time go to waste, I've had to get creative about sourcing plant material without money.

Some of it's pretty basic, like trading stuff that I have for stuff that I don't. But then there are lesser known approaches, like getting free plants from the government to maximize my diversity.

This year I'm cultivating about an acre and a half on borrowed land, including a large annual garden and two large-ish fields that I'm starting to plant on contour with a simple DIY A-frame level... mostly with annual nitrogen fixers and calorie dense "annual" staples, which I'm starting to interplant with perennials. I actually haven't tallied it up, but between the annuals and perennials I'm probably approaching 100 species that have been acquired mostly for free, and the few things I have paid for have mostly come from clearance racks. With a few notable exceptions, I've never paid for more $5 for a tree (I have an almond that I paid $13 for, since they're not commonly available here, and a couple cold hardy olives that I paid full price for with dreams of olive oil in my future.)

Among the things I've gotten for free are:

  • Asparagus
  • Figs
  • Hostas
  • Mulberries
  • Apples
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Chives
  • Peaches
  • Figs
  • Plums
  • Apricots
  • American Persimmon
  • Artichokes
  • Rhubarb
  • Native irises
  • Wild Chamomile
  • Sumac
  • Walnuts
  • Pomegranates
  • Beach Plums
  • Achira
  • Runner Beans
  • Alder
  • Black Locust
  • Pineapple Guava
  • Cranberry
  • Lingonberry
  • Wapato
  • Camas
  • Balsamroot
  • Yampah
  • Oca
  • Hazelnut
  • Bunching Onions
  • Haskaps
  • Goumi
  • Quince
  • and Sweet Birch

  • There are probably others that I'm forgetting, and that list does not even include the annuals that I'm grateful to have received seed for.

    I've tried to compile a more or less exhaustive list of the ways I've been able to get free plants in the following video, though I'm sure I forgot a few.

    Do you have any other techniques that you use to get free plants (so I can continue to grow my collection)? Are any of these new-to-you techniques that you plant to take advantage of?
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    Tiny House Magazine (Issue 121)
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