I know I'm not the first person who has gotten bitten by the food forest bug and suddenly started wanting to plant a zillion trees and perennial plants, despite a serious lack of ready cash. (I am lucky to have time and land, so no complaints here about being skint.) Like a lot of people wanting to plant on the cheap, I'm doing as much as I can with seeds, since there's no budget for started plants and trees. In my particular circumstances and early stages, that means using a *lot* of growing containers as nurseries for plants to be planted out later.
So I'm scrounging containers, scraping up soil and mulch from around the property, and hitting the spring garage sales *real* hard for necessary containers, tools, and anything else helpful that I can get for small change or a few dollars.
My first big score that I was desperately looking for was a cheap wheelbarrow. (Good new ones are as much as $200!) Got lucky and found one for five bucks. The tire was flat ($2.00 patch kit and two trips to the local $.75 air machine because my air pump turned out to be defunct) and the plastic tub was blown out with a huge crack the full length. But I stitched it together by drilling holes and weaving wire from an old piece of Romex my dogs dragged home to chew on (seriously, they are weird rescue dogs). And then I stabilized the repair with a $4.00 tube of LocTite dual epoxy for plastics. Now I can go *much* farther into the woods on our land to borrow container gardening soil, leaf mold, and old leaves and grass for mulch -- and bring a lot more back than I could carry in the 5-gallon buckets I was using.
This weekend has been great for large containers that can be used for planters. Found numerous $.25 flower pots at the sales, plus a variety of baskets, trash cans, and coolers of various sizes. (I find that old coolers work well in my hot climate for container gardening; my working theory is that the insulation moderates rapid swings in container soil temperature.)
But the best (and totally unexpected) score at the garage sales today was some local genetic material for cheap and free. One lady had a jar (maybe a pint?) of self-harvested dill seeds, priced at a buck. These are from plants that thrived in this climate last year, cheap enough for me to scatter throughout my nascent orchard Fukuoku-style. Score! Dill grows easily here so I'm thinking I may be able to get it established as a self-re-seeding weed, which would be lovely; I like it a lot as a salad herb and could never have too much.
But the BEST find was from the same lady; she had a box marked FREE on the side that was full of large but disreputable sweet potatoes. They were obviously left over from last year's crop in her garden, and these were cracked or had broken/dried spots or really odd shapes. But if you looked close you could see they were already starting to sprout, and they were BIG healthy tubers weighing close to a pound apiece. I was delighted to see them; all the sweet potatoes I've found in my local stores have been sprayed (presumably) and are very resistant to sprouting. So it was a delight to get my hands on some local, unsprayed seed stock. She obviously meant them for that purpose, too; as I picked one up to look at it she volunteered in her deep-country drawl "Just put that in some water, honey, it will sprout right up!" I thanked her profusely and took two.
Moral: don't overlook yard sales as a source of plantable stuff!
Related, but only sort-of: Today, my toddler and I were walking along the snowmobile trail behind our property, and I looked over...in an overgrown patch of wood, unused by anyone, were several mullein stalks. I took one, giving it a shake to re-seed the area, back to my own non-mulleinated field....
Bumping this thread just to report that today I found another $5.00 wheelbarrow at a garage sale. Metal tub, somewhat bent, slightly cracked, and rusty. Sound wooden handles. Flat tire. I think I got the "get it out of here before my husband gets home" pricing. Woman running the sale told me "I bought my husband a brand new one, he wanted to put this one in the garage because it's still good. I told him no, I'm putting that old thing in the sale."
Works for me! You can't have too many wheelbarrows.
Mike Cantrell wrote:Awesome. How'd the dill from spring of '14 do?
Sadly that dill did not distinguish itself, nor ever really grow in any manner visibly better than dollar store seed-packet dill.
On the other hand seeing this post just now reminded me that those perpetually-flat-tired wheelbarrows I posted about in this old thread taught me a valuable lesson about garage sales, and not the one you would think. Cans of Fix-A-Flat (a spray can full of air and sticky sealant gunk) cost eight bucks or so -- more than I paid for the wheelbarrows! -- but they are always turning up at garage sales for a buck, and I have put half a dozen into these tires over the years. Garage sales are great for finding dramatically underpriced consumables.
Look at auctions. I got both of my wheelbarrows for around $5. I got to check the tires before. Most of them are estates, and some old codger had one lightly used. I have a shedful of tools for cheap. The ones that are not cutting it get passed on to my townie friends.
Best place to get seeds is to ask for them in the fall. Most people with gardens have stuff seeding out, and I have never had anyone say "no". Now they all to a man think I'm daft but I have a bunch of seeds every fall. They all go into the chaos garden and the strong replicate. If I see a squash plant alive and green after mine have all tapped out I ask if they have been spraying, and if they haven't I plead for one of the aged gnarly ones. Into the chaos garden...
Standing on the shoulders of giants. Giants with dirt under their nails
I do go to auctions but mostly only to be sociable with my sister and brother-in-law, who have more cash than me and shop for bigger stuff. In my tri-county area there is only one auctioneer and he has a habit of aggregating stuff into expensive lots. No $5.00 wheelbarrows at his auctions; he'd stack fifty dollars worth of welding rod in that wheelbarrow and sell it as a unit. It's a lot of time investment standing around in a big crowd waiting for the rare unpopular lot that nobody wants that he has to knock down into my bargain-hunter price range.
Tj Jefferson wrote:Best place to get seeds is to ask for them in the fall. Most people with gardens have stuff seeding out, and I have never had anyone say "no".
This is great advice and I even gave something like it to someone in another thread a few days ago. But I don't actually *do* it very often because ... well ... I have just a touch of some kind of spectrum disorder. It socially inhibits me from making requests of strangers that I know they will consider odd. It's not utterly paralyzing; I can overcome it, but the mental cost is high. It uses up a lot of spoons that I don't always have. I have to mentally prep myself and visualize the conversation repeatedly and psych myself up and all kinds of weird broken-mental-health stuff. Usually it's not worth it. I have to want them seeds real bad. Which is sometimes the case. Or I have to be having a really great day, the garage sales have been going well, I've had six great interactions with strangers, I'm chock-full-o-spoons, and I just breeze right up and do it without thinking about it too much. That can happen too. Just, you know, don't bet on it happening on any given Wednesday.
I have been thinking that I will collect fruit that anyone will give me and take it out on the farm in the riparian areas and dump it. I am hoping the wild animals will spread it around and some of it will take. Call me lazy...and i will answer. I've been wondering about collecting fruit that dried on the tree - I'm thinking that will work just fine also.
Too slow for those who Wait,
Too swift for those who Fear,
Too long for those who Grieve,
Too short for those who Rejoice,
But for those who Love,
Time is not.
-Henry van Dyke
Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana. Steve flies like a tiny ad: