Picture of Grow organic food without spending $
OBJECTIVE : Grow organic food producing plants without spending any extra money, while choosing the methods that close the loop between consumption and refuse by recycling household and yard waste, paper, cardboard, food containers, water, and urine.

I am fortunate enough to be living rent free for the year in beautiful and mysterious Roswell NM, I decided I would like to experiment with how to live sustainably and cheaply (two things that go well together), so that in the future I can implement these skills and tricks when I return to a renters life. Naturally this requires skills like gardening, greywatering, composting, and the raiding of dumpsters and recycling bins. I decided to bring all the small things I have learned/developed together into one all encompassing life altering instructable. Along the way I have found other peoples instructables to be very useful so I have linked to them as well. Be sure to look at all the picture notes for details and specifics on the smaller things I have done.

RESULTS: beautiful organic veggies, herbs, healthier richer soil, less water consumption, less household waste, muscles, a tan, admiration from your friends and neighbors (you will be a buffed green hero!) This experiment has changed my life, I kid you not.

1-40 of 112Next »
Jeanette562 years ago
I really like the idea of a round bed. I've got the room and I hope to try it out. Thanks for suggesting it!
what soil mix did you start the seeds in? that seems expensive. I would really love to know how to get that for free.
pandaaze2 years ago
Calling all freegans or those considering it! Can you please complete either a multiple choice survey takes less than 7 minutes http://www.surveymethods.com/EndUser.aspx?87A3CFD684C2D0D08C OR an under 5 minute short answer questionnaire http://www.stellarsurvey.com/s.aspx?u=B0C2352F-90C5-4B66-BA78-9B716EB2676B& The purpose of this survey is to educate Florida Atlantic University's graduate class Food: Environments and Culture class about freeganism. Your answers will remain anonymous and confidential. The results will be compiled into large statistically representations, unless otherwise noted by you in with written consent at the designated final box stating that you want to be used as a specific example. At the end of the survey there is also an optional elective to request a follow up interview which should last between 30 minutes to an hour depending on your availability. Feel free to skip any questions you feel uncomfortable answering, you can always save and continue later, and you can submit without finishing if need be. Thank you in advance for your participation in my project. I really appreciate it!
antoniraj2 years ago
very nice...
lisascout3 years ago
You worked really hard on this, thank you so much for all of the documentation. There are always more ideas! But I like your progression, and your ideas for reuse of existing materials get the creative juices going. My mother came from a generation where using discarded things was a necessity - and then along came all of the excess of the next generation, where it was considered taboo. I'm so happy that people are returning to recycle, reduce, reuse, repurpose.
tinker2344 years ago
hey i live in central florida could i do this at my home or should i do hydro ponics also i saw a mrobot project that can water plants would it still be organic if i used machines to help wondering
kalli5 years ago
Go to your local coffee house with a bucket (or they may have one to give you) and ask them to save their coffee grounds & filters. - Make nice addition to compost and garden! FREE!
finton kalli5 years ago
Totally. I keep the grounds from the coffee machine at work and my compost has never been wormier. The first compost barrel I tried it on became absolutely full of worms who had converted EVERYTHING into beautiful loam. I can't recall what else I'd put in there, but all my other bins are going better than ever so I mainly attribute it to the coffee. Google coffee and fertiliser: there are some good sites showing that coffee is a nutritious compost additive.
As a kid I can remember my dad had a worm farm, a planter in the yard and he put coffee grounds on it. That's all!
GroundUp4 years ago
Maybe it's a stupid question but would those fertilizers work on an hydroponics system?
Tomatoes can be dehydrated or canned. Garlic can be dehydrated as well as onions. Herbs certainly can be saved for later use. but trading produce at farmers markets can give you other consumables or other things to preserve for the larder. Once you start getting ahead remember to rotate your inventory. A recent study showed the cost of beef if we were to include fossil fuels would be nearer to fourty dollars a pound. I mean it's just not going to be practical to have everyone eating beef and pork in the future. I have gone towards more fruits and vegitables as well as nuts for my protien and found the amout i spent to be less for fruit and nuts then say for beef and feel better as well. Not every climate allows every crop to grow but seeds are available from climates like yours from across the globe look into what can grow in Australia they now grow kiwi's who would thunk they do good now exported off season to other markets
frogmama5 years ago
I like your use of the bedspring as a trellis!  I bet it's sturdy enough for cucumbers or something.  Last year, when I was picking pea and pickle vine tendrils off my fixed fence, I was thinking how smart it would be to let the vines dry out all winter and detach the trellis and smoulder it in a brush fire pile.  easy way to clean it off :) (hopefully that wouldn't break the welds)

I was concerned about your kitchen sink trap suggestion - though its a great suggestion, I hope you coverered the empty end of the trap so sewer gasses don't come up (that's part of the purpose of a trap in the first place)

Good luck on your sustainable living - I admire your dedication to it!!
YotaTruck5 years ago
The correct link is www.seedswaps.com, not seedswapper.com.
PapaSoma5 years ago
Careful with the tires. They're leaching cadmium into the soil.

Never place your beds downslope of a road, as the cadmium runs with the water and deposits in the soil.
rerat8 years ago
just be sure to wipe the mold off of it before you serve it next to your tofurky. It's called technology people, embrace it.
dchall8 rerat8 years ago
Maybe you are confusing vegetarianism with organic. There is organic beef, chicken, pork, etc. And there's no way to wipe all the mold off of food. It's on the cloth you wipe with. You're breathing it in. You're exhaling it. It's everywhere. It's called microbiology. You can't see it but it's there. Consider this: there are more microbe cells inside your body than human cells.
gowithflo (author)  dchall88 years ago
Actually I would like to incorporate a duck tractor eventually, I just wasn't up to the task of animal husbandry yet. http://www.energyfarms.net/taxonomy/term/151

What mold are you guys talking about? Rerat are you suggesting that composting is dangerous?
I've heard of the chicken tractor, but not a duck tractor. Ducks will fly away while chickens will hang around after you let them out of the tractor. Some tractor designs keep the birds inside all the time and others allow the birds out during the day and protect them from predators at night. Birds will do an incredible amount of good for your soil. Just be aware they will defoliate everything as they eat all the grass, plants, and bugs, so your soil will look like the surface of the moon when you move them away.

Another way to get started with birds is to install bird houses, feeders, and bird baths. Just getting the wild ones to your place to pick caterpillars and beetles can be very beneficial. You will have to watch your crops, though.

Regarding molds: If you had asked a microbiologist in the 1980s how many microbes lived in the soil, they might have told you there were about 50 but only a dozen would grow on a petri dish in a lab. Since the 1990s, with DNA testing available at relatively low costs, they have discovered DNA from over 100,000 species. A lot of them are molds. Don't ask me to name them, because they have not been named. This added microbial complexity has driven the scientists to stop calling it a food chain. Now they call it a food web. Specifically for soil they call it the soil foodweb. If you are interested learning more about soil biology, the best thing I've found is this. It's about 50 pages long with all the pictures, so settle down and turn off the phone if you want to concentrate on it. I have reread it several times and learn more each time. When all the microbes live together in relative harmony, the condition is called 'normal.' When things get out of whack, some of the good microbes will be overpowered by the disease causing microbes and you will get fungal or bacterial diseases on your plants. Usually all it takes is restoring the health of the entire population of microbes to reset things to normal again. This is how Mother Natures has evolved the system over the past 4 billion years.

Composting is not generally dangerous. It can become more hazardous if you don't know what you're doing. If you stick to composting garden scraps and non-meat table scraps, you'll be fine. If you want to start composting meats and animal dung, give yourself at least 3 good years of successful, productive composting before you try the advanced stuff.
gowithflo (author)  dchall88 years ago
I've heard about a variety of animal tractors, chicken, pig, rabbit, goat, sheep, etc. Sorry I cant give an exact source but it was probably Bill Mollison. Thanks for the microbiology tutorial, microbes rule.
If you haven't gotten or made your "bird" tractor yet and are now among those of us who rent, here is a great instructable if you still looking. http://www.instructables.com/id/Chicken-Barrow/
I don't think composting animal dung is that "advanced." If you have any local animal farms or horse stables this would be an easy to way to make lots of great compost while recycling waste and keeping it from contaminating the local ecosystem. I work at an organic CSA that gets weekly shipments of animal waste (hay, dung, scraps & whatever else is in their pens) from the local zoo. They include everything from all their exotic animals. We even found an unhatched emu egg once. All we do is have a few piles and turn them every few weeks. In about three months (checked when the compost thermometer stops heating up to ~130), viola, rich compost yumminess.
Is it safe to assume the egg was a dud?  I know those things aren't cheap.  My aunt raised them when I was a kid.
Thanks for the link to the USDA website! Check out Elaine Ingham's commercial website: www.soilfoodweb.com for a bio test on your soil, and endorsements for compost makers
KingLabs5 years ago
I've heard of using tobacco for pest control.  I suppose planting tobacco nearby would help too.  I tried making a tobacco tea from some cheap (bugle boy) pouch tobacco and it seemed to work ok.
 Also, you can make newspaper seed pots which can be culled from people's recycle pile.  You can start the seeds in them and then put them right in the ground when you plant, they break down as the season goes on.
kingbi35 years ago
love it will try it. love your peace i cant grow but will try with the kids
thepelton5 years ago
One free source of wood scraps such as what Squee was talking about is pallets.  I have found them behind businesses such as liquor stores and supermarkets, and the broken ones they normally give away.  Just ask to be sure.
thepelton5 years ago
One other thing.  Walnut sawdust is slightly toxic, so it should not be plowed into a garden.  A number of other sawdust varieties, especially domestic ones, can be plowed into dirt and broken down with woodloving mushrooms, such as Pleurotis Pulmonatis.
thepelton5 years ago
Ludionis has a good idea there, but I heard of a similar growing situation that used old auto tires filled with dirt for growing potatoes.  The man was paraplegic, in a wheelchair, and couldn't dig a normal garden, so he filled stacks of tires with dirt, planted potatoes and other root crops, and knocked over the tires when he needed to get the potatoes or carrots or whatever.
ludionis5 years ago
I thought that disease could be spread through fecal composting because while urine is indeed sterile in the absence of an infection, feces is not.  Have heard that countries that fertilize with human feces (see http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dpd/parasites/ascaris/factsht_ascaris.htm for an example)
ludionis5 years ago
I heard of a guy once that got a 5 gallon bucket, filled it with dirt, and placed a few sprouting potatoes in it.  When the plant developed and he wanted potatoes, he just dug some out.  Un-eaten ones would re-sprout and keep the plant going, would add compost/fertilizer occasionally to keep soil rich.
SinAmos5 years ago
Remind me of what I have going on except for the greywater.
manlyfish5 years ago
legally you can't say organic unless your certifed and they look for everything for example treated wood cannot be touching anything it has to be elavated and other things you might not expect and if you want organic you dont want pesticides loads of organic sprays are just as bad if not worse for you then some non organic pretty nasty stuff but there are lots of other options NATURAL PREDATORS may sound weird but you should research your bugs there are plenty that like to eat potato bugs, and aphids and, cucumber beetles like excample lady bug larvae, assassin bug, and dragon flies, wasps too
good work gowihflo
rgmarti5 years ago
Smart gardener, earth friendly and Cute. What catch U will make...
kehames5 years ago
Umm...You do know that grocery stores have to pay for those bread trays, right?  They aren't just throwing them away?  The bread companies pick them up and pay the grocery stores back for them.  It's like a deposit system.
Squee kehames5 years ago
Yeah, I'm with you on everything except the bread trays. Those trays are left out back for the bread company to pick up when they deliver the next shipment of bread. When you take them the bread company can dock the grocery store a deposit fee. Otherwise you're still stealing them from the bread company.

There are plenty of other things that you can use to support your seed trays, including cardboard boxes, a box made from chicken wire, wood or other scrap/salvaged materials.
A good name6 years ago
I think you're supposed to put a cover on it... actually mine's covered on all sides.
It works best when it's worm inside, so you may want to put a black thick bin bags around the sides and cover from the same material on top. Some building sites may have leftovers of DPM lining lying around which they can't use because of the small size
johnny3h katz5 years ago
Hi Katz and all,
Composting is accomplished by:
AEROBIC BACTERIA [they breathe AIR] that "munch" the materials to be composted,
and "their byproducts [equivalent of urine and feces] ARE the resulting compost,
AND the purpose of wire or slatted pallets for containment ,
AND regular "TURNING"  of the pile ALL of which are NECESSARY for the bacteria to survive and do their work.

Therefore, it is strongly recommended that compost piles NOT be enclosed in any material that restricts maximum air flow!!!!!

The "warmth" needed is provided by the metabolic heat generated by the bacteria themselves.  All a composter must do is reduce the loss of THAT heat by having the compost pile as large and compact as possible.
guy905 years ago
Liking the setup there, thanks for sharing this!
1-40 of 112Next »