No weeds, no duds, no money spent.

I am a cheapskate. Not that I am content settling for less. Oh, no. I love the snazzy stuff, and I love it more if I can get it at a discount.

Many companies are cashing in on the trendiness of the Green movement. Right now, you can get special composts, biodegradable planters made out of bamboo, special hinges for building a raised bed, environmentally secure heirloom seeds, and technical gadgetry that will analyze your soil and light conditions so you know exactly what to plant, and where it goes.

It bothers me that gardening, organic foods, and being Green in general is being sold as a luxury that is not available to everyone. A garden is not an expensive landscaping endeavor. Raising organic vegetables can be done without spending money on expensive fertilizer or store-bought compost that is “Nature’s mix of 4 different manures.”

Gardening is for everyone, and anyone who has the desire can plant seeds and harvest food and flowers, outside of income. I am a do-noting, square-foot gardener, which means that I use a raised bed, built on top of the ground and filled with compost for planting. No weeds, no digging. Just planting, watering, and enjoying the fruits of my garden.

It’s not too late to plant for a fall harvest of potatoes and winter greens. Last week, I built another organic garden bed… for free.

Build the box for free:

Earlier in the season, I demolished half of my deck, removing the portion that was starting to rot. I saved the good boards and nails for building projects around the house. Part of this wood was used to make my front garden and my free garden boxes.

You can find free, reusable wood, brick, rock, or other materials to use for a garden on Craigslist. You can also call construction, deck, and fencing companies and offer to take some of the old wood. Do not use pressure-treated wood for food gardens, as it may contain chemicals that will soak into the plants.

If you don’t have a yard, you can still grow items in containers on windowsills, roofs, balconies, driveways, etc. Plastic boxes, large cans, crates, buckets and other materials can be lined in plastic and used as containers. When I lived in a small apartment, I grew beans and peas in painted milk cartons on the window sills — they made interesting, green curtains. Currently, I am using the cover method to grow potatoes in an old garbage can in a corner.

Line the box for free:

The box will be filled with delicious, nutritious soil. To keep grass, weeds, and roots from sneaking into the box, I lined the bottom of the box with two layers of cardboard.

Cardboard is available almost everywhere. You can ask most stores, or find it in recycling containers (don’t take it from racks or bales, though). Using multiple layers of newspaper will work, too. I’ve seen fabric, paper, and thick layers of wet leaves used to line a box.

Free soil:

This is the beautiful part, and one of the reasons that the Tacoma area rocks so hard for gardeners. Tagro is the city’s waste composting company. During the growing season, they offer a ready-to-plant mix of compost with composted wood. There’s a huge pile available at the Tagro site, and if you’re willing to shovel it and drive it away, it is free. No mixing, no soil testing. Fill and plant. Plants go crazy in this stuff. I took a truck down and filled the back with it. When I can’t borrow a truck, I use a couple 10-gallon plastic boxes with lids in the trunk of my car.

You can also find free compost on Craigslist, or contact the Pierce Conservation District Manure Exchange Program at (253) 845-9770 to receive a listing of area farmers and ranchers that have compost they need removed.

What do you say? “If you have to drive, it’s gas money and therefore not free?” In that case, make your own compost and save the drive. It will take nearly a year to get your compost a-cookin’ though, with a mellowing out time of a few months. Or you can try the “lasagna method” of gardening, which is layering kitchen and lawn refuse in your box in the fall and planting in the springtime.

For a ready source of garden filler and fertilizer, you can also volunteer at the Rabbit Haven. Rabbits need love, care and attention just like any pet, and their droppings do not need to be prepared or composted; you can fill a bed with them and plant and be done with it.

Free plants and seeds:

I’m fortunate to know a few gardeners, and gardeners exchange seeds or starts with their friends. I was given some bulbs and starts from my mother-in-law; Cine over-planted lettuce and graciously gifted greens and an eggplant for peace.

You can also get free seeds from the most obvious place: your groceries. Dried beans are ridiculously low-priced, and if you eat them anyway, there’s no extra cost to plant a few. Melons, tomatoes or any other fresh produce with seeds can be used, and potatoes that are sprouting can be peeled or cut and planted. When you slice the root side of an onion, you can plant it: the onion roots will re-grow into a new onion.

Every year, decorative flowers go to seed. Is there a neighbor that has a beautiful poppy patch? Ask them if you can harvest some seeds for next year. Go for a walk in a park or on a trail; moss and other wildflowers can be sampled and planted at home.

Birdseed usually germinates, if you plant it like any other seed. On the plus, you’ll have sunflowers and more seeds to feed the birds later.

Additionally, you can use Google to search the term “free seeds.” Many companies offer a packet of seeds for free. You can also join a seed exchange.

Plant a little extra, let the plants bloom and save the seeds, to help out another free gardener.

Free water:

We live in the Northwest. We get gallons of the stuff for free most of the year. You can harvest rain and save it with simple methods like leaving buckets out, or running your gutter into a rain barrel. If you use Square-Foot Gardening methods, you will save water as well.

Gardening is a way to build the soil, to lower the grocery bill for fresh produce, to reconnect with nature.

Humans planted food long before all of these amazing, plastic gizmos and “biologically enhanced” fertilizers and composts were invented to herald in the Green Age. No matter what your income, you can join in.

Do you have any other free or inexpensive resources for building a garden? Let us know in the comments below.