Trash Farms: Yes, They’re Possible

Among the many strategies available to Freegans, dumpster diving is among the logistically and ideologically weaker in the long term. It’s only as sustainable as the wastefulness of capitalism, and (luckily) that’s hardly something we can rely on forever. If you’re feeding a large amount of people out of a small spectrum of dumpsters, food diversity can be an issue, and what you find left over can be pretty different from what your body needs. Tell me if this sounds familiar: you have nothing but meat and eggs in your fridge, and you start to REALLY CRAVE some vegetables, but all you find that night is limp lettuce. Or vice versa: you have a veritable cornucopia of veggies at your disposal, but no decent source of fat or protein (vegan protein can be especially challenging to dumpster).

Trash Gardens Bring The Fun Close To Home

The true Dumpster Aficionado seeks to close the loop and create a a safe food system by saving the seeds that they find, and PLANTING them. You don’t need to be fortunate enough to own a small plot of land or live near a community garden to employ this strategy (though it helps) — Windowbox Gardens are relatively easy to build, rooftop gardens are a great option for anyone with the key to the roof of their apartment building, and guerrilla gardening is not only a ton of fun, but it can grow into something far more beautiful than you could have initially imagined. Our month-old Trash Garden has mint, potatoes, chili peppers, garlic, peppers, basil, carrots, and more! We planted the plots according to which vegetables we tend to need pretty frequently, but don’t find with sufficient regularity; these vegetables may be different for your local Trash Bioregion, so you’ll have to make that decision according to your own resources and tastes, but keep in mind the old wives tale about colors: diverse color palates on your vegetable plate indicate a wider, healthier range of vitamins and minerals.

Whole Foods Dumpster Finds -- Fish-based fertilizer, bell pepper plants, liquid plant food

If your local grocery store sells plants, check their waste frequently — they’re likely to toss out perfectly healthy plants that weren’t sold before the most recent shipment came in, especially herbs and flowers. You can find flowers, too! I used to live in the Bay Area, where a Trader Joes had a dumpster that was FULL of thornless flowers every single night! (BEST SMELLING DUMPSTER EVER). You should plant them immediately; most of them have already overgrown their small plastic pots, so their roots will probably be pretty cramped by now. Pull them out of the pots by the base of the stalk, massage out the shape of the root tangle, place in a hole, and water as you cover in dirt. This is an especially important time to give them water regularly, because they’ll take a little rehabilitation before they’re back to their normal, hardy selves.

Soon after planting

The picture above was taken a few days after planting a month ago — and goodness have our plants ever been precocious (note the compost bin in the background — a free curb find! The potatoes are coming up as fast as we can mound them, the red eyes of the chili peppers pierce the darkness to glare at us challengingly through our bedroom window each night, and the mint is shooting off so many leaves you’d think our garden was Gen. MacArthur’s response to the Bonus Army in 1932! I can’t wait until I can pick up that damn camera to show you more recent photos! Sit tight, I’ll get it soon, but in the meantime, check out this awesome zines on Urban Permaculture and Guerrilla Gardening.


About Dumpster Aficionado

Just because you chow down on dumpster food doesn't mean you need to eat TRASH. Dumpster Aficionado is the Brag Rag of a small Southern Californian housing collective that wants to boast about our awesome D-hauls, show off the amazing meals we make, and introduce you to a culinary world you never knew existed.
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