How to Make a Garden in Berkeley for FREE: Part II

We may be heading towards September, but there is still time to plant a fall crop (consult a Planting Schedule), and if you follow these steps, you can do it for absolutely FREE!

I already covered the first steps in last week’s post:

Step 1.  Preparing the land: The FREE Tool-Lending Library
Step 2.  Acquiring good soil: The Berkeley Marina FREE Compost Giveaway

This week, I’ll reveal my final two secrets to spend-free success in your backyard garden endeavor.

Step 3.  Planting:  The Bay Area Seed Interchange Library

Ecology Center Library

The Berkeley Ecology Center is a powerhouse that runs Berkeley’s curbside recycling, the three Berkeley Farmers’ Markets, the Farm Fresh Choice food justice program, and the EcoHouse (a demonstration home and garden), they publish Terrain Magazine, plus they house a store (eco-friendly goods, gardening supplies, books), and the Environmental Resource Center which encompasses a library, information resources, action groups, events, and classes.

BASIL seeds choices

But my absolute favorite thing that they do is house BASIL (The Bay Area Seed Interchange Library), which is pretty much the coolest thing ever.  Basically, you go sign up and “check out” whatever seeds you want for FREE with the promise that you will attempt to let those plants go to seed and “return” some of the next generation’s seeds at the end of the season.  The seed exchange operates on good faith, so don’t bother taking if you don’t plan on giving back. Read about the extremely important and timely reasons for participating in BASIL on their website.

The staff at the Ecology Center is very knowledgeable and helpful, and can help you find information (in their own handouts or in the library) on gardening, seed harvesting and drying, and anything else you might need to know.  Their fact sheets alone could answer almost any question you might have about gardnening/sustainable living/the environment.

The Ecology Center
2530 San Pablo Ave. @ Blake St.
Open Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-6pm

Step 4.  Troubleshooting: UC Berkeley Botanical Garden’s FREE Sick Plant Clinic

The UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, aside from its diverse planet-encompassing collection, has all sorts of awesome events and resources.  One of them is the FREE Sick Plant Clinic: you bring your sick or dying plant and a trained professional will tell you what is wrong with it.  Most likley you’re just a fool and your basil is a little thirsty (water it) or hungry (feed it some compost).  But maybe it’s been misbehaving and contracted some rare type of plant STD, who knows?  Well, have no fear.  Now there’s a FREE clinic for your horny (I mean spiky, not lusty) little cactus.  Dr. Raabe is there on the first Saturday of every month to help you turn your touch of death into a green thumb.  Entomologists are also on-site to identify the pests that might be living on your plants.  Just remember to cover your plants and disease samples in containers or bags before arriving—you don’t want to be the idiot that starts an outbreak at a botanical garden.

The FREE Sick Plant Clinic
First Saturday of the month (Check their calendar)
UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens
200 Centennial Drive
Click here for directions/ways of getting there

Well, that concludes my four-step guide to making a garden in Berkeley for FREE.  I hope you will be inspired to get your hands a little dirty (in actual dirt, not illicit behavior) and start your very own urban garden, because food never tastes better than when you grow the ingredients yourself.

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About the author

Chloe - Pennywise Reporter

Chloe's youth was split between California and Kauai, frolicking on a macadamia nut farm in the tropics and landing finally in the Bay Area. Raised by super-Jew hippies, and the youngest of three sisters, Chloe learned early the virtues of thrift, economy, and green living. To the chagrin of her parents (who hoped, of course, for a Jewish doctor or lawyer), Chloe has put her degree from UC Berkeley to great use by becoming a folk singer. As "Chloe Makes Music" she plays shows throughout SF and beyond, donning vintage frocks, selling handmade merch, and pinching pennies as she sings for her supper. Calling Berkeley home for the last six years, you can think of Chloe as the website's East Bay Correspondent, opening your eyes to the hippie-filled, tree-hugging, organic-loving, vegan-eating, but way-overlooked and awesome assets of Berkeley, Oakland, and beyond.