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02 June 2010 @ 09:21 am
Gardening, and the cost thereof.  
It seems I might need a gardening icon!  For now, I'll keep using Tink.  She's the closest thing I have to a garden fairy. :)

I was going to plant my corn/beans/pumpkin box today, but last night a front moved in, and we've had nothing but solid rain for hours and hours.  I'm actually a little concerned for my lettuce starts...but they look okay so far.  I just hope this isn't too much water for them. 

An interesting subject ala the garden came up yesterday between the husband and I.  I think having the garden will save us money.  He thinks we'll be lucky to break even.   But what does he know?  HE never goes grocery shopping; he has no clue what good produce costs, much less good organic produce, which is what we'll be producing.  

Obviously, this year will cost us more than the next few, since we built the boxes. (Although I am already planning on adding one 4 foot x 8 foot box next year to the end, specifically for the corn/beans/pumpkin box.  I already know I'm going to want more corn than the 4x4 can hold.  But I figure I'll let this year's efforts win the husband over before mentioning this to him!)

But, I went to the grocery store last night, and I bought lots of produce, and saved the receipt just so I could do some estimating.  Everything I bought was "on sale" so these prices reflect sale prices - for example, the mini carrots were 5 for $5, instead of the "normal" price of $1.69 per package.

This is what I buy on at least a weekly basis; often I have to go back and get more lettuce or tomatoes, as salad is one of the only vegetable servings my husband will actually eat.  Everything listed here is also something that will be planted in my garden.

~ 1 bag mini carrots - $1
~ Yukon gold potatoes 2.84 pounds at $1.19/pound - $3.38
~ Lettuce, organic - $2.79 for two
~ Green onion, organic - $2
~ On vine tomato 1.91 pounds at $1.69/pound - $3.23
~ Corn on the Cob, 4 ears - $2 (corn prices go down as the season goes on, eventually being things like 4 for $1)
~ two regular yellow onion - $1.68

Total produce bill - $16.08 for one week.  Since I often go back for more lettuce, onion, and tomato, we'll round that up to a conservative $20 a week for fresh produce I can grow in my garden.  

I should be able to start harvesting lettuce in just a few weeks.  I'm hopeful that will our slightly cooler temperatures and 80 foot tall trees, I'll be able to continue growing and harvesting it even through the hot months of late July-August.  I'll certainly be able to continue well into Fall, and many things will continue to produce and be harvested up to the first frost, usually sometime in November.  

So, I know I'll be harvesting some things by the end of June.  July, August, September and October are what we're talking about, but most things will only be harvestable for three of those months, one way or another, and some, like corn, will only be short term, one month veggies.  Still, let's do another list.  

~ carrots.  Even if I'm only able to harvest for one month (and I'll replant as I go, so it will be for more), I should save a minimum of about $5, max of $15.
~potatoes. I'm doing two plantings, (at least) so I'll get two different harvests.  The instructions say the average harvest if 10-15 pounds.  We'll say 12.  12x2=24, so 24 total pounds of potatoes would cost me about $28 at the grocery store.  
~ Lettuce.  Now, I should be able to harvest this for about 4 months, worst case scenario.  June-July, and then Sept-October.  I spent about $4/week on lettuce, which adds up to a whopping $64 over those four months.
~ Tomatoes.  I was once at the grocery store last year, when the on-the-vines were on sale for $1/pound.  A man in his 80's was getting his at the same time I was getting mine, and he looked over and said "It's like getting gold for pennies, isn't it?"  Well, maybe not quite, but yes, it sure felt like ti!  Usually the $1.69 I paid yesterday is a good deal for those.  My husband is Italian.  He loves tomatoes.  He could live on tomatoes.  We go through a LOT of tomatoes.  A couple pounds per week, at least.  Now, my tomatoes aren't supposed to start producing until about mid-late July.  Barring disaster, they should produce into October.  And the pounds they produce should far exceed our usual haul from the store.  But to be fair, we'll only calculate what I would normally spend at the store.  So, our tomato plants should save us anywhere from $40-50 this year.  All the rest is gravy! :) 
~ Onion.  We buy a lot of onion - green onion, regular onion.  I planted both, and I'll replant in the Fall, more than likely.  So, we'll say about three months of producing and using my garden onions instead of buying.  That's a total of about $44 we're not spending at the store - who knew onions cost so much??  
~ Corn.  This one, I already have figured.  Each corn plant produces one ear, although a few varieties will produce two.  Assuming I can effectively keep critters away, and my corn actually produces, we should get about 24-26 ears.  Maybe more if my corn produces more than one ear, but I'm not holding my breath.  We love corn on the cob.  In the summer, we eat it several times a week, usually two ears apiece per meal.  These 24 ears would only save us about $6 at the height of summer savings, but with corn, it's really more about eating it freshly picked. :)

So, all told, we're at about $190 worth of grocery store savings, and that's a very conservative estimate, considering the garden should produce about twice what we would normally buy and consume, not to mention, I haven't even counted the cucumbers I'm planting, or the always expensive fresh herbs, like thyme, basil, and sage.  That will up that figure considerably.  

The boxes cost us about $300.  To be fair, let's say I've spent another $100 on things like seeds, starts, fertilizer, anti-slug stuff, oh, and I did buy new tomato tower things that are on their way.  So a $400 output.  I'm pretty confident we'll break even this year, and next year will be much, much more significant.  We should come out much further ahead (not to mention, next year I'll know a little more than I do now about what the heck I'm doing!)

The other big complaint people have, is that the potential savings do not warrant the work, work, work!  Having done regular gardening for years growing up, I have to say, this raised bed, square foot method is pretty freaking awesome.  Sure, putting up the anti-deer screen was a pain and took longer than it should have.  But aside from that, I can already see the benefit of having these small, controlled areas to plant in, keep track of, water, and weed. (Not everyone will have my critter problem.) I figure after my planting is all done, and given the fact that our timed sprinkler system will do the watering for me throughout the season, I should only have to spend an hour or two a week at most weeding, harvesting, and planting or replanting.  That's pretty awesome!  

We'll see how this all turns out.  I plan to keep a rough tally as the season goes, so I'll know better come October what the reality of our harvest savings are.
 
 
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