Saturday, September 7, 2013

Gardening Dollars

Jumping in with today's thoughts...

I've been keeping a running tally of garden costs this year, and now that harvest has started rolling in, I've been keeping track of the market value of the food we harvest, so we can see how it measures up.  We spend a decent bit on our garden each year since we experiment, and this year we had a few bigger expenditures-- $63 for a rototiller rental (can't convince myself to buy one yet), $160 for 5' hog panels (them things are FABULOUS for vining plants to grow on) and various other small things, like straw, that add up until you track down a decent supplier.  (We're talking the difference between $9/bale and $3/bale.  Ouch.)

I've only harvested a few things so far; tomatoes, tomatillos, most of the potatoes, all the peppers, and a good portion of beans and cucumbers are still growing.  All my price comparisons are to organic produce, because that's the actual equivalent of what I grow here, and what I would buy if we didn't grow it. So the so-far harvest is as such:

$12.00 4 lbs. raspberries
$25.78 4 lbs. 11 oz. garlic
$7.35 3.5 lbs. shelling peas
$61.88 49.5 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes
$8.61 6 lbs. 6 oz. cucumbers

So far we've earned back about 25% of our 2013 garden expenditures, but the big stuff is still in the garden, so I think we're at least going to break even.  Also, I always have high hopes that next year will be cheaper, as we need less infrastructure and such.  (Dream big. Gardens have personalities of their own.)

I don't go in grocery stores overly much.  I do have several things I buy there, mostly dairy products like sour cream that have to be bought consistently rather than frozen or bought in bulk somehow, but I buy a lot of food through local channels, and I'm an Azure Standard junkie, which is basically a traveling co-op where you order online and pick up at a given drop point in your area. It's my source for bulk purchases.  The bottom line is that I'm very unfamiliar with typical grocery store prices. Recently I rectified that, and I've been horrified; the prices are sky high!  No wonder folks complain.

We're about 95% organic around here and so I've always just accepted that that comes with a higher price tag, although I'm always trying to cut back on it by making more things from scratch, buying in bulk, and gardening. But I'm starting to wonder if focusing on locally produced foods (organic or otherwise) is just plain cheaper, theoretically because of the lack of fuel and marketing involved in the prices. But to buy local, you have to buy ingredients instead of ready made products, because that would bankrupt anybody. I'll do a post on that another time, for price comparisons.

If I get high enough returns in relation to this year's garden inputs, I'm lobbying to extend the garden next year.  What's another 1000 square feet when you have the magic of mulch?!


  1. In your second-to-last paragraph, are you suggesting that buying local might be cheaper than growing your own?

  2. Whoops, no. I just mean things you purchase. Not all local is cheap, (especially in this area, for some reason) but if you put the time in you can usually score pretty decent bulk prices.

    The garden is still out for the count until I get a couple years of $$ tracking on paper. This year we're well on track to break even (and I think even come out ahead) for what we put into the garden compared to what we pulled out of it in market value. I hope to increase that ratio with each year. I'm not really a "frugal" gardener in that I make do with what I have...both Rob and I are too type A to like ugly infrastructure, so we end up buying things we wouldn't necessarily HAVE to. It could be done cheaper. So if we're breaking even even with unnecessary expenditures, I think we could easily save money with gardening.

  3. I finally made it to the Saturday farmers' market, thinking I'd get a bunch of carrots to juice. Nope. They were $3 a bunch, and the bunches contained four or five carrots. Granted, they were really nice ones, butI ask you, when did carrots turn into gold?

  4. Yes, I find the same irritations at the market...I ended up buying carrots from Conni straight from her farm last year. I think they're kind of catering to a fad, at the market. Most farms have bulk prices if you track them down outside of the market. You kind of have to get used to the ins and outs of your local food options and then you know where to find the deals...or at least I'm guessing that's what I've done, since I do find it cost effective. BUT I don't buy for a menu plan or recipe; I tend to buy whatever I find that's a good price, in bulk.

  5. Are you in contact with your Mom's cousin, John and Susie B who live over at Silver Star, which is a story itself... He is a professional gardener, they do some amazing things and are totally organic.