Its that day once more, that day the ends the annual cycle of time, also known as my sister’s birthday. Happy birthday sis! It’s a pretty popular event; people all around the world celebrate by drinking profusely, declaring how the next year will be the one, and making out at midnight. I prefer to celebrate by eating dinner around 6pm and falling asleep promptly at 9pm once again disappointing CFO. He’s a party animal.
I’m not one for making these so-called resolutions, because I feel that it is a system of preplanned failure. If you ever bought a gym membership in January, you are not my people. But I respect your choices. I prefer to think upon the last year and note what worked, and what didn’t, and make some informed decisions of how I might make better decisions going forward. For example, last year I evaluated how much I have zero interest in cleaning my house, and how I have lots of interest in paying people to do it instead. That’s a “resolution” I am happy to keep going in 2017.
When it comes to the garden, I think about what worked, and didn’t work a lot in January. Mainly because its time to order seeds and get planning. One of my goals from last year was to keep track of what I grew and what I harvested. I was sure that growing food in the backyard is a financially stable way to eat better, but I have no evidence to support the statement. I wanted to do a season-long very unscientific study to prove my point, mainly to CFO, but also to the 22 people that might read this post. I am happy to say that not only did I complete my project, but also I am here, on December 31 to report the results.
Growing vegetables in one’s own backyard provides a cost savings over purchasing the same food in a grocery store. I know this might seem obvious, but food in this country is shockingly cheap. I felt as if my work was cut out for me.
In order to report the findings as accurately as possible, I had to consider the costs to grow said food, as well as the market value of the food I harvested. I factored in all of the things I use to grow food: cedar for beds, compost, seeds, transplants, fertilizer, mulch, water, and also the grow light system I purchased to start my own. The only thing I did not include was labor. I mean, let’s face it. If I weren’t willing to donate my time this whole adventure would be pointless. I also think that the time I spent in the garden probably equals the amount of time I would otherwise navigate the produce aisle at my local store, which is about as easy to shop as a new IKEA during the grand opening.
For the harvest itself, I had to find a way to quantify the value of what I had, and the only way I could think was to compare it to the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service produce commodity averages. This is an average of the countries produce costs at retail, and is published weekly. It worked pretty well for the common items, but for those odd duck veggies I grow (parsley root anyone?), I had to get more creative. I found an online co-op that published produced prices daily, and used that for a reference. Also, because I practice the general “organic” growing system, meaning I do not use anything on my crops that requires a gas mask, I opted to compare the produce to the organic rates. I know, I know…kind of unfair because I don’t normally buy organic produce, but I grow it and this is my study.
The grand total of my garden expenses was…. $1284. Yikes. Last year had some expensive costs to be fair: CFO finished building the remaining garden beds and I invested in a growing system for the basement. Ideally, those two purchases will not be on-going costs. Using cedar, the beds should last 10 years, and since I received 3 shipments of broken growing lights, the supplier sent me about 12 bulbs at no cost in order to maintain his positive EBay rating. I should be good for a while. Based on annual expenses like seeds, compost, mulch, etc. I realistically spend about $250 a year, which seems much more reasonable. Maybe this wasn’t the best year for my study. Meh.
In 2016, I grew a total of 87 varieties of 54 different fruits and vegetables. I began the harvest the week of April 17 with asparagus, and ended the harvest the week of Thanksgiving with sage, kale, and Brussels sprouts. That’s 8 months of food! That’s a win in my book. I had some winners and some losers. I was giving away tomatoes, squash, basil and berries, but the melons and eggplants eluded me due to my unpreparedness with the late cabbage and unwieldy tomatillos. My peppers were a flop again for the third year. But I won’t be giving up on them just yet. Overall, I think this year was my most successful garden year. I figured out the watering system and my rotation and spacing scheme worked out very well. I didn’t have any problems with transplants because I grew them self. In order to properly assess the produce harvest, I used a kitchen scale, and weighed 470 lbs of vegetables for a grand total cost of….
Drum roll please…
And yes. I know that is $34 in the red.
So okay, I technically didn’t make money on the garden, but if you consider I “spent” $34 for 470 lbs of vegetables, many of which are still stored in my freezer or canned and in the pantry in various forms, I think I did pretty darn good. And what a fun project. At its height, the garden was astounding, and received comments and questions from the neighbors (possibly some grumbling and complaints that I tuned out) and also kept me outside for a good chunk of the summer. I got to make farm dinners for family and friends that visited, we grilled vegetables I didn’t know could be grilled, and reduced our grocery expenses to the point where I could justify buying lobster for dinner. I even liked keeping track of all the produce; my charts and files have provided me solid information to make better planning for next year. I think I will keep this going if I can.
I conclude that 2016 was a good year in garden for me. I have already started plotting the changes and new vegetables and varieties to try, and making my informed decisions to better myself.
Next year will be…the Year of the Salad (because I have 10,000 lettuce seeds to start).
I hope you have a wonderful New Year and have grand adventures in gardening!