Sunday, January 25, 2009

Reaping the Rewards?

As I said a while ago, my New Year's resolution is to find out if I do indeed save money on my vegetable garden, or if I have the $64 tomato. I think I spend about $300/year and get about the same amount out of my garden. If true, my garden would be a really inexpensive hobby. Even if I do lose some money it would still be a pretty inexpensive hobby. Maybe I save money.

The first thing I have to do is define what my garden is. My garden is the fenced vegetable garden and surrounding perennial beds. It also includes the fruit garden on the other side of the yard. I'm not including the whole yard. I hate the lawn. I'm not including it. It is not my vegetable garden. My foundation plantings aren't included either. Though to be fair, I've basically planted that and have ignored it since. The only addition is a layer of mulch every couple of years. It doesn't get watered. It doesn't get fed (except the mulch). The plants mostly thrive. It really doesn't need me except to weed on occasion.

On the cost side of the equation I have tools. Many of them were hand me downs from my husband's grandmother. Some I bought myself. This year I bought myself a small hand tool that was recommended. I'll find out if I like it or not. My husband gave me a birthday gift this year of a garden fork. I don't spend much. I figure whatever I spend in tools this year, it will probably be about average, so I'm not amortizing the cost of my tools.

However the cost of the garden fence seems a reasonable thing to amortize. It cost about $1200 at the time it was put up. This was 17 years ago and would probably cost a lot more now, but if I spread the cost over 20 years it comes out to be $60 a year. So that is getting added into my costs. In addition I've bought a few things this year to start out. Here is the list:

Total 150.33
Fence 60.00
Pinetree order 56.75
Johnny's order 9.90
Huband' gift 0.00
Ace Hardware 19.50
Fedco 4.18

I'm keeping the records in excel (so I don't have to add) and my list is more detailed to tell me what I really spent it on. The Fedco order is small because I got $100 from my MIL and that is what I spent it on, or to be exact I spent 104.18. I've debated with myself if I should add the gifts in, but decided not to. If I wasn't having this as a hobby, it would get spent on another hobby. But isn't it nice to have a birthday at the beginning of the year, right at seed catalog time?

The incoming into my garden is the poundage of my vegetables times the cost per pound (sorry all those that use the metric system, I like it much better myself, but currently it is in use in the US). The chart below will give the totals. This is also just copied from Excel. I'll keep this and my other one updated, along with a little sidebar tally at least every month, but hopefully once the season starts I'll update it every Monday along with The Veggie Patch Re-imagined. She does a Monday harvest meme, which is great for those of us who eat from our gardens. (And as a side note to her, she ought to look into Mr. Linky when the harvest season starts. I've loved it when participating. Just add my own link to the post. It is really easy to visit all the people who join. The best part is, very little work on your part. We do all the link adding. Of course I've never used it. I'm just assuming it is easy to add :/)

Before I give you the long veggie chart (and you leave due to boredom), I could use some advice. I've found some prices of organic veggies that you can order on the web. I know things are seasonal, and I'll probably change things once they get in season here and I know the real local price, but I'm having some issues.

Flowers are my biggest problem. Flowers are not sold by the pound. They tend to be sold by the bunch or stalk. Oh yes, I am going to give myself credit for the cut flowers from my garden. How in the world am I going to do this? I didn't add them to my sidebar tally since it is based on poundage (though the price will be reflected in the total monetary value). Anyone have any clues? I don't usually buy cut flowers from the store except tulips in spring when I'm dying for things to start growing in the garden.

The herbs, bunching onions, and lettuce ought to be easy once I know how much a bunch weighs. I can do this at the store. I can just imagine what the market will think when I take a pad of paper in hand and start weighing all their herb bunches. I wonder if people will stare or just pretend to ignore me.

Other things are harder. No one sells strawberry spinach or typhon Holland greens. I'll just have to pretend they are some other vegetable when determining the price. I'll probably do this based on use.

Well onto my veggie list. Dang I forgot the oregano and who knows what else. I guess it won't be complete until the end of 2009.

$ lbs $/lb
Total 0 0
Allium, Nabechan 0

Allium, Tropea 0
Allium, Copra 0
Alliums, Garlic, German Extra Hardy 0
Alliums, Garlic, Georgian Crystal 0
Alliums, Garlic, Unknown Softneck 0
Alliums, Garlic, Bogatyr 0
Alliums, Leeks, Lincoln 0
Beans, Dried, Trail of Tear 0
Beans, Dried, Vermont Cranberry 0
Beans, Kentucky Wonder 0
Berries, Blueberries 0
Berries, Raspberries 0
Broccoli, Packman 0
Carrot, Big Top 0
Carrot, Atomic Red 0
Carrot, Sugar Snax 0
Corn, Bon Appetit 0

Cucurbits, Cucumber Diamant 0
Cucurbits, Costata Romanesco 0
Cucurbits, Dark Green Zucchini 0
Cucurbits, Winter Squash 0
Eggplant, Slim Jim 0
Eggplant, Lavendar Touch 0
Greens, Cabbage, Gonzales Mini 0
Greens, Chard, Bright Lights 0
Greens, Chard, Rubarb 0
Greens, Chinese Cabbage, Rubicon 0
Greens, Lettuce, Red Sails 0

Greens, Lettuce, Merveille de Quatre Seasons 0

Greens, Lettuce, New Red Fire 0

Greens, Mizuna 0

Greens, Mustard Spinach 0

Greens, Pac Choi, Fun Jen 0
Greens, Strawberry Spinach 0

Greens, Tatsoi 0

Greens, Tyfon-Holland Greens 0

Herbs, Basil 0

Herbs, Basil, Holy 0

Herbs, Basil, Lemmon 0

Herbs, Chamamile 0

Herbs, Chives 0

Herbs, Cilantro 0

Herbs, Dill 0

Herbs, Lemon Balm 0

Herbs, Parsley 0

Herbs, Peppermint 0

Herbs, Thyme, English 0

Herbs, Thyme, French 0

Herbs, Thyme, Golden Lemon 0

Peas, Snap, Cascadia 0
Peas, Snap, Super Sugar Snap 0
Peas, Snow, Mammoth Melting 0
Peas, Snow, Snow Bird 0
Peppers, Cayenne 0
Peppers, Jalapeno 0
Peppers, Serrano 0
Potato, Kennebec 0
Radish, Reggae 0
Tomatillo, Pineapple 0
Tomato, Sungold F2 0

Flowers Total 0

Borage 0

Digitalis, Dwarf Red 0

Marigold, Ground Control 0

Monarda, Panorama Mix 0

Nasturtium, Jewel Mix 0

Sunflower Music Box 0

Tithonia, Fiesta Del Sol 0

So there you have it. The gardening seaons is barely underway and I'm already $150 in the hole. I get a much better appreciation for how useful CSAs can be for the farmer. You know it will get better, but you still have to dish out all the money at the beginning of the season.


  1. This is a great idea, I have thought about doing something similar but I know I wouldn't be disciplined enough to keep everything accurate. Many of my crops (strawberries/peas/carrots) never make it inside before being eaten.

    As for "How much does a bunch weigh?" I had a similar problem when writing my "The most profitable plants in your vegetable garden" post. What I would recommend is doing a few of the greens (should be able to get away with this without too much starring) I bet at this point you probably can make a pretty good estimate of the weights of others by sight with pretty good accuracy.

  2. For the flowers, value them at what you'd be paying for a bouquet if you bought one at...a florist, or a grocery store.

    The flowers have value too.

  3. Interesting approach on financially tracking everything! I think I would have a heart attack if I performed the same activity...I must have spent a small fortune over the years.
    The personal rewards of the investment has far surpassed my outlay.
    Regards ESP.

  4. Daphne,

    You have inspired me! I have been thinking about doing this in the past, just never did. This year, with the way the economy is, would be a perfect year to do it. I have all may records stored already in the Garden Tracker software I purchased years ago...I guess that needs to go in too. I just need to get my you know what in gear and do it :) Thanks for the inspiration :)

  5. The Cheap Vegetable Gardener, I'm a little worried about that too. I'm notoriously bad about keeping records. I planted six blueberries last year. I didn't write down their names or which one I planted where. Sigh. I would like the info and I'm hoping the tags haven't disappeared. One of the reasons I made it as a resolution is because it is so hard for me. I really want the historical info. I'd like to look back on it, but haven't had the discipline to do it. This year I want to. I've also made sheets to help with my records for seedlings and plants.

    Nancy, I'll probably check in a few places for different bouquets.

    ESP lol yup. I really don't think I have a $64 tomato, but you never know until you add it up. You forget all the little things you buy. This is true for any hobby. Sometimes it is better not to know. I go to a party every year at one of my husband's coworkers. He does model trains. I look at that and also wonder how much is spent on it all. Everyone has their love in life. I'm lucky my hobby actually gives me something back besides just fun. Monetarily it is (I'm hoping, but still don't know) on the plus side. Since I garden organically in my yard, it makes my footprint on the planet smaller.

    Tessa, wonderful. I'll love following your progress too. I was actually inspired by GardenRant. They had a post on how much you can save by planting a vegetable garden. A packet of seeds is so cheap and has so much potential. All I could think of when I read it, was that I knew I spent a lot on my garden. Is it really saving money? However I don't want to change what I plant to make it worth more (salad crops can be worth a lot, I often see it as the crop being picked when trying to make money and if you check CVG's link he agrees too). I'm growing corn and winter squash in my three sister's garden which all are terrible at price, but I want to see what a TS garden is like so I'm doing it. I was surprised though by the high price of organic zucchini. I was going to have a lot of zucchini in my TS garden too. I love when I find out something is worth a lot. I'm so rooting to be very much on the positive side.

  6. Tessa, I forgot to say. You actually inspired me in another way. I'll write a post about it in a day or two.

  7. Interesting and in case I missed it, I assume you are calculating on the price of organic, locally grown produce which is more expensive of course. Don't forget to deduct the gym and tanning salon expense as you get your exercise and solar input in the garden. What about cost of medatative soul-care and life satisfaction: priceless!

    Fun experiment.

  8. You are truly one organized gardener to approach it what this way Daphne. I'll be interested to see how much your garden saves you during peak season when you get to reap what you sow. :)

  9. Daphne, you've inspired me, too. Like you, I'm good at starting out on a project (note the garden timeline page on my blog -- no posts between June 24 & October 11!)

    I thought I've read about this topic in the past on some blog, but cannot recall where... anyhow, I will also try and look at my overall costs, limiting it however to the vegetable garden (for a good reason!)

  10. wow Daphne, you are so on top of everything! I hate to think about what I'm paying per vegetable this year because I'm setting up some raised beds with some rather expensive wood. Before this, I only grew veggies in containers on my deck. Like the others, I've gotten lots of inspiration and ideas from your blog.

    It must be pretty hard to price flowers - guess it depends on the type. I've seen Gerbenas on sale in Manhattan for $1 ea, 18 daffodils for only $3, etc.

  11. Ottawa Gardener, I am indeed going to use organic prices, since that is the way I'm growing. I wouldn't want to short change myself. :> Ack a tanning salon. I would think gardening would be detrimental. How often have you gone out in short sleeves and come back with a farmer's tan? Not very attractive with those strappy dresses. And yes it add so much more to our mental health, but as you say that is priceless, so I'm not going to add that in. It would be boring to have an infinity sign constantly in the earned section.

    Perennial Gardener, I'm hoping I'll end up in the plus side. I'm thinking just my raspberries last year were worth more than $100, but I won't know until I add it all up.

    Henbogle, I really hope I can keep it up. I'm hoping with all you people watching, I'll be good. Maybe you'll nudge me when I fall down on the job. I hope you succeed in keeping track too. I'd love to see the numbers from a few different gardens.

    JGH, that is why you have to amortize your one time purchases. If you build raised beds, they will last a while. If you bought expensive wood, I'm guessing you picked something that doesn't rot. Those could last 20 years. My fence is cedar and has lasted 17 so far, though it is starting to go. If you use wood that rots, 4 years maybe 5. If you pay to fill them with dirt, that dirt will be there forever but I'd still do it over 20 years.

    As to the flowers, well it is hard. Who sells tithonia? I'm also growing sunflowers, but will I cut them? I'm not sure. They are dwarf ones. I'll see if the stems are long enough, or I just might leave them for the birds. I also cut my perennials: peony, rudebeckia, coneflower, coreopsis and some weeds like ox-eyed daisies and flea bane. It will be an interesting challenge to see if I can come up with a good system before summer.

  12. Ohhh I am so very glad it is you doing this and not me!!! I wouldn't want to fall over in a dead faint for how much my garden costs me. Between the electric fence to keep out the camel, the pretty little chicken house that sits right in the middle of the garden, the tiller, the raised beds, the seeds, the seeds starting equipment...ughhh I don't even want to know!!!

  13. Well no one suckered me into keeping a camel so I'm set. I have a dog, who follows me into the garden, but I don't consider her part of it. Which is good. She really is huge and costs a fortune. I have no mechanical gadgets in my garden. I've always hated things that make noise. It's why I hate vacuuming. Or at least that is my story and I'm stickin to it.

  14. Without your garden you wouldn't have your blog. Without your blog you wouldn't have your ads. Without your ads, well you get the idea. I guess your garden is worth a lot more than one might think.

  15. I actually have no real ads on this site. I do have some banners of places that I belong to, but don't get paid for them. So can't add that into the tally. It would be an interesting idea though if I really wanted to make the tally higher :>. For now I'll forgo.

  16. I do dearly love your OCD approach to finding whether you are saving or spending! I tried and failed - so now my story (and I am sticking to it) is that gardening is "my hobby". Now I can spend, spend, spend and not worry about it. Well, I do - but at least I can defend myself in mixed company (gardeners vs nongardeners).

    I am jealous of your 2009 Reaping the rewards widget.

  17. Carol, Thanks. I hope I can keep up the record keeping. I do see myself forgetting when I'm busy. My garden really is my hobby too. If it costs more than I get in produce it really doesn't matter. But so many people were writing about how you can spend $25 and get over $1000 in produce and all I can think of is "Really? I doubt it on a small scale".

  18. I like how you have your harvest table on the right side of your blog embedded into the background. How were you able to do that, is it a widget? You are very detailed, and have inspired me to track my harvests by weight as well.

  19. It is just a bit of HTML I wrote - a couple of HTML tables. If you can use HTML it is pretty easy. I actually need to update it with different crops this year. The berries need to be moved to the fruits and corn needs to be added.

  20. I love your harvest table on the right side - any chance of sharing the code please? I'm sure a lot of gardeners would be happy to buy it from you. I would anyway. :)

    1. Sure send me an email and I'll send you the code. It is in html, so if you know it you can change it. Otherwise it will be incomprehensible to you.

  21. I enjoy following your blog. I especially liked your harvest table. I hope you do not mind me using some of your HTML code to create my own table. Please let me know if this would be ok. Thanks. McArtor

    1. My whole blog is under a Creative Commons Attributions-Noncommercial-Sharealike License. This means that as long as you aren't a commercial site you can use anything you want. You have to give me an attribution (link back). Sharealike means you can modify it as you like. I'm not big into copyrights for myself since I'm not a professional (writer, photographer, or gardener) and I'd rather people use things.

    2. Oh and if you are just using the tally code on my sidebar you don't even have to attribute it. I've let a lot of people use it. There really isn't all that much special about it. It's just a table.