Sunday, February 22, 2009

The costs of gardening: 2009

In a post a few weeks ago, I summarized a few studies on the monetary benefits of gardening.  More and more people are growing their own food, with many seed companies reporting a 20 percent increase in sales.  Not only do many gardeners prefer fresher, more flavorful produce that they know hasn't been sprayed with some unknown pesticide or shipped hundreds or thousands of miles, they believe that they'll cut their food expenses as well.

I've decided to do my own research on the costs and benefits of growing vegetables and fruit over the upcoming gardening season.  Starting with this post, I'll be reporting from time to time on how much I've spent on my own gardens--both community plot and backyard--and come harvest time, calculate the value of my yield based on local prices for similar produce.  I can't promise accurate results.  There's always a chance I'll forget to factor in some expense such as potting soil, and I won't include the costs of tools I already own, or estimate how much I was billed for watering the backyard.  But I'm curious.  Despite all of my years of gardening, I've regarded the activity a hobby, giving little thought to the financial consequences.
My first expense for the 2009 gardening season is this tabletop grow light from Gardener's Supply.  In the past I've had mixed success starting seeds; despite locating my peat pots or plastic trays of tomato seeds in a sunny window, the soil never seems to get warm enough to sustain them, and I've ended up with stringy seedlings that droop over and fail to thrive.  So with the help of a $50 gift certificate, I was able to purchase this modest set-up for $94.48.

I took up a friend's offer to go in with him on tomato seeds.  For others, I placed an order with Fedco: snap peas, spinach, lettuce (romaine and Buttercrunch), broccoli, sweet basil, and thyme.  Subtracting the flower seeds from the order, the total plus postage came out to $16.50.

So, the expenses so far:
Grow light $94.48
Seeds $16.50
Total: $110.98

We'll see if I can avoid buying flats this season, though I wouldn't turn down a few donations.


Dan said...

Nice light, it will be perfect for getting your plants growing. It always baffles me at the costs of grow lights but at least you only buy them once. My new toy this year is a heat mat, it makes the seedlings germinate really fast, I am very impressed with it.

I can relate to the potting soil not getting wet. When I worked in the greenhouse at school we used to use a wetting agent because if the peat was to dry it would actually repeal water. At home I start with a really good potting soil, I then put the soil into pots, place them in the sink and soak the soil until it is completely saturated. If it is particularly dry you could fill the sink with water until it is just below the rim and let them soak. Once they are completely saturated I let them drain for a good 15 or so minutes and then plant the seed.

Molly Day said...

Oh, I could never say that we grow our own fruit and vegetables to save money.

We do it because we're a bit nuts. The exercise, the process of watching plants come up from seed, the excitement of the harvest, the satisfaction of eating what we grow - these are the motivations, not the money.

I agree with Dan. Soaking potting soil is the only way to get it wet.