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