Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday harvest tally and frost casualties

In past years, no matter what else was going on, I had always kept up with the forecast, ready to grab the last pine nuts at the Harvest Coop and fire up the salad spinner and Cuisinart to get the pesto factory going. It was a family project that kept us up late, and the sharp aroma from bags of uprooted basil plants waiting to be "deleafed" would take over the kitchen.

Didn't someone mention frost last week? Maybe I read it in some other blog post or even wrote about it myself. In any case, the concept seemed far off in the future. Then on Wednesday morning I had to scrape ice from my windshield. Oops. Later that day in the Minton Stable Garden my fears were confirmed when I discovered what had happened to my basil (see below). Karen, another gardener, thought that I could still dry it and grind it up, so I pulled up and bagged the plants. I left the bag on the kitchen counter at home and got busy with other stuff, and the bag disappeared...That was the bad news. Luckily, there were no herb casualties on the home front, which was fortunate considering that the six basil plants in containers had grown taller and greener than their MSG cousins. Four had come up from seed while two had been purchased at the farmers market. For most of the summer I had thought that the German thyme I had sown next to the basil was a failure, until I realized that what looked similar to the low, scraggly thin-stemmed weeds taking over in my shady perennial beds was the thyme itself.The damage to these herbs was minimal to non-existent, probably because the trees, house, and garage near and around them provided some protection. I picked them in no time. My husband was in a pesto-making mood, so I left the task to him and I curled up under the covers with a book. After all, I was the one who had grown the main ingredients. However, I fell asleep before capturing a photo finish. The container of the green stuff is now in the freezer hanging out with the leftover containers from last year's more bountiful season.At the farmers market I noted that a bunch of basil that looked similar in size to our healthy harvest cost $2. I couldn't find any fresh thyme, but found a package with about the same amount at the supermarket for $2.49. Not enough to close the earnings gap, but anyway:

Previous benefits total: $138.69
1 bunch (estimated) basil at $2/bunch: $2.00
1 package (estimated) fresh thyme at $2.49/package: $2.49
New benefits total: $143.18

Current cost total: $171.57
New balance: -$28.39

Sometimes I wonder: if I had decided against investing in a grow light and bought flats of tomatoes and broccoli instead, would I have reported a profit? Probably, but the point of gardening for me has not been to save money on food--it has been to enjoy and face the challenge of growing better food, get exercise and fresh air, and be part of the gardening community. Besides, I still have a grow light. I don't want it to keep gathering dust until February. Any ideas (aside from cleaning it)?

And don't forget to check out the other harvest posts linked to Daphne's blog, if you'd like.


Daphne said...

Well next year you won't have the expense of a grow light. I will again since I decided I need another light. One is not enough. It makes me rush the seedlings out to the garden before it is warm enough.

And yes I did mention frost last week. We've gotten two snow storms now. Friday and last night. In fact there is still a tiny bit of snow in the garden that hasn't melted yet. It is cold out.

Emily said...

I'm attempting to keep my herbs and peppers going this winter under the grow light. I may even seed some lettuce and have an indoor salad garden.

Dan said...

Your basil looks excellent and congrats on just about breaking even on your garden. Seems like a good success with the blight ridden and cool season we had.

Thomas said...

I say no to buying tomato flats. Gardeners who purchased tomato plants from Home Depot this year were rewarded with late blight in their gardens.

I'm glad you were able to salvage your basil! I was surprised by how early frost came this year too.

Sally said...

Daphne: we had only rain first, then the snow yesterday that didn't stick, in Boston. Today wasn't bad though. I hope tomorrow is similar so I can plant the garlic.

Some friends started buying just regular fluorescent lights because they were cheaper. I don't know about what kind of light (blue, yellow, etc.) they emitted though; tubes can vary.

Emily: I think an indoor salad garden is a great idea. I'll probably seed some herbs that don't grow too high, like the thyme. I have leftover seeds, so why not?

Dan: Thanks! We did have a challenging season, didn't we.

Thomas: Thanks for stopping by and also for reminding me about the blight problem with tomato flats. I did have blight develop, but it was later in the season and I was able to get out a few tomatoes before it had gotten bad. If I had bought flats the tomato crop probably would've been a total wash.