Thursday, February 5, 2009

Tracking the Costs of Reclaiming the Good Life

Last year I was absolutely dedicated to the idea of tracking how much it cost to start a garden. To that end, I saved all recepts and even logged them for a while.

By September I wound up with a large pile of fading receipts, indecipherable entries streaked with garden dirt and a vague notion that I had spent approximately 7 dollars per pound of vegetables.

I was not impressed.

But, like I said before the vast majority of those costs are going to be amortized out over time. The dirt deliveries, building raised beds, various cages and stakes, seeds...well, the list is really endless. Suffice it to say that I pretty much started from an idea and a check-card and didn't even own a wheelbarrow.

Again, I'm determined to keep track of my garden costs. I'm also creating new beds so I will again have some additional costs.

So far, one dirt delivery at $224.00, the Lowe's purchase above at $120.83. Olive trees at 124, apple trees at 70, grow lights at 145...okay, the list is long and I'll get to it. I promise!

The real reason I post this is because of the economy now. For a while I've been telling my friends and co-workers to start a bit of a garden so they can enjoy it. They all like the produce but don't like the idea of a garden. And invariably, when I bring up that it offers independence and food security even in stressed money times, they always point out that all of us are doing just fine so why bother.

This year is different for many though and now I've found people asking me about starting a garden. I hate to tell them all that they need since most of them are starting where I did, with nothing for gardening.

When money is tight it is hard to scrape up the investment and even harder if nothing comes of all the investment. To my view, people should start a garden and get over some of our common rookie mistakes when they are prosperous, not when they are strapped.

How do you get that across to others? Do you find it is the same for people you know or meet? What do you recommend to people who really need to start but are pretty broke or under economic stress?
And for those who are also relatively new to this, how many years did it take to amortize out your initial investments in gardening?


fullfreezer said...

I'm so fortunate that I live in an area where our soil is fabulous already so my initial outlay was limited, mostly just labor (MINE). I did spend about $80 on seeds and potato starts this year, need to get new trellis material for my peas, and at least one new bulb for my seed starting lights. But I'm pretty much set for the year. Of course, I also figure that the food produced will be feeding 2 families so it ends up being pretty reasonable.

ChristyACB said...


You are VERY fortunate to have good soil! My area is nothing but very tightly packed clay. You could make dishes from this stuff.

I'm still very lucky that I can continue building my garden and it looks like you are doing very well also!

Would love to see pictures of the upcoming garden season at your place. 2 families...that is a lot of tomatoes!

Thank you for commenting. :)

Milah said...

I'm like Judy, very fortunate to have good soil. We also have an endless supply of manure on hand, and well water. I like your tenacity. I can't wait to see your garden grow!
I will post pictures of mine, no actually it's my brothers. We gave my brother (who lives in town) a lot to plant his garden on, then he shares his harvest with us! Works for me!

That pressure canner is a new one for me. I also bought a ceramic top stove and I'm wondering what I was thinking. Hmmm....I may have to check into that.

Sorry I'm not much help with answering your questions.

Melissa ~ Wife to 1, Mom to 5 said...

I'm finding (via what my kids tell me when talking to their friends) that we are just about the only family in our school that gardens and cans the excess. Only 1 other church family we know of (out of hundreds) has chickens. I agree, people need to learn these skills NOW before they HAVE to know. My first few years of gardening were disasterous. There is always going to be some crop failure and now I know to plant a little extra "just in case". And, due to late season hail storms, I know to only put out a few of the tomatoe & pepper plants so I don't have to replace them all when their leaves become swiss cheese. I am now volunteering at a local community garden - it's one that helps people start gardening. We teach the square foot method. It can be as small as 1 square foot. Materials are usually salvage. But, once they get going, they quickly expand. I have started excess tomatoe seeds in an attempt to have plants to hand out. I think blogging about the experience will be a great way to get the word out. You never know who you might reach! Can't wait to see how your garden grows.

ChristyACB said...


Thank you for the wonderful support! I do love the square foot method. It is somehow less imposing and intimidating than a large undefined area. It sort of says to the new gardener, "See, just these few squares. You can do that much."

Of course...then we double, triple..well, you get the idea.

It is wonderful that you are volunteering that way. Via the trickle down effect, you'll have a positive impact on so many lives.

TheMartianChick said...

I have pretty decent soil and have gardened all of my life.Although I am making some expenditures this year, I really didn't have to buy any seeds because I have plenty from previous years. I also could have opted to just plant a larger garden rather than some of the new things that I am adding, like chickens and tilapia.

With that being said...Many people who live in my city are starting to see the benefit of gardening. Many will be starting small due to the poor economy. Their handtools may come from the dollar store, or maybe they will re-purpose a spoon from the kitchen to plant tomatoes in a flower pot on a porch. But once they have success with a couple of plants, they will feel empowered to do more next year.

A lot of the tools that gardeners use are not necessary...just nice to have. As an example, I don't have an outdoor spigot for a hose in my yard. It can be time-consuming to carry water, but that is exactly what I do! I am also careful about what I plant and make sure to mulch around everything to keep the moisture levels up. This year, I plan to have water barrels with hoses attached to assist with watering. If I run over my budget and cannot afford them, then I guess I will go back to catching water off the roof in 5 gallon buckets and watering with a bottle like I did last year!