Sunday, May 10, 2009

Garden Economics

Since my garden is almost into maintenance mode, I've been thinking about the economic side of a fruit and vegetable garden. I know that for some a garden can help reduce their food expenses, while for others it does not. The difference between the two is how much time and money they spend on it. Buy mulch every year to prevent weeds and there goes your profit margin. I believe more than just the generic concept of time & money, the plants they choose should be looked at. Below is a list of plants that I have learned are not bad choices:

Strawberry: Once you have your initial investment in plants, they'll take over the bed you put them in and keep coming back every year. We put ours in last year near the house with a sidewalk as the border to prevent them from taking the whole yard. The only items I've done this year to the bed were remove some covering I put on it on the fall (which actually killed most of my plants, this fall they won't get as much of a covering) and then take the rake through it once the weeds sprouted. The strawberries are already forming and I should be having strawberries in a couple of weeks.

Asparagus: This is another annual that once you have planted, the only real work is keeping the weeds away (which you can do with plastic over the area). We started them last year and this year had about a side-dish for 2, but expect more next year. We did not plant them in the ground properly, so that is why our crop was a bit low. A friend of mine nearby with a large farm has them growing wild on his property and harvested 2 pounds a week ago.

Onions & Garlic: These are ones that you also put an initial investment into, but they'll keep producing year after year. One of my neighbors has a garden FULL of onions so much that she gave us some bulbs last fall and they are already starting to form flowers in our garden this spring. If you space them close enough and plant them at the right time, the weeds won't have much of a chance.

Spring Lettuce: For my garden, the romaine lettuce is the winner of easiest spring vegetable. I'm still learning how best to do this one, but I've learned the best way is to plant your lettuces real close to each other. The benefit is the lack of weeding that you will need to do. You won't get as large of a head as you do at the grocery store, but the focus is to reduce your time and costs. We have been picking leaves off for the past 2 weeks and have been enjoying them. (We started them off indoors).

Peppers & Eggplant: These don't produce the quantity for me as much as my tomato plants in the same family, but what they do is slowly produce some great vegetables that I can take my time (for the most part) to pick.

Below are some that are bad choices on the time aspect:

Green Beans: We grow lots of them, but they will become your daily chore if you have even just a couple of plants. The key thing is to cut the green beans before they get too big. They'll easily produce new ones from flower to green bean in a day at the peak of the season. For us, the season went from late June to late September. That's 3 months of hunting for beans.

Peas: They are not as bad as green beans, but they will be a daily chore for 3-4 weeks. They produce their pods pretty quickly, so you have to catch them before they get too big.

Below are some that are bad choices on the money aspect:

Starter Plants: The easiest way to get ahead is to start your own plants. When I hear about people spending $3-5 on a tomato plant, I think to myself that they have already lost the war. For the same price I was able to start 18 plants in my house (though I had to put some more time into them).

Potatoes: From the seed potatoes I see at the garden places, it is another one that you have lost the costs war just buying the seed potatoes. I've seen the price of regular potatoes this past week at $0.16/lb, while the 1 lb of seed potatoes was at $5/lb. To just break even one would need to make at least 32 lbs of potatoes from the seed.

Let me know what I missed!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Long Time Away

My life as usual has been pretty crazy (I type this as my wife cleans up a broken window). Here is what has occurred:

- My wife and I went on a short vacation to Colorado to visit her family in March and took a train there. It was beautiful, relaxing, and no pat-downs from airport security.

- One of our roommates took both of our cars while we were on vacation, used one in a hit & run, the other got a flat tire. Both were impounded by the police. I flew back the day after I found out and took care of getting the cars back & the locks changed ($1K of expenses)

- There has been a decrease of things to do at work, my active project pile is at 1 day's worth of work (meaning if no one finishes their part for me on Monday, I'll be having to go around looking for work on Tuesday). There is about 6 months worth of stuff in the pipeline, but the problem is that it relies on others to get their job done.

- Our garden has been half planted, we have been getting asparagus and lettuce so far. We'll be getting radishes & brocolli raab soon. Our strawberry patch is doing great. We're waiting for the soil to dry out enough for us to rototill the back yard.

- We have attempted to sell rain barrels, but it is going slow. We may have our first customer today. I have been discouraged a bit due to some leaking.

- My wife picked up a bunch of vacuum cleaners for free. She is going to clean them up and sell them on Craigslist.

- We have started getting involved with neighborhood watch starting up in our neighborhood. It has been good to meet some of our neighbors and feel like we're going to start improving the neighborhood (one of the reasons we moved to where we are).

- Our front bay window had a large rock thrown at it last night. The police have their suspicions of the kids causing the problems, but they're building their case. We had purchased a high-end window for The Home Depot At-Home Services the last time this happened 3 & 1/2 years ago and so they should cover the replacement for free.

- We'll be paying off our home equity line of credit next month, we're going to do half this month and half next month.

More detail to come in the future.