growing your own organic food, raising livestock, & country living
The most expensive part of gardening? Time.
Between an infant, three summer classes, and writing and revising manuscripts, time is the most precious commodity right now in our household. Eddie and I have been much more intentional about taking 10 minutes every morning to walk through the garden and harvest food so that our garden doesn't get overgrown like last year with giant zucchini, but at this point in our zone (5a) our gardening tasks really amount to about an hour or so PER DAY, which it, unfortunately, is not getting.
Now that we are learning more about the benefits (and pitfalls) of having a huge garden, we are realizing that in the middle of our growing sessions we have a growing number of to-dos associated with our garden. Our chickens are lovely and enjoying the free-range they get, and we are lucky enough to have neighbors who actually don't mind them mingling with their horses every so often, but they turned out to be cruddy organic pest control for our garden. We aren't sure what the best method is yet, but they have little interest in the beetles eating our potatoes and the squash bugs destroying our zucchini, but fairly quickly find young broccoli sprouts and love to peck at the cabbage and tomatoes. That, and chasing them OUT of the garden is always an ordeal.
So, until further notice, they are all banned from the garden. Oh well. At least the silkies are pretty "designer" chickens.
We got the trellis' up in the garden, which really just took a bunch of leftover wood from a previous project so we didn't have to buy any, and we used twine and wooden stakes for lighter veggies like peas. The cucumbers got a more intense wood trellis, and we boxed in our pumpkin with a make-shift fence we pulled out of an overgrown flower bed last year. Lots of true "innovation" happening to keep expenses low. But, the true expense is that of time. We have found that daily, we need to:
-Pick potato beetles and their larvae off of our potato plants and inspect other plants for bugs like squash beetles
-Weed the garden
Every other day, or on very hot days, we need to:
-Water the garden
-Plant additional seeds to replace what we've harvested, such as beets, radishes, and fall garden items
At this point our only financial expense is in the form of seeds, because we use an old coriander for harvesting, have leftover trellis' from last year that Eddie reinforced, and had a large roll of twine also left over from last year. Our wooden stakes are reused from when we were putting up fencing around the garden, and we bought compost ($150 total) and a few started plants (three tomato plants, cabbages, cucumbers, a raspberry bush, asparagus, strawberry, sweet potato slips, and regular potato slips-- total of about $175 with tomato cages) earlier in the season.
Our seed expenses were about $40 this year as we reused a lot of seed from last year with great germination rates. Save your seeds!
Has the produce we've produced so far leveled out the total cost of the garden yet? I don't think so. We've been eating salad every day but aside from sides and additions to our food like basil leaves and thyme we haven't quite gotten into the "heavy-lifters" in terms of produce yet, like our pumpkins, potatoes, and squash.
Next year we definitely are going to have to make some adjustments to make sure we have time DAILY to dedicate to the garden aside from harvesting for 10 minutes. Weeding is especially important. The picking-off-bugs task is definitely a chore but necessary without pesticides or cooperative chickens. The last de-bugging we've done was particularly innovative since Eddie only had 15 minutes to spare-- we have an old handheld vacuum that we no longer used, and he literally vacuumed the bugs up off of the potato plants. Hey, whatever works, right? The chickens were happy, and three out of the five infested potato plants we have were happily rescued for a little while.
Till next time!