Monday, January 23, 2017

Gardening economics: The Top 3 Questions I get asked

Often when I exhibit my garden harvests, people immediately start asking me how much I spend each year on gardening supplies, how much food I produce, and how much land I'm working with. These questions will be answered here, and I hope this is useful to all those that are curious and want to work with their own slice of land to grow food where ever and when ever.

1. How much do you spend on your garden every year?

Typically every year in the Spring, I buy $20 of mulch which is a truck load, and I spread that on the garden to start transplanting seedlings. Sometimes I will end up buying another truckload up mulch at the beginning of Fall for the fruit trees, so that will come to $20-40 in mulch every year. Then of course because I plant a lot in containers, I usually end up buying $30 in garden soil or potting soil. As for seeds, I typically do not need to buy seeds because I have been saving seed from my own crops for years, and I hoard seeds for the following year, so I don't usually spend any more than $20 on seeds. Although for the first couple of years I was buying $50-60 worth of seed to start my Non-gmo organic seed collection. And I always buy some plants at the nursery to get started early such as brassicas, tomatoes, or peppers that often take a long time to grow for a regular gardener, so I will spend no more than $20 on a certain type of plant every year. With all that factored in, I will usually spend approximately $90-110 total every year.

2. How much food do you produce?

Actually this is very hard to calculate because the foods I harvested were organic, some wild edibles, and some foods that are very unique that they may be quite expensive. For example, the figs that I grow and harvest, I'm not sure what they would equate to be because I have never been to a grocery store that sold fresh figs like they do in California. To calculate how much food I produced last year, I skimmed some harvest photos, and I would estimate that I grew over $400 worth of food.

Actually, this is a low estimate because like I said, I grew lots of fruit that I have nothing to compare the price to, especially the wild mushrooms I picked. In fact, I grow unique fruits and vegetables that add value to the garden. To get an idea of a big harvest for me in the garden, below I have posted photos of my garden harvests for the last couple of years:

2013

minus the peaches! 2014

2014

2015

2015

2015

2015

2016
Because I'm calculating last year's garden harvest, I actually got back less because I didn't garden as much last summer as I have done previous years where I've had help. In previous years without growing and harvesting peaches and figs and wild mushrooms in the garden, I was growing $1000 every summer in squashes, greens, tomatoes, and peppers. 

3. How much land are you working with?

In previous years I have been permitted to use my grandparents' gardens that they grew on for decades, and now I have taken it over to use. I'm not quite sure what the footage of this garden is behind their house, but I will estimate that it's a 60-70 foot long garden and 15 foot in width. The garden in front of their house that I have been using is a little smaller, but still a lot larger than the garden at my house. This one is probably 50 feet in length, and the garden I work with at my house (on my mother's property) is perhaps a little more than 40 feet in length. On my mother's property (which is 0.6 acres), I grow fruit trees all over the garden and around the house. There is over 14 fruit trees on the property (cherry, plum, peach, nectarine, pear, figs), and over 20 fruiting bushes (blueberries, grapes, raspberries, aronia, blackberries, goji.)

Of course, not everyone has even the small amount of land I'm working with, so I want to mention that I have many posts on growing in containers indoors, and growing food as an apartment dweller, so I recommend reading those posts if you're an aspiring gardener that does not have their own land yet. Here are some suggested posts to visit for apartment dwellers:

Grow Veggies & Fruit trees in Containers (Limited Space & Urban gardening)

Recycled Bucket Gardening (container gardening for apartment dwellers)

1200 square foot apartment garden

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