Tied Up

Friday, July 23rd, 2010
Lashing for the tomato supports as a metaphor for my life? Or am I overthinking this?

Lashing for the tomato supports as a metaphor for my life? Or am I overthinking this?

This post’s title refers as much to me and my time as it does to the tomatoes. I’ve been wanting to write about, what I think is, an elegant solution to supporting tomatoes but have been struggling to find the time to put it together. And it’s had me thinking about how the kitchen garden is working within the framework of a balanced lifestyle, one where I have the time to spend on the people and relationships and things that are important to me. It’s a thought process that I’m sure many people are familiar with (although we all arrive at different conclusions). For me, planting a kitchen garden is part of how I balance my ‘work’ and ‘play’…I’ve decided I don’t like categorizing my activities like that – ‘work’ should be playful and ‘play’ can become work too easily – but it’s a commonly understood shorthand to how we view ‘things we have to do’ (for survival) and ‘things we choose to do’ (for pleasure). 

I don’t have to grow a kitchen garden for survival. In these days where we fear for our food security, it’s a common enough reason that people give for growing their own food (and, in some scenarios, a completely valid one) but it’s not my motivation.

I don’t have to grow a kitchen garden so I can eat ‘organic’ produce. I do garden sustainably without the use of synthetic, petroleum-based substances (except from my car) but it’s because it’s cheaper – compost is free fertilizer – and easier -a balanced ecosystem takes care of itself. And okay, it’s satisfying to know that I’m ingesting a few less chemicals when I eat from my garden.

I don’t have to grow a kitchen garden to save money on the grocery bill. It just so happens that I buy fewer groceries but again, it’s not my primary motivation.

I choose to grow a kitchen garden for the creating, the nurturing, the tasting, the pure pleasure of it all. I am not romanticizing the effort involved – the dirt, the sweat, the bugs, the fact that gardening is as much about dispensing death as it is about nurturing life – but, at the end of the day, it is one of the things in my life that brings me the most soul satisfaction; it is my ‘play’ time.

This blog is too. But, unfortunately, the thing that I have to do (work) is sapping the energy I need for the thing I choose to do (writing). So, of course, the only conclusion I can reach is that the work thing is going to have to change.

Stay tuned for how (if) I can manage to get more play from my work (and for the post on how to support tomatoes)…

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Adding It Up

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009
My $20 essential garden tool

My $20 essential garden tool

I’ve often wondered whether my kitchen gardens were worth it – financially, I mean.  There’s no denying the physical and mental payoff but am I really saving any money on our grocery bills?  This year, the first year of this garden, I decided to find out.  I bought a scale and measured all the produce that came out of the garden…well, I attempted to, but we tend to eat our peas straight off the vine while admiring our maintenance efforts, and my husband tends to pull a radish or two while he’s working in the garage so I probably missed a pound or two.  I think I got most of it tallied, however, and here are the results of my 187 sq. ft. of growing space (not including my container garden of herbs).*

  • Basil  1.75 lbs @ $4.00/lb = $7.00
  • Beans  6.75 lbs @ $6.49/lb = $43.81
  • Beets  8 lbs @ $1.99/lb = $15.92
  • Carrots  3.25 lbs @ $1.20/lb = $3.90
  • Cilantro  1 lb @ $4.00/lb = $4.00  (I also let the cilantro go to seed so I could harvest coriander but since I haven’t finished that yet, I haven’t included it in my calculations.)
  • Cucumber  4.25 lbs @ $3.99/lb = $16.96
  • Peas  7 lbs @ $3.99/lb = $27.93
  • Peppers (Jalapeno and Hungarian Wax Banana)  1 lb @ $6.99/lb = $6.99
  • Radishes  2 lbs @ $4.98/lb = $9.96
  • Rainbow Chard  32.25 lbs @ $4.11/lb = $132.55
  • Salad Greens  4 lbs @ $5.99/lb = $23.96
  • Spinach  7.5 lbs @ $5.98/lb = $44.85
  • Tomatoes  48.5 lbs @ $3.29/lb = $159.57

The grand total comes to $497.40!  But wait…there’s more!

  • Canned Tomato Sauce  7 jars @ $5.59/jar = $39.13

Now the total is $536.53!  But before I get too excited, I also need to calculate how much I spent on the garden to put it in.  I decided not to include the $50 rental of the sodcutter since that will get pro-rated down to pennies by the time we move from here, ditto for the small bits of irrigation tubes, and I couldn’t figure out how to calculate the water usage, so that’s not included either.

  • Liquid Seaweed Fertilizer  1/2 a bottle @ $23.90 ea = $11.95
  • Canning Jars 7 @ $0.83 ea = $5.83
  • Bulk Compost 1 cu. yd. @ $50/cu. yd. = $50
  • Seeds and Plants (I had to make a guess because I used seeds from last year’s purchase) = about $100

Estimate for garden investment is $167.78.

That means my garden saved us about $368.75 in grocery bills for three months – or 1 sq. ft. produced almost $2 worth of food.  I don’t know where that falls in the criteria of a successful garden but I’m happy with that.  For a new garden that got put in in a hurry, I think we did pretty well.  Once we get the compost system up and running, start applying some xeriscaping techniques, start my own transplants, and do some seed-saving, I’ll be able to knock the costs down further.

This was an interesting exercise to do – knowing exactly how much I’m saving makes my food taste even better.  

*The dollar figures were obtained from my local grocery store and are for organically grown produce only (and much of it is Canadian grown).