Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A garden, small, efficent, and cost effective

     Along with moving into an apartment, we're getting a new garden plot in a very near by community garden. In the past, I've had much more room to work with, more like a quarter acre than the 50 square feet I'll be working with this year. As I have so little room and expect to have very little time to devote to the garden, I'm developing this garden with an eye towards ease of maintenance and maximized value.

    As I paid $25 for the year, if I don't spend any more money on it and don't count my time spent gardening, then I only have to make $.50 per square foot to break even. Since I find gardening both relaxing and enjoyable, I think it's fair to not count the time I spend in the garden as an expense. Additionally, I intend to work the garden care into my daily walk, so I'll likely only spend 5 or less minutes on the garden each day on average. I do however, expect to buy some seeds, namely basil, cilantro, lettuce, kale, and swiss chard. I don't expect to pay more than $2/per packet, although I might end up buying starts. Thus, I expect additional expenses to total between $10 and $20, meaning that each square foot has to produce $.90 to break even. This should be relatively easy, given the plants that I have selected to grow.

     Now, as to the plants I selected, there are three primary considerations, as far as I'm concerned: How much we like to eat it, how easy it is to grow in our region, and how expensive it is to purchase in the store. We like to eat a lot of leafy green vegetables and I love fresh herbs. Fortunately for me, these crops are very easy to grow in my area. They are also often the most expensive crops in the store. Why so expensive if they're so easy to grow? High demand is one reason, but the other reason is that, unlike crops like pumpkins, onions, and potatoes, leafy greens and fresh herbs are both more difficult to ship, and have a much shorter shelf life. Most root crops, for example, can be stored for months without a noticeable decline in quality. Leafy greens and herbs however suffer a noticeable decline within a week. But since I'll be harvesting minutes before dinner, I don't have that problem!

      This is what the garden looks like right now:
Or rather, one end of it, and my feet. I promise the sides are actually square, the camera angle just makes it look funny.

      What you see here is what I've been able to transplant so far, namely: chives, garlic chives, walking onions, and elephant garlic/perennial leeks (elephant garlic is actually much more closely related to leeks, can be harvested in the 'leek' phase, and is perennial if you replant the bulbs), which I'm still experimenting with. As you might be able to tell, I like alliums. A lot. 

     Over the next few days I also intend to transplant over mint, lemon balm, rosemary, sage, thyme, an artichoke, and oregano. All of these come from my current garden, so I'm not including their costs (I'm pretty sure they count as sunk costs, but in a good way). I will start basil and cilantro seeds indoors soon, along with lettuce, kale, and swiss chard.

     Over the course of the year, I intend to record how much I spend on the garden, and how much I'm able to harvest from the garden. That, and any experiments I happen to do along the way.

Total spent so far: $25
Total pounds harvested so far: 0
Total harvest value so far (approximate, based on cost per pound in store): $0

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