I’ve always been told that gardening is not an economical hobby. I just assumed this to be true; it always seemed like I poured tons of money into my garden every year only to have a meager harvest that could not possibly compare. But now that I have a kid and a mortgage and all sorts of responsibilities, I thought I should make sure my “hobby” wasn’t a big money pit.
Starting in February I kept track of all of my gardening expenses, ultimately weighing every ounce of produce that has come out of my garden (minus what went straight into the mouths of my kid, friends and neighbors). I think it was in October that I went into the black and it was a joyous day.
My costs for the year break down as follows:
1. Raised Beds: Total Cost $759.00
In the spring we added 3 new 8′x4′x1′ raised beds, spending $407 for the lumber and $352 for the soil. We found the instructions for the raised beds in Sunset Magazine’s article, “The Perfect Raised Bed”. For lumber we used a combination of Western Juniper and Cedar. Western Juniper is about a third the price of Cedar and lasts just as long, plus it’s a more sustainable resource than Cedar. Our dirt came from Cedar Grove, the company that picks up our yard/food waste in King County. They compost all our waste into dirt that has a lot of organic material. The best part is you can order a large volume of it online and they will deliver it to your front door via dump truck (this is VERY VERY VERY exciting for the males in your household both young and old.)
2. Seeds: Total Cost $71.90
I have an addiction to seeds, seed catalogs and dreaming about gardening. I tend to overpurchase in the seed department, but who cares. This year I tried to make sure I only purchased seeds for stuff I would actually grow via seed. I bought leek, spinach, kale, lettuce, mixed greens, beet, kohlrabi, carrot, sunflower and pea seeds. Most of my seed purchases came from Baker Creek and Territorial Seeds. Baker Creek is a family-run company that sells an extensive selection of heirloom varietals. I literally look at their seed catalogs while I lie in bed and fantasize about what I want to plant. Their family has traveled all over the world collecting heirloom produce and saving the seeds. So if you want to grow tomatoes from Afghanistan or cucumbers from South Africa, this is the website for you. Territorial was formed by Steve Solomon (the godfather of PNW gardening), and all their seeds are specifically designed to grow well in our climate. I buy A LOT of seeds from Territorial, and the seeds from both companies can be found in many stores.
3. Live Plants: Total Cost $293.00
Many of my plants I buy as starts. There are 2 main plant sales I attend: One is in March for the cool crops, and the other is in May when I get all my summer stuff. Both are hosted by Seattle Tilth. This year, in addition to buying $45 worth of tomatoes, $18 of tomatillos and $42 of basil, I purchased a huckleberry bush and some yellow raspberry starts. Did I mention I also tend to overbuy at plant sales? I force myself to make a list of what I need and stick to it, but let’s get real, even that list is over the top… last year I brought my friend Eric just to help me carry all my plants!
4. Supplies: Total Cost $122.48
This year I needed some new soaker hoses, tomato cages, fertilizer and other stuff (books, ladybugs, wooden stakes). I also “won” a raffle from the Seattle Zoo that allowed me to purchase $30 worth of Zoo Doo! Let me tell you nothing will blow your kid’s mind more than telling him there is hippopotamus poop in the garden. I highly recommend getting compost from your local zoo if you can; it’s a great way for the zoo to take waste and convert it into something useful. It’s also nice to know you are supporting your local zoo.
All told I spent $1,246.38 on gardening this year, which I think is pretty good considering half of that was for raised beds that I will be using for the next 5 years or more. What I don’t factor into the cost is the time it takes me to garden. For me, gardening is my therapy time. It gets me outside and it makes me happy, so I figure I could garden or I could see a therapist. I’ll take the garden.
Next Post: The Yields