My garden is a mixed-goal project. I'm not trying to spend less at the farmer's market or put food on the table for a dramatically cheaper price, or even make sure I have organically grown food. All of those things are fine and perfectly reasonable gardening goals (and the're definitely secondary goals of mine), but I mostly wanted to stuff my face with home grown tomatoes.
(It is a very elegant and noble goal, I know.)
I had NOTHING to start with. I've never even done a potted plant, so I was truly starting from scratch in both tools and knowledge. I tried to be frugal-ish, but I didn't devote a large part of my life to A Quest For The Frugal Garden because let's be serious, that sounds like a really boring way to spend my time. I'm going to weigh everything that we harvest, compare to the price of a similar, locally-available, item and do a sort of giant cost comparison at the end of the season. So, let's consider this Part One of the cost of a summer tomato garden.
Look, I know a lot of you are shaking your head saying, "Holy crap she spent fifty bucks on SEEDS?" Well, yes, I did spend fifty bucks on seeds. It's not that tough to do: 14 packets of seeds at $3-$4/pack, plus $10 to ship = fifty freaking dollars on seeds.
The thing about seeds is there are waaaaay more than I need in those packets. I don't need fifty of each variety. Next year, I want to go in with a couple of local friends to buy seeds and then split them up. (Ten or twelve seeds of each variety would be plenty for me.) I bought all Heirloom varieties and none of what I selected was available of my local Lowe's or Home Depot, which made me feel better about buying online and forking over ten bucks for shipping. I did not check my local gardening store, which might be something I should do but, eh, I'm lazy.
My seeds came from Burpee but I will buy them from Fedco in 2013 because the whole terminator seed thing makes me insane and fearful of the Zombie Apocalypse. (How will we re-start humanity with terminator seeds?? What a TERRIBLE IDEA that is.) (If I get REALLY hippie I will look into learning about seed saving in 2013, but I don't have the mental space for that this summer.) Next year, I'll probably buy from Fedco, because that's where Elizabeth shops and I got this whole crazy garden bug from her in the first place.
And, just to keep all of the information about my 2012 seeds neat, tidy, and in one post, here are my seeds and their descriptions:
Brandywine. Heirloom. Dating back to 1885, this heirloom wins most flavor contests.
Mr Stripey. Pretty, sweet-tasting 1 lb. fruits with a high sugar content.
Amish Paste. Acorn-shaped Wisconsin heirloom: for paste, as a slicer, and in sauces.
Black Krim. Heirloom. Medium-sized, very dark maroon beefsteak, with wonderfully rich flavor.
Cherokee Purple. Heirloom. Its flavor is rich and full, and often compared to Brandywine.
Yellow Pear. Heirloom with pear shaped yellow tomatoes. Certified Organic.
Lemon Thyme, Oregano, Apple Mint, Sweet Basil, Cilantro
Sweeter Yet Hybrid Cucumber, Clemson Spinless Okra, California Wonder Sweet Bell Peppers, Evergreen Long White Bunching Scallions.
I started with the 72-count and, because I am insane, I thought 72 wasn't enough and panic-purchased an additional 25-count. (Note for next year: 72 is PLENTY.)
I got mine at Lowe's and Home Depot and it was cheaper than what Amazon is selling it for.
Whiskey Barrel, $30
Lemon Thyme, Sweet Basil, and Apple Mint plants, to replace the ones the bunny ate, $11
I'm not sure what to think about these. I think having a light helped, particularly since I don't have a great window that gets a lot of sun, but I am not sure this bulb was worth fourteen bucks. I tried to do some research on what makes a bulb good for plants and what's just a regular bulb that lights a closet, but I could never figure it out. In the end, I have the sinking feeling that I paid for the word "plant" in front of "bulb." It seemed like a regular fluorescent bulb to me, but I really don't have any clue. The plants grew so....maybe?
Garden Stakes, (2) $16
Oh, look! This is where gardening gets kind of pretty! COPPER STAKES! OOOOOOO!
Trowel Shovel Thing, $10
Rakey Fork Thing, $.88
I think it's officially called a "cultivator." I like my made-up name better.
Raised Beds, (2) $126.32
These are 3.5' x 8' and I got two of them. They're not here yet, so I'll let you know what I think after I get them together.
Still left to purchase:
Soil for the raised beds
Tree Removal (Yep, it still has to come down if they're to get any sunshine worth a toot.)
Probably a hundred other things I haven't even thought of. (Things to shoo away birds, bugs, and slugs! Fertilizer! Fancy tomato-harvesting basket!)
Total spent on garden, so far: $329.82
Oh my God, I literally just added that up for the first time and HOLY SHIT I am going to have to grow a CRAP TON of tomatoes to come even CLOSE to that number. WHOA. I mean, I know a lot of that is in start-up costs that I can use next year (like the raised beds, copper stakes, light, and tools) but WHOOOOOAAAAA. If heirlooms are about, what, $3 or $4/pound that's...about 94 pounds at $3.50/pound I'll need to harvest. If I don't spend another dime. I haven't even bought everything I need, so...We might be looking at something similar to $64 tomatoes.
Delicious, homegrown, $64 (cringe) tomatoes.