Skip to content

Slice of Life - Garden cents

A garden has a curious innocent way of consumingcash while all the time you are underthe illusion that you are spending nothing.

A garden has a curious innocent way of consumingcash while all the time you are underthe illusion that you are spending nothing.~ Esther Meynell

I have a friend who suggested it might begood idea for me to keep track of howmuch I spend on the simple self sufficientlife I am always babbling about. Can youbelieve anyone saying such a ridiculousthing? I patiently explained to her that in abackyard homestead economy one mustspend a dime today to try and save a dollartomorrow.

For example, store bought vegetablesare expensive. A head of lettuce thaterupts from a single tiny seed costs aroundthree dollars. Carrots ring in at a dollar apound, while tomatoes run a couple bucksa pound. Zucchini can cost two dollars apound, while potatoes can be as much as75 cents a pound or even more in thespring.

Now consider that $9.95 gets you 1,000lettuce seeds, while $4.25 gets you morethan 20,000 carrot seeds, $6.95 will buy you100 tomato seeds, $1.69 buys a coupledozen zucchini seeds and for $7.50 you canget a box of seed potatoes containing atleast 15 tubers. If you plant them all youcould potentially harvest 2,000 pounds oflettuce, 8,000 pounds of carrots, 1,000pounds of tomatoes, 250 pounds of zucchiniand 375 pounds of potatoes. Do the mathand you've grown over 10,000 pounds ofvegetables worth a retail value of almost$14,000 all from a mere seed investment of$30.34!

Well, provided that you're already blessedwith rich earth. If you have to buy goodgarden soil it will cost you at least $300 atruck load and sadly, one truck load doesn'tgo very far. And of course some people willinsist they simply can't garden withoutspending hundreds of dollars on a rotor tillerwhile the next person might be just as productiveusing nothing more than a crookedspoon out of the cutlery drawer. Though fora family-sized garden a good quality hoe isprobably the best and sanest choice.

And what are you going to do with athousand pounds of tomatoes? If youdecide to can them, you're going to needcanning equipment which isn't cheap. Butmaybe you'll freeze your tomatoes in recycledplastic containers. Or maybe all yourtomatoes will drop dead from a frost inJune. Or maybe you might, oh I don't know,start 288 broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflowerand cabbage transplants, baby themalong under lights for a month (spendingmoney on potting soil, pots and electricity)move them into your greenhouse (anotherexpense) only to go out on one all too memorablemorning to discover a mouse hasgobbled up 286 of your transplants forcingyou to replace them by the six pack from agarden centre. And yes, I am speaking frompersonal experience. All too personal.Little Mickey had better watch his back.

Step into a garden centre and you quicklyfind that it's all too easy to spend a dozendimes trying to save a dollar. Ah, yes, gardeninghas an insidious way of dropping itstap roots deep into your bank account andsucking the coins right out of it. A personhas to be careful or instead of saving grocerymoney by raising your own vegetables,you can end up spending the grocery moneyraising your own vegetables.

You can tell when someone has doneexactly that by how often they rave aboutthe joys of foraging for spring greens.They'll serve up heaping bowls of dandelion,lambs quarter and nettle leaves for breakfast,lunch and dinner while prattling onabout how nutritious and delicious they are.Anything tastes delicious when you've spentthe grocery money on gardening and you'restarving while waiting for whatever gardenseeds survive the frost, mice and bugs toproduce something edible.

Yeah, I know what some of you're thinking."Hey, hold on just a minute. I've readthis column in the past and I've even readsome of your gardening articles. If I'm notmistaken aren't YOU one of those peoplewho are always prattling on about the nutritionalvalue of weeds?"

Well, now you know the rest of the story.

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnistfrom the Peace River country. To read pastcolumns go to www.shannonmckinnon.com