Musings on Vegetable Gardening. 2010, A Year to Remember!

October 1 2010

I've read a few articles that suggest "don't bother" if you're contemplating a first vegetable garden as a way to save money. Too much time and effort, they say; you'll spend more on seeds, fertilizer, mulch and then the rabbits and birds (or deer) will devastate what the insects don't.

A word of advice: ignore these naysayers' advice!

Our small, L-shaped garden in a corner of our average suburban Chicago lot has yielded an incredible 268.6 lbs to-date -- not counting asparagus and various leafies (salad greens), which I don't weigh on my vintage baby scale. That's including 189.3 lbs of cucumbers, now done for the season. To-date and still producing: cherry tomatoes (41 lbs), standard tomatoes (20 lbs) plus  lesser amounts of carrots and beans. Then there are the new salad greens coming up from those that bolted, produced seeds and sprouted with no help from me.

Ok, if you're like most people, you're probably wondering -- weighing garden produce? Is she nuts? Well, possibly. I guess it's a long-term affliction. I recall tracking every expenditure on family car trips when I was younger (about early Pleistocene). Nice to know how much a trip costs, right? And my husband and I have been tracking car mileage with nearly every fill up since I don't know when. I suppose this urge to monitor and analyze is relatively harmless; it actually came in handy in school and when I worked as a food chemist, then later as a consultant and researcher.

Back to the topic at hand. Why bother with a vegetable garden? Why not? What's NOT to like? It's definitely not for couch potatoes (ugh, sorry - did I just write that?), but then, couch potatoes should be aware that gardening burns lots of calories. And you have something to show for it besides worn out jogging shoes. Come to think of it, you spend calories to GET calories.

Hmm. I wonder if anyone has measured the caloric input/output of gardening?

Granted, 2010 in the Chicago area was warmer than most. But so far, I figure that even if we assume a very low average of 50 cents/lb for veggies, the cost saving through September comes out to $134 -- and that's not counting all the "free" asparagus in the spring and salads over the past four months. Herbs too, thyme and chives mostly.

Now let's take a look at the intangible values of a vegetable garden. Taste and texture. From the back yard to your plate in minutes, not days. Real tomato taste and no armor-like skin necessary to protect the delicate fruit from the physical insults of transportation.

Natural. No un-natural herbicides or pesticides, thank you. And variety! Have you checked a seed catalog lately? Early Girl and Better Boy are surrounded by scores of tomato varieties. Too short a season to start from seed? Your local supermarket, Home Depot and other retailers will offer dozens of potted options to give you a head start for just a couple of dollars per plant.

Then there's the friendship factor. Neighbors, a widow from church, family, friends and colleagues … they have all been beneficiaries of our garden's bounty. We learned our lesson years ago with zucchini, though, when people would cross the street to avoid having to say "enough with the zucchini, already."

I wonder what the final 2010 "weighed" tally will be. 300 lbs? Carrots, beans, cherry and standard tomatoes unite!

Category: Now You Know
Filed under: Gardening