Garden Economics

Did a dummy run on the new frost covering scheme last night. The weather folks decided at 5 PM that there was a reasonable chance of a “light freeze” in our area. Normally I would have just blown it off because the forecasters typically overstate the issue but since my erector set pieces were all in place, why not try it out. Nancy and I actually covered it in about 30 seconds, slick as a whistle. It helped that there was no wind at all, but still, it was orders of magnitude better than previously. I plan to reposition a couple of the supports and make it all a bit more stable for the season but all in all, very nice. As it turns out, sure enough there was a light frost on the cloth first thing in the morning. Not enough to damage anything but gave me a nice test of my system.

I mentioned planting beet seeds in the last post and just blew past it. Beets have been an annual frustration. I’ve tried several varieties and just haven’t had much in the way of success. At this point I don’t have soil or nematodes to blame so if I bend my pick again, we’ll have to stick to Publix in the future. I pulled out all the stops and planted 4 patches in 4 totally different garden locations. I used Miracle Gro soil mixed with bone meal, blood meal, and epson salts. Soaked the seeds for 12 hours before planting to accelerate germination. So if I bomb out again, that’s it. I’ll just chalk it up to some climatic condition or soil chemistry we have here that beets hate.

I ordered all the seeds for next season. These seed catalogs are designed by people cleverly targeting me. Each year I get the new catalogs secure in the knowledge that I have plenty of seed from the last season and don’t need any more. And I’m correct. But instead of just throwing away the catalog without opening a single page which would be the smart thing to do, I go through it, item by item. And before it’s over, I’ve ordered $60 in seeds I really didn’t need. These guys just keep coming up with new varieties and make them sound irresistible. I can’t believe it but I actually bought one new tomato variety that cost $5 for 25 seeds. What was I thinking?

According to the experts, the average return from a garden is $1/square foot. In Florida with our extended growing season, it should be at least double that. I reckon I have about $500 in it from the get go – 3 years – but more than half of that is in non-recurring costs, such as the frost covers, the pvc erector set, tools and garden expansion material. I guess if you count the tiller and the leaf mulcher, it gets closer to $800. But who’s counting. The regular annual consumable expenses seem to run about $100. So with my 1200 SF garden, I guess it’s a good ROI, considering only the cash investment. If I throw in my labor at three cents an hour, maybe it’s not such a good investment. To justify the whole thing I have to throw in the exercise I get that eliminates a gym membership – which I wouldn’t get anyway. And the gas savings from Nancy driving 15 miles to buy veggies. She still drives the 15 miles but doesn’t buy veggies so can I really amortize that gas? How about the savings in vitamin D supplements which I don’t need because I’m out in the sun working the garden? or is that offset by having the dermatologist burn off those nasty little cancer things that pop up from time to time on my sun blasted skin? No, after all the analysis, the biggest savings is probably that it keeps me so busy I have no time to sit at the local pub sucking up the suds.

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