Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How Much Does a Garden Grow: 2012 Final

Like my sage buried under a snow drift, the gardening year ended in hibernation.  Final totals:

2012 Tally--Final
158.0625 lbs. total harvested
$466.17 value of harvest for 2012
$196.65 expenditures for 2012
$269.52 profit 

As you can see, there were no harvests and no expenditures in December.  The leeks are still growing in the cold frame outside, and the potatoes seem to be fine in their pot in the sun room, but everything has settled down for its winter's nap.

Lessons learned from this year of gardening?

This spreadsheet has got to go!  Somehow, when I set up the tracking spreadsheet last January, I got distracted by the fact that most things in the grocery are priced per pound, and I based my calculation on pounds.  My harvests, however, usually were in ounces -- 9 ounces of tomatoes, 12 ounces of carrots, an ounce of greens -- which means that I had to convert everything into decimal to work with prices per pound in my spreadsheet.  No more.  This year, I convert grocery prices to price per ounce, and that will be in sync with my harvests.

Second, I will be adding a column for each vegetable type and variety I want to track separately, so I have a running total of which tomato is producing best in July and which vegetable produces the biggest  total harvest.  Look for better reporting next year.

It was a good year for squash.  Zucchini and butternut squash were the big performers this year, which meant that we ate zucchini almost every day for about two months and still have plenty in the freezer.  Right now, squash is performing well on our property, and we like it, so I plan to grow more next year.

I made bad cucumber choices:  For as long as I can remember, I've grown Burpee Picklers and Straight Eights.  Every year.  I don't know what possessed me this year to try heirloom varieties of cucumber, but even when they produced well, they didn't throw off the kind of bounty that often has me and my extended family eating bread and butter pickles all year.  Next year, back to the old favorites.

I made some questionable tomato choices:  Tomatoes are the centerpiece of the garden, but 2011 was so bad for tomatoes that I actually was in tears a few times.  In an effort to combat this, I tried to grow a whole new range of tomatoes.  Some -- like Super Sioux -- produced very well, while cold tolerant varieties like Ukrainian Purple had trouble in the heat.  This coming year, I am only growing a couple of varieties from seed and investing in plants for the rest, because the commercially-grown plants seem to perform better for me.  Of course, I will also be keeping an eye out for volunteers to move into the garden in the sunniest spots, because year after year, volunteers are the best performers I ever have, due to their adaptation to our microclimate.

Gardening is worth it.  Every year, I see people try to justify by cost savings the effort involved in gardening.  In some ways, that's what this column is about.  But even if I saved only $270 this year, it was certainly money we could use.  And, I can't begin to quantify the benefits of the exercise, sunshine, better produce, and general mental health benefits of getting my toes in the dirt.  I'm looking forward to placing my seed order for 2013 this week and starting the process all over again!
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  1. Jennifer, I have been enjoying reading through your blog. I am amazed at all you get up to, and how you keep such careful records. I have found another benefit of food gardening - in the couple of years that we have been eating fresh greens out of the garden most days, we just haven't got sick, though everyone around us is dropping from the flu. Besides, it's so much fun..

    1. Jo, I totally agree. While I won't say that we never get the flu around here, we just feel better when the garden is producing and we are eating veggies all the time. Hope you stay well!