Friday, August 5, 2011

I'm Not In It For The Money

I'm in it in spite of the money.

My wonderful wife and I have an ongoing debate about gardening and the whole stealth farming concept. We each take a different position on the subject of the cost of gardening. We each have what I consider to be very valid points and concerns. We each have considered our positions and feel that we are right. I see her points and understand them to be valid concerns. This is one of those issues where I'm right and she's...right, too. We're both right from our individual perspectives.

The idea that is the issue in the debate is whether or not it is cost-effective to have a garden. My wife looks at the cost of the seeds, paying for the city water, the time expense and the tools and supplies it takes to be effective gardeners in a harsh and unforgiving environment. (And it is hard to grow things here in the desert. When I lived in Missouri, you only had to have a thought of a seed and the dang thing would start to grow. You didn't have to coax them to grow, they just did. Not here, but I digress.)

My contention is that very little cost has gone into the garden for the yield it has produced. I harvest pounds of tomatoes for pennies of cost. A dollar for a pack of radish seeds yields literally $20 worth of radishes. Some sunflower seeds that I harvested from one of last year's sunflowers produces pounds of sunflower seeds to roast and eat, without buying another packet of sunflower seeds. I just planted another dozen sunflowers for fall from previously harvested seeds. That could potentially yield several pounds of seed yet again.

I save money by composting manure that I obtain for free. I met a great guy who has given me two full pickup truck loads. He even loads it into my truck for me. All I have to do is haul it into the back yard and set up the composting process. How much would that cost me?

I save money by using free straw that I got from an ad on CraigsList. This saves money on water by holding the moisture in the ground until the plants can use it. It also keeps the summer sun from baking the life out of the soil. The soil is 15 to 20 degrees cooler when it is shaded by the straw.  (How many of you have to worry about your soil being too warm?) After the crops are harvested, the straw becomes part of the soil, further extending its usefulness and getting another use for no cost.

I harvest seeds from peppers that I like, from tomatoes and tomatillos that are tasty, and I don't have to buy them. I use beans from the grocery store instead of the seed store. So far, the yield has been as good as the "seed" beans for far less cost. A pound of white beans or pinto beans or black beans costs much less at my neighborhood store than a pound from the seed companies.

With all those things in mind, I have spent quite a bit on soaker hoses, PVC plumbing parts, timers, way too many seeds for one year at a time, and I have to pay for the water I use. I don't have a well, a stream on my property and I can't harvest rainwater because it almost never rains here. That adds to what I have to pay for my garden. And I do spend a lot of time watering, weeding, planting, sifting compost, making worm food, tilling the soil and just looking at my plants. Time is the greatest cost.

Do I grow $20 tomatoes? Not yet, but I'm close. Would it be cheaper to buy the food from the market than to try to grow it at home? Without question. And it would be a whole lot less work, too. Plus I would save time.

But it wouldn't taste as good, be as fresh, provide me with good, healthy exercise, nor would it teach me as much as it has. What I have learned about the universe, about people, about nature and about myself by gardening has been far richer and much more beneficial than I would have expected. What I have enjoyed by sharing these experiences with my family have been my greatest gardening harvests. I don't think I could have had those successes any other way. And I'm certainly not done. I have many more goals to reach.

Money is cheap. I don't believe that I'll take it with me when I die. I do believe that I'll take the memories, the lessons learned and the deep and abiding appreciation for this wonderful life and its experiences with me when I die. To me, those are priceless and well worth the time, effort and treasure that they have cost me.


  1. Yeah but it sounds like Mom was right--it's costing more money than the yield. Any chance you can get her to "buy" into the concept that money is cheap? ;)

  2. Always looking to link up with other vegetable gardeners. Found your blog through blotanical. I'm following...


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