I went online and ordered all the seed catalogs I could from heirloom seed companies. I'm kinda cheap, no thrifty, no economical...well anyways. I ordered free catalogs from only companies with hierloom varieties because frankly I wanted to have breeds of vegetables and plants that I could save seed from and start my garden again next year without the costly trip to a greenhouse. In the past the initial cost of purchasing plants for my garden has run anywhere from $80-$120 to put in a large garden.
Surely I can do it cheaper... I mean more economical than that starting plants from seed right? I mean back in grandma's day they saved the seed from one harvest to the next and that is how they began thier gardens the following year. Here I go...
I ordered my catalogs from:
Seed Savers Exchange, High Mowing Organic Seeds, Johnny’s Selected Seeds,
Territorial Seed , Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and Annie's Heirloom Seeds.
When I actually placed my orders I ordered from Annie's Heirloom Seeds and Seed Saver's exchange. I started this process back in Februrary 2014 and for once I started a garden journal. Something I HIGHLY recommend!
After planting the seeds in s couple of 50 cell planters I just had to wait... I learned that tomatillo seeds take a really long time to germinate (sprout out of the soil) and that I needed a better medium as dirt...not the bagged top soil I had purchased at the local lumber store. It kinda got rock hard. Overall I had a few setbacks as I accidentally left my tomato seedlings out overnight on the deck (a night in April that dipped into the upper 30's) whoops. And my peppers were looking pretty pitiful. But, I am nothing if not determined once I set my mind to something. So I forged ahead...and purchased several healthier tomato plants (same heirloom breeds) from a local plant sale. I then continued some extra TLC with my peppers and made a mental note to use a 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 mix of potting soil, vermiculite, and pearlite for my seeds next year.
Part 3 was planting in the ground. Grandma always says don't plant before mother's day but the farmer's almanac disagreed with grandma this year and said that the last frost date would likely be May 5, I'm taking my chances! So out went the plants, little by litte with the lettuce, cabbage, peas,carrots and beans first.
The final tallies are in! Here is how I saved my family over $757 with that Backyard garden!!!
Sounds a bit unbelievable right? I actually think my figure is extremely conservative and that it could be a higher savings…much higher…but, let me explain first. I have always known that having a garden saves my family money; I mean we head out back for fresh salad, salsa, beans, etc. I like to avoid pesticides and chemicals so I just don’t use them on my garden and therefore I only employ all organic methods. But to be truthful it was just a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment before this year. This year, I decided, I was going to set out to see just what I was saving…and here is the final tally.
I decided to start my garden from seed inside the house. I do not have a greenhouse yet…hubby are you reading this??? I also do not have any fancy grow lights or other things, I simply had some plastic containers saved from previous years purchasing plants (in a pinch Styrofoam cups work just fine) and I just used a mix of soil and vermiculite (that white beady stuff that comes in potted plants you buy at a store) and followed the directions to start the seeds which I kept in the laundry room. (It was warm in there)
The reason I opted to do my garden this way, rather than just purchasing my plants is that I am a very “back to grass roots” kinda gal. What I mean is, back in my great grandparents’ day you didn’t just run down the street to the farmers’ market and purchase all your plants. You grew them. From seeds you saved the previous year…ah ha! Another way to save money! (Did I mention I am frugal?) So, I knew that if I was really going to continue to see a savings, I would need to be able to propagate my garden year after year without spending so much. The funny thing is that I usually would spend around $100 on plants anyway, but this way I was able to purchase all open pollinated heirloom seeds (the kind that will grow again…i.e. not hybrids) that I will save from the plants to start my garden again next year for….dare I say…free?
My efforts were not without trial and error. I killed 20 plus tomato seedlings by accidentally leaving them outside overnight in early May (it dipped to freezing that night…oops!) and, I did have to re-purchase full size plant versions of a few of my failings, but that is all included in my total out of pocket.
So, once the garden was in…I just waited. There is effort involved but by employing a method called “Back to Eden Gardening” (Google the free documentary) there were very few weeds to deal with, so it was pretty enjoyable.
When my first harvests came in early June I began weighing everything. Every time I harvested anything from the garden, I weighed what I had, logged the type of produce and weight, and kept a tally. I did this for the whole season from June until the last few stragglers mid October. I harvested carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, tomatillos, green beans, pinto beans, cabbage, peas, lima beans, potatoes, watermelons, cantaloupe, and about 10 different kinds of peppers. I canned or froze all of it and have well over 220 quart jars of food put up for our family of 7.
Now, this is where the savings really came in. If I were to go to the store and buy either canned or fresh all organic produce…do you have any idea how much I would have to spend to garner over 432 pounds of organic produce? I estimated extremely conservatively and averaged $2 a pound for organic produce prices but I have never seen where you could buy organic tomatoes for less than about $2.99 a pound, or organic melons, potatoes and my other crops all that cheaply either.
Before someone might say, “but I don’t have lots of land for a garden,” I would submit that you don’t have to. I only moved the “country” 18 months ago and my garden is 15 x 40 with some semi truck tires lining the perimeter to act as small raised beds. I also tucked a few pepper plants in with my flower beds…this is doable even in suburbia.
So for you numbers nerds (I mean that term endearingly) here is how it went down:
$131.82 was the cost to purchase my supplies and seeds
$20.00 was the cost to replace the plants I killed (there were more than the tomatoes)
Total is $151.82 out of pocket.
I harvested 432.15 pounds of fresh organic produce from the garden. I sold 2 baskets of mixed fresh produce to test the market for possibly making a bigger garden and making this a business next year. Basket #1 was 20lbs that I sold for $30 and basket #2 was 10lbs which I sold for $15 therefore re-cooping $45 from my out of pocket cost. My out of pocket drops to $106.82. I multiplied my 432 lbs of produce by an average cost of $2 per pound if I purchased all that produce as fresh organic and my total would have been in the market of $864. Taking that $864 and subtracting my $106.82…I saved at least $757.18!!!
Side note, I saved seeds from everything which is not nearly as hard as one might think…My garden next year is going in without any out of pocket cost now… Can’t wait to see totals for 2015! This is a do-able money saver.