Belladonna Bess

An edible garden in Wellington, NZ

Garden production costs September 16, 2012

Filed under: Garden,Living below the line — belladonnabess @ 12:05 pm
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Is anyone else using homegrown vegetables in the “Live below the line” challenge?

I eat my own vegetables year-round, with a few notable exceptions, and I don’t want to change that for the live below the line challenge. But how do I calculate my production costs?

There are a whole lot of complex factors to account for:

  • whole garden or just vegetables?
  • over what time period – I could do average spending over weeks, months or years (if I could be bothered to dig up the receipts and calculate)?
  • do I add costs like fixing the boundary retaining wall?
  • what about my time?
  • all vegetables – from seedlings, seeds and self-sown or saved?
  • what about weeds from my garden?
  • what about the plastic mesh that keeps off the blackbirds and holds the mulch in place?

I’ve come to conclusion that seems reasonable to me. It will allow me to eat an average amount from my garden over the week and will ensure I have plenty of vitamins.

I really have two season in the garden. The “summer” garden (which runs from November/December-April/May) is abundant, with a great variety but also quite significant inputs. I grow seeds in pots in a mini-greenhouse, I use a cloche and bought mulch and sometimes compost. I buy a wide range of seeds and I also buy in seedlings of various things like capsicum, chili and some tomato and zucchini varieties. I use sheep manure pellets and rok fertiliser. I also grow things in pots (tomatoes for example which are better potted in a wet summer).

“Winter” is different. From about late May until about October – I still grow a mix of seeds, seeds and ferals, but I don’t tend to pot up my own seedlings, the winter stuff is direct sow. I have a higher reliance on feral things like the brassicas, yams, chard, lettuce, miner’s lettuce, chickweed, lamb’s lettuce, puha. I have carrots from seed and leeks and kale from seedlings. I use a little rok and some sheep manure pellets, but the mulch is largely just newspaper (and the re-used plastic mesh). I harvest my own slow compost (mostly made from weeds) in winter and use that.

So winter inputs are minimal. But so is the variety. Some leeks and carrots (but not lots), chard, kale, yams, potatoes (early winter only), broccoli (pretty much finished now), a bit of celery, weedy greens. Oh and endless parsley! I could probably do more but this is all I ended up with.

This is the garden I’ll have for the challenge. And so I decided to cost only this season and do a week’s average. I think it’s fair to leave out all the fruit, ornamentals, and landscaping, since before I did all that work, I still had a typical cheap vege garden for my own vegetables. If I was poor (but still had a patch of earth) then I would be growing and living on my vegetables, just without the neat edging, paths, fruit trees, spring bulbs and unusual plant collection. That’s just what I do.

So what I’ve spent on the winter vegetables is about $24 on seedlings (leeks, some different lettuce, celery, brassicas), and probaby no more than $5 on nutrient inputs and a few carrot seeds. Say $30 total. Yams, chard, most of the brassicas and greens were saved seed or self-sown.

So I think for somewhere around $1.25-$1.50 I can eat a leek or two (small), a few carrots, a few sticks of celery (all I’ve got left) and a good quantity of leafy greens. I’ll have to buy onions if I want them, but that seems reasonable to me.

Anyone else have any thoughts on production costs? Have I missed anything out?

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