Spring officially began on March 20th, and I’ve already got a serious case of Spring Fever. I want to be outside, doing things. Being productive! Working with nature!
Of course, the weather in Indiana is not helping. One day it’s 70 and windy. The next it’s 40 and raining. Bryan and I do a large vegetable garden every year, and I’m itching to get started. Of course, you can’t really start planting until after last frost; My mom’s rule of thumb was always to wait until Mother’s Day. Which isn’t until May 8th. That feels like forever from now!
I did finally sit down and order some seeds this weekend. I probably should have done that much sooner, so I could have planted the seeds in March. Indoors, of course. Hopefully they won’t take too long to be delivered, and I can start them early April. The rain and how warm it gets will dictate when I can start hardening them off and getting them ready to transplant outside.
Gardening is one of the areas that Bryan and I are learning to compromise. Bryan is what I would consider a traditionalist when it comes to his vegetable garden: He plants mainly heirloom tomato plants, along with some beans, jalapeno, banana and bell peppers, lettuce, corn and cucumbers. I tend to like growing things that are exotic and unusual looking. Things you aren’t going to find in the produce department at the grocery store.
Last year, Bryan was willing to branch out a little. We didn’t cross into exotic territory, but we did grow spaghetti squash, cabbage and cauliflower. Our garden was the same size as the previous year, so we just cut back on the number of tomato plants we grew. Bryan has a friend who seed saves from his heirloom tomatoes each year, and then starts probably close to a hundred new plants the following year. He usually gives Bryan 20-30 plants each year. Last year we gave some of those away, and only planted about 15. It was a wet year, so the tomatoes didn’t yield much. We also grew a few other varieties of tomatoes, just for something different. All of the plants we purchased were from Lowes, or a local nursery. A few things we grew from seeds.
This year we’ve decided to increase the size of our garden. It isn’t so much that we needed more garden space, as it was a side effect of needing to cut back an overgrown area of trees in the yard. I’ve convinced Bryan that, instead of just planting more of the usual, we should plant a bigger variety of vegetables. He agreed, with the caveat that, if I choose to plant grape/cherry tomatoes, I can only do 1-2 plants of each, as each plant tends to be highly productive. I took that to mean 1-2 plants of each variety.
With a plan in place for a larger garden, I set out to order my seeds. I started off at Burpee’s website, selecting a variety of interesting seeds. $98.10 later, I realized my cart had gotten a little bit out of control. I love variety, but I hadn’t budgeted to spend that kind of money. Seed packets also tend to contain a large amount of seeds, way more than we would need for our garden this year. We’ll share with anyone who wants seeds, and save some for next year, but seeds often lose their ability to germinate after a year or two.
With all that in mind, I headed over to Territorial Seed Company’s website. They tend to have a variety of seeds and plants, and allow you to select from a variety of seed packet sizes, meaning you can buy fewer seeds, reducing your overall cost. They’re also a small, family owned company; I like the idea of supporting a small business over a large corporation.
Gardening is definitely a situation where the overall price is sometimes more important than the price per item. For example, most of the seeds I selected at Burpee were $5.95 per packet, and included 50+ seeds. That’s 12 cents per seed. At Territorial, I could by a small packet, measured in grams, that would maybe have 20 seeds in it, for $3.95. That’s 20 cents per seed. But, if over 2-3 years, I’ll probably only get 5-10 plants out of either packet, it makes much more sense to pay $3.95 than $5.95. The rest of the seeds would likely be wasted in either case.
I spent some time switching between the two company websites, selecting the best deal on the items that I wanted. And then I narrowed down my selection to only the items that I really thought we’d eat. Sure, the varieties of hot peppers were amazing, but did I really need 6 different types? Purple corn is neat to look at, but would we enjoy eating it? The reviews suggested probably not.
In the end, I narrowed my purchase down to 12 items, for a total of $53.67. Still a lot of money, but much less than the original $98.10. I chose ball zucchini squash, which look interesting, and should be more useful in our kitchen than traditional zucchini, which have a way of getting out of control in size. Cherry and current tomatoes in 5 varieties, ranging from white, to green, to orange, to purple, each boasting a unique flavor. Pac Choi and Kale. Mini Mexican Sour Gherkins. A paprika pepper, poblano pepper, and a “heatless” Habanero pepper. My hope is that if I indulge myself with a variety of exotic items this year, I’ll have a better idea of what is truly worthwhile to grow next year. And then I won’t spend as much money on trying so many new things.
Our huge garden should have a nice variety this year. Last year we instilled a rule once our garden started producing: Eat at least one item from the garden every day. I’m hoping to do the same this year. We’ll also share our abundance with friends and family, cook veggies as side dishes for our frequent Fish Fry gatherings with friends, and can or dry whatever possible at the end of the year. We spend too much time and money on our garden to let anything go to waste!
For us, gardening is a hobby that we love, and a way to ensure we eat more produce. We don’t look at this as a way to save money. Do we save money growing our own food? Probably not. We don’t spend a ton of money on the garden, but we also don’t spend a lot of money each week on produce from the grocery. We eat more produce during the garden season, simply because we have so much available. If you compared our yield to what it would cost to buy that amount of produce? But then, if we didn’t have a garden, we’d never buy in a season what we end up with from growing it, so it’s wouldn’t be a true savings anyways. And when you account for the amount of work we put into the garden? We’re definitely not saving!
Some things in life aren’t about saving money. Isn’t that the point of frugality? Save where you can, so you can spend where you want? Gardening is definitely a want for us!