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I've been enjoying everyone's comments, but yours in particular stopped me in my tracks, it is so beautiful. Very well said!

It's not fake, Kim. That's just last summer.

Vegetable gardening does not have to be expensive! I am pretty much a novice at it, but am really going to expand my garden this spring not only to save money, but to eat healthier and make a more positive impact on our environment. My kids love to get involved, so this will definitely be a family project. I found that when they help with the vegetables, they actually want to eat them! I found lots of help at www.zipharvest.com - I could design my own garden, and am getting the entire package through them. They are creating some interesting things over there - I think that, like Daphne, I'm going to add up my savings this year!

I love that saying Katie. How revealing is that about where we've come! I'm going to borrow that from you for my podcast quote of the week, ok?

Cool with me!

Apparently, I am a Rant stalker this week. I think I am tired of writing.

I definitely will save money if I grow as much lettuce as I am planning to. I could eat an entire head of lettuce a day, myself. I love lettuce!

Not to always be the contrarian but I think Reese makes several good points.

For example, she says that gardening is good for the soul- one of the joys of life - even while it messes up your hands and the knees of your pants.

and "Peaceful and meditative, it's work that involves nurturing lovely, colorful creatures that never talk back or defile the rug. You proceed at your own pace in your own space while listening to the birds"

She says she will have to skip a summer vacation because she can't afford one. Maybe some of that meaningful time in her garden will help ease her pains.

It always eases my pains.

Hate to be difficult here, but no one has mentioned the opportunity costs--if you tend your heirloom tomatoes, what are you giving up? An extra hour with your better half? A baseball game with your 9 year old? A glass of wine with a lonely neighbor?
Don't get me wrong--I have a large garden (flowers only--perfidious raccoons, rabbits, and deer just never give up), so my better half and my kid have, alas, been neglected. But they see it as the cost of having a happy papa.
I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the cost of growing your own carrots--just be honest that, at the end of the day, you garden because you want to. Home grown turnips are a benefit (only if braised in cider).

Can you give more details about your groundhog protection system? I have a fence, but the groundhogs are still going crazy..

I have spent $4.94 on the vegetable garden this year on two packages of spinach seeds. The rest of the seeds, lettuce, beets, radish and snap peas I have sown so far were gifts. The wood chip mulch was free. Come real vegetable gardening season in mid May I may spend about $40 on vegetable starts because I don't have the proper space to start my own warm season veggies right now. There was a request for strawberries to, so that may cost a bit more.

The raccoon insists on getting his share of the sweet corn, but other than that we eat way way more than $50 worth of fresh produce. $3000 worth, I don't think so. Are you exaggerating just a bit Michele? Or do you just grow massive quantities of potatoes or the expensive gourmet stuff?

As far as time spent, I am not sure if the puttering around in there after the mulch is spread qualifies as real work. With the mulch there are hardly any weeds. Watering is minimal, even with a so called drought last year. I kind of just wait til it is time to harvest things.

I grow it, harvest, wash it and the best part of all is someone else prepares and cooks all that fresh food. Then I do the dishes and clean the kitchen.

Christopher C, lucky you to live with a good cook! We are a family of five here. My grocery bill runs between $250 and $300 a week because I like the good stuff. In gardening season, I shave a least $100 a week off that.

I do grow potatoes, loads and loads. I grow loads of everything. If I want to eat it, I want to grow it. I just made a curried cole slaw two days ago with the last of my 2008 cabbages.

Turnips braised in cider!!! Thank you, Steve.

Katie, I am managing with a four-foot tall cedar fence. I have nailed cage wire to the bottom of it. I dug a foot-deep trench, and bent the cage wire into an L shape, so it's not only a foot deep, but also extends a foot across. It was a really lousy, nasty job that involved many weekends of my lying on my stomach in the mud with a hammer and staples, but this is working for me.

But other people who garden near me really do it in what look like prison yards. Groundhogs are tough. A dog is a big help.

I think the cost is context dependent. I've seen homes that are very granite counter-toppy. With that money all-ready spent, it seems valuable to keep the investment and install a garden with high architectural value. This is going to be a lot more expensive and you probably won't break even on food costs.

Some homes don't have that look, or don't have it on the outside, or there are parts of the outside that don't. In those cases, it can be done much more economically.

If you feel like you can't get started unless it is going to look good, I do understand that. I think it is okay to say that it isn't for everyone.

For my part, I took a middle road. Sure it cost more, but it looks better. I call it "reinvesting" some of the garden back in the garden. Each year it looks better than the year before. This year I upgraded the border on the raised beds to a nice stone. Total cost was about $200. Money well spent if you ask me!

There is something to be said for gardening on the cheap. But if you can make it look good at the same time, I say go for it. If you can use last years saving to fund it, so much the better.

As an aside; I would estimate I get $500 a year worth of produce. Certainly not $3000 though! Someday maybe , if I can get some more space :)


One thing, of course, the older of a gardener you are the more gardening assets you've built up: you have a healthier garden balance sheet. You have useful stuff laying around to built things out of (usually stuff that didn't work in its first incarnation); you know good free stuff when you see it (and hopefully you know useless crap when you see it too); you are wise in choosing what to grow and how to grow it so you make fewer mistakes (except when you see really really cool plants and can't resist). I've noticed a lot of young gardeners are afraid of making mistakes, and so they think maybe an expensive irrigation set up will protect them from error. They do not yet realize that error is part of the process, that even a $3000 irrigation system won't be fool-proof, that gardening is hands-on, brains-on and spirit-on. And that even the oldest, wisest gardener with the grungiest fingernails (not me, yet) makes mistakes and learns from them.

Nice writing Michele, especially the last sentence, which beautifully sums up how I feel about my vegetable garden.

"Year after year, even in the worst years, in the garden, my arms are filled with unearned gifts."

All gardens cost something to set up, be it money or sweat. There's little room for freeloaders, and nature's bounty isn't a right.

The real lesson for inexperienced GIYers (Grow It Yourselfers) is to worry less about the cost of a new garden, and more about approaching nature with humility. Put in a wholehearted effort. Then, as Michele suggests, the whole process will gradually streamline and nature will prove very generous indeed.

The word Alice Waters used was FREE. Can nobody read? Garden grown food is NOT FREE, which is not to say it is not better, more nutritious, more fun, more satisfying, and not expensive. FREE???Tell me about it!

Saying "manure from a nearby farmer" is easy to come by or inexpensive is far from the truth if one lives in the centre of a large city. Being indignant, however, appears to be free wherever one lives.

LOL ! That's exactly what I've thought, but I didn't think it nearly so perfectly !

Also well-said. If only everyone thought like that ... we'd have no one to whom to pass our extra zucchini !

The spelling of "centre" suggests that it's not an American city that you're talking about. So I can't say.

However, there are many cities here that compost yard waste and deliver it for a small fee. And horse manure from a riding stable is generally an option even in very populated places. Fall leaves, kitchen compost, these all work in a garden.

And if you have to buy bagged manure, that hardly represents an expense that will throw the entire business plan out of whack.

If I sound indignant, I am. That Slate piece really sounds as if I was written by somebody who knows very little about vegetable gardening.

Let's be clear--we're all amateur gardeners here. I think the best garden writing has been written by amateurs, if they are writing about their own experience. But a certain humility is in order if you are going to extend very limited experience out into the universe at large--and you presume to discourage other beginners.

So I reiterate: If you think vegetable growing HAS to be expensive, you don't know what you're doing.

Hmmm - I guess I should read and understand the title of this site in a more literal manner than I had been!

For the record - I never suggested veggie gardening has to be expensive - I grow a year's worth of tomatoes in recycled pots on my deck. I don't know, however, of any farmer that wants to truck in his or her manure for inner city gardeners. There's city compost in abundance, but isn't that a bit different than manure?

Hi Chris, apologies if I ranted AT you. But as I said at the top of the piece, if you want to make me mad, the way to do it is to suggest that vegetable gardening is too laborious/expensive/tricky for ordinary people to attempt. My vegetable garden is one of the joys of my life, and I think the world would be a better place if a few more people grew tomatoes, like you, in recycled pots on their decks.

In my experience, composted manure plus bedding is the best soil enrichment in a vegetable garden. But almost any kind of organic matter will work, as long as it isn't drenched in herbicides or pesticides. Christopher C. of Outside Clyde has gotten great results doing little more than mulch his vegetable garden heavily with wood chips. Free wood chips: http://www.outsideclyde.blogspot.com/.

Being both young AND inexperienced, I'd like to express that not all young gardeners are cynical (ok not true I am cynical about some things but not about gardening).

This year I am starting my very first garden And I freely admit it’s going to cost about $400.As Katie said, however, all you need is seed, soil and water and I fall short on that second one. I live in a very new neighbourhood and the builder’s idea of "top soil" is maybe an inch of something that very vaguely resembles soil and then clay down to the bedrock. So most of that cost is buying something that can support life. Not even the weeds do well on my lot.

I know very little about vegetable growing, but unlike Ms. Reese I seem to know a lot more about reading to get the info I need (my irrigation system is going to cost $65, if I even put it in this year).

Living in the middle of a somewhat large city, I am going to have to drive just past the city limits to get as much manure as I can haul, for free. A nearby farm gives it away once year. I suppose I'll have to borrow a trunk and there will be the stand in line time cost but I can live with that.

I don't know how much food I'll get off my garden (remember first garden) but there are many other benefits that should have financial value attached to it. Like the extra exercise, entertainment value, and the natural cooling effect of plants (any plants) for hot summer days. I'm sure there are more but that’s all I can think of offhand.

All those things and food for $400 that’s one heck of a deal I'd say.
Thank you for your lovely rants

Congratulations on winning a position in the Top Rants of 2009 on Garden Rant - YOU ROCK!

I love this blog and agree; who needs money when you have nature!

Shawna

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