Friday, January 20, 2012

My Seed Order Arrived!

2012 seed order.  Sometimes I get a little carried away!

Yesterday my seed order arrived in the mail.  I am very lucky to have a seed company in my area that grows a number of plants specifically bred to do well in western Oregon.  Territorial Seed Company has a website, beautiful color catalogs, and is packed with information on each of the seeds they offer.  They also offer a limited selection of live plants, including fruit trees, and a large variety of garden tools and equipment that are difficult to find elsewhere.  My order arrived three days after it was placed (all but the rhubarb root division which doesn't ship until March).  I love TSC and am incredibly glad to have such a great company in my area.  My son was super excited to see the little box arrive, and kept asking if we could plant the vegetable seeds. It was hard to explain to a 3 year old the concept of "Spring" and that it was too cold and wet for the little seeds to grow still.  Some of the new things I am trying out this year are artichokes and rhubarb; and trying my luck on corn and leeks.  Kale and Swiss chard are also new to me, but I doubt I'll have any trouble growing them since they both grow like weeds in this climate year-round.

I think I may have bought too many peas though. Looking at the half pound bags of peas I am a little daunted, and the package says that pea seeds last 2 years, so I have this year and next to make those peas worth my $5.  If a pound of fresh snap peas is between $2.50 and $3.00 in the grocery store, the peas really only need to produce two pounds to be worth the seed cost.  Since peas don't need to be started inside there are no seed starting costs either, and I expect them to pump out at least 10 lbs. of peas in the 12 square feet I will plant.

One day's harvest of strawberries, nearly 5 lbs.  Well worth the cost!
Which brings me to my next subject:  making your garden worth the cost.  Of course any garden is worth the cost.  Aesthetically, as well as in terms of it's habitat and environmental benefits.  However, some of us have husbands that don't grasp the importance of aesthetics, and prefer to see the bottom line when it comes to letting his hard-earned cash go into a piece of dirt.  And finally, after 3 years of gardening, I have been able to show my husband that I can make it worth our while to invest in that dirt patch.

Some of the most money-saving plants in the garden are also some of the easiest to grow: herbs!  The little packets of fresh herbs sold in stores are generally a few dollars each, yet from one $2 rosemary plant you can have as much fresh rosemary as you could ever want or need for the next 20 years, and enough to stock up your friends' spice racks as well.  My parents had a rosemary that they planted as a 4" start when they moved into their house; it died last year, after growing four feet tall and four feet wide over 20 years and putting out so much fresh rosemary each year we resorted to burning it on several occasions because we ran out of room to dry it.  In fact, all of the perennial herbs will grow and produce for many years saving you a lot of money in store bought herbs, both fresh and dried.  Annual herbs also grow more than most people will use each year, you have to replant them every spring, but it's worth it for fresh pestos and dried herbs and all the dill you could want for your homemade pickles.  one of my favorite things to do with all of these herbs is mix up my own Italian seasoning rather than buy more from the store.  And guess what? It's all completely organic!

Most of the rest of my vegetables balance out my costs each year, but the herbs have proven to be my biggest money savers.  Generally fruits and veggies run between $1 and $2 per pound; so if I spend $150 on seeds and plants, and $150 on soil amendments, pest management, and equipment in a season I will need to grow 150 to 300 pounds of produce to make it worth the money.  Each year I get a little closer to this balance point.  The first year I spent a lot more on the garden, and got less in return.  The second year my costs were lower and my returns greater.  Last year my spending totaled around $400 and I got well over 200 lbs of veggies; that's $2/lb. I met my goal!  This year I am planning to weigh each harvest as it comes into the kitchen and keep a running tally to see exactly how many pounds my garden produces.  I'm hoping to bring my costs down to around $1.50/lb. this year, and even lower next year by saving a lot of my own seeds.

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