A few people have commented to me recently that growing one's own vegetables/salad items is not always financially viable... What would you have to say about such claims....?I am assuming that by 'financially viable' they mean 'money expended on the vegetable patch does not exceed the usual shop price of the harvest'. That is, is a vegetable patch economical?
I thought I'd consider the matter on my own blog. There are a lot of variables, so it's hard to make a general case. I can only provide specifics for my situation, and raise some of the issues with the calculations.
Vegetable garden costs per annum:
- Seeds ($80)
- 4 bales old hay &/or sugar cane mulch (say $50)
- Additional water (say 2 hours a week @ 4 l/min = 25 kl *$1.87 = $50)
- Bag potting mix ($10)
- Electricity to run my seedling heating pad at night for 2 months (say $5, but it's probably less)
- Chook food, since the chooks provide the fertiliser and eat insects and weeds ($120)
Total cost: $315 per annum
- Some gardeners buy most vegetables in as seedlings; this is considerably more expensive. Home-collected seeds are, of course, much cheaper.
- I was in two minds about including the hay, as its first purpose for guinea pig bedding in winter. I decided, however, that I would need to mulch the vegies even if I didn't have guinea pigs, so I left it in.
- My chooks are a fundamental part of my vegetable garden, because I tractor them in it for half the year. I rarely move manure about (only when I want it around a plant in the front garden) because the chooks generally deposit it where I need it. Of course, if you don't have chickens, you will have to get your fertilising and pest-killing done in other ways, which are probably going to involve more money.
- Free range eggs, say 2 a day for 9 months= 45 doz (@ $6/doz, that's $270)
Breakeven cost for vegetables: $45 per year
Now I don't weigh and price my harvests as Scarecrow does, but I'm pretty sure that I am getting more than $45 worth of vegies out of my patch in a year!
- I'd probably recoup my $45 on fresh herbs alone. If I didn't grow fresh herbs, however I would probably use less of them in my cooking, rather than buy them in -- so how do I account for that?
- If I grew potatoes, carrots and onions in my back yard, I would not get the dollar value that I do by growing asparagus, fancy lettuces, Tuscan kale, herbs and so on.
- I wonder what the market price of chervil is? I have never seen it for sale, so how do I price it? What about the interesting cultivars I have that are not available in the shops?
- If you have an organic vegie patch, its contents should be priced accordingly. You are not producing forced tomatoes for $2/kg.
- The taste issue is a big one for home gardeners. Even the expensive truss tomatoes aren't a patch on the taste of a fresh, home-grown tomato. Strawberries, peas and sweet corn also deteriorate very quickly, and are never as nice from the shops. But you'll find a 'taste premium' on all home-grown food. Even spuds!