I estimate that I harvested between $100.00 and $200.00 worth of food out of the raised beds, and spent less than an hour per week maintaining them. I put about $10.00 worth of plants/seeds into this year's garden, so I would consider that a good investment. Other years have been better, so next year I really want to focus on yield and growing vegetables that pay. This year I grew a few crops (onions an tomatoes) that took up space but didn't produce a lot of monetary value.
If you have access to dead leaves in the fall and grass clippings during the warmer months, this method is for you. If you have chickens or other animals to provide manure, this method is especially for you.
Excuses People Use for Not Gardening
"You're so lucky to have all that land, and animals to provide compost. I live in an apartment/in town, so that's why I don't garden. If I had enough land like you do, I would garden."
"That's nice that you can grow your own food, but I actually have a job. You don't work, so you have time to spend all day in the garden."
"I liked your book about eating for $10.00 per week. But it doesn't really apply to me because I don't have a garden. How am I supposed to spend that little on food if I don't have a garden?"
Some people are honest and just say they don't want to have a garden. That's great!! You don't have to have a garden to have a worthy life. If you don't want to garden, the conversation can stop right here.
I'm not being judgy by trying to get you to garden- it's just an easy way to save a lot of money on food (especially organic food, which I know a lot of my readers like). If you are trying to pinch pennies and there is any way possible for you to have a garden, I think you should at least try it. And then try it a few more ways, just to make sure you're not missing anything before you call it quits.
The truth is that you DON'T have to have a lot of land to garden. A little yard or even a couple of flower beds (sowed in vegetables, of course) will be enough room to grow plants to save money on food. Another truth is that I don't spend that much time growing fruit and vegetables for us to eat. I've tried to explain this in my video above. And lastly, it IS impossible to eat for $10.00 per week when you aren't growing at least some of your own food. Maybe someday I will write another book about how to eat for $20.00 per week without a garden.
Ideas for City-Dwellers
One of the drawbacks of living without a yard (for example, being in an apartment) is that you can't easily have a garden. However, your town might have a "community garden" that you can be a part of and get vegetables that way. The other thing city-dwellers can do is "spin farming", which is using other people's compost and backyards to grow plants in. You do all of the work, they provide the property, and you both split the harvest.
Thoughts On Time Management
If you don't think you have enough time to garden, evaluate all of your money-saving activities. I only save $3.00 per hour of line-drying clothes. I only save $1.00 per hour making tortillas.
If I spent 20 hours on my raised bed gardens and only harvested $100.00 worth of produce, I would still be saving $5.00 per hour.
That means my time is worth more gardening that it is line drying clothes OR making tortillas; two popular frugal activities that many people think are worth their time.
Changes for Next Year
Here are some things I plan on doing differently next year with my garden.
1. Do less row gardening and more raised bed gardening. This is always a goal!
2. If I do plant a row garden, lay down plastic instead of tilling. I discovered this year that I didn't have enough mulch material to mulch between the plants (not the rows, just the plants) in my row garden. I mulched the first few rows, but when we rototilled the pathways in between, the tiller just pulled off all of my mulch. It was kind of depressing, especially because I didn't have any more mulch. This left me hopelessly weeding in fits and starts. I despise weeding!
3. If I do a row garden next year, I will at least cut it in half. I haven't done corn or carrots well in raised beds, so those two crops will need to be in rows or patches if I decide to do them next year. However, other things can be planted in the raised beds.
4. Only grow one or two tomato plants. I will let these grow up volunteer and transplant them. Like last year, my tomatoes overtook a lot of the garden and I had way too many.
5. Work more on picking off bugs and organic pest control.
Other than those few things, I was pretty satisfied with my garden this year.
How did your garden grow? Are there some things you were very happy with, or disappointed with?