I AM A PROPONENT OF GROWING YOUR OWN; you just have to check my freezer and pantry the last couple of decades to see that. But a vegetable garden is not without its costs or its commitments—cash and elbow grease both required, and then some. Vegetable harvests, like money, don’t grow on trees. This year, with the economy and increased awareness about our food (think “Food, Inc.”) again spurring an interest in homegrown, I thought I’d periodically detail what my attempts at it cost me. The beginning of any such confessional starts with the seeds, of course:
But first, you know me: There are always disclaimers and notes. (Full disclosure is the policy here.) The notes:
- I am a vegetarian, and put up a lot of food for offseason use. (My seed-ordering philosophy is here.)
- I am a garden writer, meaning I try more things than “normal” types. (Good excuse for shopping, huh?)
- About half my 2010 seed and seed-like items will come from part-used packets from my 2009 order (above); this order will provide seed for next year and beyond for some items—meaning this constitutes about half a true list of varieties, but money-wise what I’d order annually.
- In addition to this list and last year’s leftovers, I will probably impulse-buy $15 worth of vegetable and herb plants in spring at some point. Or even get some more seeds. Oops.
- I order peas in a large (cheaper-by-the-pound) size every other or third year, for instance; same with mesclun and braising mixes of greens (by the ounce). And it takes a couple or few years to use up a packet of tomato or zinnia seeds, even when sharing with a friend.
- Onions would be much cheaper from seed, but need about 10 weeks indoors.
- Unless I have a crop failure, I will not order any garlic this fall; I have enough stock. If I needed garlic, that would add considerably to costs.
- See thoughts on shipping fees, below the order.
My 2010 Order by Catalog
Territorial Seed, $21.55 including shipping.
- ‘Bloomsdale’ Savoy Spinach
- ‘Golden Sunshine’ Bean
- ‘Roodnerf’ Brussels Sprouts
- ‘Space’ Spinach
- ‘Winter’ Red Kale
Fedco Seeds (Moose Tubers), $48.30 including shipping.
- ‘Rio Grande Russet’ organic (5 pounds)
- ‘Yellow Finn’ organic (2.5 pounds)
- ‘Red Gold’ (5 pounds)
- ‘Keuka Gold’ (5 pounds)
- Green Mountain (2.5 pounds)
(Note on potatoes: Where I ordered 5 pounds, I will share tubers with my sister.)
Sand Hill Preservation Center, $12 (no shipping on seed orders over $10).
- ‘Giant Winter Spinach’
- ‘Guatemalan Blue’ winter squash
- ‘Armstrong Early Cluster’ cucumber
- ‘Black Seeded Simpson’ lettuce
- ‘Dukat’ dill
- Black greasy beans
Note: Proprietors Glenn and Linda Drowns have some of the best packet prices anywhere. The dill I ordered is $1.50, and the lettuce (the first one Glenn ever grew as a kid and my first lettuce ever, too, years ago) is $1. Sand Hill prices things accordingly; special things are more, but you get bargains on things they can afford to pass along savings on. And there is no shipping on seed orders over $10.
Renee’s Garden Seeds, $16.11 including shipping
- Bean, ‘French Gold’
- Arugula, Italian
- Arugula, Rustic
- Beans, Spanish ‘Musica’
Kitazawa Seed Company, $23 including shipping.
- ‘Leisure’ Cilantro-Coriander (Chinese Parsley)
- ‘Red Noodle’ Bean, Yard Long Bean
- Upland Cress
- Natsu Rakuten ‘Summer Fest’ Hybrid Komatsuna
- ‘Okame’ Hybrid Spinach
Note: I have never grown upland cress nor the Asian spinach nor komatsuna, nor do I know what they taste like; wish me luck. A reader comment nudged me to try them. Last year I so enjoyed my first crop ever of pak choi that I resolved to try more Asian-style greens.
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange: $12.38 including shipping.
- ‘Riesentraube’ tomato, cherry
- ‘Bull’s Blood’ beet
- ‘Lutz Green Leaf’ (‘Winter Keeper’) beet
- ‘Crosby Egyptian’ (‘Early Crosby Egyptian’) beet
Note: You may have missed (or read) my ode to ‘Riesentraube’ tomato recently.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds, $68.50 including shipping.
- ‘Ailsa Craig Exhibition’ onion plants – 1 Unit
- ‘Copra’ onion plants – 3 Units
- ‘Nelson’ (F1) (Pelleted) carrot
- ‘Bolero’ (F1) (Pelleted) carrot
- ‘Ruby Red’ or ‘Rhubarb’ Chard (OG)
- ‘Speckled Hound’ winter squash
- ‘Naples Long’ winter squash
- ‘Metro PMR’ winter squash
- ‘Ruby Moon’ purple hyacinth bean
- Plus, ‘Beauregard’ sweet potatoes, from Johnny’s, 25 units $15.55 plus shipping.
Important disclaimer: I waste about $20 on shipping. But…I do not accepting free garden-writer samples from seed companies or makers of other garden products. I buy whatever I use. In order to be able to recommend a diversity of sources first-hand, with conviction, I must therefore order from more than a place or two, meaning substantial redundant shipping charges. If I were not a garden writer, I would be more prudent, but I like to try a half-dozen or more vendors each year to keep in touch with the market. I indulge this wastefulness in the name of research.
Total without any supplies to start some of these seeds (and the ones left from 2009): About $222.
- Seedling flats or cellpacks, with waterproof trays
- Labels (can recycle plastic strips cut from yogurt cups or use last year’s from store-bought annuals, etc.)
- Seed-starting light set-up
- Electricity for 14+ hours a day
- Seed-starting mix (NOT potting soil), fresh each year
- Seaweed emulsion or other fertilizer that can be diluted
I guess you could call the above my downpayment on this year’s vegetable garden (remember: minus $20 for wasted shipping; $15 for potatoes that will go to my sister, and probably $30 for my garden-writer experimentation factor). Let’s see how much more it takes, shall we? Onward into another season we go.