Calculating Costs

Here is a log of all the money I have spent on this project in the past month and a half (in what one would think is a logical chronology of purchasing, but it's not how it all worked out).

Initial costs were only $53.75, for the purchase and shipment of 17 different packets of heirloom seeds from Seed Savers Exchange (Ailsa Craig Onion, Listada de Gandia Eggplant, Summer Crookneck Squash, Aurora Pepper, King of the North Pepper, Red Russian Kale, Monnopa Spinach, Black Cumin, Hidcote Lavender, Russian Tarragon, Mrs. Burn's Lemon Basil, Cheyenne Bush Pumpkin, Envy Soybean, Titan Sunflower, Evening Sun Sunflower, Rostov Sunflower, and Taiyo Sunflower--these last four are for a different project, but I guess it's still gardening, so I'm counting it!).

Impatient as I am, I couldn't wait to get started and bought another seven seed packets at the Garden District. I spent $14.10 on Ace Bush Tomato, Correnta Spinach, Common Chives, Palla Rossa Ashalim Radicchio, Greek Mini Yevani Basil, French Breakfast Radish, and Purple Top White Globe Turnip.

More recently, I spent $41.21 at the Garden District to purchase a spray bottle, Neem to get rid of the fungus gnats, and seven more seed packets: Carnival Blend Carrot; Florence,Finocchio Fennel; Garden Broadleaf Sage; Common English Thyme; Italian Dark Green Flat Parsley; Common Oregano; and Slow Bolting Cilantro/Coriander.

I spent $10.53 at Home Despot ($10.53 too much!) on organic fertilizer and the offensive potting soil to start my little babies. That dire soil has since been chucked over a fence.

Over three trips, I spent $261.44, $57.06, and $59.78 at Logan Hardware, next to the Whole Foods on P Street. I got 19 untreated and cut 2x4s, 2 treated and cut 4x4s, 7 bags of 40 pounds of soil, 2 bags of 50 pounds of gravel, 3 boxes of 3-inch nails, a power drill, 2 boxes of 3-inch galvanized screws, 1 queen-size polyethylene plastic mattress cover, 2 grow light fixtures, 2 grow light bulbs, 1 outlet timer, 1 extension cord, and 1 power strip (not for the garden, but it's part of the $59.78 and I'm not going to calculate more than I have to). In addition, I tipped the delivery guys $20--they were good sports about my apartment being the furthest from the loading dock (I'm on 12th floor in the back, the loading dock is on the other side, on the 4th floor).

Ah! I can't forget the $3.50 or so for the drill bits to drill holes. I bought them at a hardware store on Mount Pleasant Street, a few blocks from my apartment. I don't have the receipt for that, but a few cents won't matter, eh?

Kaching, ching ka ka... And my total is... $521.57.


Can we sit back and look at that number just a little bit? If you add in the books I've purchased (about another $100) to teach me how to make cheese, cook, or whatever, and the $410 for my Community Supported Agriculture, well, why, that's $1,000+ that I've spent in the past two months.

Where do I get that money?

All I know is that spending $521.57 to have 18 different vegetables (one has two varieties, but it's the same veggie!, and I have five bean plants germinated from dried food beans) and 8 herbs that I can grow myself is pretty awesome. A lot of it is up-front costs--next year, all I should have to buy are the seeds for whatever plants I didn't save seeds for. If I get just three veggies from each plant this year, I'm thinking it'd be only twice as expensive as getting those same veggies from the farmers' market. That is, of course, pending growth. And that's only per season--growing indoors, I can have more than two seasons, even, in a year! A lot of these plants can be grown continuously. Radish? Takes only a few weeks to mature, I can have five or six harvests in a single year! Large-ticket items like the squash and pumpkin might only be able to be harvested once a year, but they are more just an experiment and for novelty's sake; the radish, spinach, edamame, radicchio, kale, peppers, and all the herbs are what I'm going to be masticating all over on a regular basis.

Over the long term? Definitely a fiscal bonus to grow your own food. I could have done it SO much cheaper, but I wanted to recreate my childhood garden box that I planted in every year on the deck in Arbory. I keep thinking about that box and how I loved, every year, to go out in the spring and till all the dead plants back into the soil; I kept trying to add worms and other beneficial insects to improve the soil and the plants; I bought venus fly traps to keep bad insects away (but they never seemed to want to eat!); I eagerly harvested everything early and was so disappointed in the size of the broccoli heads, so I started growing radishes and green beans because they mature quickly.

The soil in that box could grow anything, it was amazing, because I took care of it--everything I grew in that soil became, in turn, nourishment for future plant generations. If I get vegetables this year, I will be very happy. If the soil develops beneficial flora to help future crops grow excellently, I will be thrilled. Plants come and go and help enrich the soil by returning nutrients to it, but it is the soil that ultimately gives life. Without the soil, we would be nothing--without the right microflora, the soil would be nothing.

I'm almost convinced that one cannot be an obsessive gardener without having a fondness for soil as well. I enjoy watching plants grow and eating them, too, but underneath it all, I know that my tending the plants is only part of their success. I have the utmost respect for soil and its work!

Hm, well, that was off topic!

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