During 2008, my wife and I will be tracking how much time and money we spend growing food in our garden. (Important note: Kris tells me she is not going to track her time, which may throw a monkey wrench into the works, but I’m going to do my best to coax her into providing this information anyhow.) January is always a slow month in the garden, but it’s also full of promise. It’s time for our first chores of the year!

Pruning and staking
Early in January, Kris and I spent fifteen minutes together in the yard re-staking our fruit trees. We have two apples, a pear, and a prune. They’re inclined to grow a little crooked, so every spring we make sure they’re securely fastened to their stakes. It looks like we should also be doing this every autumn. Cost: $0. Time: 0.5 work-hours.

Last weekend, I pruned our grapes and caneberries. This is always a little scary — I don’t exactly know what I’m doing. But once I get started, I’m able to fake it. With the blackberries and raspberries, it’s obvious that last year’s canes are dead. With the grapes, I just make it up as I go along, pruning the vines back to the wire, leaving a couple buds on each spur. This is a fun job for me. I love to prune. Cost: $0. Time: 0.75 work-hours.

The seed order
In the middle of the month, Kris placed an order for seeds. As usual, she exchanged ideas with a couple fellow gardeners, and they pooled their resources. A packet of seeds contains more than we need, so it’s nice to be able to share the cost with friends. Kris says she won’t plant anything until March, but I know that as soon as we get a sunny day or two, she’ll be itching to get to work. Here’s a glimpse of her spreadsheet:

“How long did it take for you to order the seeds?” I asked Kris when I started writing this article.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe three hours.”

“Three hours?!?!?!” I was flabbergasted.

“It’s not like it’s hard work,” she said. “I’m just sitting there with the catalogs, dreaming.” That’s my wife: dreaming about seeds. For our purposes — and in order to get a nice round number at the end — we’re going to say that she spent 2.75 hours selecting and ordering seeds. Her cost was $27.30.

(Update: We use Totally Tomatoes for that fruit, and Territorial Seed for most everything else.)

Year-to-date total
January was quiet. We spent 4.0 hours working on our fruit and vegetable gardens, and spent $27.30 total. February will see more action. We need to fertilize certain plants, prepare our indoor planting material, and prune the fruit trees. Best of all, we’ll plant the peas. Things won’t get really time-consuming until March, however. (Well, there’ll be plenty of other yard-work — it just won’t be food-related.)

You can read about my goals for this series in The year-long GRS project: How much does a garden really save?

This article is about Food, Frugality, House and Home