Every month, my wife and I track how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for May 2009. (Here are the results for 2008.)

What a difference a year makes! Our fruits, berries, and vegetables had a slow start last year (and then were further slowed by a cold, cold June). This May was warm — very warm. Our food crops loved the weather, and they’ve shown explosive growth.

As a reminder, here’s what the garden looked like at the end of April:

A blank slate…

And here’s what it looks like now:

Tomatoes, onions, peas, cucumbers, squash…they’re all here!

First harvest
The sunny weather produced lots of growth. The peas and raspberries and blueberries and fruit trees all look amazing. We’re going to have huge crops. We have a couple of small snow peas on the vine, and the tomatoes are blossoming. But only three crops have yielded fruit through the end of May:

  • In its fourth year, our asparagus finally produced a crop. It wasn’t much of a crop, but it was a crop. We harvested 31 spears (about 520 grams). I went to the grocery store last night and measured five bunches of asparagus. They averaged 20 spears, about 500 grams, and cost $2.99 each. I figured that our asparagus was worth $3.11.
  • Kris added some strawberry plants to our patch. (Our strawberries live intermingled with the roses.) They’ve been producing fruit for several days, which means they’re a week earlier than last year. So far, we’ve harvested 325 grams (0.72 pounds) of strawberries worth about $2.86.
  • We’ve also begun to harvest radishes. “The radishes are a failed experiment,” Kris told me today. “They’re easy to grow, but we don’t like them, so we can’t count them for the project. In fact, I hate the radishes so much that I have to spit them out in the sink whenever I try them.” So, we won’t count this third crop as worth anything.

That puts our May harvest at $5.97, which isn’t much, but it is still $5.97 more than we harvested in May last year.

Though our garden is going well this year, we’ve experienced some minor annoyances:

  • For the second year, the gooseberry sawfly larvae stripped the leaves from the gooseberries. Kris is cutting her losses. She says the gooseberries can come out, which makes me happy. Those things have nasty thorns. Besides, I can now plant two more blueberry bushes! (I love my Toro blueberries — very productive in a small space.)
  • Kris is still waging a war against the slugs. This is an annual battle, one in which she’s tried nearly every recommended remedy. The slugs are threatening her precious cucumbers, marigolds, and sunflowers. But this year she’s trying a new strategy: she’s losing the battle to win the war. She planted more of each variety than usual, and is just accepting that she’ll lose a certain number.
  • Finally, we’ve had some equipment failures. Our spray nozzle broke. Kris tried to fix it, but it was beyond repair. The same is true of the soaker hose, which sprung a gusher at the connector.

These aren’t major problems, obviously — they’re just minor annoyances. We try to take care of our equipment, but there are a few failures every year. Partly because of this, May was an expensive month. (It was also expensive in 2008.) We spent $98.55 on garden supplies, including herbs and vegetable starts.

I spent zero hours in the garden this month. I did a few quick tasks, but no major work. Kris made up for that. She tells me she spent 15 hours on food-producing activities last month. I’m skeptical. That’s 40% more than our busiest month in 2008 (July). On the other hand, she did do a lot of work out there. (She tells me that just as some GRS readers warned, the horse manure we spread last fall has produced a fine carpet of weeds, which she hoes daily.)

Here’s the monthly summary for May, including comparison data from 2008.

Month Time Cost Harvest    Month Time Cost Harvest
Jan 09 3.0 hrs $131.15    Jan 08 4.0 hrs $27.30
Feb 09 12.0 hrs $36.67 $10.00    Feb 08 2.5 hrs
Mar 09 4.0 hrs $1.00 $5.00    Mar 08 3.5 hrs $130.00
Apr 09 3.0 hrs    Apr 08 5.5 hrs $28.51
May 09 15.0 hrs $98.55 $5.97    May 08 5.5 hrs $110.89
Total 09 32.0 hrs $267.37 $20.97    Total 08 21.0 hrs $296.70

Share your progress! I’d love to hear about other people’s gardens. Especially if this is your first time growing your own food, please chime in with what you’re doing and what you’re learning.

Final word
This garden project is not a formal experiment. Kris and I are long-time hobby gardeners, and we have set ways that we do things. This year, we’re trying to incorporate some new ideas from GRS readers, but most of the time we’ll do things the way we have for nearly 15 years.

We’re not trying to be 100% organic (though we are mostly organic through our normal practices). Nor are we trying to be 100% frugal. Instead, we’re trying to see just what our garden costs and produces based on our normal habits. We hope the results of this experiment will help us find new ways to economize and to improve our crops.

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

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