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

It’s the beginning of summer, and that means our garden is lush and green and growing. It also means there’s nothing exciting to write about. We’ve begun to harvest a couple of things, but mostly our chores have become routine. We weed and fertilize while we wait for the crops to ripen.

One problem we’ve encountered this year is weeds. There are always some weeds to be pulled, but as many GRS readers warned, spreading horse manure on our vegetable garden caused more weeds to sprout. Kris is the weed-puller (and plant-fertilizer), so she puts the most hours into the garden. She spent four hours working on food crops this month, while I spent three, all of which were harvest-related.

Harvest
As our harvests begin, I want to remind you of our methodology. For the purposes of this project, we’re using “best match” pricing. Based on GRS reader suggestions, we’re obtaining typical pricing from our local farmers market. In some cases, we use pricing from a local organic produce stand. In all cases, we’re trying to be fair, but this is more art than science.

Also, last year we established through repeated measurements that a pint of berries weighs roughly 300 grams. I’ll use this approximation frequently throughout the summer.

Those ground rules established, here’s our harvest for the month of June:

  • 13.55 pounds (6.151 kg or about 20.5 pints) strawberries @ $2.99 per pint = $61.30
  • 5.17 pounds (2.344 kg) snow peas @ $2.99/pound = $15.45
  • 0.31 pounds (0.139 kg) raspberries $3.49/pint = $1.62

Our harvest this month was worth a total of $78.37. In June 2008, we harvested $50.83 worth of food. That’s a 54% increase in the value of our crops!

Despite the correct pruning we gave them this year, our raspberry harvest looks as though it’s going to be pitiful. The culprit? They’re overcome by the monstrous marionberry vine that has taken over the entire trellis. We may relocate the raspberry canes, so will evaluate the yard for a suitable spot and decide later this summer. However, there is a silver lining; we love marionberries (a type of blackberry-boysenberry cross).

Summary
And so the profit portion of our project has begun! July, August, September, and October will be even more productive as we begin to pick our caneberries, our tree fruit, and, especially, our tomatoes.

For now, here’s the monthly summary for June, 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
Jun 09 7.0 hrs $78.37    Jun 08 7.0 hrs $0.79 $50.83
Total 09 39.0 hrs $267.37 $99.34    Total 08 28.0 hrs $297.49 $50.83

As always, we’ve been supplementing our own produce with food picked elsewhere. Last weekend, our friend Jolie joined us for a trip to the strawberry patch. Kris and I picked 24 pounds of berries (about two flats), for which we paid just over $20.

On Friday, our neighbor came over to let us know that her cherries were ready to harvest. We’ve decided not to preserve any cherries this year, but we picked about 10 pounds just for snacking.

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?