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

Welcome to Oregon, where for the past week it’s been hot. How hot? Here’s the temperature graph from the National Weather Service for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday:

The heat hasn’t prevented us from working in the garden. We’ve been watering the thirsty plants, and we’ve begun harvesting their fruit. It’s hard to believe that just three months ago, this was a bare patch of earth. Now it’s grown so lush that it’s difficult to photograph:

But how have our harvests been? Let’s find out.

Currently currants
Remember how last year Kris and I couldn’t find a price for our currants or gooseberries? They’re just not available here in Oregon, so we used the same figures for them as we did for our other berries. But earlier this month we stopped at an Asian supermarket, and they had both gooseberries ($2.99 for 6oz.) and red currants ($3.49 for 6oz.).

So what?

Well, in July we harvested 8.362kg of red currants from our two bushes, which is 18.42 pounds. That’s a lot of currants. Look again at that price in the last paragraph. $3.49 for 6oz. translates to about $9.30 per pound. In other words, we harvested $171.43 worth of red currants this year.

Holy cats!

I have new advice for how to make a garden profitable: Plant red currants — and lots of them!

But what can you do with eighteen pounds of red currants? Kris made two batches of red currant jelly with the most beautiful ruby red color you’ve ever seen. She’s going to enter some in the county fair in mid-August. We also had two friends come glean the extras. Plus there were currants left over to freeze!

More harvest
While the currants gave us a bumper crop, other plants were less productive. The gooseberries didn’t produce much. And for the second year, they fell victim to the gooseberry sawfly. Kris and I agree: Those things are out of here! I’m going to dig them up and we’ll replace them with more blueberries.

Speaking of blueberries, they weren’t very productive this year either. I’m not sure exactly what the problem is, but we’ve harvested less than half the blueberries we did last year. Our raspberries were pathetic for the second year running; they just can’t compete with the vigorous marionberry canes.

Still, harvest season is in full swing. Here’s the complete tally from our garden in July:

  • 18.42 pounds (8.362kg) red currants @ $3.49 for six ounces = $171.43
  • 0.95 pounds (0.430kg) gooseberries @ $2.99 for six ounces = $7.55
  • 4.91 pounds (2.229kg) snow peas @ $2.99/pound = $14.58
  • 1.09 pounds (0.494kg) green beans @ $1.29/pound = $1.41
  • 5.91 pounds (2.681kg) caneberries (blackberries, etc.) @ 2.49/pint (~300g) = $22.25
  • 79 cucumbers @ $1.29/pound (about 5 cukes) = $20.38
  • 11 zucchini @ $0.50/each = $5.50
  • 6 red onions (negligible value)

Our harvest totaled $243.10, but most of that was from the red currants. Without those to salvage our stats, we would have finished behind last July. That’s okay, though. The tomatoes are just about to come on, and we’re going to have a lot more of them than we did last year. The fruit trees will also give us bigger crops than last year since they’re a year more mature.

Summary
As we often do, we also picked fruit from friends this month. We picked cherries from the neighbor across the street, and on July 3rd we drove out to raid the cherries belonging to our friends Ron and Kara, coming home with thirty pounds of mixed Queen Annes, Bings and sour pie cherries. Yum! We also made use of some early apples for a juicing experiment. This “free” produce isn’t included in the numbers below.

Here are the running totals through the end of July:

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
Jul 09 7.0 hrs $243.10    Jul 08 11.0 hrs $20.94 $123.68
Total 09 46.0 hrs $267.37 $342.44    Total 08 39.0 hrs $318.43 $174.51

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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