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

Kris' squash (and feet)After a long productive summer, our September in the garden was kind of anticlimactic. Sure, we continued to harvest our home-grown food, but neither of us was particularly “in” to the garden this month. It was a chore instead of an obsession. September can be that way sometimes.

Still, there’s always something happening with our home food production. This month:

  • We’ve been harvesting lots of apples and plums. It took four or five years, but our Jonathan apple tree has finally turned productive. We pulled down nearly 40 pounds of apples this year! And the plum tree was loaded.
  • The blackberries are still producing, but we’re sick of them. I can hardly believe I’m saying that (blackberries are my favorite), but I’ve had enough berries. And besides, they’re not very good this late in the season. We stopped harvesting them long ago.
  • Kris has been using her food dehydrator to preserve lots of dried pears and plums. This is a great way to extend the harvest and to provide fruit for snacking during the winter. (We also canned lots of applesauce and pickles.)
  • As threatened, we tore out the old blueberry plants. They’re over 25 and their production has slowed tremendously. I’ll tear out the gooseberries next weekend. We’ll buy some new blueberries to replace these plants.

Now we’re just waiting for the grapes to ripen (soon, very soon) and the harvest season is done. Kris and I are both disappointed that, for us, this has been the Summer of No Corn. We didn’t grow any ourselves, and we didn’t have another convenient source. When people did give us corn, it was terrible. Ah well — there’s always next year.

Kris' cucumbers

But what you really want to know is how much we “earned” from our garden in September, right? Here’s this month’s tally:

  • 37.00 pounds (16.798kg) apples @ $0.99/pound = $36.63
  • 2.51 pounds (1.140kg) pears @ $0.99/pound = $2.48
  • 5.57 pounds (2.528kg) Italian plums @ $1.49/pound = $8.30
  • 0.69 pounds (0.315kg) caneberries (blackberries, etc.) @ $2.49/pint = $2.61
  • 1.01 pounds (0.460kg) grapes @ $3.00/pound = $3.04
  • 0.61 pounds (0.278kg) green beans @ $2.49/pound = $1.52
  • 64 cucumbers @ $1.29/pound (about 5 cukes) = $16.51
  • 29 chili peppers @ $0.29/each = $8.41
  • 18 squash @ $0.99/each = $17.82
  • 27.46 pounds (12.468kg) tomatoes @ $1.99/pound = $54.65

As always, we also enjoyed some of the harvest from our friends and neighbors. We obtained 28 pounds of plums from other folks, a bunch of onions from my cousin, and about 30 pounds of fresh-caught salmon and halibut from the millionaire next door when he returned from Alaska. (And Tina offered us as much corn as we wanted, but we weren’t able to pick it.) This “free” food isn’t included in the totals below.

Here are this year’s totals through the end of September:

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
Aug 09 12.0 hrs $186.33    Aug 08 8.0 hrs $123.94
Sep 09 2.5 hrs $151.97    Sep 08 2.0 hrs $152.75
Total 09 65.5 hrs $267.37 $680.74    Total 08 49.0 hrs $318.43 $451.20

I’m a little worried about October. Last year, we harvested over $150 in produce because the tomato season lingered. This year, though, tomatoes are essentially over. Kris and I don’t expect to harvest much more than we already have. Who knows, though…maybe we’ll be surprised. Still, our harvest total for the year is already greater than our total for all of 2008, so we’ve made improvements!

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?

This article is about Food, Frugality, House and Home