Welcome to the GRS Garden Project. Every month, my wife and I track how much time and money we spend growing food. This is the report for April 2011. (Here are the results for 2008 and the results for 2009. We rested in 2010.)

After a long vacation in February and a wet, dreary March, Kris and I finally were able to do a little work on our vegetable garden in April. Sort of. The weather remained chilly and damp throughout the month, so we didn’t get as much yardwork done as we’d like. (The average high temperature for April 2011 was 4.5 degrees below normal. The average low was 2.1 degrees below normal. Rainfall was 5.04 inches, almost twice the average for the month.)

Waiting for the sun
Though we couldn’t really plant anything until the last day of the month, Kris has been itching to get in the garden, so she’s been doing a lot of maintenance and clean-up. She and I put a total of twelve hours into our food-producing gardens in April (though eleven of those hours were hers). Most of these hours were spent pulling weeds, digging out old overgrown herbs, and getting the gardens ready for planting. (We opted against using the rototiller this year, so it took longer to prepare the plots.)

Chives (and Weed)
A big, furry weed in the middle of the chives.

In mid-April, we attended the neighborhood plant swap, where we were able to pass along plants we no longer need (or want) while picking up others that might be more useful. Kris brought home parsley, tomatoes, and lovage (a celery-tasting herb). She also scored lots of perennial flowers. (But we don’t track flowers in our garden project, thank goodness. That’s purely for fun.)

Plant Swap
At the plant swap, Mike and J.D. enjoy some fleeting moments of sunshine.

At the plant swap, our friend Craig gave us three kinds of lettuce seeds and some plant-marker stakes made out of old mini blinds. (What an awesome idea!) Though we never have success with lettuce, Kris planted some indoors, and we’re giving it a go. She also has some basil started in a window box.

Blossoms and sprouts
Meanwhile, most of our fruits and berries have begun to blossom, and our early crops are finally starting to show some life. The apple trees, for instance, are in full bloom, as my allergies can attest:

Apple Blossoms

In January, we cut back our blackberries and raspberries hard. (“You’re not going to get any fruit on those this year, you know,” my real millionaire next door told me. “I know,” I told him. “It’s a price I’m willing to pay.”) Now, though, the caneberries are sending up lots of new growth.

Blackberries

The grapes and blueberries currants are blooming, too. The peas are up, though they’re behind, and we’ve harvested a few spears of asparagus.

Peas

Asparagus

The peppers are in a container this year so that they can have warmer soil than the rest of the garden will get. We’re hoping this will make them more productive.

Pepper Pot
Kris’ frugal greenhouse: A garbage bag over the pepper pot

The tomatoes are currently in Kris’ mini greenhouse. They’ll stay there until the garden soil warms — our night-time temperatures are still in the low forties, about five degrees below normal — or until they get too big, whichever comes first.

Greenhouse

In short, we’re being patient. When the weather turns warm, we’ll be ready to plant things out. If we’re lucky, by the end of June, we’ll be writing about sunny days and sweet, delicious berries.

Monthly Totals
At the Oregon Master Gardeners plant sale, Kris spent $28.25 on plants for the vegetable garden. She bought:

  • nine tomato plants
  • one cucumber
  • four chili peppers (I picked out two of the plants)

Kris also bought some herbs. “But they’re decorative herbs,” she tells me. “They’re for the flower garden, not for the herb bed.”

I also spent $15.98 on a bag each of potting soil and compost, bringing our total expenses to $43.23.

All we harvested in April was about 263 grams of asparagus. Asparagus goes for $2.99 a pound at the local natural-food store, which means we’ve reaped about $1.73 in “revenue” from our garden so far this year. We won’t really start getting our money’s worth until June, when the strawberries begin to ripen. (I can hardly wait!)

Yearly Totals
Here are this year’s totals through the end of April. (Note that I’ve started a Google spreadsheet to keep track of this data. Posting a screenshot of this is much easier than updating an HTML table by hand.)

Our Garden Costs (through April 2011)

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 more than 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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