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 June 2011. (Here are the results for 2008 and the results for 2009. We rested in 2010.)

Summer is finally here in our corner of the Pacific Northwest: The birds are chirping, the insects are humming and the garden is producing.

June started cold and wet but has gradually warmed enough to make Kris think this year’s garden is going to be successful. And she needs a successful summer after two straight years of poor tomato harvests — our pantry needs restocking! But those tomato crops are a long way off. At the moment, we’re enjoying our strawberries, peas (both snow and snap), and the lettuce from the window box we keep inside under a fluorescent shop light.

Blackberry blossoms
The tomatoes have burst into blossom, promising heavy harvests in late summer

The strawberries have been a morning staple this month (mixed into yogurt with homemade granola), and the peas are delicious straight from the vines or cut for a crispy addition to our salads. But as much as we like these early crops, the best is yet to come. The zucchini are almost big enough to harvest — maybe this weekend — and the currants are ripening to a gorgeous ruby red. The promises inherent in blossoming crops are making our mouths water: cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, blackberries, raspberries and elderberries, as well as peppers and pumpkins are all blooming like mad. (Do your job, bumble bees!)

Pumpkin and cat
Simon stands guard by the pumpkin plant

From the herb garden, we’re harvesting basil and oregano. The oregano gets dried in the sun, and the basil is added fresh to pasta and pizza. Meanwhile, the apple, pear, and plum trees show potential for sizable crops — if the weather cooperates.

Drying oregano
Drying oregano in the sun (between two window screens)

You may remember that we cut the berry canes back hard this year. Well, you’d never know it to look at them! They’re out of control! We’re expecting a small berry crop this year, but I need to get out there and tie up the canes before they take over the neighborhood. And we spent some time this month weeding our patch of young blueberry bushes and adding bark mulch. The mulch was our only garden-related expense for June ($36), but I think we’ll need to actually add another layer in July.

Blackberry blossoms
Despite being cut back hard, the blackberries are eager to produce.

Based in part on GRS reader feedback, we’re looking for some help with the yard and shrub maintenance since I’ll be traveling more. That will leave Kris able to focus her energies on the food and flowers as the summer continues. Altogether, she estimates we had about eight hours of garden-related labor this month.

Potato patch
Our potato patch is enthusiastic this year

Our harvest for June included:

  • Romaine-type lettuce for six big salads, roughly equivalent to one head = $1.49
  • 3.38 pounds (1.535kg or about 4 pints) @ $2.99/pint for local organic at our farm stand = $11.96
  • 1.10 pounds (0.501kg) peas (snow and snap) @ $1.69/pound = $1.86
  • Oregano and basil = roughly $0.75

That’s a total of $16.06 worth of food harvested from our garden in June, but it’s barely getting started. The next few months should see a bounty of tasty, low-cost food. Yum!

Herb garden
Simon patrols the herb garden to keep it free of squirrels

Yearly Totals
Here are this year’s totals through the end of June. (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 June 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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