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

We had a strange July in our garden. First, the cool weather lingered longer than it ought to have. It wasn’t cold and wet, but the days were cool. Then we were gone for much of the month: Alberta, Colorado, Washington. Finally, our harvest was much smaller than in previous summers.

Part of this was because gave most of our currants to a friend, and our new blueberry plants (we replaced the old ones last year) produced fruit, but it went unharvested. (Translation: I wasn’t around/didn’t remember to pick the fruit, so we got none. This is a dumb way to garden.)

Our garden

July totals
The low production, the donated fruit, and the wasted berries meant our numbers for the month were pretty pitiful. Our harvest for July included:

  • Strawberries: 310 grams at $2.99/pint = $2.42
  • Peas: 1474 grams at $1.69/lb = $5.49
  • 12 pickling cucumbers (1403 grams) at $1.99/lb = $6.15
  • Red currants: 990 grams $3.49 per 6 oz. = $20.32
  • 12 zucchini at 50 cents apiece = $6.00
  • Green beans: 1446 grams at $2.99/lb = $9.52

That’s a total “profit” of just $49.90, which is way behind the previous two years we’ve tracked the numbers. (This total doesn’t include the cherries we picked from neighbors and friends. That 13 pounds of fruit was worth roughly $32.)

We also had some minor expenses in July:

  • Garden sprayer for fertilizer = $12.99
  • Liquid calcium supplement = $5.99

The good news? August has been awesome so far. We’ve harvested a lot of beans, peas, cucumbers, and more. If the sun continues to shine, we’ll have a great tomato harvest. And the fruit treas are loaded! In three weeks, we hope to be sharing some big numbers with you.

Zucchini-basil pesto
This section was written completely by Kris.

I don’t know about your garden, but mine produces way more zucchini than I can ever eat. And although my basil is thriving, it’s put to shame by the zucchini. How happy was I to find a frugal pesto recipe in our local paper that uses plentiful zucchini as an extender in a Zucchini-Basil Pesto? It replaces expensive pine nuts with more affordable almonds, but don’t skimp on a good quality cheese—it really kicks up the flavor of this mild summer pesto.

Zucchini-Basil Pesto
(makes two cups)

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and sliced (2/3 cup)
  • 3 to 6 medium garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons almond slivers or chopped almonds
  • 1 medium raw zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice (7-9 ounces)
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice (preferably fresh)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

To make the pesto: Melt butter in a medium sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the almonds and shallot and cook until the shallot is softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 45 seconds. Transfer the almonds, shallots and garlic to a blender and add the zucchini, basil, lemon juice, and cheese. Pulse until finely chopped. With the blender running, slowly add the 1/4 cup olive oil, stopping to stir the ingredients occasionally. Blend until smooth and season with salt and pepper.

I’ve adapted the recipe slightly to my taste and I use the lesser amount of garlic because I can find it overpowering. Feel free to make changes of your own and play around with it! This pesto would be good with pasta, grilled chicken, or as a dip or sandwich spread. This recipe makes about two cups — a pesto recipe using only basil would need about four cups of basil leaves instead of the one cup required here — and freezes well in small portions.

Yearly Totals
Here are this year’s totals through the end of July. (Note that I’m using 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 July 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?