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 September 2011. (Here are the results for 2008 and the results for 2009. We rested in 2010.) This installment was written by Kris while I was packing for Peru.

Our late summer this year meant that our crops were delayed, but when the sunshine came, it came on strong! I was very busy in the kitchen in September, but not so busy in the garden itself.

An almond-pear tart
An almond-pear tart

My records show that since the beginning of the month, I’ve preserved 126 pints of food for pantry and freezer, bringing my year-to-date total to over 263 pints (131 quarts). Not included in those numbers are the dried pears and plums I’ve been able to make from this year’s bumper plum crop from our tree and some of the 50 pounds of Bartletts shared by our neighbor, Roberta. And the fresh fruits and vegetables have meant I’ve purchased only lemons, limes, and onions at the store over the last month; of course, we all know J.D. has purchased pineapple, blueberries, and watermelon!

My pantry is now stocked with jars of applesauce, spiced pear sauce, and apple juice, apple butter, pear butter, pear-vanilla preserves, and plum-anise jam. The freezer has nine quarts of herbed tomato and onion pasta sauce and four pints of oven-roasted tomatoes with olive oil and sea salt. Added to the many pickled items and jams from earlier in the summer, we’re in good shape for the cold and gloomy Oregon winter months ahead! I’ve also made a good number of jams to give to friends for this year’s holiday gifts.

Plums from our tree
Italian prune plums from our tree

Starting to clean up for the season
On one of our last sunny September days, I tore out the bean bushes and cucumber vines. They probably would have produced a bit more (the beans were still flowering), but I was in a mood to clean. Out came the smaller of the two zucchini plants, the dried pea vines, and the gourd vine once I had harvested this year’s gourd crop. Other than that work, the only labor for the month was the time spent harvesting — about 5 hours total.

Potatoes from our garden
Potatoes from our garden

What’s left to come
I’ve only collected about half the potatoes and will dig the rest in October. There are still tomatoes on the vines, but our recent rains may make them split and rot before they ripen. And time will tell about the Concord grape crop as well. I’d love to make some Concord grape juice and jelly — we’re out of both — but without J.D.’s help to harvest it, it will be quite a project. And there are still a number of jalapenos and habaneros turning bright colors on my plants—waiting to be picked and turned in to something much too spicy for me to eat myself!

Tomato sauce, step one
Tomato sauce, step one

After spending so many hours over a hot canning pot in September, I’m ready for the gardening season to end and the enjoying season to begin. Here’s our total harvest for the month:

  • Bartlett pears: 5513 grams, 12.14 pounds @ $1.69/pound = $20.52
  • Cucumbers: 3465 grams, 7.63 pounds @1.49/pound = $11.37
  • New Potatoes: 3405 grams, 7.5 pounds @ 1.49/pound = $11.18
  • Jonathan apples: 48 pounds @ $1.49/pound = $71.52
  • Italian Prune plums: 16662 grams, 36.7 pounds @ $1.49/pound = $54.68
  • Jalapeno peppers: 680 grams, 1.5 pounds @ $1.99/pound = $2.99
  • Tomatoes: 32742 grams, 72.12 pounds @$1.99/pound = $143.52
  • Zucchini: 12 at 50 cents apiece = $6.00
  • Interlaken seedless green grapes: 2274 grams, 5.0 pounds @2.99/pound = $14.95
  • Five decorative gourds: $2.50

That’s a grand total of $332.68 worth of produce in September! That’s a record harvest for any single month, and doesn’t include the 20 pounds of apples and 50 pounds of pears we picked up from friends. Maybe that’ll help make up for the slow year we’ve had so far. Let’s look at the annual totals.

Lunch - a bacon-tomato salad
Lunch – a bacon-tomato salad

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

Our Garden Costs (through September 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?