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 October 2011. (Here are the results for 2008 and the results for 2009. We rested in 2010.) This installment was written by Kris while J.D. is traveling in Peru.

Our gardening season is complete for 2011. After an initial burst of cold and rain, our October weather was surprisingly pleasant. The garden plot has been cleared and is ready for us to rake leaves over it for the winter. The birds are enjoying the dried sunflower heads, and I’m waiting for a hard frost to cut back the asparagus ferns.


Habaneros and jalapenos—made a garlic chili relish for the people who like things HOT!

October means grapes around here, as well as the end of the apples and tomatoes. I made final harvests of our chili peppers and potatoes, and I’ve been carefully meting out my precious remaining plums and last batch of fresh salsa from the fridge. It will be many long months before we have any fresh produce from our own yard.

Final tally for food put-up to date: 333.5 pints! That’s a lot of jars, and the pantry under the stairs is stacked high — more boxes are stored in the basement. That also includes the preserves that will be part of this year’s holiday gifts to our friends — we love our tradition of exchanging homemade treasures. I look forward each year to planning what I will make to share. As my friends are increasingly good at humoring me by returning my jars, and the fruits/vegetables are generally free, the cost of these gifts “boil down” to sugar and pectin! (Ha — that’s a canning pun!)


The pantry under the stairs

Oregon’s many wineries are worried about a poor harvest this year, but our grapes had their best year ever. In addition to harvesting from our own vines, I was able to pick about 30 pounds of Concord grapes from our neighbor (the millionaire next door) and made J.D.’s favorite juice and jelly to welcome him home.


One part of the grape harvest—that’s about 10 pounds

Garden clean-up and harvesting totaled about six hours of labor for the month. Here are the numbers:

  • Tomatoes: 4726 grams (10.41 pounds) @ $1.99/pound = $20.72
  • Seedless and seeded grapes: 24 pounds @ $2.49/pound = $59.76
  • Jalapeno and habanero peppers: 1151 grams (2.54 pounds) @ $1.99/pound = $5.05
  • Zucchini: one! = $0.50
  • Apples: 7.7 pounds @ $1.49/pound = $11.47
  • Potatoes: 9.5 pounds @ $1.49/pound = $14.16
  • Herbs (all summer’s worth: rosemary, basil, thyme, sage, & chives): $50

That’s a total harvest worth $161.66 in October with no out-of-pocket expenses.

Lessons for the year
Some of our crops this year were small (currants, blackberries), bringing our annual harvest value down. But despite that, this year’s overall profit is higher than for the other years we’ve tracked our progress. Why? First of all, our costs were very low this year — we’ve got the main garden infrastructure established and didn’t need to purchase many items. In addition, I was very selective in my choice of seeds and plant starts this spring. And perhaps even more importantly, our maturing plants are producing substantial crops of asparagus, apples, plums, and grapes.

I look forward to next year’s crops from these perennial plants, as J.D. and I have been discussing taking a year off from the vegetable garden of annuals in 2012. I’ll turn my attention to the somewhat neglected flower beds instead and we’ll enjoy eating the pantry down. I think I may have enough jam to last us until 2018!

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

Oct11-Garden

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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