Did you know that as of February 14th of this year, the average Canadian has earned enough income to pay for an entire year’s worth of groceries? The Canadian Federation of Agriculture calls this Food Freedom Day. And even though we’re not spending a lot on food, Canadian debt is so high that many are using that income just to stay afloat. Could a vegetable garden be the answer to alleviating some of that financial stress they’re carrying? It’s possible – depending on your level of commitment.
Start Up Costs Go Beyond Seeds
Three years ago, my landlord gave me a 10-foot by 14-foot space for a vegetable garden. I was excited. We’re lucky enough to rent half of a house that sits on 35 acres in the country. The soil is perfect and with horses on the property, we have access to some beautiful compost, perfect for fertilizing the garden. Keen to get started, my partner and I drew up plans, bought seeds and started digging. We thought we’d be saving a ton of money if we grew our own food. Boy, were we wrong.
Depending on where you live, the cost of starting a garden can be high. It’s easy to think of the cost in terms of seeds only, but gardening requires tools, fencing and a lot of hard work. Because we live just outside of the city, our garden had to be protected from animals, like raccoons, skunks, rabbits and deer. That meant buying expensive fencing and posts to hold that fencing up. We also needed tools; a rake, several shovels, tools for weeding and a wheelbarrow. We also had to purchase a hose and a sprinkler system, plus posts to hold up beans, peas, tomatoes and cucumbers. Needless to say, the first year wasn’t cheap. The good thing, though, is that everything we bought in our first year could be reused in the next, making later costs much lower.
Food For Thought
That first year with the garden was a tough one, but I learned a lot. Here are a few vegetable garden tips to consider before setting spade to soil.
1. Gardening is hard work. It sounds easy, right? Just dig a plot, plant some seeds and reap the rewards. Unfortunately, tit’s more of an investment than that. Yes, it’s true; you can get up to $600 worth of vegetables on just $70 worth of seeds, but once you factor in all the time and energy you’ll be spending on your garden, it might not be worth it. With that said, the best produce I’ve ever had came out of my garden, so it depends on what “worth it” means to you.
2. Gardening season isn’t that long. By the time it’s safe to put seeds in the ground, it may be just before June. In the first few weeks, you’ll get nothing out of your garden except maybe some greens and radishes. By July, though, your garden will be thriving – until about September when school starts and fall signals the end of many vegetables’ life cycles. Keep that in mind when you put your garden in – you’re only getting about two months’ worth of food out of it.
3. There will be pests and fungus. I didn’t think about pests and diseases when I first planted my garden. In the first year, I lost almost all of my tomatoes to a late-season blight. For some reason, my parsnips and carrots didn’t grow, flea beetles ravaged my eggplants, and something wouldn’t leave my greens alone. I never did get any pickling cucumbers – they were all misshapen – and the peppers only grew to the size of my thumb. Needless to say, I was disappointed. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. I still got a fair bit out of my garden – and I learned a lot.
4. There will be weeds – lots of weeds. You’d think that weeds wouldn’t be a problem in a 10-foot by 14-foot garden, but they were. In fact, I couldn’t keep up with them. But if you want your garden to reach its full potential, you’ve got to get the little suckers out.
5. You might not be able to eat all that you grow. One never considers the fact that a small space can produce a lot, but it sure did. In fact, I had more squash, zucchini, and cucumbers than I knew what to do with. For two months of the year, you’ll be eating nothing but vegetables.
6. Gardening is hard work… I mean it! I need to say this again because it’s true. You need a certain level of stick-to-it-iveness to keep a garden going. But if you do it right, it can be a most rewarding experience. If anything, it’ll make you better appreciate what farmers deal with everyday – on a much larger scale.
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