Frugal Living 
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Garden Update: 174.5 oz. of Vegetables

It’s been quite a while since the last garden update and I’m happy to report that our total haul of vegetables is now a respectable 174.5 oz. according to our trust free Stamps.com postage scale.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • 22 oz. Roma Tomatoes
  • 3.9 oz Patio Tomatoes
  • 73.9 oz. Beefsteak Tomatoes
  • 1.4 oz Green Peppers
  • 8.8 oz. Red Peppers
  • 61.5 oz. Eggplants
  • 3 oz. Cayenne

The total value, according to recent vegetable prices, is about $20 compared to about $98 spent on planters, plants, and soil (this doesn’t include labor or water).At first, when I saw how many ounces we’d gotten, I thought we would easily break even… obviously I don’t know how much stuff costs at the per ounce level because we’re only about a quarter of the way there. 174.5 ounces sounds very impressive but it’s really not a lot compared to the hauls I’ve seen others get.

I think the biggest handicap for us is the fact that everything is in planters. The tomato plants have a tremendous amount of potential that simply is wasted on pots. While the pots are pretty big, nothing beats the ground and letting tomatoes grow to their full potential.

But, you play the cards you’re dealt and so far we’re doing pretty good as novice gardeners. (There are plenty of everything hanging off the plants, so we haven’t finished harvesting yet)


 Frugal Living 
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Home Grown Vegetables Taste Better

Heirloom Homegrown TomatoesWhen my wife and started out deck/patio garden, we did it for two reasons. First, we thought it would save us a little money on the vegetables we enjoy eating. That’s how we chose the vegetables that we did: tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and some spices. Second, we thought it would be fun and therapeutic to tend a garden from time to time. So far, it’s been pretty easy and it’s an enjoyable time.

What we didn’t anticipate was how absolutely delicious and authentic home grown vegetables are. Without a doubt, home grown vegetables taste better than vegetables bought from the grocery store. While the jury is still out as to whether it’s better financially (it probably will be), I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that our home grown tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants taste far better than the ones you buy from the store.

That monster of a tomato to the right looks just like our tomatoes. They’re called heirloom tomatoes (we have regular beefsteaks and romas) but I don’t have any cut up tomatoes to show you guys so I chose that little monster. Our tomatoes, on the inside, look just as jacked up as that one! (but delicious!)

More Flavorful!

What’s funny is that I had never eaten a home grown green pepper before and had no idea they actually tasted peppery. I’ve alway had grocery store peppers, which are grown on huge farms with no love and little attention, and they basically tasted like water to me. Tomatoes at the were a little different, they tasted like tomatoes but they don’t taste anything like those we’ve grown ourselves.

Healthier Too!

Some experts are saying that organically grow tomatoes have more nutrients per pound than those grown with the help of fertilizers. I buy that, the fertilizers help the plant grow larger and faster but probably don’t do much for the chemical composition. As a result, you get a lower nutrient per pound ratio but probably the same nutrient per tomato. Anyway, based on the difference in flavor, I bet there’s some truth to what those experts say. You might pay more per pound but you’re probably getting more nutrients (and obviously less pesticides).

Everyone Is Doing It!

One of the surprising things I’ve learned since writing about gardening is the sheer number of people who do it. Very few of our friends garden outside of a couple pepper plants and some spices, we simply don’t live in an area that’s very conducive to gardening, but so many readers have left comments and suggestions and I’m very thankful for all the advice you’ve given us. If you’re on the fence about gardening, give it a try. It’s really easy and there are a ton of resources on the web and at your local library.

(Photo: lifeontheedge)


 The Home 
23
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How to Get Rid of Ants Safely

Ant On A LeafMy wife and I started composted this year and one thing we learned was that ants love our compost. We keep an old 3 lb. coffee can (the same Folgers can in this post) with kitchen compost waste and ants seem to love the chopped up fruits we toss inside. We fill up that can and then empty it about every other week. It really reduces the amount of trash we discard and it will make for some good fuel for our garden next year. But, it’s also a nice little buffet for ants.

(Click to continue reading…)


 Frugal Living 
3
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Garden Progress Update (Plus Bonus Video!)

The Great Garden Harvest has thus far yielded:

  • 1.9 oz. Roma Tomatoes
  • 1.4 oz. Green Bell Peppers
  • 3.9 oz. Patio Tomatoes

How much is that worth? I didn’t do the math but probably less than a few dollars. The bulk of the tomatoes, as you’ll see in the video, has yet to come but there are a lot of beef steaks and eggplants hanging from the branches. Mmmmm!

Before you see the video, here’s a shot of all the veggies as we potted them:
BFP Garden Project: $29 of Garden Loot!

Without further ado (RSS readers will have to click through to see the video):

You can leave comments directly on the video by clicking on the timeline and then the green plus sign.

I recently bought a Flip Mino and have been playing around with it, hence this video. The video is only a few minutes long and I might ramble a little. I took two videos and nixed the first because I got motion sick watching it and I don’t usually get motion sick. :) So, what you get is the second, slightly better take. If you have any tips on video (or gardens), please let me know as I’m a total n00b.


 Frugal Living 
10
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5 Reasons to Start Your Own Garden

(Not My) Home Vegetable GardenEarlier this year, my wife and I started our second annual garden project, after taking one year off, by planting several eggplant plants, tomato plants, and pepper plants in pots on our back deck. So far the project has been quite successful and many thanks to those who have been writing in with their suggestions and ideas. I never had a garden growing up, my wife never had a significant planter garden (growing plants in pots rather than in the ground), and we didn’t have a good idea whether a garden would even succeed on our deck. We failed to remember or record what happened two years ago but I am certain we didn’t plant as many vegetables as we did this year.

So far, the garden project has been a success and one we will definitely continue next year. By writing about it, I also get to record all the things we’ve learned and re-read everything later (along with the valuable comments!). So, if you’re considering starting a planter garden of your own, let me give you five good reasons why you should give it a try.

Be Self-Sustainable

We decided to go all out on our garden this year because we spent our honeymoon in Hawaii. How is that related? Fruits grow like crazy in Hawaii, something about the volcanic enriched soil and the gorgeous weather I suppose, but residents have all types of fruit trees and plants on their property. We stayed at a couple of bed & breakfast type places and at least half of the morning fruits were picked from the trees and plants in the yard. We had bananas, papaya, pineapple, and even some fruits I had never heard of before (and everyone owns chickens there too!).

The thought of being self-sustainable was very appealing. Why go to the store and buy something when I can grow something to eat? I really enjoyed “living off the land” while in Hawaii and this was a small reminder of that.

It’s Therapeutic

One of my friends recently asked me if tending a garden took a lot of time. If it does, I don’t see it as a chore. Every night I water the plants, making sure the little guys get enough to drink, and every few days I check on the plants themselves to make sure they’re still happy. Sometimes I pinch off a few leaves or retie a tie, but it’s a welcomed diversion from the daily activities.

Remember bonsai trees? Those were all the rage once and the appeal of tending a bonsai tree was the therapeutic benefits of trimming a little tree. (I still remember the Saved by the Bell clip showing Mr. Belding killing his tree!) Taking care of your garden is very much like that. You take a few minutes to check up on your plants, pinching off leaves, cutting off fruit, and letting your mind take a little break.

Sense of Accomplishment

Tending a plant so that it bears fruit is never easy and is always a learning experience. We had a little problem with bottom rot on some of our Roma tomatoes a few days back, I asked a few friends and many of them came back with great information. We, mostly our friends, concluded that the tomatoes were deficient in calcium but we couldn’t fix it because we couldn’t find a vendor, within reasonable distance, that carried the supplement. We also concluded that we simply packed too many tomatoes into one pot (3 in one instance) and they were starving each other out (unfortunately there isn’t much we can do about it).

But, the beefsteak tomatoes and the other Romas, in their own pots, are all growing nicely right now. The eggplants and orange peppers are also growing very well. Watching them get bigger and bigger really gives us a sense of pride, that we were able to grow it, and will probably increase our enjoyment of the bounty. Anyone can go to the store and buy eggplant, not everyone can grow it themselves! :)

It’s Safe

First it was spinach, then it was scallions, then it was tomatoes, (and now jalapeños!)… seems like there are outbreaks of salmonella or other bacteria every few months because of the industrial/commercial fertilizing techniques of major companies. When you grow it in your backyard and can control the process, you it’s very unlikely that you’ll introduce salmonella or other harmful bacteria. While growing every piece of fruit or vegetable you’ll eat isn’t going to be possible for most people, growing as much as can certainly can’t hurt!

It’s Cheaper!

It wouldn’t be a personal finance blog if I didn’t talk about money right? Sense of accomplishment, sustainability, and safety are all great reasons but the bottom line is the bottom line. In our economic times, a big reason for growing your own garden is for the cost savings. In our garden, we spent approximately $30 on plants and will easily pay for it in terms of vegetables grown. While we will track the yield and the cost savings, I’m confident saying that we will clear that and likely clear the cost of the dirt and extra planters as well.

Why is it cheaper? It costs more time. You’ll have to spend time potting your plants, watering them, taking care of them, and then harvesting the vegetables. It’s a significant number of hours, especially on the front end when you’re potting, but definitely worth it. While it’s faster to drive to the grocery store and pick up what you need, growing it yourself is a lot more fun.

Try it!

(Photo: socfool)


 Frugal Living 
2
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First Garden Haul: 0.5 oz Roma Tomato!

Yeah… seriously, that’s the first fruit we’ve harvested so far this week. Half an ounce of a Roma Tomato, half of which we had to cut off because of bottom rot, is worth approximately… wait for it… 4.65 cents. Since the number was so small, I decided to go to the hundredths digit. :) We don’t have Roma tomatoes on sale here, from my my pricing notes, so I used the $1.49/lb. price for ripe on the vine tomatoes to reach that haul value, I recognize the two types don’t cost the same but given the small amount I think the approximation is fair. :)

Total Spent: $98.20 (not counting time or water)
Total Earned: $0.0465
Total ROI: 0.047% (beats the stock market!)

We didn’t take a picture of the poor little guy because we didn’t want to embarrass him (or her) but he (or she) did make a nice little addition to my wife’s salad.

Actually, we have several nice and plump eggplants and several beefsteak tomatoes nearing plucking stages so we do have something to look forward to (we’ve also gotten a lot of spices but that’s impossible to weigh on the postage scale). I think in the next week or so we’ll have our first real haul of note so we’re both pretty excited about it.

Mmmmm sustainability FTW!

For all the posts, check out the 2008 BFP Garden Project chronicles!


 Frugal Living 
3
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BFP Garden Project: 2 More “Pots”

Thank you to everyone who commented on the last two garden posts ($29 kickoff and $60 worth of planters), it was based on those comments that we decided to buy some more “planters” (you’ll see why I use the quotes later) and move some tomato plants.

The recommendation was that each tomato have about five gallons of dirt to play in. Our solution was to buy five gallon buckets (we could’ve gone to restaurants and asked) from Home Depot and move some tomatoes out of the party buckets they were in. So, the huge planters now have at most three tomatoes and two five gallon buckets have one tomato each. We’ll be giving the odd tomato out to my parents.

Trip damage: $8 (lost the receipt, it’s something liek that)
Running total: $98.20

Our plants are growing pretty well with nothing too tragic yet. We’ve been having some wet days recently so the little guys are getting plenty to drink, plenty of sun, and things are progressing nicely.

MSN had an article recently about the best plants to grow yourself. They were fruit trees, lettuce, herbs, vine vegetables, and bell peppers. We are growing a few herbs, some eggplants, and bell peppers (orange and green) so three out of five ain’t bad (fruit is out of the question here). I wish we could grow fruit trees. In Hawaii, everyone had fruit trees (and chickens!). So every morning at the bed & breakfasts we would have tons of fresh fruit (that’s not even that much of an exaggeration).

The five plants you should skip: Potatoes, carrots, celery, asparagus and wheat. There’s no chance we would’ve grown any of those. :)


 Frugal Living 
15
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BFP Garden Project: Need More Planters & Potting Soil

This weekend we took our potentially financially viable crop and turned it into a 100% guaranteed financial loss (but no worries, we’re building for the future!). As it turns out, tomatoes need about a quarter of my body weight in dirt to grow to their full potential and we weren’t even close to having that much space for them with the existing planters we had. We knew that tomatoes grew best in the ground but we didn’t have anywhere in the ground to put them that actually got any sun, so planters were our only other option. We clearly did not have enough planters for them so we visited the local Home Depot to pick up planters and some more potting soil.

Trip damage cost: $61.20
Total cost: $90.20 ($29 spent on the kickoff of the BFP Garden Project)

We bought three big pots (two 20″ wide and one 16″ wide) for some of the tomatoes and the eggplant, plus six cubic feet of potting soil. It turns out we got potting soil that was really nutrient rich and had to be mixed in with existing ground soil (it was the type of stuff that had lot of compost in it), so we really only used about 5/6ths of the $23.31 of potting soil we purchased, but now we’re splitting hairs.

Planters for Tomatoes

As you can see in the above, we packed in 4 and then 5 tomato plants in each of the bigger planters and then stuck a tomato with an eggplant in the smaller 16″ planter. We’ll see how the packed in party goes… we didn’t have any other place for the tomatoes so we did the best with the space we have.

I considered doing the proper corporate accounting method of amortizing the pots to make the financials work a little better but what’s the schedule for plastic planter pots? Five years? Seven years? Thirty? :)

Anyway, it’s possible that our $90 investment can yield, in its first year, $90 worth of vegetables but who knows. We’ll keep our eyes on the little guys and you never know!

Anyone have any more gardening advice? Both of us aren’t experienced in the ways of the green so any and all advice is appreciated!


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