How much do you spend on seeds, soil upkeep, & starts? How big is your garden? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 02-10-2014, 02:24 PM - Thread Starter
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Excited to plant a garden this year, planning on doing square foot method this year because my rental already has 3 8x4 ft raised beds!! This will be my third spring in this house, first spring I had just moved & was pregnant, so I got a lot of starts from the farmers markets and mostly grew basics like tomatoes, squash, and a few herb plants. I barely made good use of the beds space wise, and I did not add anything to them! Stuff grew ok, but not awesome. It was more of a last minute thing. Last summer I planted nothing- for various personal reasons. I regretted it, and this year I am more determined than ever to make good use of my space as well as some containers and such.


One of my main motivations is wanting to grow a lot of medicinal herbs. I have been making teas, tinctures, infused oils, etc- and would prefer to have as many live plants as possible. I think I'm getting pretty carried away in my daydreams about which seeds to plant, on top of veggies! Right now I'm at about half & half- half veggies half herbs. Since I want the garden to be more prolific than my lazy attempts, I plan on adding organic compost and fertilizer to the beds before I plant, and mixing my own potting soil with organic products. I intend all of my seeds to be organic (my usual route in years past) and any starts I end up buying from the local farmer's market.


Adding all that up, I see that even with the three beds already being built the cost of all the new seeds, compost, soil elements, and a few containers and starts is going to be a few hundred at least. I kept poor track of my spending in the past- several years ago I started a GIANT garden with a friend on her property and I paid for large amounts of soil, deer fencing, posts, and a lot of starts. I'm not sure what I spent in total. A few years ago with a small garden I only bought a handful of starts and did nothing to improve the soil etc. Since my mission this year is to go as organic and natural as possible and make the most out of my space, it's just a different pricing scheme.


So I am curious- what size of gardens do you all have? How much do you spend on soil upkeep & seeds & such each season? Any tricks to cutting costs? Do you think my predicted expenses are high or reasonable? Just curious! :)

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#2 of 6 Old 02-13-2014, 05:50 AM
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For years I kept track of expenses, but then I never followed through with figuring out how much I harvested.  


My typical annual expenses-

$40 land rental

$9 seeds

$9 seedlings


I save seeds from year to year so only need to buy if I want something new or a different variety.  I buy seedlings when they go on sale late in the season and experiment with things.  I got 4 boy choy plants a few years back for $1 and have been using the seeds from that since then.  I amend the soil with cow manure and chicken poop, at no cost. My biggest expense was fencing to keep deer and groundhogs out.  But I can use that year after year with a bit of repair work.  The land is wetish, but I have a well near by if needed, at no cost.


We are going all out this year and trying to get the most for our money.  Growing the things we eat the most, are the most expensive to buy and will last into the winter (squashes, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, beets, turnip etc) .  And not growing the things we like to have for fun (carving pumpkins, gourds, broom corn)


I also like things that will naturally re-sow. Lettuce, bok choy, tomatillos, spinach, tomatoes, squashes, cukes, pumpkins, etc.  I'm happy to let things grow in random places or to transplant with possible.  Those are the hearty plants!


Good luck!


ETA- size.  About 80'X80' in one spot, and then lots of smaller areas at our house where we grow things like strawberries, asparagus, herbs, lettuces, tomatos, tomatillos, blueberries, raspberries.  Lost a lot raspberries bushes to a new deck, hoping they'll replenish themselves soon.

Me.  With 1 spouse, 4 kids, 16 chickens, 74 matchbox cars, 968,562+ legos, a dishwasher waiting to be emptied, a washing machine waiting to be filled and a lost cup of tea in the house.

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#3 of 6 Old 02-13-2014, 01:10 PM
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If you're buying a lot of external inputs like compost and fertilizer, I'd say your estimated cost of a few hundred is reasonable. I have about a 2000sq ft garden (food, herbs, and flowers) and the first few years were costly because we had limited supplies of our own like compost. Now I spend about $50 on seeds because I'm still trying out different varieties and only save bean seeds right now. I don't buy any starts because it's cheaper to start from seeds and there's more variety. Only other tips are to start composting, use grass clippings (free of pesticide/herbicide etc) to enrich the soil, and use cover crops if your plots are dormant for part of the year. Using grass clippings might save you from buying extra fertilizer this year if you've already amended the soil with compost. There's lots of info out there about making a fertilizer tea from grass.
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#4 of 6 Old 02-14-2014, 07:50 AM
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Medicinal/culinary herbs should not require too much in the way of fertilizer.  You could keep one or two bed for herbs that have leaner soil.  Definitely no fertilizer in those beds--it flattens the flavor of culinary herbs and will probably make for weaker medicinal ones as well.  Some good compost only.


Many herbs, if you buy them from seed, can be difficult to start and a well-drained seed starting medium can help germinate them.  If you can find it, which can be hard sometimes.  Also, see if someone else doesn't have seeds to share, and starts, too.


What kind of fertilizer are you considering?  You don't always mix in the fertilizer in with the garden soil.  Compost might be enough to get your veggies started (more than your herb beds) and then use a side dressing as they start putting on some growth and again later in the growing season.  I am not a great expert on fertilizer.  We use compost and chicken manure from our hens.  Then again, we might not get the big yield others do.


I don't find that organic gardens should really be any more expensive than non-organic, unless a non-organic gardener doesn't spend on compost.  That often happens, but I think it's a mistake in most any garden.  Seeds and starts are going to be expensive, or add up that way, but I can't imagine that 3-8x4 beds would cost "several hundred".  You can find seed pots for free, just call around.  Unless you want something pretty, nursery pots will do just fine.  

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#5 of 6 Old 02-14-2014, 08:08 AM
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our garden is HUGE and we live in Canada and even then we only spend about $300 a year (about the cost of a weeks groceries). Most of that comes from the fact that we are constantly expanding and shifting what we plant and we haven't been seed saving (that will change this year). Regardless getting the seedlings started is always the most expensive/time consuming bit. Our biggest money saver is making our own worm compost. We have a lot of compost materials with 3 teenagers and it felt like throwing away gold when we put it in the city compost bins. We ordered a few worms and put that material to good use!

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#6 of 6 Old 02-15-2014, 03:14 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you all- Yes I assume the cost will be highest this year because I didn't have my own compost from this past year. I plan to in the future! I only planned on fertilizer where needed/ if needed, that wasn't a big deal and it was one of the cheapest things on my list! Some of the medicinal herbs that I know grow well in weaker soil are going to go in a different location than the 3 beds I think, or pots. My plan is to start quite a few of the herbs in doors in seedling mix :)

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