Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Reaping what I sowed

So a good three months after I planted our strawberries, I've gathered in the harvest. Both of them were lovely: sadly, not quite enough for all three of us to have one each. I reckon, allowing for plants and compost, they cost about £2.50 a berry - slightly more than I paid for two vast punnets of delicious ones from the supermarket.
Yup, yet again I've fallen into the annual trap of thinking growing your own is somehow thrifty, rather than being a ruinously expensive hobby.
This year I planted tons of rocket, spinach, lettuce and red mustard seeds; half a dozen strawberry plants; another blueberry bush, to make my supposedly self-fertilising bush actually fruit; some french bean seeds, tomato seeds and (a bit optimistically) red pepper seeds.
And now? The salads have been great: a couple of quid on seed (I had some left over from last year) will keep us in leafage until autumn and has genuinely saved us money. Herbs are also a nobrainer for anyone who cooks.
The blueberries are now fruiting, but as a £10 bush produces a small punnet's worth, it'll probably take about six years before it's in profit. The beans are all flowering and might even cover the cost of their compost.
And the tomato plants are worth it for the gorgeous smell of warm tomato leaves alone, which reminds me of my grandfather's greenhouse when I was tiny. Just as well, since although they're covered in tiny green globes I doubt they're worth it on economic grounds (all that expensive compost again: I know, I know, cheaper if you make your own, but we've not lived in this house long enough to get a heap going).
And to my surprise there are eight pepper plants, although no sign of any peppers. Hell, if they don't fruit they can be recycled as very boring houseplants.
One of the reasons for growing my own this year was to teach my son that vegetables don't all come shrinkwrapped in plastic, and that bit worked. There's something magical about turning a seed into a sprout, then into a flower and a fruit (and not just for three year olds). So educationally, it's been a triumph.
Recreationally, I've rather enjoyed pottering around in the evening sunshine ineptly pinching out tomatoes with a glass of wine. Financially, however, it's been a washout - apart from the salads and herbs, everything would have been cheaper at Waitrose.
I bet I do it all again next year.

6 comments:

  1. This is something people always get wrong about growing your own - it's very very unlikely to save you any money, unless you do things on a grand scale, including home composting.

    There are a few things you can do to save money - buy cheap seeds (Lidl and Wilkinson are good, but quantity-wise Seeds of Italy are very good value as is the Real Seed Company). Compost is expensive but look for special offers at the DIY sheds, and reuse spent compost at the end of the season as a mulch or soil improver.

    Salads and herbs are definitely cost-efficient, and I think beans can be if you grow enough. And fruit trees pay dividends after several years provided you're patient. Hmmm this has got me thinking, there are so many money saving tips I could share - maybe time for a blogpost over at my personal blog, Horticultural!

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  2. It takes a few goes (and the odd expensive mistake) to get things right - but you don't grow your own solely to save money.
    GYO is great for really fresh, better tasting food, which is fun and keeps you fit in the outdoors. The kids learn about food and you feel better into the bargain.
    Stick with beans and tatties, onions and salad...and it is hard to go wrong if you do what it says on the tin.
    In my experience, strawberries are a bugger to grow and, when you get them right, they are all over in a rush. Buy them in or PYO and save the grief!
    Have fun!

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