July is when things usually start to warm up around here, and the garden takes off accordingly. After winter and spring of just a few things to harvest at a time, we suddenly get inundated as everything starts to ripen at once.
The weather forecast has been in the high seventies to high eighties for more than a week, so we can expect for anything even close to ripe to be ready to pick this month. For the next month or two, we will be sharing produce out of the garden with anyone who comes over; while I could freeze, can and pickle the excess of what we can eat fresh, one of my very favorite things is to share food that I’ve grown.
The same as I reported in my May update, we are still harvesting the last of the garlic scapes and kale, but the scapes are rapidly bulbing at the top and attempting to reseed themselves and the kale is tough and really only good cooked down into ramen. I’m hoping the kale will flower soon so I can save the seed, but it hasn’t yet.
Since my last update, the snow peas have ripened and are mostly past their prime, but they are getting replaced by another garden favorite of mine, the sugar snap pea. With the mini heat wave we’ve had for the last little while (and more heat again next week), I’m concerned they may not fare well, so I’ll be eating these up as fast as I can.
Berry season is in full swing. The strawberries and raspberries have been fruiting for a good six weeks or so and are rapidly coming to a close (though the strawberries will fruit again in early fall). In their place, the first of the blueberry bushes has ripe berries on it and our son has been sharing his “blueberry patch” with his friends (so I guess it isn’t only his mama who enjoys sharing his garden produce with others).
We planted the eight blueberry bushes six and seven summers ago and the long wait is really starting to pay off. We have had berries every season, but last year was our best yet and this year is looking to overtake that harvest by quite a bit. I’m quite enamored with our perennials that have been around for a while because we are really starting to get rewarded for our efforts.
Two of our blueberry bushes are a variety that will supposedly produce twenty pounds of berries each when fully mature, and I’m starting to believe that claim. We may only have a quarter acre, but it’s amazing how much can be grown in a small space if you’re intentional about it and have the time to let plants mature.
The tomato plants are growing like crazy as well, and I ate my first cherry tomatoes this past week! Tomato plants are the very best smell of summer, and it’s hard to beat the sweetness of a fresh picked Sungold cherry tomato.
Thankfully, it looks like we will be harvesting more potatoes this year than last, when a rodent had tunneled through the garden bed and eaten almost all of them. We have an awesome “barn” cat, but apparently he didn’t do a very good job here. We dug up our first potatoes last week and turned them into mashed potatoes for dinner, which we ate alongside sautéed sugar snap peas and garlic scapes. Hard to beat meals where half the ingredients some out of the garden.
This time of year, I usually spend very little, if any, on the garden because everything is planted and all I’m really doing is a little bit of maintenance (fertilizer, weeding) and then harvesting things as they ripen. The only cost the past two months as been a bit of water, but even that has been quite low because we’ve lucked out and had some rain off and on, which waters the garden and refills my rain barrel. I also use leftover water from cooking etc and water the garden with that, so that helps a bit (i.e. boil potatoes and then wait for that water to cool and then use in the garden, or catch cold water in a pot while I’m waiting for hot water).
It’s hard to know exactly how much of my water bill is garden watering, but conservatively I wouldn’t put it at more than $10/month, because I honestly don’t even notice the difference in the summer months. I could be more exact with this if I added up the amount of time the hose is on, but it’s so minor not to be worth doing. Plus, the kiddo loves playing with the water and only gets to when he’s watering the garden (so not wasting it), so garden watering doubles as toddler entertainment.
Garden Cost, July: $10
Garden Cost, YTD: $85.32
So while I’ve spent close to $100 on the garden this year, we have definitely harvested more than that amount in produce in return, largely in the past two months. Organic (while obviously not certified, my garden definitely is) strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries each go for upwards of $4-$7 a pint from the local farmers markets, and we’ve been getting more than that every single day for more than a month now. Add in the potatoes, garlic, kale, peas, asparagus, rhubarb, herbs, and peppers, and the balance sheet of costs is well on our side before the tomatoes, green beans, and hops have really begun to ripen.
That being said, my garden has had a number of years to mature, and it wasn’t initially a net positive endeavor for us. Raised beds had to be erected, soil and seeds purchased, and countless hours spent setting up the garden. It is possible to make a garden a frugal (cash positive) hobby right from the start, but you have to be extremely mindful of that as you get started. It’s easy to look at my garden now and see all the wonderful results that seem to (mostly effortlessly) blossom every year, but like most good things, it hasn’t been without hard work and time.
Do you have a garden? Do you think you save money for it, or is it all for the amazingness of that one ripe garden tomato?