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.

Currently Harvesting

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).

Every day of berry picking right now

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.

If only sugar snap peas lasted longer

Cost

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.

Nothing makes me happier than a full day’s harvest

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?

40 thoughts on “Summer Garden Update: July 2018

  1. I harvested some amazing mega zucchini from my garden this year, but overall I made a lot of mistakes so I’m definitely in the negative. But it wasn’t bad for a first time! Awesome work with your garden or looks like all the initial input really paid off!

    1. Ahhh the mega zucchini. I think that’s a right of passage when it comes to gardening 😂

  2. Those fruits and veggies look delicious! No garden for us as of yet at the current house. Gotta move a lean-to that was here when we bought it first as there’s no other ideal spot to install one without interfering with some of our open yard reserved for sports.

    We’ve been making do with a 1/2 share in a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) plan the last few years, and have been pretty pleased by and large. $10/week since we bought the share on sale, and most weeks we get the equivalent of $20-25 in what it would take to buy equivalent produce in the store.

    The added benefit is that the fruits and veggies are local, fresh off the vine / bush / tree, and have excellent flavor. No bland store-bought stuff anymore!

    We put in an orchard of 18 dwarf fruit trees back in 2015, and it looks like this year will be our first with significant fruit. The peaches look great and we’ll have some apples too, though the plums and sweet cherries all dropped prior to ripening.

    We usually u-pick about 25 pounds of blueberries per year and freeze them for use in smoothies and as a cold treat throughout the year. We’re big believers in edible landscaping and are considering several varieties of blueberries for some foundation landscaping. The Top Hat cultivar has us intrigued.

    What varieties did you plant with a 20 lb. yield? Did you perform any significant soil amendments prior to planting? I know blueberries can be picky about PH levels.

    1. Love that you have a mini orchard! We don’t have a large enough yard for that but that is the one thing I really wish I could have.

      Mmm I really wish I could remember what variety they are. Let me do some digging and see if I can figure it out. I’m actually not a big fan of the Top Hat flavor, but I like my berries pretty tart. As far as soil amendments, lots of coffee grounds seem to go a long way since berries like acidic soil.

  3. That dinner looks so yummy! I know what I will do with our land once we have some more time. Maybe I can plant the blueberry bushes right away…

    1. Blueberry bushes are SO easy! Even if you just started them in a pot for a season or two, I’d go for it.

  4. i think we have 1000 blackberries and those 3 plants (thornless) exploded to about 7 feet tall this year. the currants are likely to go past their prime unless we get ’em this week. thise blueberries look great. i guess i won’t give up on my 2 plants yet. they’re about 3 years old now but i never got the acid down on them this year. nice harvest. the corn is perfect in the midwest right now. 2 bucks for 6 ears makes it hardly worth planting but onions and potatoes are highway robbery here.

    1. There are so many wild blackberries here that I never have bothered to plant any, but thornless sure is tempting sometimes haha

  5. Looks great! I didn’t plant a garden this year because I knew I’d be moving and wanted to save the money and the hassle, so I’m experiencing garden FOMO with bloggers who are doing it. lol!

    1. There will be future year for a garden! But I can definitely understand the want of a garden even when it doesn’t make sense 🙂

  6. We have been expanding our garden bit by bit every year. This season was the most we put into it and hope to continue to grow it. I never seem to put enough lettuce and kale in and missed out on spinach oops. Next year peas are on the list and green onions. I also want to build some raised beds as our friends have their whole yard in them and can’t believe how much they are able to grow out of them.

    1. I am a HUGE fan of raised beds. They make gardening seriously easier once you set them up. I fill them hugenkultur style so there’s a ton of nutrients in the soil for years afterward.

      1. Hi! I’m a balcony gardener at the moment but really really hoping to get some yard space when I next move. I’m curious about hugenkultur – do you have a post where you explain how you did it (or would you consider doing one)? Thanks!

    1. Some day!! It was seriously the best thing ever the first year I was able to have a “real” garden.

  7. I got fresh tomatoes (and zucchini and eggplant) from my parents’ garden yesterday—every now and then I’ll get the amazingness of homegrown tomatoes without the work 😉

    You grow hops? Do you eat those (lol can you eat those?)? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone growing hops in their garden before.

    1. Hahahaha. You brew beer with hops 😉 We haven’t had enough to do a full beer yet but my husband has done a delicious hopped cider in the past.

    1. They are SO expensive! And I find I’m such a sugar snap snob because the ones fresh out of the garden are just 10000x better.

  8. Hnnnfff I am SO jealous of your wonderful garden! I know it takes a few years for gardens to establish, but I’m so impatient. We’ve been in our home for two years and I was hoping to have a nice food forest set up by now. But right now I guess we’re still having growing pains, figuring out what grows well and what doesn’t.

    1. Yeah, two years is still infancy when it comes to gardens 🙂 Of course, you can have one immediately when you pay for big plants – but you sure pay for them.

  9. Your garden is so awesome! Jealous!!!! I have moments when I wonder if my own gardening is cost effective. My tomato and cucumber plants are dead already (it’s just too hot here). My figs got eaten by squirrels. But honestly, I still love gardening and love the pure joy of harvesting and watching my plants flower and grow. Trying to start some things from seeds that I saved. Tried to sprout 22 avocado seeds. Started that in late March and only had 3 seeds sprout.
    DGal

    1. Gardening is only NOW becoming a cost saving endeavor for me this year, and that’s not counting back at all the costs of previous years. But yeah, I definitely don’t do it for the cost savings 🙂

  10. I believe it that some of those blueberries will put out 20 pounds of berries! I’ve never thought to weigh mine, but we’ve saved 4 gallon bags or so most years for the freezer plus what we eat.

    I’m in the even cooler weather, a hot day is in the 70s. Consequently we have plans in the works to put up a giant hoophouse to be able to grow much of any variety.

    But my blueberries and raspberries are doing well.. have your strawberries done good? Out of about 50 square feet of strawberries we got literally, like TEN BERRIES vs. the 3-5 gallons other years. I thought it was voles (as I’ve seen tons of green stawberries with a bite or two out of them littered on the ground below the leaves), but we’re also wondering if the late spring heavy rains messed things up.

    In the meantime while waiting for the hoophouse we’ve got a couple tomatoes and cucumber plants (which are going crazy) in the little greenhouse that cake with the house when we bought it.

    I really love this time of year!

    1. What a bummer about your strawberries!! We got an okay number of them this year, but nothing to write home about like the blueberries and raspberries.

  11. 7 years seems like a really long time to wait LOL…. I know i’m just impatient and ridiculous.

    Everything looks so good and fresh, i have to admit. Definitely seems to be worth the wait. I guess i never really heard the origin story, what made you guys start doing this? Is this something you parents did growing up?

    1. Ha, well it’s not like it’s been an all or nothing endeavor – just that we’ve gotten exponentially more berries each year it seems like 😉

  12. I’m envious of your berry bushes! The fruit looks delicious. Aside from giving away overflow from the garden, is there anything else you like to do with overflow of zucchini or anything else?

    1. I’ll freeze and can some things as well, but as far as I know the food banks around here don’t accept fresh produce 🙁

  13. I have a very small garden. I haven’t really considered whether it saves us any money before reading this. I know it saves us money on zucchini and cucumbers. I’m still trying to figure out how to grow other stuff (with very little luck). So the other plants are mostly just affordable experiments, I guess.

    1. Gardening might save us money now, but it certainly is down on the list of why I do garden. Really, it all comes down to the awesome taste of the produce that just can’t be replicated, even at a farmers market.

  14. I LOVE sugar snap peas!! I buy them from TJ’s and dip in hummus, one of my favorite snacks. I really need to try to grown them next year, but stupid squirrels and chipmunks

    1. And they are like one hundred times better straight out of the garden vs TJs!

  15. Sounds like you are getting a nice harvest already. We have had a few small pickings of wild strawberries from our garden and the radishes are just about ready to pick. Other than that, it will probably be a month before anything else is ready and then a month after that everything will be done – gotta love short growing seasons.

    1. Where are you at with such a short growing season? We have a loooong season, but because it doesn’t usually get hot enough, some of the more “traditional” types of garden produce don’t do as well (watermelon, corn, etc).

  16. My garden was a total fail for a second year in a row, but I feel a thousand times more positive about it knowing you also had a rough start <3 Maybe next year we will try strawberries! Florida is great for strawberries.

    1. Start with the easy plants! And yes, I was a total failure starting out 🙂 I did a TON of reading during the winter and did a lot better the following year.

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