Gardening wrings an extra return from land
Spring approaches and in our household that means it’s time to start planting the vege garden out.
This brings me joy for two reasons.
The first is that it means I will spend more time out, pottering about, plucking out weeds, admiring the bushiness of my spinach and enjoying the fresh air.
The second is that I am wringing an extra return out of the ludicrously overvalued land into which I do my planting.
Because I live in Auckland, the ground my garden is on (if council land valuations are to be believed) is worth the better part of $1000 a square metre.
Any extra return I can squeeze out of it makes me feel better about that.
In that way I view gardening a bit like walking or biking to work.
We can’t all do it but if you can then household expenditure falls and health, wealth and happiness follows.
I am not blind to the economics of vege- raising. There’s a thought-provoking book called the $64 Tomato by a North American author for whom the economics of gardening didn’t stack up.
My take-home from that is to focus on higher value crops that replace things you already spend on or provide that which you can’t afford or refuse to pay the price for.
On this front some veges are a slam-dunk in my garden.
For half the year, I don’t have to buy spinach or silverbeet which is great because leaves should never cost the better part of $5 a bag.
Thanks to the most productive lemon tree the world has known, I’ll never have to buy a lemon again or run short of home-made lemonade.
Rhubarb costs too much in the shops to justify buying it. It grows like a weed in my garden. The herbs go like mad, as do the chillis.
Last year, what I didn’t dry in the sun I used or turned into storable sauces which has kicked off something of a sauce and relishmaking fest in my house.
The actual overall savings once the seedlings are bought and the compost and water paid for may be relatively modest in dollar terms, though I remind myself that every $1 paid off the mortgage or invested is well worth doing as there is a multiplier effect there.
Dollars saved earn interest or reduce debts on which you pay it.
I’m not fooling myself though.
Vege gardening won’t have the transformative effect on household finances that the ditching of one of the cars to bike to work is having (one less insurance bill, registration, petrol tank to fill, WOF to pay for, repair bill to pay …), at least not with a garden as small as mine.
But every dollar not put into the till at Countdown is a victory.
And I also find that being outside counters consumerism, just as when I gave up cigarettes a couple of decades ago, exercise countered the urge to have a puff. An afternoon spent in the garden and not being a ‘‘consumer’’ is an afternoon better spent.
And if you rent, have a chat with the landlord.
Fruit trees and vege beds cost little to put in and make a property more attractive.