We grow most of our food on one acre which now has a greenhouse and a vegetable patch that I call my birdcage, and an orchard. A one-off expense to establish these was $3720. I still spend an average of $60 a month to keep the garden going, which goes towards compost, potting mix, seedlings and seeds. I’m currently setting myself up to do my own composting but this will still take a while to help reduce expenses.
Setting this up has been a learning curve for me as I’ve not always been a gardener. I only took it up as a hobby when we moved here from Australia, but now after three years of having my garden, I can say that my grocery bill is down to an average of less than $600 a month for perishables, nonperishables and meat for myself and my husband. Some weeks, I can spend as little as $30, only needing to buy the basic milk and bread. Actually, in the last couple of weeks, I don’t think I’ve spent more than $25 a week for the two of us. Before the garden, I was averaging around $1000 a month! And I expect my current spend to reduce further over the coming seasons as my fruit trees begin to mature.
Right now I’m taking a lot of my root crops out of the birdcage. I’ve learned that it is great for berries and tomatoes, and other produce that the birds love too, but root veges like kumara, potatoes and beetroot don’t need that level of protection. I’m also more comfortable and confident now to grow them outside.
Now in the greenhouse, I will focus on capsicums, tomatoes, rock melons, cucumbers and pineapples for the long-term, and some companion plants like basil under my tomato vines. I’ve become better at controlling the temperature in the greenhouse (airing it over wetter months and cooling it down over summer). In winter I will also put my brassicas in the greenhouse just to stop the insects getting to them.
From the orchard, I get feijoas, figs and bay leaves. Eventually, I will get plums, plumcots, mandarins, apples, limes, lemons, tamarillos, guavas, avocados, peaches, nectarines, olives and pomegranates.
I’ve given a lot of thought to the economics of the personal time given
“Recently I don’t think I’ve spent more than $25 a week on food for two of us – before the garden, I averaged $1000 a month.”
over to the garden as well. If you factor in your own time and that of the people around who help (the physical set-up of garden beds and building the greenhouse did need a few more hands), the savings can be negligible – but I’m retired. I just plug away at it two to four hours a day, averaged over the year. Seasonal changes don’t affect me too much because even in winter I’m tidying up, and in late summer, if you’re preserving and bottling the results of the garden, that’s a couple of hours of your day (and I had to learn how to do all that as well).
I find it amazing that I knew nothing about all this three years ago. I was very much a city person. I started on a small scale – anyone can do that – and feel I got a return. It’s been a worthwhile way to spend my time and reduce my spending at the supermarket. And if I can do it, anyone can.
One day’s harvest.
Raised vege beds.