Sunday, 21 October 2012

Is it cost effective to grow your own veg part 2!





At the beginning of the summer my husband set up a raised organic vegetable patch and we wondered if it would be cost effective.  He planted Little Gem, Pak Choi, Mange Tout, Sugar Snaps, Potatoes, Onions, Tomatoes, Corn, Radishes, Carrots and Cucumbers.

We had the following results:

Little Gem - this has lasted and lasted!  It was one of the first things to come up and we still have some now although most plants have gone now we still have two left. We did not need to buy any salad leaves for around 4 months!
Savings: A packet of two organic little gems cost around £1.50.  At that price if we had bought one packet a week for 4 months, we would have spent £24

Pak Choi - it was delicious but didn't last long.  One lot bolted and we mainly ate the flowers. The other lot never recovered from being cut and either the conditions weren't right or it got eaten by slugs (read here on my musings on alternative uses for slugs!).
Savings: A packet of non-organic pak choi would cost around £1.  I think we had around 4 weeks worth so we saved ourselves around £4. 

Mange tout - we had lots of success with this.  They lasted around a month and we had handfuls of them each day until the plant got infested with powdery mildew.  Even then it soldiered bravely on for a while saving all it's energy for producing it's offspring!  At the beginning we also used the leaves - pea shoots in salads. The leaves are so tasty, if you haven't tried them give them a go. 
Savings: A good sized bag of organic mange tout costs around £1 in the supermarket. Again a good sized packet of pea shoots costs £1 in the supermarket (although I couldn't find a price for organic ones).  We may have grown more than a bags worth of each a week, but we consumed it all over a period of 4 weeks.  If we were buying them from a shop we would have bought a packet of each a week.  So for the purposes of this calculation we saved ourselves around £8 in total! 

Sugar Snaps - we had a few, they were delicious.  Only a couple at a time every few days over a period of a month. 
Savings: A non-organic packet costs around £1.50 - we probably had around 1 packet in total.

Radishes - we planted a few and we had a few.  Not all of the seeds produced radishes and once they were gone, they were gone.  They lasted around 2 weeks, with a few each day.  Next year we will try to remember to succession plant them from early on in the season (i.e. plant a few each week, so that they keep coming throughout the season)
Savings: A non-organic bag of radishes costs around 60p - we probably had around two bags.  We saved ourselves over £1.40

Onions - these were a bit of a disaster.  We planted some from seed and they didn't amount to anything more than spring onions.  They were very tasty though.  Again like the radishes once they were gone they were gone and they only lasted us a couple of weeks.  We also planted some whole onions, whichdidn't do very much.  Note to self - do a bit more research into how to grow onions for next year!
Savings: A bunch of organic salad onions costs around 85p.  We probably had around 2 bunches, saving ourselves £1.70

Carrots - the carrots worked well, however again like the radishes and onions we didn't plant enough and we didn't succession plant them - good to know for next time.  We had about two weeks worth of carrots.
Savings: A bag of organic carrots costs around £1.10.  We produced around 2 bags savings ourselves £2.20

Potatoes - We spent quite a bit of money on potato sacks, seed potatoes and organic compost and I'm pretty sure we ended up with less potatoes than we planted and they were tiny.  I don't think it was a great season for potatoes with all the early rain and I'm hoping for better luck next year.  I also have an idea that a large pile of earth might be a better place to grow potatoes than some little sacks.
Savings:  Lets not talk about this - we made a definite loss and they weren't factored into our original calculations

Corn - We planted around 9 corn kernels and all the plants came up, however although they sprouted 2 cobs each, only around 6 were useful which lasted my family one and a half meals.
Savings: Fresh non-organic corn on the cob costs £2 for two cobs.  We had 6 so we saved £6.




Tomatoes - We planted a couple of upside down hanging tomato planters (we already had one planter and my husband bought a second one this year) and they are fruiting right now.  We have been extremely lax in watering them though and although they are covered in tomatoes, we are only getting a few ripe ones every so often - not really enough for a salad at any point.  Next year we need to plant more and actually water them!
Savings: Not including the money spent on the planter, we have probably had around 3 packets of cherry tomatoes so far saving us around £6.

Cucumber - We don't have a greenhouse and although we thought about it we didn't get one this year.  We may do next year though.  I have some interesting ideas involving looking on freecycle or collecting plastic bottles from friends/ family / neighbours and making an upcycled version! We have cucumbers coming now, but although we have had lots of yellow flowers only a couple have managed to grow quite big.  Most of them stayed small and then shrivelled up and died sadly.  We have had about 3 smallish cucumbers so far and I'm guessing we are running out of time for many more as the weather gets colder.
Savings: So far the three small ones, probably add up to about one large cucumber which costs £1.25

Note - when I say 'we planted' I mean my husband - he put a lot of hard work and effort into the veg patch so I give him full credit for the organic veg experiment this year!

Conclusion:

So as I mentioned in a previous post we spent £160 on our veg patch (not including the potatoes or labour).

We got a little over £56 worth of produce from our patch! Not a great return on our investment purely in financial terms...

On the positive side:

  1. We still have our raised beds filled with fairly weed free organic compost, as well as lots of seeds that we can use next year, so we won't need to spend much if anything next year on our veg patch.
  2. We did save on packaging and transportation and helped to reduce our impact on the environment.  
  3. My husband used rainwater from our rain butt to water the plants in between rain showers, so at least we didn't have any 'hidden' water costs and we were in full control of the food we grew from start to finish.  
  4. Our children know where vegetables come from and loved picking the peas and pulling up the carrots.
  5. It was very satisfying to eat our very fresh homegrown produce!
We have looked on this year as a training year and will learn our lessons so that hopefully next year we have a far better crop!  I guess though the answer is no - initially at least it isn't cost effective to grow your own veg (well the way we did it, it wasn't!)

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