New around here, been hanging out at other sites. Greetings to those who know me from elsewhere, and those I am about to be newly aquainted with.
Gardening as a frugality measure is a fools errand, any job that pays 1/3 the minimum wage will provide a better payoff. That is if you equate 1 store carrot = 1 home grown carrot. However, if you value freshness, exercise, outdoors, etc, then it probably has a payback of around minimum wage.
I live rurally and have gardened for years, usually unsuccessfully. Unsuccessful in the sense that my yields are too low and my efforts have been too high. But like Charlie Brown, I keep trying to kick the football. I am getting better at it, but to do it well in my climate needs capital investment. Some day I am going to have a greenhouse..some day.
At least now with 5 half ton loads of half decade old cow manure in my 50x70foot plot, I have a fighting chance. No longer is soil the limiting factor, temperature is, closely followed by light levels. I at least understand why I garden poorly, and that is half the battle.
I recently constructed a new composter of dimensions 6 x 16 feet, split into two chambers. This sounds big, but in reality barely touches the needs of replenishing the soil. I currently collect about 4 cubic feet of vegetable matter a week from the school at which my wife works, and one of the local coffee shops. Now that I have a decent facility to compost, I will give attention to rounding up some new sources. It always puzzles me why municipalities have to collect organic matter, it seems to me that 1 serious gardener in 100 houses could make it all disappear.
My most successful crops are the mid temperature ones, things like beans, squash, carrots, onions. It isn't warm enough around here to do well with tomatoes or peppers, but too warm to do well with salad greens through the summer. If I don't get a good sized tomato plant into the ground in early May inside a cold frame, I harvest nothing.
Someone mentioned asparagus. I have some plants in that are on their third season, and some that are on their second season. I am not harvesting this year, but the older plants should be ready for a modest harvest next year. The older plants are about 4 feet high as we speak.
Supposedly fruit is a better return on one's efforts than vegetables, as an investment yields for many years. This sounds good in theory, but has not been my personal experence for two reasons: deer and the round headed apple borer. I had about two dozen trees in and about 1 dozen left. My total yield 5 years in is about 2 dozen apples. To have any chance whatsoever, I needed an 8 foot fence around the orchard (deer). This was a bit of money ($500 - $700 at a guess) and much sweat. Then, about 3 years in, I met the dreaded round headed apple borer, which took about half of my apple trees, or about 1/3 of all trees. There are two or three trees yet which I may pull out and burn this year.
I am hoping to get some grapes in. There is a patch on the property, but it loses sun by 1PM, so will never prosper where they are. Knowing the issues with temperature, I want to construct a few 6 foot high rock walls 10 feet long to have the grapes grow against. I am planning to put these walls between the trees in the orchard. This is also a project that needs more time than cash, as rocks and sand are all around, and all that one really must purchase is some portland cement and form lumber.
Well, that is my report. There is the moneygardener, then there is the actual gardener!