Yesterday our first garden/seed catalog arrived in the mail. Usually right on the cue with the Christmas cards, the garden companies begin marketing their products. I know I'm a totally hopeless nut case when it comes to gardening but I just love sitting down with a handful of seed catalogs. I'll build towering dreams of next year's garden and scribble pages full of notes and garden plans.
But first there needs to be some time of reflection on last year's garden.
I like to take some time in November (or earlier) to think the past year. It is a time to ask questions.
What worked well?
What did not?
What do I want to plant again?
What do I NOT want to plant again?
How was the amount that was planted?
How can I minimize this year's problems?
How can I maximize this year's success?
What plant/variety/ technique do I want to try next year?
How can I get closer to my gardening goals?
I'm scribbling down notes from the past year and beginning a preliminary sketch for the garden. But there is one overarching question this year, Is gardening worth it?
Many times this year you could have heard me say "If I knew it was going to be this dry, I wouldn't have planted a garden." And I thought I meant it. It was terribly discouraging to continually drag around the soaker hoses and choose which plants to water and which ones to let die.
I'm rather optimistic by nature. I'd think, "I'll water the garden one more time and surely this week we'll get rain". But we didn't. Or the next week. Or the next.
And honestly all the love of gardening somehow shriveled up with the parched ground.
Was gardening really worth it? Why am I doing this to myself?
If you read the 2010 Preserving list, you know that God abundantly provided. No, it wasn't the harvest I expected when I drew up my dreams in January. But the freezers and shelves are well-filled.
But that list is only a small portion of our true garden harvest. For several months we ate almost all of our produce fresh from the garden. I have no way of knowing how many tomatoes, peppers, and onions we ate out of the garden - and that is just a start. We had a terrible potato and carrot crop and nothing to store - but we certainly ate quite a few meals from the meager crop there was.
The green beans never gave me enough to can - but I had several small plantings and for week after week after week we ate fresh green beans several times a week. If I picked more then we could eat for supper, I'd quickly steam the extras and put them in the freezer. So, I never picked a bucket full of beans, but I am so grateful for the beans we enjoyed all summer long.
This year I spent $189.00 on the garden. This includes all plants and seeds. It does not include the lime my husband put on the garden or the very rare chemical. This amount is higher then usual because we replaced our strawberry patch and extended the size and also bought some raspberry plants. This was a bad year for starting anything extra and they suffered through the drought but appear to have mostly survived. I'm guessing that many years I don't spend more then $75 for seeds and plants.
Of course, when you start talking dollars and cents, someone asks "But what about your time."
Yeah, what about it. I'm just a mom. I have no desire to be out in a workplace bringing home a pay check so that I can afford to pay someone to mow my grass. I don't even have any real desire to make money at home - though some days I dream up crazy plans. My husband constantly encourages me that my frugal money stretching ways are a blessing to him and my family.
I don't know how many hours I spend in the garden. Or what my time is worth. Maybe if I hated gardening, those questions would be important to me. But then I'd also have to put a value on the benefit of fresh air and exercise.
So I'm not going to count the hours that I walk through my garden pulling a stray weed and choosing something tasty for supper. I'm not going to count the time spent watching a parasite wasp on a tomato worm with my children and talking about the wonders of God's creation. I'm going to enjoy the cool summer evenings spent with my husband discussing the day while hoeing.
I don't have to tell you that $189.00 is very cheap for top quality produce for five months for a family of six who love vegetables. And I would hate to compare my vegetables to grocery store vegetables. At the most they may be eight hours old from the garden, usually only one or two. These are vegetables grown in fertile soil, enhanced by our own poultry compost, and picked at the peak of maturity. In the very few cases when chemicals are used in our garden, it was with utmost care and never on anything that would be consumed soon. Such as when our tiny green beans plants were being chewed off as soon as they appeared out of the ground and the only way to give them the boost to survive the first inch or two appeared to be spray.
Okay, writing this all out answered my question.
To me, where I live, in my stage of life, with my husband's encouragement and help - gardening is very worth it. You may come up with another conclusion but I'm going to relish each seed catalog that arrives and dream in full lush garden color about next year!