Hawaii backyard gardening has always been a labor of love, but I don't think it's always been this expensive.
I put my garden in prior to the Crash of 2009, and it’s a good thing too or I’d never have been able to afford the lumber for the box beds (over $350.00) the two truckloads of compost and soil to fill them (another $300.00) the weed cloth to kill that first crop of seeds embedded in the supposedly-seed-free soil ($27.00) and the bags of fertilizer ($50.00).
Also, I needed seeds. Make that another $20.00. A new hoe and rake and pair of gloves for weeding brought the four garden beds we put in to offset our food costs to a whopping $802.00.
(This does not include all my personal woman-hours shoveling and carrying the soil to the beds, mixing up the fertilizer and creating the beds, planting the seeds, and sexual favors to my husband for building the beds. If you had to pay for his labor and my labor, it would be expensive indeed)
$802.00 buys a LOT of vegetables at the market.
That first year, the lettuces were worth $27.00 a piece, the tomatoes $10.00, and oh, yeah—we live in a very dry area so I forgot to include the $17.00 extra dollars a month on the water bill.
Since that first year I decided to make it my mission to have a cheap garden. Sustainable, to me, means no new money put in. So, I began letting a few lettuces go to seed and saving the seeds. Same with tomatoes, peppers and green beans. I also didn’t buy fertilizer after the first year—I composted leaves, and used chicken poo from my chickens. I keep recycling the weed cloth to keep down the weeds, and I don’t use any products on the garden.
I can’t help the water bill, though, and I’m still paying off the $802.00 in nonbought vegetable costs, because I can’t seem to resist storebought vegetables—I keep getting things I can’t grow, like artichokes, broccoli, and cucumbers (all too hard to grow without pesticides.)
It takes a lot of work to have a backyard garden, but I think the thing that makes it worth it isn’t the money you save—it’s the aesthetics. The experience of it. One of life’s truly great pleasures is walking in the cool of the early morning, trailing a hose, carrying a weeder, and picking the vegetables of your labor.