Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Things that pay for themselves

Things that pay for themselves make me happy. I have two packets of seeds that have already paid for themselves and I'm not done harvesting from them yet. Tango lettuce and Monnopa spinach. It only took them a month to go from seed to salad bowl in my little cold frame. A cold frame is definitely the way to get your moneys worth out of lettuce packets here in Iowa. Our clear but chilly early spring days are perfect for them. Otherwise, (as I think may be the case with my other sowings of lettuce) by the time it's warm enough for the seed to sprout, there is barely enough time to get grown before the heat makes the lettuce bolt. Last year I only got one measly salad. In order to have greens for my salads during the hot months, I've planted mustard, swiss chard and collards. It's my first year for those greens, so we'll see how it goes.
I'm holding my breath with my pea plantings this year. I planted almost 4 packs of peas. Will I get 8$ worth of peas out of the plantings? I don't know. My pea plants are some of the tallest in the community garden plot, getting close to 6 inches. They usually don't start producing until they hit a foot or so. I'm hoping the little bit of rain last night and the full moon coming up will help them put on a growth spurt. If I remember correctly I planted British wonder and Green Arrow. The British Wonder says 50-60 days for harvest. Green Arrow needs 60-70 days. Round 1 has been up since April 28th, so they are only at 22 days. Round 2 has been up since May 8th, so they are at 12 days. The 10 day forecast shows mostly 70's which is great, and a couple of 80's which is not so great. The peas don't care for temps over 80 degrees. The fewer 80+ days we have, the more peas I'll get. 50 days for round 1 puts me at June 18th... We'll see.
Now, if I figure an 8oz can of organic peas goes for about a $1.25 I'll need to can 48 oz of peas to get my money's worth. (That's a quart and a pint for all you canners out there) If I aim on the high side of 8 oz of peas for 3$, I only need to can 21 oz to make my money back. (that's only a pint and a half or so) Only the Green Arrow peas are good canned, the British wonder can be frozen, but really, fresh snow peas out of the garden don't survive long enough in my house to get frozen. I'll still get my money's worth, after all peas eaten out of the garden are peas not bought at the store, they just won't be in my cupboard this winter when I'm craving peas. Lucky for me, Dave doesn't like the Green Arrow peas and I can freeze or can them to my hearts content. I'll just have to be patient, (Not my strongest trait) and count up the harvest when it's in to figure my money's worth.
All this talk of canning reminds me, I invested 20$ in canning jars this weekend. I got Quart jars at a garage sale and pint and half pint jars at Walmart. I imagine I'll make my money back from those in a year or two. (Yes, I could calculate it out exactly, but nobody wants to read that.) :-D
My point to this post is never take your sights off the goal. If you are spending 75$ in seeds every spring and getting 5 tomatoes and a handful of green beans, you're losing money. Seeds are more economical than seedlings, but they take more planning and more practice. Reading books can get you started and help with the planning, but practice is hands-dirty, crops failed, OMG what is THAT?, practice. Go plant some seeds already! Keep a journal and keep track.

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