It’s hard to believe but we’re almost at mid-summer already! Gardens always seem to move slowly when you’re anticipating the fresh fruits and veggies to start in earnest. Looking back, it’s astonishing how much the garden has grown and it feels like time has flown by. It wasn’t so long ago I wrote about snagging a plot, sharing the costs and learnings I had so far. Being that it’s a little past mid July, I thought it was time for another update.
City Allotment Garden
Just like this site, Mr Whymances was the first to share our adventures. My personal reaction was to hide the site from others that knew me and as for the garden, not wanting to bore others. I’ve been surprised time and again the past few months by the excitement and interest others have expressed when Mr Whymances brings it up. Not only are others interested in garden details, but didn’t anticipate the curiosity others would have with city allotment gardens.
In my decade of living in the city and becoming immersed, I lost sight of the fact that my reality wasn’t necessarily the norm for others. When I say that I live in the heart of a city and have a 15 foot by 40 foot vegetable garden without having a yard, most people are surprised. So I’ve resolved to be more conscious of my experiences and share them.
City Allotment vs Traditional Backyard Garden
I won’t go too far down the rabbit hole with comparing city allotment vs backyard garden in this post, but wanted to share the common questions I’ve had with family, friends and the highlights of my experience.
It takes me twenty to thirty minutes travel time via transit to get to my garden. The travel time seems to be a focus for most backyard gardeners. Yes, it’s true, I can’t just walk out my door and take care of it. However with that, I’ve found it’s forced me to be organized and deliberate. I go every other day, with the exception of during heat waves when it needs more water, then I go every day.
I keep most tools I need at the plot, so there’s no huge back and forth. It’s also created new traditions. Often on weekends, after spending a few hours at the garden, we walk over to one of the nearby breweries for a well earned pint. Not only is this a new weekend tradition, we’re exploring a new neighbourhood in our city!
Fencing and Garden Safety
Next to ‘how long does it take to get there’, ‘does it have a fence’ is the next focal point for many. I was puzzled by this question. It took me a few conversations to realize the concern was veggie theft! Maybe I’m a little naive but this had not occurred to me. There’s a perimeter fence around the whole allotment but that’s more to keep a few wild animals and dogs out. Anyone could easily hop the fence. Thankfully, I haven’t had that issue yet and haven’t heard of anyone experiencing this.
My first year doing container gardening, I had a few tomato plants stolen. I was perplexed at the oddity and put out that I had to replace them. So while I think anything can happen, I do think most people are honest and purchasing a tomato at the store is far less work. Theft can happen anywhere, whether it’s your back yard or a city allotment. Wild critters have far more motivation to steal a snack and time to be clever. That’s much more likely to be a concern.
By far the biggest benefit I’ve found is the built in community of fellow gardeners. Even dropping in to water a few weekdays and a few hours on the weekend, I’ve slowly gotten to know some of the other gardeners. While I have lots more to learn, between google and access to experienced gardeners, I’ve learned so much in a small amount of time. Had I been gardening in my backyard, it would have taken me much longer to make connections with other gardeners. At the same time, some of these gardener friends may become full out friendship.
In life, it’s easy to forget how far anything has come as the changes are gradual, one day at a time. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So here are two! One from late may and another from beginning of July.
Our harvest timeline is a little off this year. Notification of plot allocation is provided early to mid-May. Add to that a few weekends it took to prep the garden (tilling, compost, etc), this set us back about a month where we could have planted some hardier leafy greens and vegetables. Having said that, when it did start to come, early victories were extra tasty.
- June: leafy greens, basil, radishes and rhubarb
- Early July: All of the above (minus radishes), zucchinis, peas, beans
- Firsts within last week: gold nugget squash, eggplants and baby watermelon
- Looking forward to: espelette peppers, sweet peppers, shishito peppers and tomatoes
Aside from eating some fresh veggies, we’ve made two mason jars of basil pesto, frozen some green beans and zucchini and shared some garden overflow with family and friends. Here’s a peak at some of our favourite meals from the garden: BBQ Margherita pizza, rhubarb compote on home made flat bread, killer zucchini soup, double chocolate zucchini muffin and gold nugget squash.
The bulk of the gardening cost was borne the first few weeks we found out we snagged a plot. In the May update, I broke down the costs. To summarize:
- $88 one time cost for gardening equipment needed. This won’t need to be bought again unless it needs to be replaced. We saved $132 from equipment left behind.
- $144 in soil prep (compost, on-going fertilizer, etc) and city plot fee. Some of this will be a recurring yearly cost
- $78 in seedlings and seeds. This should be lower next year as now that we know we have a garden, we can start more from seed.
When I say living frugally, to me this means aligning how I spend money to my values and what is most important to me. That means not all of my hobbies, like gardening, is done because it saves us money. Gardening can certainly result in savings on your grocery bill. This being the first year we have a plot, I’m not sure that will be the case. And I’m fine with that.
While we track our spending and saving, we don’t do it in a detailed per category budget amounts. We moved away from that a while ago and do it naturally through intentional spending. To accurately track how much we’re saving, I’d need to go back and tally monthly grocery bills this time last year. Which I could certainly do but I won’t bother. I don’t think it truly has enough value. Having said that, I’ll try my best at guesstimating how much we’ve harvested would have cost us. Which will indicate of sorts an amount of saving on our grocery bill now and throughout the months ahead.
Prices used to estimate value was based on our regular grocery store that have the best prices in our area.
|Zucchinis||30||$149||Based on grocery store $1.97/lbs. 7 zucchinis at 6 lbs and 23 at 1.5 lbs|
|Gold Nugget Squash||3||$10.95||This is based on acorn squash prices. This variety is only available at specialty stores|
|Basil Pesto||2||$11||This is based on the cheapest basil pesto (1.11 per 100 ML). So far we’ve amassed 1L. More accurate pricing would be to compare to speciality stores for quality of ingredients.|
|Peas||400 grams||$4||This is a best guess|
|Green beans||7lbs||$14||This too is a best guess|