I thought the late summer garden update would be my last for this year. Nature has disagreed! Despite our transition went from 40 degrees, to a few weeks at 15 degrees to snow, many plants soldiered on into November. I’m putting that down to another benefit of urban living; the weather remains milder a little longer.
City Allotment Garden
In my decade of living and becoming immersed in the city, I’m occasionally reminded of assumptions I used to have but have long forgotten. One of them being: only people in suburbs or country have a big garden. So in my continued resolve to be more self aware, I’m including a section on my 15 x 40 foot city garden allotment experience.
Garden Veggie Theft?
Early on in the season, a common question I got centred around what’s stopping others from taking your fruits and vegetables. I don’t know if I’m naive or a huge believer in the inherent good of human nature, but the possibility of theft never occurred to me until then.
There is a mid-sized fencing around the whole garden, light fencing between most plots and a lock on each entrance. Thirty years ago, there was no fencing. It’s human nature to introduce rules, laws, and fences in reaction to events. I’m assuming events precipitated those said fences. They’re more psychological though; it wouldn’t stop anyone from coming in and taking produce if they wanted.
I have heard rumours of a few people getting items taken. Thankfully, its not rampant and I’ve been lucky enough not to have experienced that. It seems one of the key deterrents is not to have anything growing up on any perimeter fences. I’m not overly concerned, but avoiding using the fences for climbing vines is an easy thing to do.
Over the spring and summer, I attended to the garden daily. Because I had an unexpected sabbatical, I was able to go every morning, before the heat of the day. It was definitely a de-stresser. My presence became more sporadic in the second half of September, with the earlier sunset and working a regular day. It was also raining more regularly so the demands on maintaining the garden lowered dramatically.
The last I went to the garden was early October, before Canadian thanksgiving to collect everything I could before the first frost. Any unripe tomatoes and hot peppers were collected and put in the window to ripen. I didn’t go back until a month later, after we received a second light snowfall. I knew I should have gone back sooner, but life got busy. Kale is said to be resilient, but there was a part of me that felt trepidation at perhaps having left it too long and losing a bulk of it.
But nope! Not only was kale still healthy and perky but cabbage and even having to clear the snow off, oregano was thriving. Not only did I get some kale, but when all was said and done, I collected two overflowing bowls! The spoils were divided into kale chips and the freezer.
- July: gold nugget squash, beans, zucchinis and basil
- August: beans, zucchinis, tomatoes, shishito peppers, eggplants, watermelon and various herbs
- September: zucchinis, tomatoes, shishito peppers, eggplants, espelette pepper, mystery hot pepper (plants gifted by gardener), various herbs
- October: Zucchini, tomatoes, eggplants, espellete peppers, mint, oregano, chives
- November: Oregano and kale
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.
While we track our spending and saving, we don’t do it in a detailed per category budget amounts. Without going back and combing through last years financial records, I can’t do a now and then comparison. I don’t think that would hold much value anyhow. Instead, I’ve tracked what I’ve pulled out of the garden and calculated what it would’ve cost me to buy it at the nearest lowest priced grocery store. This give a pretty good indication on how it’s supplementing our grocery budget.
Even with the garden being done for the year, this week we had our first meal with nothing from the garden. The rest of the meals we’re still working on finishing off fresh veggies from the garden. And we have an overpacked freezer to go through. So life is good!
Prices used to estimate value was based on our regular grocery store that have the best prices in our area.
|Zucchinis||96||$381||Based on grocery store $1.97/lbs. 11 zucchinis at 6 lbs and 85 at 1.5 lbs|
|Gold Nugget Squash||11||$37||This is based on acorn squash prices. This variety is only available at specialty stores|
|Basil Pesto||4||$22||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||17lbs||$34||This too is a best guess|
|Eggplants||12lbs||$24||Based on 1.97/lbs|
|Shishito Peppers||83||$246||Hard to estimate as no store sells these. Basing on Jalapeño pepper price (2.97)|
|Espelette Pepper||80||$238||Hard to estimate as no store sells these. Basing on Jalapeño pepper price (2.97)|
Favorite Recipes Using Garden Veggies
I discovered there were different basil varieties and may have gone overboard… Oops! In the end, we had 4 different varieties in the garden this year. So one night, with plenty of pesto on hand and an over-abundance of basil, we made basil chips to compare varieties!
One thing we didn’t lack were zucchinis. Even with the minimum number, giving plenty away and freezing for winter, we HAD. SO. MANY. It forced us, ok mostly Mr. Whymances to get creative. Using same base ingredient but not feeling like you’re eating the same thing. Two biggest hits: creamy zucchini soup and zucchini fries!
Baba Ganoush! I can eat this stuff all day, every day. We smoke eggplants and other key ingredients on the big green egg before combining them. It’s sooo addictive!
Garden tomatoes are amazing with eggs. BUT, what was extra special is the spices mixed in with butter on the toast. Growing spices is super accessible. Even a small windowsill will do. Spiced butter can be used on bread, on steak, anything! It’s a super frugal hack, full of returns on yumminess and having something special for guests.