After ripping out the miracle tomatoes on Saturday, I had 12 feet or so of prime real estate in the instead-of-grass garden in the front yard. While planning my fall garden, I had consulted The Weekend Homesteader and Mini Farming which both advised to alternate tomatoes with plants from the Brassica family (e.g., broccoli, cabbage) to promote optimal soil health. So yesterday I bought Savoy cabbage, green cabbage and broccoli starts from my local food co-op and got to work this morning to put them in the ground. (That turn-around must be a record for me. Typically, I leave seedlings on the back patio where they shame me from the breakfast table for at least a week. I finally get so concerned they won’t survive either the temperature or the neglect, that I drop everything – usually after a dramatic announcement – and plant them, that is, if they haven’t died already.)
The planting area was already mulched with straw to protect the soil from drying out. Working around the sprinkler, I dug small holes in the straw mulch to indicate where to place each seedling and measured two hands’ width between holes in a triangular pattern (offset rows). I had space for 14 plants in the spot where I ripped out tomatoes.
After all the holes were marked, I dug out one small scoop of soil with a trowel, placed the seedling in the hole with a wish and a prayer, and poured the soil back into the hole, filling in the gaps. As I planted the fourth one it occurred to me that if just two out of each six-pack survives, I will have broken even (not counting the soil and hay, which I bought for separate projects, and the water which would otherwise have been allocated to the lawn). I spent $2.97 for each of the three organic seedling six-packs and a head of organic broccoli or cabbage might run $1.50 and $3 respectively, at peak season. Not bad. I’m hoping we will have a greater success rate than that, but even if we don’t, this appears to be a cost-effective proposition.
Okay, back to the story… After I planted each seedling I tucked the straw a little closer to the plant (giving it tuck-tucks, as my son says) and moved on to the next one. When all the seedling were safely in their new homes I pulled the chicken wire across to keep the neighborhood cats out (those guys make me hate cats and I have two I love despite their appalling behavior). Done! The sprinklers intended for the lawn will take care of the rest (see future post on that genius idea). And now the 50-70 day count begins!! I can’t wait to find out what my return on investment will be… I mean, how they will taste. *wink*
Come to think of it, the greater the yield, the better they will taste (to me). This nerd loves a yummy bargain. If only one plant makes it to maturity, effectively costing me $8.97*, that will really hamper my enjoyment of said vegetable. Grow, Brassicas, grow!!
*For a really funny take on this perspective, check out The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden, by William Alexander. I read it years ago, long before I had a garden or was an economist, but really enjoyed the sometimes disheartening but always humorous analysis. It drives home the point that gardening is best viewed as a hobby. If you enjoy the process and are less attached to the outcome, you will derive much more utility (i.e., value) from the experience than if you expect it to save you money at the grocery store.
Post-script: I realized in writing this that I forgot to water the seedlings after putting them in the ground. Oops! My lawn sprinklers have so spoiled me. Off to water by hand. Just this once.