We’re all looking at ways to pinch pennies these days. With the economy in the toilet and its fetid bottom likely yet to be fully exposed, it’s nice to know there is at least one sure fire way to save cash and see a good return on investment (ROI): Plant a Vegetable Garden.
What, you think I’m joking? Have a look at this, Mr. Smarty Weisenheimer:
History says few people ever beat the market consistently. And even those who do don’t beat the market by much.
So what’s the best you can expect? Wall Street’s best year, as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average, was 1915. The index rocketed 82%. The second best year was 1933. It jumped 66%.
Here are seven that will do better. Yes, they will produce a greater return on investment than Wall Street’s greatest boom year.
And, unlike your typical investment tip, these returns are pretty much guaranteed. What’s more, you won’t have to call your broker to make any of these moves…
Order a packet of seeds and plant them in a window box or garden. Growing your own herbs, spices, and even vegetables â€“ depending on the amount of space you have â€“ is a great investment. If you spent just $10 on seeds and saved a mere $50 in the year, that’s a 400% ROI.
The article’s author, Brett Arends, obviously isn’t factoring labor into his calculations, but there are likely psychic benefits to building and working on a garden that offset much of the “cost” of labor. And that’s really only if you’re being a total butt-clenching stickler in how you measure costs. Seriously, just relax. Don’t be a butt-clencher.
So, assuming you buy the ROI argument, the obvious question is How Do I Start a Veggie Garden and Is It Hard? Enter the Pinotblogger.
Raised Beds Gardening
Besides hanging out with my extended family and entertaining friends over the holidays, I spent a nice chunk of my vacation planning our vegetable garden. Even though we moved up to the vineyard (which had been a vacation rental) in November, and you would think space would be easy to come by, I had to search pretty hard for the right spot to plant.
What I ultimately settled on was a plot of four raised beds on a cement slab located next to the water tower. Raised beds are ideal for a slew of reasons:
A workable height is important to me especially since I’m tall and have a bad back.
If you’ve never built a raised bed, they’re pretty simple. Still a moving picture is worth a thousand words. Below are two videos on raised beds by Garden Girl. The first shows how a raised bed is constructed, and the second talks about using raised beds in an urban environment.
I used some reclaimed wood we had left over from some old projects, but still have to buy a bit more to complete my boxes. Lumber can be expensive and is the biggest cost in using this method of gardening, so if you can’t locate any used stuff and don’t mind squatting, building a lower bed can save you some bucks.
Determine Your Final Frost Date
Once you’ve found a spot and got the beds assembled you need to figure out your average final frost date, so you can know when to start planting. The best place for frost data is the gov’ment. You can download a PDF with frost dates and probabilities here.
Now these PDF sheets are kinda tricky to understand. For some reason the NOAA decided to put the explanation for each of the probabilities at the bottom of the page, which makes comprehension hard. So here’s a crib sheet:
The very first column labeled “threshold” is the temperature. 32 is freezing obviously, so use that as your guide. The next column, the one with a 90 in it, denotes the date at which there is a 90% chance that some time after said date there will be a day with temps lower than the threshold. So for ADIN RS, there is a 90% probability that at some point after May 21st temps will dip below freezing. The same kind of analysis applies for the 50% column and the 10% column.
Since we can protect our young plants and seeds with warmer soil and a hoop house cover if needed, the 90% column can be used provided that the number on the far, far right side isn’t too high. That number, called the super descriptive “Probability Level (4)” denotes the percentage of days during the year that a temperature is recorded lower than the threshold. Basically this is another measure of the risk you face in planting early.
If this is all too confusing, there is an easier way. You can look up your local Master Gardener and ask them for the average final frost date for your area. Master Gardeners are super helpful, and the Sonoma County Master Gardeners website in particular has a ton of awesome info on starting a vegetable garden. You can check it out here.
NEXT: Seeds, Determining Your Planting Schedule, and Composting