There are so many reasons to grow some food, and many of them are economic.
For one thing now that we’re in the mountains we live on a sloping lot and it’s not so easy, in fact it can be downright dangerous, to mow the lawn. But we have one. And pay someone to mow it for us. My husband still considers a beautiful green lawn a symbol of his success and a measure of his citizenship in its level of manicured tidiness.
Part of my agenda is to get rid of the grass, which I can’t eat, and replace it with things I can. Little by little, over the last four years, I have covered patches of it with scraps of the metal roofing we installed a while back, then erected raised beds over the grass that died underneath them.
Fruit and nut trees and blueberry bushes have usurped more space around our three-quarters of an acre, and as they grow, they’ll shade out more of the grassy expanses. So we’ll pay less for mowing and for food.
Well, not quite yet, though, as starting costs for the infrastructure, trees, supplies and help (oh, I can’t do this alone!) are significant. And while an established orchard and gardens can definitely save money, the time they take to nurture is not entirely free.
I am a devotee of the Square Foot Gardening method, and the initial filling of even just an 8” deep raised bed with the definitive medium called Mel’s Mix (1/3 peat, 1/3 coarse vermiculite, 1/3 mixed composts) is not cheap, though it is oh, SO worth it! So saving money cannot be the ultimate incentive, but it’s a solid benefit down the list somewhere.
Another economic consideration is to grow things that you especially love to eat that are also more expensive to buy. Organic tomatoes at $4 a pound, organic corn at $1.50 an ear (when I can easily eat two at a sitting) and cucumbers are within the reach of my novice abilities, arugula, lettuces and mixed baby greens are awesomely do-able, long red beans, red bell peppers and red okra (is it the color that bumps up the cost?) were not as hard to grow as they looked, and garlic, bulb fennel, figs and asparagus are in my sights this year.
My very first year I had a single artichoke plant bear seven fruits that thrilled me, but I’ve been unsuccessful with melons so far. I’ve never seen a paw paw for sale anywhere, in fact, I’d never even tasted one when I bought the trees, so when those come in (I still have years to wait before they bear fruit), the savings will be incalculable! Some people have a taste for the finer (traditional) things in life; I prefer the rare and unusual, so I’ve planted goji, goumi, yuzu, fuyu and beach plums, whatever those are – I’ll let you know if they yield. In any case, I’ll keep trying new things and every one will teach me something, so I can’t lose, I can only win.
And victory will surely be delicious.
Ellen Rubenstein Chelmis
Ellen Rubenstein Chelmis retired from manufacturing to start her fourth career as wife and mother at 37. Now at 67, she enjoys dabbling in various voluntary efforts to “save the world.” She’s a self-trained creative cook and lover of ethnic cuisines, and her consistent passion for food has evolved to embrace the Local Food movement—so much so that she grows food in her front yard (can’t get more local than that!). If Ellen can do this, anyone can. Ellen is an 18-year transplant to Asheville via Tampa, Washington DC suburbs (most of them), and Charlotte.