Last year I used soaker hoses for the first time to irrigate my
vegetable garden. They worked great and I had a good crop. The problem
is that living in town, I'm on city water and sewer with a water meter.
Our sewer bill is based on our water usage even though the water used
never enters the sewer. My combined bills for water and sewer were
super high using the soaker hoses. I realize there are no free rides
but this season I will water each plant by hand with a measured two
gallon of water per plant each week depending on rainfall. When I was
researching the use of soaker hoses, it all sounded good. In my
research, soaker hoses were said to conserve your water usage but not
so as I have discovered in my case. I was running two 50' soaker hoses
for a total of four hours a week. My water and sewer bill more that
doubled! I also planted far more crops than my wife and I could use so
I ended up giving away at least half of all the vegetables I grew to
friends and family. Cost me a lot of money for a few thank you's that I
got! This season I'm not going to over plant and only grow what two
people can reasonably consume. I may raise a few tomato transplants for
my one neighbor. Gave him eight plants last year and he showed his
gratitude with a case of beer which I didn't expect but was a very nice
gesture on his part indeed :) Gave another neighbor eight plants also
and he let them all die because he didn't want to pay to water them at
all. Guess this year he will have to buy all his plants at a nursery if
he wants any! The funny thing is that after he lost all his plants, he
ask me if I wanted to sell him some tomatoes. I just gave him a bunch
of them. The more I think about that, I realize how dumb I was! Won't
happen this year. After he kills all his plants and wants to buy for
(free) some of my tomatoes, I'll say: sure $1.00 each. How many would
you like? LOL Live, learn and get a bit wiser each year :)
I have five rain barrels that gets me through between rains. Preserve those
tomatoes and will never have extra tomatoes again. Extra tomatoes also help
make great compost. Get a couple of hens and feed them your garden scraps
and get fresh eggs every morning.
Enjoy Life... Nad R (Garden in zone 5a Michigan)
Now that you've learned that soaker hoses are wasteful, move on and try
proper drip irrigation which gives you drop-by-drop control over how much
each plant receives. AFAIK it is the most efficient method of irrigation
available. Add on an automatic controller which monitors soil moisture and
you will have the ultimate.
I don't think I'll have the funds for a drip irrigation system so I'll
no doubt use a gallon milk jug to water each plant. I've read a few
articles on the net where you can bury half a soda bottle near the base
of each plant and use them as a drip irrigation system. Perhaps I may
experiment with that method also. You sure hit the nail right on the
head when you called soaker hoses wasteful. Soaker hoses may be ok for
square foot gardening but with two - three feet between plants, there
is just way too much water being placed where it isn't needed.
Hopefully we will get more rain this season. Last year sure was dry in
my area. I hope each season my soil structure improves also. I have
heavy clay and this will be my third season working to improve it. I've
been adding cow manure, compost, grass clippings, dried leaves in the
fall and most any other kind of organic matter. I know it will take
time but I'm getting nice crops and it should improve with each passing
Rich from PA Zone 5-6
On Sun, 26 Dec 2010 01:52:48 -0500, White_Noise email@example.com (EVP MAN)
You don't say where you live (climate wise) so it's difficult to offer
explicit advice. But in any event soaker hoses are probably the best
of any watering alternatives. You'll use less water if you bury the
soaker hoses with a heavy application of mulch, you'll use less water
because you'll lose less. Also the better your soil is amended with
organic material the more water it will hold and hold it longer. There
really is no simple/inexpensive work around with how your water/sewer
company bills but I know that many small town municipalities bill
exactly the same way (it's very common), they charge for town sewer by
how much water you use with no regard for how you use that water, if I
lived in town I'd have the same. The only alternative I know of is to
drill your own well (if permitted), but if you're heavily into
gardening you'd do much better to move to a rural location. Not
growing so much is an excellent idea regardless where you live, who
needs all that extra labor just for the luxury of being able to show
off all your give-away crops. It's best to grow only what you can
use. Contrary to what so many think the home vegetable garden over
time offers no savings, it's a big expense, it's strictly a hobby...
even farming professionally is a huge gamble. With a home vegetable
garden over time you will have a few good crops but they need to be
weighed against the years when crops fail, and usually there will be
more bad years than good. In a way you are fortunate that you need to
do a lot of irrigating, what do you think happens to crops when it
rains nearly every day.
I need to get mine checked out. I think the well is fine but the pump needs
servicing I bet.
Meantime, we haven't used it in the past 3 years.
Actually, it depends on how you go about it and it can be cheap indeed to do
for a few small things for a family of 3 with a few gifted items when there
is a surplus.
My findings are that once you are past the initial outlay for containers and
soil to fill them (if you need to purchase) then there are certain things
you can crop quite efficiently and cheaply even in an apartment porch.
Here's my list in order of 'easy' (containers 4ft x 12 inch by 8 deep mostly
but some taller or longer):
-Lettuce, especially baby or butter but any loose leaf type like romaine
works. 'Iceberg' not easy. Seed used, have 2 containers and multi-crop by
planting seed (can mix types in same container) every 6-7 weeks while
rotating containers. Works from April to November here.
- Green onions and chives, you can get the bulbs just off grocery store
plants you get in spring and plant the bottoms with a little of the top
sticking up. They will proliferate over time so you can use the bulbs too.
It's an invest once, crop for YEARS item. 1 container planted 2007 still
- Parsley and many other herbs, seed planted. Most have to be reseeded each
year. a 2 ft section of container gets whatever herb I want more of that
year. Dehydrator used to preserve a years worth of our use.
- Cucumbers, if you don't mind them sprawling out of the container on the
ground. 1 end of a container gets these. 3 plants in a 2ft section fits us
but then, we aren't trying to make a bunch for pickling. 89cents for 3
plants (about the cost of a cucumber here is same as a plant seedling)
- Green Bell Peppers, we often go a whole container here with 6 plant
seedlings. Again, about 89cents a seedling and more than that for store
bought bells. I go heirloom here for the better more intense flavor. A few
stakes needed but easy to do.
- Tomatoes, types vary. I list these later only because you have to replace
the soil if you don't have the organic mulch to get a good crop year after
year. You also have to 'tree' them a bit more than peppers and that's not
as easy in a container. First year crop will be great then degrade until
you replace the soil (which can be rotated nicely to the lettuce containers
and onion set).
- Straight neck summer yellow squash, 1 plant can be pretty prolific and
crop up 1 8 inch squash every week for 2 months or more. These work better
in a deeper container. A left over kitty litter plastic container is a good
option is you have them collecting. Make a hole in the bottom-side about 2
inches up so it can drain.
There are others easy that I don't commonly do such as spinach (fits with
lettuce in ease) and eggplant (needs a deeper container) and carrots (again,
deeper container). Potatoes can be dead easy if you have a deep container
but i've not tried them as it sounds more work than I'd get back in produce.
Watering is done with a combination of hose or a gallon jar and in some
climates, I've used a drip system from a milk jug with fishtank air tubing.
If you line the pots correctly, there is little water loss on watering.
Total expense this year, about 15$. Water use, nominal, maybe 2$? Total
return as opposed to buying at the grocery, only 40$ profit but that's
because this year the bunnies from hell got my garden before all of it
cropped up fully. Most years, I do far better.
It depends on the situation. For small scale conservative targeted watering
what he doing now (hand watering) is likely best. For a larger scale where
carrying water is too tiresome drippers are very good, although they can be
expensive. It depends on how you rate the cost of water, your time and
You'll use less water if you bury the
This is a strange billing system. I suppose it is some kind of attempt to
bill sewerage as "user pays" instead of at a flat rate. But it sure bites
the home gardener using town water. It is not used in these parts.
The only alternative I know of is to
Tanks or ponds to collect your own roof or surface water are other
possibilities, Gov regulations and cost permitting. There is no one size
fits all solution.
I can see that it could be like that if you buy all your inputs or cost your
time and don't have much to show for it. I buy very few inputs and don't
cost my time so I am way in front year after year. For some there is real
joy in giving or spreading their bread upon the waters so a neighbourhood
dividend is not a luxury.
And for you the glass isn't half full, it isn't even half empty, your glass
is near empty all the time. Don't assume that everything is as bad as you
see it, other people live different lives in different circumstances and
they are not all as grim as yours seems to be.
In a way you are fortunate that you need to
Some of my best crops were when I lived in a dry inland climate (no fungus
and few bugs) and had access to plenty of water at no direct cost.
And for us, we get a real joy out of eating really fresh food and where we
know the inputs.
And I also find that things tend to even out over time. If I have a good
year with one veg and a not so good year with another, it doesn't really
matter. If I'd decided to plant only a few of any one vegetable or even
only one or two varieties of vegetables, I would have missed out because the
conditions for whatever didn't do well coul dhave had an impact on my only a
Yup. I prefer inland growing - less humidity and good strong ehat when it
des event ually arrive. At the rate this summer if goign though I wont'
have tomatoes for at least another month and probably more like 2 months.
This is not going to be a tomato glut season.
So essentially you are concurring, home vegetable gardening is a
hobby, you're mostly in it for the personal enjoyment of growing
stuff, and you get to eat some too. Sure home grown tomatoes taste
better than the typical store bought but mostly they all come in at
once within a relatively short period as do all crops, one can eat
only so much. Unless one goes into crops on a large enough scale to
supply several families there is no way that supermarket prices can be
beat... and even with a little truck farm crops can fail and often do
and for a number of reasons outside ones control, and then there's the
cost of supplies, tools, and powered equipment and those get used up
and fail too. Who do you think supports the plant nurseries and
gardening product aisles at the big box stores, home gardeners is who.
Believe it or not folks tend to home veggie gardens for exactly the
same reason folks tend to lawns, personal satisfaction is all... even
though one can't eat that grass neither holds sway over the other,
both are hobbies. No hobby is profitable monetarilly, as soon as it
is it's called a business. I do gardening too, I'm motivated by
enjoyment, not saving money... no way can one save money from any kind
of home gardening.
I tend to agree that you don't save money by home gardening especially
the first year which is quite a large expense until you get things you
will need. YEP, it's a hobby which does cost money! But then again
all hobbies cost money. And I learned the hard way that small is
better. Last year I had 28 tomato plants and yes they all ripen about
the same time. That gave me four to six weeks for the wife and I to use
hundreds of tomatoes. We don't can or make sauce so it was impossible
to use all them tomatoes. I ended up giving more away than what we
used. And now that I think about it, that was kind of dumb. What I
was doing was giving away a lot of my time and money! This year them 28
tomato plants will be cut back to 8 or 10 instead. I already warned my
wife NOT to be telling a bunch of people that we would see to it that
they get tomatoes this year. This season I'm looking out for my own
best interests. If friends and neighbors want fresh vegetables, they
will need to put a garden in and grow it the same as I do!
Some people may look at home gardening as a hobby while others may look
at it as being self reliant but the main thing is the cost factor. Is
it cheaper to grow it or buy it at market? Here again that would depend
on all factors involved. First we need seed or transplants, we need to
cultivate, fertilize, water and finally harvest then use, process and
preserve or market our crop. Each phase has a cost involved unless we
can find a way to get it for free or reduce the cost. If we have to pay
for all of the above then I think it's far cheaper to buy produce than
to grow it. Now this isn't counting our labor which if considered a
hobby is a labor of love in which we get enjoyment. Last season I would
of had to sell my tomatoes for at least $1 each just to break even or
perhaps $2 each! Yes I had a good crop but the Mantis tiller alone was
$375 plus gas and oil to run it. Steel support stakes at $3.50 each,
cow manure at $4 a bag x six bags, roll of garden fencing $50, slow
release fertilizer $20 and city water at $40 a month x 3 months. That's
on top of the price of seeds, peat pellets, potting soil, grow lights
and the electricity to fun them for eight weeks at 16 hours a day to
raise transplants. Now mind you, I'm not complaining simply because I
myself look at this as my hobby and I know in advance that all hobbies
can get rather expensive. Thank God I don't play golf :)
A good book on seed saving.
(Amazon.com product link shortened)
I do purchase seeds every year also. I do not purchase any vegetable
plants! One packet of tomato seeds cost around two dollars. I can at least
get thirty plants for that two dollars. One tomato plant can cost two
dollars at a nursery. I do start some seeds indoors. Ninety nine percent of
my seeds go directly into the ground. I spend nothing for compost or
manure. I have chickens and a cow for manure. Compost is free from the
local recycling center. I also have my own compost piles. Most of my
vegetable garden uses raised beds, so no tilling is necessary. Rain and
rain barrels cost little. I do have a well for backup water but rarely use
it for gardening. I do purchase some fertilizers for the plants. However if
one uses compost, one does not need as much fertilizer.
In the grocery market one small pint of cherry tomatoes cost $2. Leaf
lettuce runs around two dollars a pound. Much much cheaper to grow your
own. Two vegetables that are cheaper in stores are carrots and potatoes. I
am hard pressed to think of other vegetables that can be purchased cheaper
than I can grow. A dozen ears of corn cost about $2., that is just six corn
plants, I can get a thousand corn seeds for ten dollars. I do buy avocados
because I cannot grow them in my area.
One small 12 oz can of diced tomatoes cost a dollar in the markets. Canning
your own food is allot cheaper. I have a freezer full of corn and green
beans. What I do not preserve makes great compost.
The number one cost in home gardening is your personal labor cost which I
did not include. That personal labor cost is the factor that determines if
gardening is profitable. Eight hours of fishing might bring $20 worth of
fish, for some personal cost is important, some it is not.
Enjoy Life... Nad R (Garden in zone 5a Michigan)
The term "Hobby" could be used for some. Is doing laundry a hobby also by
your definition? After all why buy a washing machine and dryer when I can
take my dirty clothes to the cleaners. How about one of your other favorite
subjects "Cooking" is that a hobby when one can go the restaurants three
times a week? I am sure there are cost advantages of eating out all the
I often think of a hobby that only provides a pleasure incentive. Gardening
does pay ones self with goods that helps one survive physically. Bird
watching, Amateur Radio and Chess provides pleasure only. like Chess and
Gardening i Win and Lose at times. Does working for yourself just a hobby.
I built my own home, Me and two nephews did everything except the concrete
work and drywall. Is building your own home a hobby? I am not being paid by
anyone. So by your definition of Hobby, does working for yourself count?
Gardening and food preservation in my book is being self reliant, not a
Enjoy Life... Nad R (Garden in zone 5a Michigan)
Apparently not everyone :)
For me it is the path that is interesting. But for some, the completive
types, it is getting there that make them content and happy. The thing is,
if they do not get there they will be the old miserable ones.
Enjoy Life... Nad R (Garden in zone 5a Michigan)
You don't make any sense, you are simply attempting to defend the
indefensible... home veggie gardening is a hobby like all others,
primarilly gives pleasure but saves not a mot on ones grocery bill.
I've had a veggie garden every year for more than 60 years and never
saved a penny on food... canning and freezing costs more than buying
at the stupidmarket. NO hobby saves money and a home veggie garden is
definitely a hobby, one of the more costly hobbies when time, effort,
and losses to nature are factored in. I've been involved in several
hobbies, I've raised tropical fish for many years, collected stamps,
and coins and I've collected fountain pens most of my life and still,
at least I can occasionally sell fountain pens at a profit, I've never
sold a tomato at a profit. I garden strictly for enjoyment... no one
saves money with home vegetable gardening, it's 100% an expense...
actually more than 100%, a lot more... anyone who believes they are
saving money is fantacising. I recently spent over $300 on mole/vole
protection products, I'd have to sell a ton of tomatoes to maybe break
even. Just from reading here of people bitching about their watering
bills alone proves that gardening is not monetarilly profitable, never
mind all the other myriad cost aspects folks here constantly whine
about paying for.
Again you missed my first statement "The term "Hobby" could be used for
For you it is a hobby, for me it is a way of life. Your thinking is narrow,
this or that, right or wrong, them or us, if you do not make cold hard cash
it is a hobby. Their is no middle ground in your world. I believe "this or
that", "right or wrong" are two thin lines with a vast grey area. You want
a hard line on your definitions. You are in the camp of "letter of the law"
and I am in the camp of "spirit of the law".
Go ahead say I am wrong :)
Enjoy Life... Nad R (Garden in zone 5a Michigan)
Your experience does not make it universally so. Unless you cost my time I
am in front by many hundreds of dollars a year every year. I bottle and
freeze quite a lot and once again it costs me almost nothing (people give me
boxes of preserving jars, lids and seals) and my time. Why is this an
article of faith with you? At some time in your history you totalled up
what gardening was costing you and you had an Ah Hah moment and decided that
you couldn't justify it financially. That's fine but it doesn't apply to
NO hobby saves money and a home veggie garden is
Well yes if you cost your time. But consider the alternatives such as going
to the gym or pushing myself through some excercise routine. These take
time, cost money, usually require equipment and to me are less pleasant.
What do you want out of a hobby beyond engaging the mind and body and (if
you allow ) social contacts?
I've been involved in several
Well colour me hallucinating! Last summer I sold about $50 worth of
tomatoes at the local farmer's market and all it cost me was effort.
I recently spent over $300 on mole/vole
I don't have any watering bills. I spend a little on petrol to pump water.
I buy very little in the way of inputs, a few chemicals that I can't do
without and sometimes some seed, my seed is through a grower's club and very
cheap, my equipment is mainly years old and long paid for. I use recycled
wire as fences and recycled gates as trellises that were gifts. I collect
horse manure off the pasture and other people give me chicken litter. And I
don't have voles!
You keep going on about this. It seems to be a religious crusade that
nobody could come out in front from growing things. OK you can't come out
in front, I get that. Can't you see that other people in this world have
other experiences and consequently see things differently?
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