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Natural Perspectives: Murray, Murray, how much did your garden cost?

April 26, 2011|By Vic Leipzig and Lou Murray

Somewhere I read that a person can grow a year's worth of produce for a family of four for $64 in seeds. I don't believe that for a second. My garden is a hole in the ground into which I pour money. With the new Huntington Beach Community Garden well underway, my outlay of cash has reached ridiculous levels.

I think that William Alexander is more on the mark. He wrote "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." After hiring a landscaper and spending a small fortune putting in a new garden, Alexander calculated that each tomato cost him $64. Ah, but he was battling deer, groundhogs and a bevy of bugs. Surely Vic and I could grow produce more economically than that at our new plot at the community garden, where there are no deer or groundhogs.

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Or could we? The cost of leasing our 15-by-20-foot plot was $100 per year, with a $100 deposit. But that was only the beginning.

I chose a plot near the front gate, and my friend Judi Smith got the plot next to mine. Judi thought I was nuts because the plots in that area had been built over a former gravel parking lot. I thought that the gravel was going to be removed before we got our plots. I was wrong.

For those of us who were trying to grow a garden in a former parking lot, the technique of choice seemed to be to rototill the ground, and then shovel the gravel and dirt onto a homemade screen sieve to separate out the rocks. That looked like really hard work, so Judi and I hired someone for $75.

I wanted raised beds because gardening at ground level is hard on my old knees. And besides, the raised bed approach allows me to use the modern square-foot gardening technique. I bought redwood lumber because I wanted my beds to last. The redwood and metal corner braces were $110. The labor was free because Vic built the beds.

In another nod to my age and arthritis, I wanted a bench to sit and rest on between gardening bouts. Add $150 for a plastic bench with storage under the seat. Into the storage space I put a folding, padded kneeler, another essential for gardeners with bad knees. Add $52 for the folding kneeler, and about $30 for a watering can and a nifty long-handled nozzle to attach to the hose.

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