Friday, April 23, 2010

Pot of Gold!

Jack may not have been far wrong when he sold the family cow for a bag of beans. The more seeds sown, the more I'm realising how profitable they can be once grown. Truly pots of gold.

Yesterday, spent some serious time in the conservatory, re-potting more plants (the tomatoes especially seem to need re-potting every two weeks. More seeds were sown, this time: radish, dill, marjoram, basil, cherry tomtatoes, courgettes, and the cut-and-come variety of lettuce - called Salad Bowl/Lollo Rosso. As one of these when grown will produce enough leaves for umpteen salads, the pack of 300 seeds should keep us going for years!

In the conservatory we already have growing: pots of mint, chives, parsley, sage, tomatoes, bell peppers, mixed Salad leaves, Romanesco, and mushrooms. Outside we have rosemary (the only edible here when we arrived - other than the apple tree) and now that we've planted potatoes, rhubarb, raspberry canes, blackberry canes, a redcurrant bush and small pear tree - we have something to look forward to in later months. Not bad for one who was considering only growing only a couple of pots of herbs and one tomato plant since we moved here.

Thing is - apart from the sacks of compost (B's contribution), the outlay on seeds has been remarkably low - less than £10. For despite me counting thirty packs yesterday (although some were the same or similar - assorted salads etc, radish, herbs...and many still unopened) very few were full price. At least half were free (given Lakeland catalogues, and gardening mags), five even came free with another free offer. Also got a job lot of 15 assorted packets of vegetable seeds for around £6 in a sale.

Considering many of the packs contain up to 1,000 seeds (such as lettuce), and these keep viable for several years, then - over time - these could bring forth 1,000 plants. If one fully grown lettuce can cost around anything from 50p to ~£1.50p (dep. on season and type) when bought, then this means one pack of seeds should save us £500. And that's just one seed pack. The more varieties we sow, the more money we save.
Even Mixed Salad Leaves, scattered in number, will still produce up to the equivalent of four or more bags of pre-packed mixed salad leaves which are very expensive to buy. At the moment am still harvesting the mixed leaves that have grown from a free pack (and another freebie still left to sow).
Packets of tomato and courgette seeds (and other veggies) have fewer seeds, maybe only 10 in a pack - but then visualise the crop. Again a massive saving.
Perhaps edibles are sold in seed amounts, according to how much they are expected to save us in money when sown and grown. So we could be looking a thousands of £££s saved in less than 3 years, always supposing the weather, pests, and our own good selves treat the plants with respect. All we can do is keep a record of how much it cost us to buy the seeds etc, and then work out how much savings have been made when we harvest the crops. If all readers of this site who now grow their own would keep a record, we could compare them at the end of the various seasons. We may then discover which are the very best crops to go to gain the most savings (I personally feel carrots are cheap enough to by, and the space better used to grow a more productive edible).

It will be interesting to find out how much money is saved growing potatoes (and which variety) for there were 8 Rooter spuds that had sprouted then planted (from those bought for eating) and five more of a different variety (that came free with a sack - courtesy of a gardening mag), and a couple more large sprouting spuds that were left over from a recent purchase. Each (originally bought) potato planted probably worked out at 25p each, so am using this is a guide to work out how much the crop will be worth when gathered. As long as each sprouting spud gives us back two, of the same size (or more than the original weight) then a saving will have been made.

The mushrooms were a gift, and still growing fast. They are 'brown onions' (as it says on the box, and the caps are coffee coloured), so are perhaps what we call 'chestnut mushrooms? Will weigh when gathered then assess at the end (which may be a few months before the kit runs out) whether they have worked out cheap enough to continue growing them. If so, may turn our dark and damp outhouse into a mushroom shed.

Keeping the few pots to hold the larger plants, all sorts of things are now being used to grow seeds. The large plastic boxes that held 'Value Mushrooms' really work well, as when filled with compost they hold a large amount of flourishing Mixed Salad Leaves, as well as other 'first transplants'. Egg cartons are used to start off single seeds in compost, the shoots then transplanted to small cartons or boxes saved (yogurt, creme fraiche, cream etc, plastic food containers...).

Yesterday wished to plant radish seeds singly (easy to do as these are easily handled), so got two small cardboard boxes, lined each with bubblewrap (recycled packaging - as were the boxes themselves)), then filled with compost. In one was pressed a pencil to make a 'furrow', and in this was sown a few of the Salad Bowl lettuce seeds, the rest of the box taken over with separately planted radish seeds (pencil end pushed into the compost and each seed dropped into the hole). Once the 'row' of lettuce comes through and when large enough, each will be transplanted to a separate pot so that it will make a larger plant and throw off more leaves. The radishes will be left in the box to grow to maturity.

The second box was divided into two sections, each growing a different herb, these too will be transplanted as necessary, the dill apparently growing up to 10 feet high - so will probably have to find a space outside to grow this.

Whatever container used, names are written on (or labels stuck in the soil) so that I would remember what they are, for most seed leaves all look alike. Now that I have transplanted some of the earlier sown tomatoes that were originally marked, thought I would remember, so didn't put in a label, and so now have to sort out the indoor/outdoors varieties and also whether they are for container growing or up sturdy poles.

We also seem to have quite a number of oblong plastic open solid-mesh 'boxes' - a bit like the small baskets we used when shopping in a supermarket. Again discovered in the garage, and these could also be lined with plastic (spiked with a fork to allow for drainage) and more flowers or veggies could go in these. Our garden may end up full of flowers, looking really pretty, but not that 'traditional'.
We even have two deep polystyrene boxes which could be used (another we keep for the boot of the car to hold chilled bought products when bringing home in the summer).

In fact have enough packs of different salad leaves (rocket, chicory, the mixed leaves, cut-and-come again lettuce) not to mention the edible leaves of the radish and beetroot - and assorted herbs - to keep us in salads a whole twelve-month (or longer). Just a matter of scattering a few seeds at the start of each month, and the supply will be endless.