Monday, July 15, 2013

The Economics of Tomatoes Part 1

The economics of growing tomatoes can be rather confusing. 

Most people believe that the average home gardener can easily save a few dollars on the home budget by growing and canning at home, and, once  upon a time, the average housewife was quite capable of stretching the food budget this way.  It's still possible, but it requires a little thinking through.

First of all, the above mentioned term "housewife" is almost obsolete.  Increasingly, women work outside the home, and wives, or husbands for that matter, can't manage the time it takes to grow a full garden.

Secondly, if a beginning gardener follows most of the advice available, growing a tomato plant can cost nearly double what it costs at the grocery store.  If your growing them because you enjoy home grown, full flavored produce, or because you find gardening fulfilling and satisfying, that's fine,  but  if your goal is to save a little cash in the current economy, we're going to have to go about this a little differently.

Bear in mind, that I garden in Central  Texas, which has  been both blessed and cursed with a very long, eight month growing season, and a problematic climate.  Most of what I can tell you may not apply to some of my readers, but maybe you can adapt it to your purposes.  That being said...  Let's start with something that is rarely discussed in garden circles, but matters a whole lot. 


Too many people go at this with entirely the wrong attitude. They worry about the exact amount of some trace chemical in fertilizer.  They have long internet diatribes about the merits of mulch.  I have even once been confronted by a militant vegetarian who insisted that the cow manure produced by the dairy industry grew far superior plants than the manure produced by the EVIL MEAT EMPIRE.  I'm afraid I maintain the position that, despite the cows political affiliations, bullcrap is bullcrap, and I was pretty sure that he was full of it.

The point of this is... RELAX. 

There is no magic potion required.  The plants will survive. as they have been surviving for thousands of years, without the intervention of astrophysicists.  They will even survive being subjected to too a few ounces too much or too little water, and you don't have to sacrifice a goat, or do a naked mojo dance under the full moon to inspire growth.  Unless of course you enjoy naked mojo dances, then by all means do so.  But wear mosquito repellent. 

The point is that, believe it or not, the plants WANT to grow. It has a biological imperative to sprout, produce leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds, thereby ensuring its genetic material goes forward into the next generation.  You do not have to battle, bribe, cajole, coerce, or threaten to achieve this.

At most your job is to enable, hopefully without breaking your credit rating.

There will be some work involved.  Despite what several gardening writers out there have maintained, I really don't know of any way to grow a garden without weeds, digging, watering and basic maintenance.  You can minimize  this, but you can't avoid it totally.  Sorry.

This post has been separated into parts, due to limited computer time, and to make it easier to digest for the reader. 

Part 2
Part 3


  1. I've never seen a naked mojo dance. Does it involve a lot of bouncing around? I think you're right about gardening. The plants can probably sense tension, so attitude is key. Maybe a little Jimmy Buffett music and a margarita to relax the stressed-out gardener?

  2. The big problem with naked mojo dances is that they tend to annoy the neighbors.