With spring in the air and me itching to get started on my Square Foot Garden, I spent much of Sunday hitting the shops for the equipment and supplies I’d need. Now shopping has always been something I’ve enjoyed, although I don’t do it very often. I’ve noticed that when I go out shopping I suddenly discover all sorts of things I didn’t realize I needed until that moment. But I confess, I have felt the high that comes with buying new things. I have, from time to time, been known to engage in a little retail therapy to cheer myself up or reward myself for some little achievement.
However, since The Dream and The Plan came into my life I’m looking at money in a whole new way. Debt is a yoke around our necks. And each dollar saved brings us that much closer to attaining our goals. Accordingly, I’ve found that parting with those dollars has become increasingly painful.
The first stop was the local Home Depot only to discover they don’t have lumber. WTF?! Who ever heard of a Home Depot that doesn’t have lumber? Apparently this store, their newest, which happens to be in the wealthiest suburb in Canada, can’t store lumber due to local by-laws. Far be it from the people in this toney ‘burb to get their fingernails broken on construction wood. That’s for carpenters and “handy folk”, right? Anyways, I did find some 1×6 planks of knotty pine that were already in 4 foot lengths and they had exactly 8 left so I snagged them. They were just under $4 a board. I have no idea how that compares to regular 1×6 boards of…um…non-knotty pine? – but I figured $16 per box seemed cheap for a bountiful harvest later on. Then I needed wood lath to make the grid but alas, the guy at HD didn’t seem to know what that was. Fortunately, I discovered some cedar lattice in our garden shed that was in great shape and from which I can construct my own grids.
Next were the screws (this is life when you move from apartment to house – we have none of the tools and bits kicking around that most people do). Those were thankfully fairly inexpensive and the whole bunch cost me under $10. I also needed a garden hose and a spray nozzle which added a whopping $52 to my bill. Ouch! It hurt, it truly did. Their garden centre wasn’t opening until next weekend and all they had were some fancy houseplants so I left in disgust. Final bill, just over $100.
Then it was off to the garden centre. In the SFG method you basically make your own soil using Mel’s Mix formula. It sounds so simple in the book: 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 coarse vermiculite, and 1/3 compost (unfortunately my first attempt at composting has not yielded anything useful, so I had to buy some – ouch again!). But, the compost has to be from five different sources otherwise the pH won’t be right. And you have to buy these things by volume, not by weight. My two SFG boxes would require 16 cu ft of soil, so I needed about 6 cu ft each of the three ingredients.
The first seemed easy enough – peat moss comes in compressed bales and each one expands to 8 cu ft so one of those and I was good to go. The vermiculite came in a 4 cu ft bag, wasn’t coarse (which caused me no end of distress as Mel insists not to let the garden centre experts talk you out of his instructions), and cost $27. The smaller bags were about $10 which meant I could either fork out another $27 and have more vermiculite than I needed, or I could buy 3 smaller bags and pay even more for the “right amount”. I was already feeling ill at how much money we’d shelled out that day, so I just bought the one 4 cu ft bag.
As for the compost, I asked for “five different kinds”. The lady said that Sea Soil was a mix of two kinds. They also had steer manure and mushroom manure. The only other kind she could think of was chicken (which she said is hard to get) and sheep (ditto), neither of which were available there. She seemed to think four was enough and at this point I was inclined to agree just to get this all over with. But the compost was not labelled by volume and so I had to eye my 4 cu ft bag of vermiculite and guess – that seemed to be a hell of a lot of compost. Like six bags or something. Screw it, I said. I got two bags of the Sea Soil and one each of the steer and mushroom. I can always come back for more later in the season when forking out a few extra bucks won’t seem quite so painful (and won’t blow the monthly budget).
Other items I had to buy were weed cloth ($9 for a 50′ roll) and a kneeling pad ($7). My total bill came to about $85. Ouch again.
By the end of this day (and I didn’t even tell you about the $45 in kids’ haircuts + $15 DVD bribe for Daughter to cut off the rat’s nest that had become her hair) I was feeling pretty overwhelmed. I’d spent almost $200 to get this garden started, and spent that night worrying that I didn’t have enough soil mix, or the right proportions, and that this whole thing was gonna fail. I sure didn’t feel like this gardening method was frugal (in all fairness, Mel has frugal tips like “find scrap lumber”, but I just wanted to Get This Part Over With). I suppose if this is all I’ll have to spend (other than a few bucks on seeds) to have a productive garden right through the year then maybe it’s not so bad. I’m pretty sure that trying to make gardens out of the neglected beds in our yard would be equally costly and then I’d have to go buy a shovel, rake, hoe and/or who-knows-what other pieces of equipment.
I will say this in closing. In the past I used to go shopping to lift my spirits when I was depressed. This was my first big shopping day since I started this whole Living Simply thing and I started out the day excited and ended up depressed. With each purchase I felt more and more weighted down. And no, it’s not like I spent the phone bill or anything like that. Nobody’s going hungry because of our purchases. It’s just that we’ve been living frugally for some time now and today just seemed like an exercise in excess. Here’s hoping the garden makes it all worthwhile.