I started some cabbage seedlings a few weeks back that have failed to thrive. It happens. Some things I start from seed do incredibly well, while others are simply awful. Maybe it is The Universe’s way of keeping me from getting a swelled head.
That’s how I found myself standing in front of some very healthy and humbling cabbage transplants at a nursery, by a sign that read “$2.89 each”.
“Well,” I thought to myself, “For a six pack that still works out to less than fifty cents a piece.”
I reached for the cabbage starts, trying not to think about how I had already spent a similar amount on an entire pack of what turned out to be wasted seeds.
Instead of a six pack, my hand closed around a single cabbage. A single cabbage in a sizeable container cell, but a single nonetheless.
Now I understand how expensive it is to run a commercial greenhouse. Moreover, I am pretty much an expert at garden math. The sum game of spending over a thousand dollars to build a greenhouse, fill it with soil and fuel a heater all to save $1.60 on store bought tomatoes.
Of course they’re not store bought and that’s what makes the negative numbers turn positive. It is all about heirlooms and flavour and knowing for certain what goes into the food we put into our bodies.
The thing with the cabbage transplant is that I had no idea how it had been fertilized and sprayed to get to this point. I just knew it looked ridiculously healthy. Maybe even suspiciously. I reluctantly set it back on the shelf. Later I checked my grocery bill and discovered I had recently spent $3.38 on a sizeable head of cabbage.
I could go back, buy the single transplants and spend the summer watering and fussing with cabbage worms, all to save .49 cents.
It made me take a closer look at all the things I was growing in my limited garden space.
I love cabbages but they can be bought cheaply at the store and without any added plastic. Raspberries and strawberries, on the other hand, are a different story. Both come in plastic clamshells, are expensive and it’s hit and miss for flavour. Frozen home grown berries are always tastier than fresh store bought, not to mention the joy of eating a fresh berry from the garden still warm from the sun. Better yet, you don’t have to replant them every year. Once and done. Sort of.
And so, thanks to my cabbage-sticker-shock-epiphany, one of our two backyard 4 X 16 raised beds originally destined for assorted vegetables, have been given over to strawberries and the other one has been filled with raspberries. Both also have a single haskap bush planted at one end.
If I can only be self sufficient in a few things, they should be things that pack the most value, environmentally, financially and flavour-wise. I am not sure I will produce enough berries to meet all our needs, but we’ll see how close we can get.
I still have nine stock troughs in the backyard that have been converted into raised beds, as well as the potager garden out front and four 3 x 8 beds at the community garden at the school. This is a good thing, since (ahem) I later found some equally impressive cabbage plants in a six pack for just a bit more than the singles and this time three of them followed me home.
They’re purple and pretty and will add a nice pop of colour in the potager garden out front. And did I mention I love cabbage?