Updated: Jan 3, 2021
Produce count: 3,034 items
Highest saved produce item: Apples (£67.00)
Highest cost per item: Artichokes (£2.00)
At the start of 2020 I challenged myself by approaching gardening from a data perspective. I was taking plenty of pictures of my harvests and sharing them on social media, but I wanted to dive deeper into the data side of what I was growing.
Before the growing season, I had to decide what data I was trying to capture and what message I was trying to convey. Ultimately, I decided that I wanted to focus on a few key aspects:
- What was the total weight of all my homegrown food?
- How much could I save over one year if I had bought this from the grocery store instead?
- What are highest saving produce items (total)?
- What are highest cost produce items (per item)?
- When can I generally expect harvests to happen throughout the year?
After identifying these questions, I created a spreadsheet with columns identifying my target details and rows filled with the produce items.
While it took some effort to remember, I had to make sure to weigh and count every piece of produce that I grew before storing, eating, or donating. Basically, this became my daily view:
To save myself time from the mundane task of inputting data for each and every harvest, I decided to keep a journal nearby. I simply put the name of the produce item, counted how many items there were, then input the weight (g) next to it. Simple as that. Eventually, I had to sit down every few months to transfer the the information from my journal to my spreadsheet, do some of the maths, then come back a few months later to do it all again.
Fast forward to the end of 2020 and I completed all of my data input and calculations. This is what my spreadsheet ended up looking like:
- Green highlighted items are the top 4-5 of each column
- Red highlighted items indicate failed crops and thus no savings
- Yellow highlighted items are the totals
For all those wondering, I did indeed individually count out 1,005 French Green Beans. I know it sounds like a lot and I understand that this might deter some of you from trying this, but just remember that you'll be doing harvests over the course of several months. So, actually, you're likely to be only counting 20-90 per harvest.
To determine the savings, I browsed my preferred grocery store online and identified the cost per item or weight depending on how it was being sold to customers. For example:
- I harvested 52 beef tomatoes for 2020
- The store sells beef tomatoes as two per bag which means I would have purchased 26 bags/packages total if I hadn't grown it myself
- Beef tomatoes sell for £1.80/bag
- 26 bags x £1.80/bag = £46.80 savings
The other piece of data that I wanted to visualize was when I could generally expect harvests to happen. It's all well and good for seed packets to state that a specific month is when to expect harvests, but those are general guidelines since climates can vary from location to location. This is what I discovered:
Each colour over a produce item represents a month, so if there's multiple colours, then I can expect harvests over the course of several months.
Take for example green beans which is the most prominent on this chart. They're easy to grow and generally very heavy croppers. From this chart, we can see that I can expect harvests in August (196), September (643), and October (223). Not only that, but I can expect my largest crops in September. Alternatively, when we compare this with plums we can expect crops to be in August (313). One of the most interesting ones (albeit hard to see) is lettuce since it contains 5 different months. While I didn't obtain a bumper crop, it just goes to show how hardy and versatile lettuce can be. In fact, every time I saw some free space in the raised beds, I added more lettuce.
I highly encourage this to be done by anyone growing food for at least one growing season since the results might surprise you. In fact, you might end up changing your growing habits due to the savings you achieve. For us, we've changed to growing more beef tomatoes since we loved the flavour and they were the 3rd highest saving produce item. However, don't take my word for it since this chart will look different for everyone.
Going forward for 2021, I'll be growing a plethora of flowers on-top of the produce you've seen above. I've created a few new goals from these flowers to include:
- Building my first professional floral display
- Research if there's any savings involved
- Observe if there's a decline in pests due to attracting natural predators
- See if local restaurants would be interested in a floral display
All of my selections can be found on the Seed Hub which you can draw inspiration from and purchase yourself!