Sunday, October 28, 2012

As Seen on TV; a Lesson in Maths

Last week I was in my local Big Lots discount store looking for wrapping paper for the holidays.  Incidentally, the wrapping paper was kept right next to the garden clearance items; so, you know I was right in there, digging through plastic mulch, kids garden gloves, and foam knee cushions.  I managed to get a bunch of peat seed starting pots, seed starting soil, and Topsy Turvy strawberry planters.  I had been contemplating one of those round strawberry pyramid-looking things, but after my quotes for gravel and screened topsoil (at nearly $1,000), spending $200 or so for a strawberry bed was out of the budget.  These  planters were on clearance for $2.50 each.  I bought the four that they had and hoped that buying strawberry plants wouldn't cost a fortune.
They were practically giving them away!

Of course, I had seen the Topsy Turvy tomato planters on the television: "Now you can grow 4 billion pounds of tomatoes right on your deck!"  Yada, yada, yada.  I hadn't seen the strawberry planters before, and, truth be told, I don't relish the idea of them hanging out on my deck looking like large, red, lanterns with plants stuck into them.

But, thinking about it a bit more... I generally spend about $50 at a U-pick strawberry farm that uses mostly organic practices and applies commercial pesticide, "when they need to."  Now, this is better than that prescribed six times or so pesticide/fungicide applications that are done on conventional strawberry farms, but still... it's a big unknown.  Anyway, $50 for about 8-10 quarts of strawberries.  The Topsy planters are comprised of red mulch, with openings on it so that the plants can grow through the sides and bottom.  Some studies have shown that strawberries grown on red mulch produce sweeter berries than on black mulch, and yield doesn't show consistent improvement with colored mulch over black mulch.  Either way, growing them in a hanging basket means I don't have to spend time weeding or mulching them on my own.  Each basket holds 25 plants, and can be double-planted to hold 50.  Since I don't want to crowd them that much this year, I ordered 125 Honeoye strawberry plants from Peaceful Valley Garden Supply.  A bundle of 25 plants are $4.99, plus shipping, but 5 bundles are discounted to $4.74 each, bringing my grand total to a little less than $24.00, plus shipping, which cost more than the plants at $26.00.  Honeoye are one of the best strawberry plants for my climate, which is USDA Zone 5A.  So where are we?  $50 for the plants themselves, plus $10 for the planters.  I have organic potting soil floating about, so that is free.

This is where the math gets fun.  How can I justify spending $10 more than I usually spend at the U-pick?  Remember, I said I paid $50 for 8-10 quarts of "organic as possible" strawberries.  The Honeoye strawberries, under the best conditions, are expected to produce "one basket" per plant.  I'm going to assume that "one basket" is one pint.  There are 2 pints per quart, so to equal the amount of berries, I'd have to get one pint per each of 20 plants.
I have 125 plants.

Assuming I don't get the best conditions, even if I only get half of the estimated yield, that's still 30 quarts of berries... which I would pay $150 for at the U-pick.  Which means that I've theoretically saved $90.

And that makes me a very happy woman indeed.


  1. Merry Christmas!

    You know we always think about purchasing fresh strawberries from Walmart but they look so yucky! Most of them are molded at the store already! =(


  2. Not to mention, even when they're on sale, they're expensive; especially in the quantities you'd need to make a pie or a pot of jam!


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