$25 a pound for tomatoes — bargain or foolishness?

My mother always had a garden. She grew string beans, peppers, corn, herbs, some other vegetables and…..drum roll please!…..tomatoes. If you never had a tomato right from the plant, you haven’t had a good one. The problem with tomatoes is that you can’t refrigerate them. It kills the flavor and all grocery stores refrigerate them  to extend selling time. They also pick them when they are slightly underripe.

Years ago you could go to a farm market during the summer and get wonderful tomatoes. Then those little farm stands grew bigger and put in refrigeration. Bummer. I thought I had the answer.

I planted a garden just like Mom’s. I have been doing this for years but eight years ago I moved to the current house which is about a half mile from a protected wildlife preserve. I thought living there would be cool and it was the first time I saw a herd of deer in my yard. Then the wild turkeys came in to visit (still cool). The mallard ducks tried to make out (yes, make out) in my pond (still cool). Then there are always the rabbits and groundhogs which are everywhere along with raccoon, fox, opossum and other critters doing a lot of things I won’t post here. I have learned a lot more about sex since I have lived with all these animals. Frogs have the best stamina. Take my word for it.

My first garden didn’t stand a chance so I surrounded it with a four-foot chicken wire fence. The deer could stick their heads over it to snap off vegetables or jump it and the groundhogs didn’t have any problems getting in either. Then there was the six-foot fence with plastic deer netting. I thought that would be easier to handle. There was no door so I had to untie a section every time I wanted to go in. Sigh.

I tried all kinds of wildlife repellent. Some smelled like rotten eggs and some were little soaps. Nothing worked. The groundhog even climbed my peach tree to have dessert.

The ever patient beloved husband took me to a fencing place where they quoted us $2,500 to put in a 10 foot by 10 foot by 6 foot high chain link fence with a people door. Yikes. Assuming I could get 25 pounds of tomatoes out of the garden, that’s $100 a pound.

Then I had a brainstorm. (The beloved husband hates brainstorms because they always mean work for him.) I saw a dog kennel with a people door. I bought one with the same dimensions for $250 and it was just as sturdy except it wasn’t cemented in the ground. We did have to get some landscaping timbers to mount it on and good soil to amend the clay soil that was there. Then we bought some landscaping plants so it didn’t look gross from the street. All told I brought the cost of the tomatoes down to $25 per pound. I think that’s a bargain! Amortized over time, it’s almost nothing. This is a treat from my childhood we are talking about here!

As for the beloved husband….he’s still shaking his head.

27 thoughts on “$25 a pound for tomatoes — bargain or foolishness?

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  2. That was funny Kate,, from start to finish … close encounters of the bird and animal kind, sex education lessons from the critters, and then, since they figured you owed them for those lessons, they wanted to chomp on your veggies … how you kept them at bay. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      • I can see why you had misgivings about it. The first year we moved into this house, my father planted tomato plants in a sunny area in the backyard. So much hope for getting tomatoes, but the squirrels and birds would either bite or peck big holes in them, then leave them on the vine and move on to the next one. Finally, he was so exasperated, he pulled out all the tomato plants and we hit the roadside stands out in the country instead.

        Liked by 1 person

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    • It isn’t now. I have had the “dog pen” as I call it for almost 10 years now. I did the project not knowing if I’d continue to garden (and I have cut back — I only do tomatoes these days). I have seen a groundhog scale it but overall I get enough tomatoes. I only do “4th of July” which is a smaller, early tomato along with Sungold and Sweet 100, two cherry varieties, one yellow-orange and one red. For a few weeks I can feed the Sixth Fleet!

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  8. I know what you’re talking about. We farmed a half-acre when I was a teen. Tomatoes fresh out of the garden, and the same for green beans. Just delicious. My Mom canned. So we had tomato juice, tomato sauce … you name it. We don’t refrigerate our store-bought tomatoes for the very reason you mentioned. My daughter advocates the Tower Garden as the best way to grow healthy food.


  9. Yearly Battle for the Produce! When I was a kid it was always a close race to see who got the ripe tomatoes and stuff. (birds and squirrels could be seen “testing” for ripeness throughout the day)The dog kennel sounds like an excellent solution…the netting definitely didn’t work. Fun post.


    • The birds love the cherry tomatoes. This year I am going to net the top so they can’t swoop in. The chipmunks like them too but there is nothing you can do about them. I am willing to share as long as there is some for me.


  10. It’s like I could have written this post myself, Kate. When I moved I thought all the wildlife was cool. When they started eating my flowers and vegetables I started to get annoyed. gave up on vegetables and focused on flowers, but they still considered my yard a buffet. I tried all the things you mentioned and the only one it kept out of the garden was me between the smell of the repellent and getting tangled in the deer netting. Glad you found a cost effective solution. Enjoy your tomatoes this summer.


  11. Very good idea! I have lots of critters at my house (but no deer or hedgehogs) but I got brave and planted a zuccini plant this year. I look forward to seeing if I get anything from the plant or if all the animals get everything.


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