About this blog

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Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Not a tomato farmer

I've been thinking hard about the tomato question since yesterday. Berti (and other friends) suggested growing them on a bit and selling them. This sounds like good sense - a little bit of pocket money as a byproduct of what I'm doing anyway - but is it really?

Of the saved seeds, I've already pricked out 57 seedlings. I want 20ish, so there are plenty for me, for backup to replace the ones that die, and to swap with friends. The question is what to do with the hundred still in the seed tray, that are now looking a bit cramped.

tomato seedlings
Tomato seedlings in need of pricking out

If I want to sell them, I'll have to spend a couple of hours pricking them out and setting out a stall at the end of the driveway... actually, if I've got to find a table, materials, make up a sign, etc. that's probably more like three hours (not counting the time needed to go and buy more pots). A neighbour where we used to live sold small plants for 30p each, so I'll take that as the price. I could get more if they were bigger, but then they'd be taking up space for longer. Even so, they'd clog up the greenhouse for a while until they were big enough to sell. I'd also have to buy pots - which are 12p each for the smallest ones - and compost, for which I can't be bothered to calculate the price. Let's say I'm spending 15p per pot and selling for 30p. In the unlikely event that I manage to sell all hundred of them, I'd make £15 for three hours work, or £5 per hour.

£5/hr is not a stupidly low return on my time - roughly the minimum wage for 18-20 yr-olds - but it's not very much. Do I want to do that kind of work for that rate of return? It's not as if I'm sitting around twiddling my thumbs here. I always have a long list of jobs and projects ahead of me - which somehow always seems to include 'washing up'! I have to come back to the fact that the point of the new lifestyle is not to earn money, but to produce as much as possible of what we need directly. If I was going to get a much higher return on my efforts I might think selling things was worthwhile, but £5/hr is not enough to tempt me away from the path I've chosen to follow.

There is only one possible conclusion, though I say this with a heavy heart:
A hundred baby tomato plants are destined for the compost heap.


  1. Could they be donated to a local school? I know that my kids have a veggie garden that helps stock the canteen. If they don't go for free then compost sounds like a good option. The ROI is far too low for any other option, especially with so much washing up to do.

  2. Noooooo, don't compost them! Could you give them away as they are now - in a tray, in need of thinning out? They could go to a school as Amanda suggests, or via a local allotment or via Freegle/Freecycle.

    Also, you can buy (or in your case sell) barerooted plugs of veg seedlings on eBay. It would mean you thinning/planting on now, but you wouldn't have to buy extra pots or setting up a stall etc. There are quite a few already up there on pre-order -- seems to be about 50p a plug... (searching "tomato" in the plants category within home and garden)

  3. Freegle, you should definitely be on there anyway, with your lifestyle. Stuff for free and an outlet for you unwanted/redundant things. It's wonderful. Or freecycle if there's not a Freegle near you.

  4. OK, OK, I've given them away!

    Thanks for suggesting the school - I wouldn't have thought of that (to my shame, freecycle hadn't occurred to me either, though I do have an account). I went up to the local school this morning, and they were very happy to take 100 seedlings off me :-)


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