Spending Money (or so it seems)

With snow and ice and freezing temperatures outside, the winter garden has again become my refuge from the cold.  For those who aren’t in the know, the winter garden is a workshop just off the garage which is slowly becoming less and less workshop and more and more a potting and growing area.  I was back there a week ago (which is typical for this time of year) and decided it again needed some sprucing up.  The walls in particular stood out as less than hygienic and as I sat there with an appropriate beverage, pondering the situation, I remembered all the leftover paint taking up space in the garage proper.  It’s that little bit which you keep for ‘touchups’ but then never actually use, so why not put it to use on the walls of the winter garden?

Of course in order to paint the walls I needed to see the walls, so away came all the years of stored plastic pots, and out came the the ledge which was buried underneath.  “Not bad”  I thought (as I briefly considered how every one of the empty pots most likely contained a three or four dollar plant at one time).  The ledge would probably make an excellent spot for a fourth growlight setup, and for a fourth light we might have to dip into the gardening budget… or not.  It depends on how shady the accounting gets.

potted snowdrop

The first of the wintergarden winter-flowers are starting to open up.  Here’s an unnamed giant snowdrop (G. elwesii) with a few Cyclamen coum behind. 

On the way back from work I stopped by the DIY store and spent about $63 for the odds and ends which I might need for a fourth light in the winter garden.  That may seem like a straight forward gardening charge, but it’s not and let me explain why.  I didn’t need a fourth light.  I already had one which had been evicted from the house, so it was actually a surprise that a fifth one ended up in my cart.  They were on clearance of course so better to get one and save $10 in the process and who knows, maybe some day I’ll use it to illuminate a work area so it’s clearly not a gardening expense.  The screws weren’t either.  I only needed to buy them because the boy got off with all the ones we had in order to build some boy project last summer.  That was just the cost of having children.  I bought a chain which could hang the light but that’s structural, just like the scrap wood which makes up the shelf and hangers.  All in all I guess for now I’ll just count the $6 worth of S hooks which I bought to hang the actual light.

winter garden

Still not a winter paradise but at least things are cleaner and there’s more growing space.  Please ignore the pumpkins, they and a few gourds have been waiting since Thanksgiving to have their seeds removed and cleaned for next summer.  

Once the light was up I ended up using leftover chain links to hang the lights, so I’m going to cut that last $6 charge right back off the budget.  You will probably agree that at zero dollars this was a very economical upgrade.

But I will add a $2.50 charge to the tally.  A child was given a fish tank for Christmas.  A trip to the store and $70 worth of fish, aquarium decorations (and mostly snacks and food items) left me with a mostly unused, yet already-opened, bag of aquarium gravel.  Aquarium gravel makes an excellent soil covering for potted cacti and succulents so I’ve made an executive decision to accept the gravel into the gardening inventory… although I’ll have to discount the 5$ bag by 50% for already being opened. 🙂

$2.50 for aquarium gravel

$155 total so far for the 2018 gardening year.

34 comments on “Spending Money (or so it seems)

  1. Thanks for the peek at the winter garden. Your garage must be warmer than mine. One of these days I’ll track down that Henry Mitchell essay.

    • bittster says:

      Yeah, it’s just off the furnace room and if I keep the door open the furnace gives off enough heat to keep the room above freezing. That probably doesn’t say much for the efficiency of the furnace…
      I should be finding that Henry Mitchell essay myself, it’s been too long since I last went through his books. I wonder if I have all of them? I think there are three.

  2. Lisa from the Bloomers says:

    If your day job ever falls through, you should go into accounting. You’d make a killing! 🙂

  3. Pauline says:

    I’ll believe you but I don’t think an accountant would! Your plants must be very pleased with their own special place to keep warm!

    • bittster says:

      The plants do well enough, but an actual greenhouse would be the dream! -but I’m far too cheap to pay for the heating, and then there’s always the stress of a furnace going down on the coldest night of the year. A sunroom like yours would be the ideal compromise 😉

  4. Christina says:

    You are tempting me to create a place for some serious winter colour! Actually there is a project underway that will adapt itself very well. We won’t go into the cost of that project and it certainly wouldn’t come out of a gardening budget (if I had one). Do you have any heat in the workroom at all? What is the temperature? I am feeling a need for some colour this year, much more than usual. that may be satisfied when the tulips begin flowering! BTW I think you could become my accountant if this post is anything to go by.

    • bittster says:

      I’m very excited to hear you might have another project in the works!
      I’m also one of those people who needs some color and warmth during the winter. My room is really on the cold side and on the coldest days I move the plants away from the windows and doors since the pots will easily freeze solid due to icy drafts and poor insulation. Most everything in there can tolerate near-freezing temperatures so that helps keep my worries down. There is no actual heat source other than the adjoining furnace room, which if I leave the door open lets in enough warmth to avoid freezing, so as long as I wear a light coat I can still enjoy some winter gardening.
      I had one pot of tulips chilling on the windowsill (several parts of the room are cold enough to chill spring bulbs) and it looked very promising until a mouse discovered the shoots. I don’t know if it will recover and I may have to count on yours this winter. Someday I’ll try anemones.

      • Christina says:

        Thanks for the info. So your room is like a greenhouse kept frost free. My greenhouse is that but on warm days heats up a lot whereas I imagine your room keeps a pretty constant temperature. I’m looking at lights too, I think they would help with early growth of seedlings.

  5. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I am glad you brought us into your inner sanctum. I think the left over colors were a hit. The next time you get the urge to paint you could use house (outside) paint. That way you could just wash down the walls when they get yucky. You have some natural light too. Nice. I envy your space. Now as to your accounting…I think you are doing a good job and you have tweaked my conscious. I did buy a new pump for the water feature the other day and didn’t write it down. It was on sale of course. I bet these unconscious purchases can add up. We will see.

    • bittster says:

      Two of the three paints were actually outdoor quality, and I could have gone with another can of outdoor white, but there’s enough of that outside and I don’t want even more on the walls as well! (although white would be a much better choice for reflecting light and making things brighter….). I did try and reserve the outdoor paint for the most spidery and dirt-prone corners, so we’ll see.
      I’m glad you enjoyed the visit. It’s such an industrial area that the plant closeups are much nicer to look at, but some people have seen it when it looked much worse so i guess I wanted to prove that I don’t live in complete squalor!
      January is the worst time to develop a conscience about gardening purchases. Each and every snowstorm is practically an invitation to do some online browsing for spring, and I’ve already found more plants which I didn’t even know I needed. Right now I’m close to ordering a few hardy cactus. Who knew!?
      I would have snapped up that pump in a second. I don’t have a water feature but that would be my excuse to add one. Actually a water feature in the winter garden doesn’t sound like a bad idea… maybe with a few goldfish 🙂

  6. I did buy a potted Muscari this week but my favorite nurseries have not gone live so no online purchases yet. But we are turning our guest room into an art studio for me. Currently testing material we already own like a door on sawhorses for a drawing table. But I am sure there could be money spent here. I will work on it!

    • bittster says:

      I’m sure whatever you end up with will be as brilliant as usual. I’m still struggling to ‘nice up’ the winter garden, but there’s not a whole lot of rush since it’s functional enough to get by until the next tweak.

  7. rusty duck says:

    Creative accounting made easy. I like the table and chair. It’s got the makings of a proper den. What I don’t see is the appropriate beverage..

  8. Ian Lumsden says:

    I like it when writers mention the cost. Gardening has a cost and life is full of choices about what to spend money on. My own shed is now a potting area, rather messy at this time of year because it’s always too cold and miserable to linger. Gravel is good and cheap. I’ve noticed a huge variation in quality however because some types mix well and look good. I’m into aesthetics. Miserable time of the year here in the UK. Hardly any sun. Mind you, there’s always entertainment to be had watching the real weather you have in the States. Frightening.

    • bittster says:

      Don’t be too frightened by our weather. It’s winter, it will be cold, and occasionally we will get large dumps of snow. Each year it repeats and in spite of the newsroom panic it’s mostly just our average weather.
      Hurricanes and floods are a different story though, but there’s never rally much that can be done about it anyway!
      Gravel is just as much an issue on this side of the Atlantic. For years I’ve been waffling between an earthy toned river pea gravel and a dull gray crushed stone. I think the former would look much nicer, but the later would make a better walking surface. The two together though just wouldn’t look right. …we also have a crushed red stone locally, but I just can’t convince myself to like the color.
      I already worried that potential plant purchases might make the budget look out of control. I’m trying to sit on my hands for another day or so, but will surely crack on something and if it gets really bad the receipt might have to get misplaced! I think we’re all a little nosey about what others are up to, I know I am 😉

  9. Cathy says:

    I think a bookkeeper might frown at the maths! But who cares what bookkeepers think when you have got such a nice little area to withdraw to for potting (or pottering). 🙂 I am way ahead of you so far and haven’t spent a penny on anything for the garden this year yet, but expenditure is likely to rocket in spring!

    • bittster says:

      🙂 Yesterday I planted a few seeds way to early, just because I wanted to have something sprouting to keep an eye on.
      I’ve been eyeing plenty of things which I feel the need to order, and suspect this weekend I’ll have to crack on something, but I’m a little worried that once I start it might get ugly fast!

  10. willisjw says:

    I think that the tagline from the MasterCard advertisements is “Priceless”. That is what you are going to conclude in the end… 🙂

    • bittster says:

      Yes, you’re absolutely right and I think I already decided that a few years ago when I came to the conclusion it was ok to buy exciting plants even if I had no idea where they would be planted. It’s still cheaper than a visit to the casino, and far more rewarding.

  11. Eliza Waters says:

    A little bit of paradise in winter is worth it!

  12. Lisa says:

    Your winter garden is lovely! I guess it is also great for overwintering tender plants. I am sure the plants like the artificial light. I have a garden shed in my garden and have been thinking about using it as a space to overwinter plants. However, I am a bit afraid of the costs of artificial lighting and I would probably also need some heating. At the moment I use a spare room in my flat to overwinter tender plants such as lemon trees and pelargoniums. I don´t heat the room and the window is always slightly open. So far the plants seem to like it, though for winter flowers such as snowdrops and cyclamen my room is probably too warm.
    Enjoy your beautiful winter flowers!
    Best wishes,

    • bittster says:

      Hi Lisa,
      I bet you could get away with a few things in the shed, your winters are so much milder than ours that you might be surprised by how little protection they need. I have several plants overwintering in the corners of my room, and if kept cool and very dry it’s surprising how well they hold out during the cold and how little light they need. I bet citrus and pelargoniums would even handle some light freezing as long as it doesn’t last.
      Aren’t your snowdrops are already blooming in the garden!? Mine still have a few months before they awaken. It’s a much more desperate scene here!

      • Lisa says:

        This year it is very mild in Vienna. This is probably also why my snowdrops are blooming already. However, sometimes it can also get very cold. Last year we had about -15 degrees for some weeks. But if the weather were as mild as this year every year, then most plants would probably do fine in the garden shed. I am so happy that it is rather mild this winter and hope it stays like that. I wish you luck that your snowdrops will awaken soon!
        Best wishes,

  13. pbmgarden says:

    Looks great. I have spent zero but that’s sure to change soon.

    • bittster says:

      Sometimes it just takes a mood and a few tempting things to push you over the edge 😉
      Next year I might try a few anemones under the lights. Yours do so well but here they wouldn’t make it overwintering outdoors…

  14. Looks great! A botanical paradise compared to my garage. As for shady accounting, I’m all for it. Transparency is overrated when it comes to spending on the garden.

    • bittster says:

      Sometimes gardening receipts just need to disappear, and when someone asks if a certain plant is new, denial is always an acceptable option. I apply this theory to nearly every new snowdrop.

  15. Peter/Outlaw says:

    The winter garden looks better all the time! I find that more beverages make creative accounting even easier.

  16. Chloris says:

    We gardeners need a winter playpen to keep us sane. Every penny spent on it is an investment in our health I have bought a new greenhouse this winter and that is how I justify it. I like your creative accountancy.

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