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Go green and go broke?


Let's face it: going green in the home or garden can cost a small fortune. Case in point, James Glave has spent $85,000 (Canadian dollars) -- and counting! -- to design and build an "Eco-Shed," a 280-square-foot, solar-heated writing studio which stands in his front yard. Unflinchingly, he chronicles the lengthy -- and sometimes painful -- process in his new book, Almost Green: How I Saved 1/6th of a Billionth of the Planet. Glave likens his adventure to being trapped on a "green-building carousel." He explains, "Designers, contractors, researchers, and consultants have at various points hopped aboard, tossing me opinions and truths and tidbits of insight about materials, location, costs, and mechanical systems before leaping off with a wave and, occasionally, some of my money." While it doesn't take a team of designers to create a thriving organic garden, it can take quite a lot of money -- especially if one lacks the requisite time and patience to anticipate the garden's needs.

For instance, organic gardeners set out to feed the soil rather than the plants growing in it. That means loading garden with nutrient-rich, organic matter such as leaves, worm castings, fresh compost, or properly aged manure. But if one lacks the room and wherewithal to set up a red worm bin or compost pile, that can mean forking over big money to the local nursery or compost dealer. And, rather than plant seed directly in the garden, instant gratification types choose already-flourishing plants potted in petroleum-eating plastic. At four or five bucks a pop, those organically grown, heirloom tomatoes can really add up. Then there's the watering to take into account. Got the time, space, and expertise to set up a filtered rainwater collection system? If not -- or if there's an extended dry spell -- you'll have to pony up for copious amounts of city water to keep the garden productive.

Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn't be easier on the earth -- and one's budget -- to leave the organic gardening to small, local farmers instead. But, no, I think as long as one takes the time to do things right over a period of years and not months, the payoff is pretty great.