Does Gardening Really Save Money?

One money-saving eco-tip I hear over and over again is grow your own food. Ever since I had a plot of land to call my own, I’ve tended a small veggie patch. Some summers my gardens flop, sometimes they take over the back yard—but even on my Year of Abundant Tomatoes, I doubt my homegrown efforts offset my expenses.

Last year’s tomatoes

Now, the good thing is, I am not doing it purely for economic reasons: I enjoy gardening as a hobby, and I like to dart outside to pull a scallion out of the ground or pluck a few basil leaves to garnish that tender homegrown zucchini. And of course it’s great knowing exactly where my food comes from.

So let’s take a look at my last two summers of gardening. Last year I spent over $200 on gardening supplies because we decided to make raised beds and fill them with new four-way soil. I also bought some soaker hoses, seeds, and starts. All of that yielded a great crop of tomatoes and basil—I’d estimate about $40-60 dollars’ worth. The carrots and lettuce flopped.

This year I needed to lay down a lot less cash, but I still spent about $40 on various plant starts, some of which were immediately devoured by slugs. We had a really rainy spring and I didn’t even attempt planting anything from seed. And now it’s August and—due the aforementioned rainy spring and consistent cool temperatures—I’ve yet to harvest a thing!

I know Joy is an expert in acquiring free gardening supplies, which would be a great start to making gardening pay off. Do you feel like you not only break even but actually save money with your gardening efforts? What are the secrets to your success?

Comments

  1. I think like everythign else there are ways to do it cheaper if that is the end goal. I probably only get $3 or $4 worth of green beans each year, but if one of the pods over-grows, then i’ll let it sit on the vine until it has 6 seeds ready for next year.

    Tomatoes can also be grown from seed – if one falls int he dirt, is wormy, etc., just save it and grow some plants from it the next year.

    I think that there is a large up-front cost to gardening, but the longer you do it, the more you will save.

  2. I recently asked myself this same question! I too love gardening but it does seem that if you’re not a pro the costs outweigh the return. Here’s my solution to the problem: http://ecopop.tv/the-500-cherry-tomato

  3. Of course, as seeds are very cheap. However you need to take things slow. Grow only what will grow well in your climate and in the right season. Amend your soil with homemade compost. Gardening is always a work in progress.

  4. I’m looking forward to gardening next spring and I think I will endevour to do everything I can from seed and use as many found materials as possible. I have been reading the all new square foot gardening book and I feel like some of the methods will be costly – like making the mel’s mix – and I don’t want to skimp on those since they will pay off in the long run. So I’ll cut corners where it makes sense, and err on the side of too many seedlings!

  5. Seeds are indeed cheap, but I just haven’t had luck with much stuff I plant from seeds. This year even small starts got completely eaten by slugs. If I had some cold frames or something, maybe i could make planting from seed work for me. Parsley is one thing I’ve successfully grown from seed, so I’ll definitely grow that over the winter.

  6. I took a crack at growing herbs from scratch. I know they sell kits for this, but I wanted to do it the hard way. Normally I spend about $4 per bunch of fresh herbs at the store, and then I don’t use them all before they go bad. So I thought: I’ll grow my own. I bought the seed packets, special soil, and made my own pots by repurposing old containers. Amazingly I got all but one herb to sprout. Then they died. All of them. Money saved: $0.

  7. When you are first starting out, I strongly suggest going with plants for things like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and even some of the herbs. It takes time to get good at getting those seeds to become a plant. Be patient. And try a few years with plants. If you are just starting out with ‘seeds’ then I suggest trying to grow them inside until they are a plant. You can repurpose pots or even make your own out of newpaper (I have a pot maker I purchase at Burpee.com). Also things like zucchini and squash tend to explode so try ‘direct sow method’ for these plants. Burpee also has a good book on 100 things to do with zucchini. Cantaloupe is also fairly easy. Things like carrots, lettuce, and sometimes even watermelon can be a little tricky. Grow what is easy at first. Ask others or your local extension what grows well in your area.

    You can also try re-using things from the supermarket to save on cost ie. garlic cloves planted in the fall will become garlic next summer – or leave it till the following spring and it’ll be a ton, individual potatoes eyes can be used to make potato plants. I don’t suggest using things like tomatoes because the seeds are often hybrids and won’t germinate. If you want to use the seeds from your tomatoes you must have an heirloom variety which I find a little harder to grow. I have a small 3x40ft garden aka flower planter that I had a huge crop from last year for little overhead. You will always have stuff that doesn’t grow, but if you plant enough, you’ll always get some. Happy Gardening

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