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With the ever-increasing food prices at the local supermarkets, many probably wonder, “Can growing a garden save you money?” Perhaps this idea has long floated around in your head. But after a few trips to your local garden store, you quickly realized just how expensive random gardening items seemed to be.
Let’s take a look at my gardening records from 2018
Yes, I keep gardening records. I like to know every penny I’ve sunk into the ground and what I received in return. I’ve found that it helps me avoid unnecessary expenditures and focus on the crops (and specific breeds of crops) that will help me get the most produce out of my money. It was in 2018 that I added a garden to my property. Let’s see how it performed.
My initial expenses
- Seed: $25.08
- 80 tomato plants: $18.00
- Garden soil: $127.93
- Dandelion weeder: $8.99
- Blueberry bushes: $49.97
- 5-gallon bucket: $2.98
- Sweet potatoes: $8.32
- TOTAL: $241.27
As you can see, I put quite a bit of investment into my garden this year, really banking on raising a lot of tomatoes. I hoped to sell them at a local farmer’s market. A terrific battle against deer, bunnies, dry weather, and poor soil dashed my hopes that year.
However, here is how it panned out for my garden by year’s end
I calculated the cost by going to my local grocery store and writing down the cost of all organic items I had grown. When multiplied by the amount I had grown, I was able to determine the monetary value of my produce.
As you can see, even with a hefty first-year investment in soil, a dismal failure of a tomato crop, an investment in blueberry bushes that didn’t produce, and a failed potato crop, I still came out ahead money-wise. We had greens coming out of our ears that year. Since we eat a lot of them around my house, we saved a hefty chunk of change. In fact, our lettuce crop alone made the money we put into our garden well worth the initial investment.
Money’s Worth Produced
- Lettuce (20.5 gallons): $245.59
- Asparagus (1/2 a handful): N/A
- Spinach (7.5 gallons): $89.85
- Sweet Potatoes (1 bushel): $24.00
- Microgreens: $27.93
- Mixed greens (8 gallons): $95.84
- Radishes (1 gallon): $6.76
- Tomatoes (151 maters): $188.75
- Potatoes (1 gallon): $3.66
- Carrots (1 gallon): $7.17
- TOTAL: $689.55
Below are my tips for wisely investing in gardening.
Shop around for seeds
It’s surprising to me to see how prices of Black Seeded Simpson lettuce varies so drastically from seller to seller for the same weight of seed. I’ve found the same to be true for all other forms of seed as well. While you’ll still save money on food regardless of how much money you spend on seed, you can save a significant amount of money by purchasing your seed at a reasonable price.
If you can save $1/packet by purchasing from somebody other than Burpee and you’re buying 20 packets of seed, well, that’s $20 you could be saving. We recommend heirloom seeds from a family-owned business, Seeds for Generations.
Raised beds are a worthy investment
While they’re most certainly not necessary to grow a garden, I’ve found I enjoy the way my raised bed garden looks more than simple dirt rows. The aesthetics draw me towards my raised bed garden more regularly. As a result, that garden is better cared for than my other garden and has fewer weeds.
My raised bed garden produces a greater harvest than I get from my row garden. Purchasing lumber is an additional infrastructure cost, but I’ve found that it pays dividends down the road.
Plant your seeds efficiently
The more seed you can put into the ground, the more plants you’ll produce. You have to know how to do this without choking out your plants, though. The best resource I’ve found on learning to plant seeds efficiently is Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening.
I highly recommend it to every potential gardener I meet, as I’ve yet to find a resource that does as fantastic of a job of explaining the efficient use of garden space as does Bartholomew.
The basic premise is that planting in rows is inefficient. If you can plant your seeds in a zig-zag pattern, you’ll be able to fit many more plants into a given location than you would be able to otherwise.
Don’t be afraid to buy those tools
If you find a tool out there you believe will save you time and effort in accomplishing a gardening task – and it does not have a motor attached to it – then I say go ahead and buy the product, as it will be money well spent.
However, I do not say the same about tools that have motors. Motorized tools typically cost thousands of dollars. It’ll take you years’ worth of gardening to pay off that stupid piece of equipment. Stick with manual labor as much as is possible. Your wallet will thank you.
Find the brand you enjoy working with
There are some brands I enjoy working with and some I don’t. It’ll take a few years to discover which ones you’re a fan of and which you dislike. Whether it be the shipping policies, the germination rate, the amount of seed per packet, or the customer service, there will be a host of intricacies that will help you decide which brand is the best for you.
Have fun discovering what that is.
Experiment with different kinds of crops
I would have never known that Black Seeded Simpson was one of my favorite lettuces to grow had I not planted half a dozen different types over the years. Shoot, I wouldn’t have ever known that leaf lettuce was something I preferred to head lettuce had it not been for experimentation.
Don’t be afraid to experiment in your garden. You’ll often find breeds of corn, lettuce, and eggplant that not only do very well within your region but that you prefer the taste of or of working with compared to other breeds of plants.
So, can growing a garden save you money?
As shown above, the answer is a resounding YES. Year after year, when I go back over my records for how much money I put into the ground that past growing season ad what I harvested, I find that the crops produced gave me a return on investment that was regularly 250+%.
That’s fantastic. Where else can you get those kinds of returns? So, if you’re considering growing your own garden but are hesitant about whether or not you can save any money from doing so, I assure you that you can. In fact, you may be surprised at just how much it’s possible to save. Check out this article and this one for more advice for gardening on the cheap.
Have you found that gardening saves you money? What do you grow? What kind of setting are you in, urban, suburban, or rural? Let’s talk about frugal gardening in the comments.