Growing a Vegetable Garden Saves You Money

Suburban grower loves growing a vegetable garden and reaps wide-ranging benefits from his effort.


| July/August 2010



Trowel with Radishes

Digging in the soil is good for your wallet, as well as your physical and emotional well-being.

iStockphoto.com/Jim Jurica

I love growing a vegetable garden. It’s a simple enough thing to say, but I really, really love home vegetable gardens! The simple act of placing a seed in fertile soil, watering it and harvesting its fruits is almost a personal revolution. It’s a way of declaring my independence and providing healthful, fresh food for my family. And I always assume we save some money, but just how much?

When Grit Editor Hank Will posed this question, I didn’t have an answer. I live in the suburbs and cultivate food on most of my quarter-acre lot. I was certain that my family ate better with less expense because of our gardening efforts, but I never actually did the math. So I decided to make the calculations and give Hank an honest answer. Here goes. 

Building the spreadsheet

A few years back when we moved to our new home, I had the opportunity to start a garden from scratch. The soil I was stuck with was soil only in the sense that it was on the surface of the Earth, and it had things growing in it – lots of weeds. Because of that, I decided to build my garden in raised beds. I could have purchased wood, but because of all the construction around me, I was able to get a lot of scrap 2-by-6s for free. It took more time, but the cost savings was worth it to me; making calculated decisions should always be a part of the garden, whether it’s buying supplies or deciding when to plant.

For my planting medium, I went with a soilless mix. Each of my five 4-by-6 raised beds was started with a mix of 1⁄3 each compost, peat and vermiculite. Buying all that growing medium and the hardware to build my beds cost me nearly $200 – it would have been substantially more without the free 2-by-6s. 

Running the numbers

Since that first year, my garden has grown quite a bit. With each new raised bed, both in the backyard and front, more costs were incurred. I tend to be a pretty good salvager, so much of the growth has been from recycled materials, but not all. That means more costs. I did stop making my own soilless mix, for the most part because of what it costs, but truckloads of compost at $30 a load add up, as do the organic fertilizers I use. I would guess generously that I spend about $200 to $300 per year in garden-related materials and have put close to $1,200 overall into building my garden, including raised beds, soil and drip irrigation. I could have spent much more, but honestly I could have spent less, as well. Again, it’s all about choices. And what do I get for that investment? What I get is so much more than what I put in that I hardly can quantify it accurately.

Before I try to put monetary value on it, I have to explain why I garden. I’m not a farmer, much as I may fancy myself one, so I don’t do it for the money. I’m also not in a remote location with limited access to fresh vegetables, nor am I in such financial hard times that I need a garden. I garden for my peace of mind, and because I love good food. My time in the garden, connected so closely to the soil, gives me perspective on the rest of my life. Such a basic pleasure is gained from the act of sowing seed and harvesting fruit that I truly believe gardeners will outlive their non-
gardening counterparts, or at the very least more enjoy their time on Earth.

Colleen Del Bane
7/23/2010 12:23:42 PM

I have to agree totally with the author of this article. Money saving aside, just the time I spend in my garden nurturing and fussing over my plants brings such a sense of euphoria. It is like my own personal sanctuary away from the family, My dogs ( I own registered French Bulldogs and Miniature Dachshunds ) and the business end of being a dog breeder... The Computer/Telephone. Being out there working the garden alone in the morning watching Deer pass through outside the 8 foot fence, seeing and hearing Wild Turkeys calling to their babies and having the hummingbirds come down close around me to bath on the cabbage leaves as I water is something that many never experience and I see it every day.This method of getting exercise and relaxation can be physically exhausting when you are first forming your garden but the benefits health wise are tremendous.


Ozarkhomesteader_1
7/23/2010 12:07:44 PM

I have run similar cost comparisons, and we always come out way ahead. Count in the organics and it gets even better, as you said. Last year I got an old postal scale from a family member. I get so much satisfaction from weighing my produce as we bring it in from the garden. Yesterday, for example, we picked more than 7 pounds of grapes, from a grapevine we rescued after we moved here. That's free food, plain and simple since we grow it in the yard with no soil amendments at all. Even once you add in the little organic sugar I'll put in the grapes when I turn them into jam, it's still almost free. After all, once you've bought your jars and rims, you only need to get lids. http://ozarkhomesteader.wordpress.com/






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