If you are like me, you are probably enjoying the benefits of growing a garden this time of year. The joys of growing a garden are vast, but the benefits are oftentimes overplayed. Saving money with gardening is not as easy as it sounds. Most likely, you will not save any money growing a garden. Does a garden have the potential to save you money in the long-term? Of course, but the typical garden setup is often very inefficient.
Imagine with me, that you want to grow a large quantity of tomatoes. Let’s imagine 20 tomato plants in a 10 by 10 plot. So what kind of costs should you consider for your tomato garden?
First off, you need the seeds or plants themselves to start growing your tomato garden, a cost that varies tremendously based on type of tomato (heirloom for instances) and age (seeds or small plants). You might have to rent or buy a tiller to till your soil. You may need some soil amendments (peet moss, top soil, etc. ). Odds are you will need to protect your investment from fuzzy adorable critters with some sort of wire fencing. Speaking of wire fencing you will most likely need wire fencing posts and wire tomato stilts. You might need some hoses or hose attachments (I love drip hoses). Last but definitely not least, you will need water for your plants.
What is the total investment for this tomato plot? About $100 up front and probably about $5 a month in water during the hot months. The math is as follows:
- Tiller (Rental, 4hrs) – $40
- Soil Amendments – $20
- Fencing and Posts – $35
- Seeds – $1
- Hose and Attachments – $10
- Watering – $5 a month
This is a very conservative estimate for growing your tomato garden, but it is easy to see that most likely you are not going to cut out $100 of your food budget with this tomato plot.
You can collect your own water and use a composter to drastically mitigate the costs, but rain collectors and composters are an added upfront cost as well. If you start talking about raised bed gardens, the cost is even worse.
Now of course there are more effective ways of getting your garden to pay out, but the long and short is that most people do not garden with cost in mind. Gardening is peaceful and enjoyable and that is the payoff for most individuals. Individuals who will spend countless unpaid hours tending to large gardens, breaking even or slightly ahead at best.
Best ways to make growing a garden more cost effective.
- Economy of Scales – Larger crops usually reduce overhead
- Composter – You need to amend your soil with nutrients that are cost effective
- Grow from seeds
- Have land with good soil
- Have a free water source
- Variety of Plants can reduce your food budget. Having just tomatoes might take a chunk of your tomato budget, but why not grow some garlic and onions while you are at it?
- Selling your garden, but be warned that permits are most likely needed.