Ahhh – gardening…some do it to save money, while others do it for the love of digging in the dirt – one way or the other, you can’t beat watching those little seeds grow into lovely plants that produce the tastiest. food. ever.
While I’ve dabbled in gardening off and on for the past 15 years, for most of those years, I just threw some seeds in the ground (or bought a few plants from the nursery), watered them now and then and harvested whatever veggies they happened to produce.
Two years ago, we moved to a home on a one acre lot. Here, I thought, was my opportunity to dive in and become a “real” gardener. And while I’m really still a novice, I’ve learned a ton about gardening over the past two years. In fact, I was able to successfully harvest about 600 pounds of produce last year. I’m on track to bring in even more this year, barring unforeseen weather, critters, or other pests (I’m talking to you, you pesky squash bugs).
The cost of getting started
Getting a garden started can be expensive, but doesn’t necessarily have to be.
I have six 8’ x 4’ raised beds inside a nice fence my husband built this year (to keep the deer, dogs, and rabbits out). The materials for the beds, fence and compost to fill the beds was approximately $700, so my overall startup costs were pretty huge.
But starting a garden doesn’t have to cost a heap of money. I did add a corner garden this year, which is outside of the fenced area and is not a raised bed (though I did build it up a little).This garden didn’t cost anything but a load of compost ($20) and a little labor. I knew I was taking my chances on the critters nibbling on the plants in this particular garden and, while the deer have taken a couple of tassels off my corn, they aren’t likely going to touch the pokey leaves of the squash.
Costs of planting and maintaining
I keep costs low by starting all of my plants from seed, make own some of my own compost (right in the garden itself) and mulch with cut grass (we don’t use chemicals on the lawn).
To maintain healthy soil, I plant cover crops (I use crimson clover) in the fall to add nutrients to the soil and make sure I rotate crops each year (except the strawberries).
So far this year, I’ve spent $119 on my garden (with the exception of the fence). The money was spent on seeds* (and seed potatoes), composted manure, soil to start seedlings in the winter, fertilizer, diatomaceous earth (a natural attempt to deal with squash bug problem), string for trellises, peat moss, 50 strawberry plants (bare root) and 5 blueberry bushes.
Water is the area that I really need to improve on as far as gardening costs go. We are on rural water that is super expensive, so this definitely cuts into the garden savings. I’ve not seen a huge increase in the water bill yet this year, but I expect it will happen. I am trying to convince hubby he needs to make me a rain barrel system but, so far, no dice.
We planted 5 apple trees, 2 pear trees and 3 peach trees two years ago and 5 blueberry bushes this year. The trees and bushes cost between $10 and $20 each and won’t produce fruit for another couple of years, so we’ll just call that an investment in the future.
Is it worth it?
My answer is a resounding “YES”! But I’m completely biased. That’s coming from a person who loves to be outside and has found a new passion for gardening over the past two years. I can go out to my garden intending to spend 15 minutes and, low and behold, 2 hours have passed before I know it. (I miss my garden on vacation – like really miss it. Is that weird?)
Gardening does definitely take a good deal of time, so if you aren’t willing to commit at least a few hours a week outside, sometimes doing rather difficult laborious work (during hot, sticky, buggy days), you may want to stick with a smaller garden, or consider container gardening on your patio (or skip it altogether).
That said, gardening can fit into even the smallest of budgets. Even if you just throw some seeds in a pot or a little plot of ground, you will likely be able to raise a few delicious veggies, which can save on groceries during the summer months.
My harvest of 600+ pounds of produce last year is nothing to sneeze at and it definitely cut down on produce costs at the grocery store for a few months. Plus, I do preserve some of my bounty for later – I am all about freezing extra produce, but I don’t actually can anything other than salsa (oh my gosh, homemade salsa is so yummy!) and dill pickles.
Is gardening for you?
Obviously, the time and energy spent gardening is worth it to me, but not everyone is going to love it like I do. Gardening can be expensive and time consuming, but doesn’t have to be. It can be done on a budget with just a little time involved (particularly small gardens). Any way you cut it, you just can’t beat the taste of fresh veggies grown in your own backyard!
How is your garden growing? Are you a new or seasoned gardener? Any tips for frugal gardening?
*I always go a little overboard when buying seeds but, once the package of seeds is open, I do keep what’s left in the fridge in a sealed container, so I am using many of last years’ seeds.