The Finance Fiend

Getting Financial Freedom by 35!

Will a Garden save money? April 22, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rebecca @ 4:53 pm

I know this isn’t exactly related to the consumer ed series, but I am allowed to change topic.  Its my blog afterall.

Gardening has become all the rage this year.  Call them Victory Gardens, Recession Gardens, or just being more green, garden appeal to many people across the board.  First off all, I must let everyone know, the first year of gardening is the tell of if you can cut it. Also, depending on your ground area, you may or may not break even in cost.

How much does gardening cost?

For a small vegetable garden, it can cost as little as a couple of dollars for seeds, or as much as a few hundred for plants and other materials.

I built a raised bed this year. I followed the plan from Sunset and made a sturdy planter that will last at least 10 years with little or no mainenence.  But don’t go thinking it was cheap.  It really wasn’t.  It cost me about $200 for materials, the biggest cost was the cedar.  Man was that stuff expensive.

I bought seeds, but of course my mind was bigger than my garden, and I have plenty of seeds for next year. I also started several plants inside, almost everything  didn’t work, except the tomato plants (go figure).  The tomato plants thrived, and I just put 7 plants in, and stared at the other 7.  I will be giving those away to friends and neighbors.

When will the garden pay for itself?

I expect to break even this year.  I know the $200 was a lot to fork over at one time, and on our meager salary, but its like an investment. Next year I won’t have to amend the soil, several of my crops are hierloom vareties meaning I won’t have to buy more seeds, and thanks to a cold frame top I will have an exended growing season. I am also doing square foot gardening, which means I will end up with more crop per area.

If that doesn’t convince you, think of it this way. If I am lucky I can get tomatoes for 99 cents/lb at the store. Cucumber are maybe 75 cents each, and leaf lettuce for maybe 99 cents per bunch in season.  So if I can grow 200 lbs of tomatoes, 300 cucumbers OR 200 heads of lettuce I break even.  Of course, I am not going to get that much of any one item and I am growing things that are rather pricey like sugar snap peas to support my stir fry addiction. Some foods pay for the packet of seeds with just one seed (or just one fruit).

This doesn’t sound like my cup of tea…

Gardening takes time.  Whether you are growing food or herb or just pretty plants, it requires work.  There is a reason why most people don’t have gardens.  It might not be the weeding, watering, or harvesting that gets to them; they just don’t have the time to do any of those things.

There are other options.  Some plants are perennials (meaning they come back every year). Strawberries are a good example.  Asparagus is also a plant that comes back every year, but you can’t harvest and eat it until the third year.  Rhubarb is another example, it looks like a red stemmed celery, but its a very bitter fruit.  I learned my lesson when I was 9. There are also berry bushes and trees, and perennial greens both herbs and spinaches etc.  All of these need maintenence, but less than a traditional veggie patch.

If you think you won’t have time for a vegetable garden consider planting in containers. You can get the nifty looking hanging tomato or pepper plants, or you can just buy a pot for your patio or balcony.

The best thing about gardening, is the harvest.  The first zucchini, tomato, or strawberry is always exciting. Plus, when you have 20 ripe at once, you can meet your neighbors and let them share in your bounty.


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