Is Having a Garden and Growing Your Own Vegetables Worth It?
As the availability of fresh produce has increased in the grocery stores over the past few decades, gardening has decreased. As the recession has dragged on, gardening has made a come back. As the organic movement has taken root in the United States more and more people are starting to grow their own foods. I love seeing this! But many people still don't think it is worth it. The $64 Tomato by William Alexander that was published in 2006 didn't do much to help the gardening cause. So I have been keeping track of my harvest this year to determine if growing your own fruits and vegetables is really worth it.
While I can't say that gardening is easy, I do know that it shouldn't be hard. Honestly, it is up to you how much money you want to spend on your garden and how much time you want to invest in growing your own food. The more time you have the larger your garden can be. The more money you have the fancier it can be, but fancy doesn't grow vegetables. Vegetables need three things; sun, water and good soil. The good soil is where gardening will impact your wallet the most I have found. BUT if you can get good soil you will get repaid ten times over in good vegetables.
If you are just starting in the home grown food business, amending the soil is the key to getting a good start. It is so important to have good soil. Depending on how large your garden is going to be, you will either need to have soil trucked in or buy bags of peat moss and compost to get the soil going. Also depending on how large your garden is you will either need to mix all this dirt in by hand or borrow or rent a tiller. But if you have soil like us, which I question whether it can really be called soil because it is nothing but roots and clay, you might prefer to make raised beds. This will be your priciest option; however you will have an amazing harvest right from the start.
Looking back to our first year, we spent right around $100 to get our four raised beds started. This included boards, soil, fencing and all seeds and plants. We ate our fill of tomatoes and cucumbers for three months, way more than $100 worth if I had bought those foods at the store or farmer's market. This was also our most time consuming year, but I found it still to be worth it.
The second year we gardened here I spent around $50 on seeds and plants and we added two more boxes. Again we harvested wonderful fresh vegetables for three months; all we could eat and I canned some. This year we added a potato box, got six bags of manure and six bags of compost, and bought all plants and seeds for under $100. I have already harvested that amount in peas, green beans, lettuce, cucumbers and radishes from my garden and it is only the middle of July. I price compared everything I have picked to the farmer's market and the tomatoes haven't even turned red yet and I have made my money back.
Gardening is an investment in time and money. There is a commitment involved. You have to take care of the plants if they are to grow. But most people are around enough to keep things watered and weeded. There are ways to keep the weeds down and ways to make sure your garden gets watered even if you aren't around. You can make your garden as small or as big as you want and you can grow whatever you want.
There are also ways to keep the costs down. Making your own compost will help on the soil amending side of things. Growing your own plants from seeds will help lower costs on the plant side. Some people choose to grow the pricier vegetables they like to buy at the grocery store. This is certainly one way to get the most bang for your buck. I prefer to grow the items I buy the most of at the store. It means fewer trips to the store and while I might save a smaller amount of money per tomato, I figure the quantity of tomatoes we eat will generate plenty of savings for us.
If you have no land for a garden, try a container garden. A tomato plant in a pot can give you fresh tomatoes for several months. I have a pot with three different herbs in them, all we need and easy as can be. I even know someone who put a raised bed on her deck, so that she could grow her own food. You can even grow some plants in upside down hanging baskets if you really have no space on the ground. These are perfect for apartments.
Foods are so much fresher and fuller of nutrients when they are picked right from the vine and put on your table in a matter of minutes. For me, that alone makes it worth it. But from purely a financial aspect of things, it has always been a money saver for us to grow some of our own foods. If you are interested in growing your own food you can rest assured that if you put the time and effort into it, it will be worth it.