Monday, November 24, 2014

Does growing vegetables save you money?

What do you think, does growing vegetables save you money?

It can, but not necessarily. Of course its possible to overspend and try to grow inappropriate plants that fail. I read a very negative article a while ago (and lucky for you I can’t find it again, so you don’t have to suffer through it too), it was written by a person who had spent a ridiculous amount of money buying pots and potting mix and trying to grow tomatoes on an apartment balcony. They worked out how much it cost and how few tomatoes they harvested and concluded that there was no point growing anything. I found it very frustrating because they had really just set themselves up to fail and it wasn’t fair to conclude that gardening is not worthwhile.




Start small and don’t spend a lot to get started
If you are completely new to gardening, don’t jump in and buy six raised beds, soil, seedlings and an irrigation system. Just get a pot, possibly from your local dump shop, and some potting mix, and some herbs for a few dollars from your local market and see how that goes for you. Then you can expand gradually as you find out what you can grow, and how much time and resources you have to spare on gardening.

When you want to expand, try to source free or cheap supplies. Look for options to collect manure and organic matter to improve your soil. Large containers from the dump shop can be used instead of expensive raised beds. Join in seed swaps and start to save your own. Gardening does not have to cost you a huge amount if you are willing to be creative.




Choose your crops carefully
There are essentially three options for deciding what to focus on growing. This concept is explained brilliantly in the book One Magic Square, which is about just marking out one square metre (about a yard) and focusing on growing certain groups of vegetables, so that you don’t get overwhelmed by doing too much at once.
  • Staple crops that you usually buy in bulk – if you have space, you might consider trying to grow potatoes, carrots and onions (or whatever you buy most) so that you don’t have to buy them anymore
  • Vegetables that you use that are usually expensive – things like herbs, eggplant, chokos, turnips and peas, that are usually relatively expensive, will save you money if you grow them instead (if you would have normally bought them)
  • Vegetables that produce the most food – vegetables that just keep cropping, such as zucchini, tomatoes, beans and kale, will continue to produce for long periods (compared to single crops like carrots or corn) and could save more money for the space they take up
The main thing is to choose vegetables that will grow easily in your climate (don’t make life hard for yourself) and make sure that they are foods that you and your family eat or will learn to eat, so that you cut down what you have to buy. If you get used to eating in season from what is growing in the garden, rather than buying what you want when you want it, you will save. Join a gardening group or forum and find out what will grow well where you are. For example, I have had little success growing potatoes, but sweet potatoes do better. Likewise, I find spring onions grow better than bulb onions.




Money isn’t everything
Even the best gardeners will have a bad year and not produce as much as they would have liked. Fortunately, most gardeners have other reasons for growing, apart from just saving money. For me, being prepared, knowing how to grow the food that we need and supplement as much of our diet as possible, is more important that saving money every year (although generally, the garden doesn’t cost us much at all). The other benefit of gardening is stress-relief and I know many gardeners just really enjoy spending time in their gardens, whether or not they produce a massive harvest.

I couldn't find that negative article, but I found a positive one instead

9 comments:

  1. Abso-blooming-lutely gardening save us money! We save petrol buy not needing to shop as often, get trailer loads of manure at no cost from a stable (they even load it for us coz they need it gone), use weed teas etc. We do buy some products like blood and bone and seaweed fertiliser but I think gardening is cheap as chips. But the value of our own veggies is so much higher than shop bought. Flavour, satisfaction and, yes, I agree, stress relief!

    ReplyDelete
  2. There are some good cash crops which aren't fussy. I personally believe most vegetables are fussy, except a few hardy varieties. If you want to save money, just one pumpkin plant can do that. Plant two and you may have extras to trade with your neighbours. Potatoes are also better quality and more prolific than other vegetables in the garden. My sweet potato patch for example, grows itself and even feeds the wallabies with its fresh shoots. A zucchini plant is another prolific producer, with only powdery mildew to worry about in humid climates.

    Growing vegetables in pots is a whole other challenge though, and the person in the negative article you mentioned, probably didn't understand that fully. I haven't read how regularly you're meant to water container plants, but I do mine every day. The potting mix dries out otherwise, and your plants are sure to die. Container plants need regular feeding too. I believe its more expensive to grow vegetables in pots, than it is to grow them in the ground. You're going to buy more resources to house, feed and even water your containers.

    This is not a bad thing when you think of the petrol and footwork you'll save growing your own. Before I started growing herbs, I would have to plan my meals ahead, put them on the shopping list and spend a small fortune. Plus they weren't fresh and would wilt before I could use it all. Wasted money. Herbs alone can save a person money AND time.

    I don't think people should feel bad though, if gardening is just too hard for them - or if the conditions they're growing in are too challenging. Maybe they feel like people will frown on them if they buy their produce from the shops? I hope they don't feel like that, because farmers need to move their produce too. I think supporting farm produce is an excellent fall-back strategy as individuals learn the ropes of growing their own. People shouldn't feel like its all or nothing.

    I have very harsh conditions to garden in, so I only grow what is hardy and prolific and get MOST of my produce from the shops. I hope when we relocate I can grow more, but we'll have to see what the conditions are actually like. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. PS, I should clarify that I water my container plants every day during summer - every 2-3 days during winter.

      Delete
  3. Oh i agree that there is no point in growing something that wont be eaten. There are so many things i want to grow but why, when i know that no one will eat them, some, even me. I try things. I put one Tuscan Kale plant in and though it looks amazing (almost plant art) , the only way i get them to eat it is to hide it in casseroles so it is undetected. Lucky my garden is small so whatever i choose to grow i dont have much of a glut, except zucchinis.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think growing vegetables can save you money. Starting small is definitely the way to go. One mightn’t save any money growing vegetables at first. However if one is building their soil, making their own compost, growing plants suited to their climate and saving seed, I can’t see why they wouldn’t save money as time went on. Of course it would help knowing how to use, store and preserve what is grown. Also, it takes a lot of years to learn how to grow plants well and become a good gardener. - I don’t know if one can save money by growing vegetables in containers. Perhaps they would have better success growing a dwarf fruit tree instead – but only if they have enough sunlight through the day.

    ReplyDelete
  5. it totally saves you money.... provided that you are sensible with your supplies and you eat what you have! you can absolutely grow a $300 tomato if you try hard enough. or you can work your way up, do what works for you, and really take all of the benefit of your garden.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think that the better I've got at gardening the lower the costs. The more I learn, the more I do without!
    Comfrey tea is just one example, seeds saving, cuttings, grafting, etc. In fact I think I should hopefully make enough money from my apple trees to pay for my grafting hobby. Also because we've got so many fresh and lovely veg we eat less meat and east healthier.
    The other benefit is the effect it has on my little girls, they have no doubts about where food comes from. Whether it's munching tomatoes straight from the greenhouse or helping me did up parsnips for making soup. They know some food comes from shops but they also know that it comes from the ground. That to me is worth it alone.

    ReplyDelete
  7. How do you put a price on vegetable gardening? The fact that you can compost all your kitchen waste, leaves and cardboard is saving money long term instead of sending it to the landfill. Gardening is good exercise, instead of joining an expensive gym. I agree with you about growing the foods that you would pay a premium for, and I find ginger, galangal, lemongrass and herbs have added enormously to my cooking without added cost. When I am feeling sad or lonely a stint in the garden picks me up, and so I save the costs of a therapist too!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I think what you put in you get back plus some is my general rule for a beginner gardener. At the moment at our place we have spent a bit to set up our garden and slowly expanding each year. This year we bought a pump, next year we will probably do some netting over the tomato beds. The price of clean food and your health is unquestionable. I like to know where my food came from and I reckon home grown tomatoes are the BEST. First time gardeners should start with one pot and slowly grow their garden, like you said. I guess like any machine gardens do need maintenance so there is on going costs of putting fuel back into the soil. For those who are not lucky enough to have the space to make their own compost or mulch it can be expensive. Just remember those tomatoes and how good they taste!

    ReplyDelete

Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com

Never miss a post! Sign up here for our weekly email...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Suggested Reading