Does a vegetable garden save you money?
The short answer is yes.
On this site, I have pointed out over and over again that planting a garden gives you a cheap/free source of food that drastically reduces your food bill. Because of the garden, I regularly feed the two of us for under a dollar. I don’t know another way to do that, other than eating Ramen noodles for dinner.
Just look at the things I never have to buy because I garden: fresh herbs, tomatoes, leeks, melons, strawberries, lemons, garlic, shallots, peas, green beans, bell peppers, jalapeños…
The list goes on and on. I make gifts from the garden to cut down on the Christmas bill. I make condiments using my garden and save money that way. And on top of that, vegetables and fruits from the garden are healthier, fresher, and organic.
That said, you can’t just go to the hardware store and buy all your gardening supplies for top dollar and expect to make any money. But with some money-saving strategies, you can easily plant a garden for under $50. If your garden is big enough, you can make 10 times that in savings on your food bill.
Here’s a run down on the costs of a garden and how I have found to save on them:
Your shovels, rakes, trowels, watering cans, and so on. These are a one-time expense that will last you for years if you take care of them. Even so, you don’t have to buy them new–I find that garage and estate sales are a great place to get yard tools. I paid $.50 for my lawn sprinkler, $.10 for my watering can, and $1 for the shovel by buying them secondhand, saving easily $40 along the way. And if you need a garden caddy to carry all these tools, there’s always a $4.50 golf caddy from the thrift store.
People seem to like to buy those $5 bags of compost from the hardware store. That adds up fast. Instead, make your own compost for free to enrich your plants. Or you can always use steer manure for $1 a bag–it works just fine.
First of all, you don’t have to mulch, but it is a good way to control weeds and keep moisture in, so I like to do it. I was perplexed about how to save money on mulch until I discovered that my local utility company will deliver a truckload to my house for free. That is a price I can work with.
I don’t like using pesticides, but sometimes you have to. They can be quite pricey in the store. As an alternative, you can make your own pesticide with ingredients like pepper and dish washing soap. Or you can buy concentrated insecticide soap in bulk. I bought a bottle of it a few years ago for about $12 and it has lasted me at least three years so far, or $4 a year. Every so often I make up a batch and spray it on the plants.
This is probably the second biggest expense. It costs a lot of money to water all these plants in the height of summer. However, drip irrigation cuts the water bill way down.
You run water lines directly to the plants and a timer waters them for you. It saves you labor, it makes the plants happy, and not a drop of water is wasted. Alternately, you can collect rain in a rain barrels during the winter and use that to water with in the summer.
The plants can be the biggest expense, especially if, like me, you are a sucker for expensive nurseries. But there are plenty of free ways to get plants. You can trade with a friend, cultivate your own seeds from last year’s crops, grow some plants from the grocery store, propagate plants by dividing or rooting them, and so on. Second to getting free plants is growing plants from seed. An entire crop of vegetable from a $1.50 packet of seeds is a good bargain, if you ask me.
That’s about it. One thing I have noticed is that the more you garden, the cheaper it becomes. You get better at it and you find little ways to save money and cut corners. All and all, I don’t know a better way to feed yourself.
What are your money saving gardening tips?