As I’ve stated many times, I’m a blog addict. I read all types of blogs, cooking, gardening, decorating, wildlife, etc.. A common theme I’ve been seeing on a few gardening blogs is how cheap it is to grow your own food. Maybe I’m completely off when I say, I disagree with that. There are many times I have said it would be cheaper to just go buy these vegetables, but I enjoy gardening that for me it’s more for the effects my garden has on me than a monetary issue.
A successful garden takes work and money, how much of both is entirely up to each individual. For instance, if you just want a couple patio tomato plants that’s inexpensive and easy enough to manage. Buy a container (or even use a bucket (clean, not used to store chemicals or other toxic ickiness) with some dirt and you are in business. Give it some water, sun and a little food and you will get yourself some beautiful tomatoes. As your garden grows so does the effort and expense. There are ways to cut down your expenses like sharing seeds with a friend or two, repurposing containers or even getting them for free from some bakeries, wait to purchase gardening items on sale (end of the season most stores offer huge discounts on gardening supplies that they want to get rid of), be mindful of what you are planting by reading the seed packets for information or looking online to help you grow the seeds with the best results, and keep your garden to a manageable size.
Seed packets normally have more seeds than any one person can use, so sharing with one or two other people is a simple route that is easy to do. You could also coordinate with a neighbor and each grow certain items that you share with the other. Cuts down on the amount of seeds you need to purchase.
Some garden stores will offer their old containers from trees or plants that they no longer need either free or at a very minimal charge. They aren’t fancy, usually the black or green plastic, but they will get the job done for less money than the fancy pots. Bakeries are another option to find containers for growing, they usually have the 5 gallon buckets that frosting and such comes, again usually for free or a very small charge.
Waiting for the sales, seems like a no brainer idea, however, sometimes when you are in the moment and you are all motivated to grow a garden you might over buy and wind up with items you don’t need or could have found at a much less price. End of season is a great time to buy more expensive items because stores want to make room for the holiday items so they markdown like crazy. Garden beds, seeds, tools and sometimes when you are lucky, dirt.
When you take the time to grow seeds you want to know how to get the best results, ie the most vegetables from each plant. Make sure you know if it’s even possible to grow that vegetable in your zone. Okra, watermelon and other heat loving vegetables/fruit does not do well in my neck of the woods, so I don’t grow it. Save your money for ones that are suited for your zone. To check your zone you can go here.
And lastly, be realistic in your garden size, keep it manageable or you are just setting yourself up for failure and wasting money. Keep in mind how many people will be eating the vegetables, are you planning on canning your tomatoes (or other vegetables) or just eating them fresh, will you actually eat it?
I’ve never actually added up how much I spend each year growing my garden. The initial cost was more than the yearly maintenance cost, usually. Garden beds and containers are where the majority of my vegetables are grown. I do like to put a few pumpkin plants and a few others in random spots amongst my flowers because I think it looks really cool. Soil is pricey, and each year you need to amend the soil to make sure it has enough nutrients to feed the new batch of plants. You can of course make your own compost using kitchen scraps and yard clippings (not treated with pesticides or other toxic chemicals), but that too you will need to consider the work and cost involved. Reuse your containers, just give them a thorough cleaning before each use and you will save quite a bit of money.
My point isn’t to sound like Debbie Downer, just to make sure you are aware that growing your own food isn’t this free and easy route to go. I would hate for you to expect to not have to visit the grocery store/farmer’s market for any vegetables during the summer growing months because you were going to have this fantastic garden that was going to provide everything you need for free.
A successful garden takes time, effort and money but to me it’s more than worth it. My kids get to learn about food, how it’s grown, even work on their counting (how many containers do we need for the seeds, etc…) gets them outside and a lot of times gets them to eat vegetables that maybe they wouldn’t have. Also, I love getting to go just out to my backyard to grab some zucchini to throw on the grill with dinner, or some sweet tomatoes for a salad, you get the point, right?
If gardening sounds like it’s for you, then get out there and get your hands dirty, or put on some gloves and get the gloves dirty!!!