Have you been dreaming of growing your own garden? Do you lack a green thumb, like me? Are you worried about whether you can make your garden worth it financially? One of my very very very favorite ways to save money to apply to our hefty student loan balance is to grow some of our favorite fruits and vegetables in our own garden. I have made several past attempts at growing my own garden, each attempt reaffirming my propensity for killing things more than the last. However, last year, with the help of my toddler (seriously) I grew a garden that was PERFECT for us, saved us money on groceries, and helped us on our way to paying off debt. (And when I say I had help from my two year old, I mean that he is literally the reason the garden succeeded. Every day he would say “strawberries?” and would go out and weed and water all of our plants! Which was super helpful as I am prone to forget.)
Here are all of the ways you can make your garden worth it, financially.
One of the most obvious ways to make your garden worth it financially is to make sure you plant enough crops that you will yield enough produce to help lower your spending on groceries when they are ready to harvest. This can be tricky to gauge and will vary depending on your family size and how frequently you can convince them to eat aforementioned produce. For example, one cucumber plant yielded about 3-5 ripe cucumbers per week from about June – August for us last year. That was PLENTY for our family of 3, especially since I have to convince 2/3 of the people in my household to eat cucumbers. We planted about 6 ever bearing strawberry plants, which meant we had 3 strawberry harvests (in about april, late june, and early fall). While each of the plants produced really well, our family LOVES strawberries. We probably should have planted at least twice as many plants! (especially since strawberries freeze well for winter use).
DON’T OVERDO IT.
On the other hand, you don’t want to go totally crazy spending tons of money on starting your garden and such that it renders it not worth it financially. If there are only 3 people in your household (like us) you won’t need a self sustaining garden that can feed 20 people. The point is to help you save money on your groceries, not necessarily to grow as much food as you can. Also, there are SO MANY things you can buy when you are starting a garden. You can get boxes for raised beds, big fences, cute little watering cans, scare crows, a built in sprinkler, timers for said sprinkler, tons of things. Costs can balloon out of control really quickly. If you are growing a garden to save money, keep it simple. You don’t really need all of the bells and whistles to have a successful garden.
DON’T OVERPAY FOR SEEDLINGS AND PLANTS.
Another easy way to make your garden is worth it financially is to not overpay for your seedlings and plants. Keep in mind that if you grow your plants from seeds, that is by far the cheapest way to start your garden. But it is also the hardest especially depending on your climate. (i.e. you can get a whole packet of seeds for around $1 usually, where as one single plant can often cost $1, or much more). I choose to start from plants because I am not responsible enough for seeds and I kill them as small plants. And that makes my garden not worth it financially if I spend money and have nothing to show for it.
Usually in mid spring (that means now) you can find great deals on small plants and seedlings. And typically, the very first plants put out by stores in early spring will be most expensive. They’re taking advantage of the fact that you are feeling excited about spring! Wait a couple of weeks and the plants will be cheaper. PLUS, you want to make sure that the temperature at night is above freezing (for most plants) so you don’t kill them anyways.
For example, I spent $0.99 on one cucumber plant (on sale. otherwise expect to pay anywhere between $1.50-$4.00.) That plant yielded roughly 5 ripe cucumbers per week for about 3 months. That was more cucumbers than my family could even eat! And at my local market, cucumbers usually cost about $0.99 each but sometimes go on sale for as cheap as $0.49 each. That means by the time I have purchased 1 or 2 cucumbers per year, it made my cucumber plant worth it! (excluding the cost of water, I’ll get into that next).
GROW PLANTS THAT DON’T NEED LOTS OF WATER.
Depending on where you live, watering your garden can be VERY expensive. To save on costs, try to choose plants that don’t need as much water. I was very fortunate last year living in the midwest. We received a good amount of rain– I very rarely had to water my garden which obviously helped to keep costs low. You can’t control the weather, but you can control what kind of crops you’ll grow. Most peas, beans, tomatoes, squash, and melons don’t need as much water as other plants, so if you are really looking to cut costs (and you enjoy eating any of these) then you may want to start there.
SELL YOUR EXTRAS.
Another great way to make your garden worth it financially is to sell any extra produce you have! You can involve your kids (lemonade stand style). (Just be aware that some states will want you to have permits – remember the poor little girls in Texas whose lemonade stand was shut down by police?) You could also look for ways to trade goods with friends and neighbors. You can exchange different produce from your gardens or your produce for baked goods or other services, the sky is the limit.
DON’T LET IT GO TO WASTE.
One of the most important things you can do to make your garden worth it financially is to ensure that you are not wasting any of your precious produce. Make sure you are checking for when your produce is ripe. We wasted quite a few cucumbers last year– they died right on the vine simply because we forgot to check on them!
Remember, growing a garden can be a great way to save extra money as long as you go about it the right way. All you have to do is give it a little bit of careful thought before hand and enough thought while its growing (aka don’t forget to weed sometimes and to harvest your ripe plants).
Have you tried growing a garden? Did it save you money? I’d love to hear from you!