Frugalites, health gurus and anyone with a penchant for fresh tomatoes praise the home garden as an affordable way to bring more nutrition and flavor to the typical diet. In fact, according to the study "The Impact of Home and Community Gardening In America" done by the National Gardening Association, over 30% of U.S. households participated in some form of home gardening in 2009 (with that number climbing steadily every year since). When done correctly, even the smallest backyard plot can, indeed, produce a windfall of the finest produce specimens, and possibly even a significant savings to the grocery budget.
What Are the Expenses to Garden?
The total bill for a DIY veggie plot will vary by type of plant grown, number of plants and the length of a growing season. To calculate the true cost to start a garden and maintain it throughout the year, add together the following factors:

  • Cost of plants or seeds
  • Cost to provide nutrient rich soil (dirt, fertilizer, worms)
  • Cost to protect and structure plants (cages, coverings, fences)
  • Cost to water plants
  • Cost of tools and accessories (tiller, gloves, spade)

This, of course, does not factor in the cost of time and effort, which we assume you are not looking to add into your final bill.

The Real Return on Investment
While the risk involved with the pursuit of gardening can sometimes lead to a total or significant loss to your initial investment, the National Gardening Association still concludes that the average gardening household in 2009 experienced a $530 return on their average $70 investment to garden. When events such as drought and disease further restrict the availability of certain foods to be purchased at a reasonable price from the grocer each year, the value of home-grown lettuce, for example, will double or triple.

Ways to Save
As much potential as a garden can bring to the bottom line of the average foodie, the initial price tag for all the necessary supplies can cause a bit of sticker shock. With designer "heirloom" variety plants bringing a price of $10 each, or more, it may seem that gardening is only for those with ample cash on hand each planting season. There are ways to stretch that dollar, however, and many gardeners have figured out the best techniques to start on a shoestring. They include:

  • Start early with seeds started indoors. At $3.00 a package (or less), gardeners can give their plants a home-grown start and spread the risk out over several tiny plants. Picking the strongest from the bunch for transplanting outdoors will give you a comparable alternative to that expensive plant from the nursery – but at a cost of around 10 cents a plant.

  • Give square-foot gardening a try. This popular gardening technique isn't just highly effective at producing the healthiest plants with the smallest effort, it's affordable, too.

  • Grow only what you need. While it's nice to have an abundance of produce to share with family and friends, the upkeep of a larger-than-life garden will kill you on expenses and effort to maintain. Consider just one or two of each of the plants you like most, and avoid planting rows and rows of veggies simply because you have the room. Food waste is a common problem for overzealous gardeners.

The Bottom Line
In the end, the decision to garden is a truly personal one. Don't feel that it's necessary to go 100% into a gardening scenario; many gardeners grow those things that are easiest to produce (tomatoes, for example) and leave the trickier varieties to the professionals at the farmer's market. Doing your research before the planting season is the best way to find out how cost effective a backyard garden will be for your personal lifestyle.

Related Articles
  1. Home & Auto

    7 Must-Have Real Estate Contract Conditions

    Buying a home can bury you in paperwork. But it’s worth your time to make sure your contract contains these seven important conditions.
  2. Investing

    7 Creative Ways to Save for an Early Retirement

    Take note of these out of the box steps you can take towards securing yourself an earlier, more comfortable retirement.
  3. Retirement

    Birch Box Review: Is It Worth It?

    Learn more about the convenience of the subscription beauty box industry, and discover why the Birchbox company in particular has become so popular.
  4. Investing Basics

    Understanding Real Estate

    Real estate is an encompassing term that refers to land, the buildings on that land, and its natural resources, such as crops and minerals.
  5. Economics

    Understanding the American Dream

    The American dream is the belief that anyone, regardless of where they’re born or into what class, can attain their own version of success.
  6. Home & Auto

    9 Tips for Handling Homeowners’ Associations

    Before you buy property in a community with an HOA, there are nine things you should do.
  7. Personal Wealth & Private Banking

    Women, Invest In Your Financial Literacy

    Becoming financially literate should be on the to-do list of anyone who is not.
  8. Home & Auto

    What to Do When You Can No Longer Afford Your Car

    Life is full of unexpected and undesired events, like layoffs or divorce. Unfortunately, these events can sometimes make your car payment unaffordable.
  9. Savings

    How to Save Your First $100,000

    Saving your first $100,000 requires the discipline to put money away and control your spending. But just remember – the savings get bigger as you go.
  10. Home & Auto

    Steps To Buying A Home

    No matter what type of property you’re eyeing, there are steps you can take to protect your investment.
  1. How does a bank determine what my discretionary income is when making a loan decision?

    Discretionary income is the money left over from your gross income each month after taking out taxes and paying for necessities. ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What is the range of deductibles offered with various health insurance plans?

    A wide range of possible deductibles are available with health insurance plans, starting as low as a few hundred dollars ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How do I know how much of my income should be discretionary?

    While there is no hard rule for how much of a person's income should be discretionary, Inc. magazine points out that it would ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What proportion of my income should I put into my demand deposit account?

    Generally speaking, aim to keep between two months and six months worth of your fixed expenses in your demand deposit accounts. ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How do I use the rule of 72 to estimate compounding periods?

    The rule of 72 is best used to estimate compounding periods that are factors of two (2, 4, 12, 200 and so on). This is because ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How much risk is associated with subprime mortgages?

    A large amount of risk is associated with subprime mortgages. Since the mortgages are specifically for people who do not ... Read Full Answer >>
Trading Center