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

    5 Luxurious Ways to Boost Your Home's Resale Value

    Not all renovations are created equal. Here are five that are most likely to make a property appreciate (and be appreciated by househunters).
  2. Personal Finance

    Choosing An In-Home Safe: Features To Look For

    What to look for in a box to protect your irreplaceable belongings.
  3. Budgeting

    How to Cost Effectively Spend on Baby Clothes

    Don't let your baby's wardrobe derail your budget. These top tips help you to save money and spend wisely on baby clothes.
  4. Personal Finance

    College Students are Failing Financial Literacy

    Financial trends among college students are a cause for concern, prompting a renewed emphasis on financial literacy.
  5. Budgeting

    6 Cost-Effective Tips for Raising Your First Child

    The excitement of welcoming your first child to your family shouldn't prevent you from making good cost-effective decisions.
  6. Budgeting

    5 Ways to Date on a Budget

    Dating on a budget doesn't have to be boring. Try these 5 tips to find the best dates on a budget.
  7. Budgeting

    7 Kids Items You Should Never Buy Used

    Buying secondhand items is a great way to save money, but these seven kids items should not be bought used.
  8. Investing

    10 New Apps That Help Budget For Expensive Cities

    From platforms for saving money to those that account for side jobs, mobile apps are changing spending habits and income generation in urban areas.
  9. Budgeting

    How Cooking At Home Can Save You Real Dough

    Cooking at home saves time and money but most importantly, it could even help lower future health costs.
  10. Home & Auto

    Why Housing Costs Shouldn't Exceed 30% of Your Budget

    Financial experts will argue that there’s no problem with allocating 50% of your net income to housing, but that barely leaves enough money for living comfortably. Reducing housing expenses to ...
  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 >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!