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. Insurance

    5 Ways to Lower Life Insurance Premiums

    Learn several effective methods for lowering life insurance premiums. These include quitting smoking and considering term life insurance.
  2. Budgeting

    The 7 Best Ways to Get Out of Debt

    Obtain information on how to put together and execute a plan to get out of debt, including the various steps and methods people use to become debt-free.
  3. Home & Auto

    4 Areas to Consider Roofing Material Types

    Roofing your home is very important, that’s why you should choose a roof specifically designed to handle your area’s climate.
  4. Budgeting

    The 5 Most Expensive States for Child Care

    To get a better sense of how child care costs can fluctuate, here's a look at the costs of child care across the country.
  5. Home & Auto

    Looking To Invest In Home Improvements?

    Some home improvement projects could cost you more to complete than they’ll pay out in equity. So, here we show you the worst projects to avoid.
  6. Fundamental Analysis

    Understanding the Internal Rate of Return Rule

    The internal rate of return rule is a popular method used to compare investments or projects.
  7. Home & Auto

    Are Home Inspections Worth It? - Price vs. Value

    If you’re wondering whether home inspection is worth the investment, the following information will help you decide.
  8. Budgeting

    How to Defray Long-Term Care Expenses

    Here's a handful of options on what you can do to defray long-term care expenses.
  9. Budgeting

    The True Cost of Home Caregiving

    Caring for eldery family in-home might be unavoidable, but most caregivers don't realize the true cost of doing so.
  10. Budgeting

    Is Level Money the Perfect Budgeting Tool?

    Here’s a detailed review of how Level Money works and whether it could be the perfect tool to help you budget.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Cost Accounting

    A type of accounting process that aims to capture a company's ...
  2. Internal Rate Of Return - IRR

    A metric used in capital budgeting measuring the profitability ...
  3. Construction Loan

    A short-term loan used to finance the building of a home or another ...
  4. Debt Consolidation

    The act of combining several loans or liabilities into one loan. ...
  5. Personal Spending Plan

    Similar to a budget, a personal spending plan helps outline where ...
  6. Fudget

    A falsified statement of income and expenses. A fudget or "fudget ...
RELATED FAQS
  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!