Planting a backyard vegetable garden is an age-old tradition that is coming back into style in a big way. Gardeners have many reasons - both financial and non-financial - for growing their own food. Some want to eat only local foods, some like the fact that they can grow organically and some just want to save money on their grocery bills. If the financial side of growing your own food is a concern for you, here are five things to analyze to ensure that you are coming out ahead:

TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics: Setting Up A Budget

Upfront Costs
If you are starting your garden from scratch, you will need to purchase equipment, seeds, fertilizers and everything else that goes into building and maintaining a vegetable garden. As with any other hobby, you can spend tens of dollars or hundreds of dollars, depending on the equipment and other accessories you choose to buy. You may need to bring in purchased soil if yours is not rich enough. You may also need shovels, tillers, material for raised beds, trellises, hoses and a host of other implements. If you buy only the basic materials second-hand, you can save a significant amount of money. (For related reading, see The Beauty Of Budgeting.)

Ongoing Costs
Once you have all of your equipment and materials purchased for your garden, there are some costs that you will incur on an annual basis to keep the garden going. You will have to purchase seeds or seedlings if you are not saving your own from year to year. You will also need fertilizer and any pesticides that you may be using. You can save a significant amount of money if you grow heirlooms and save the seeds, and also set up a compost bin to make your own fertilizer.

Annual versus Perennial
The value of growing food varies significantly depending on whether you are growing annuals or perennials. Annuals provide a single-season crop and then must be planted again in future years to continue to harvest food. Examples of annuals are tomatoes, lettuce, peas and corn. Perennials provide a crop every year without having to replant depending on your climate zone. They are often far less work than annuals and provide a significant amount of food. For example, Rabbiteye blueberry bushes can produce up to a bushel of blueberries in a season and can grow for up to 40 years without replanting. Other examples of perennials include oregano, chestnuts, apples and rhubarb. (For related reading, see Get Your Budget Into Fighting Shape.)

Higher Nutrient Value
Various studies disagree on whether organic vegetables contain more nutrients than non-organic ones. However, most agree that just-picked vegetables and fruits contain more nutrients than ones that have been picked unripe and shipped over thousands of miles and potentially several weeks. If you are eating vegetables from your backyard, you may not need to take a daily vitamin supplement and this can save over $100 a year for a family of four.

Comparing (Organic) Apples to Apples
If you do choose to grow your garden organically, be sure you are comparing your costs to the price of purchasing similar quality organic vegetables in the grocery store. Organic vegetables and fruits in the store are often significantly more expensive than their non-organic counterparts and your costs of growing them will compare more favorably. (To learn more about planning your money to meet your future goals, see Ten Tips For Achieving Financial Security.)

TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics: Goal Setting

The Bottom Line
Growing your own vegetable garden is a hobby that may keep some money in your wallet. However, it is possible to overspend and lose the financial benefits. Engage in it only if you enjoy the work and you may save money on your grocery bill at the same time.

Related Articles
  1. Home & Auto

    Rent-To-Own Homes: How The Process Works

    A rent-to-own agreement can benefit homebuyers with bad credit or insufficient funds for a down payment. Here’s how one works.
  2. Economics

    What is a Complement?

    A good or service that’s used in conjunction with another good or service is a complement.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Retirement

    Ipsy Review: Is It Worth It?

    Discover the history of ipsy, how much packages cost, options available for membership, major competition and what the future looks like for the company.
  6. Stock Analysis

    The Biggest Risks of Investing in Johnson & Johnson Stock (JNJ)

    Learn the largest risks to investing in Johnson & Johnson through fundamental analysis and other potential risks. Also discover how JNJ compares to its peers.
  7. Budgeting

    Craft Coffee Review: Is It Worth It?

    Learn more about one of the first and most flexible specialty-grade coffee subscription services on the market, a perfect fit for any coffee lover.
  8. Budgeting

    Plated Review, Is It Worth It?

    Take a closer look at the ready-to-cook meal service, Plated, and learn how the company can help you take the hassle out of home cooking.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
RELATED FAQS
  1. How does a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) affect my salary?

    Some companies build salary adjustments into their compensation structures to offset the effects of inflation on their employees. ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Where can you buy NetSpend reload packs?

    You can only purchase NetSpend reload packs at Giant Eagle, Albertsons, Roundy's and Pathmark supermarkets. NetSpend cards ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What does marginal utility tell us about consumer choice?

    In microeconomics, utility represents a way to relate the amount of goods consumed to the amount of happiness or satisfaction ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. 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 >>
  5. What are some common ways product differentiation is achieved?

    There are many ways to achieve product differentiation, some more common than others. Horizontal Differentiation Horizontal ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is the difference between an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and a VAR ...

    An original equipment manufacturer (OEM) is a company that manufactures a basic product or a component product, such as a ... Read Full Answer >>
Trading Center