The Benefits of Having a Garden in Retirement

Among the 5 Ways Retirees Should Protect Their Money During Retirement, there are two reasons why planting a garden ranks high on my list of recommendations for retirees.

First, are the many health benefits of gardening. Second, you will save money by growing your own food. Need I say more?

The Costs and Benefits of a Home Vegetable Garden

Let’s review the economic costs and benefits of a home vegetable garden. According to an analysis of data published by the Journal of Extension, having a home vegetable garden is profitable. Assuming that the fair market value of garden labor is excluded from calculated costs, a home vegetable garden produces an average of $677 worth of fruits and vegetables beyond the $238 worth of materials and supplies.

Another study by the National Gardening Association found home gardeners can expect a return of $8 worth of produce for each dollar they invest in seeds, starts, fertilizers and pest control. According to the same article, Roger Dorion of Kitchen Gardeners' International calculated the cost benefit of his home garden, which generated a profit of over $2,000, equaling a return on investment of 852%. Now that’s a lot of green!

Setting the Right Expectation

You must have the right perspective on gardening. Even though you can save money with a home garden, the money you save by not having to purchase fruits and vegetables at the grocery store is not commensurate with the value you may place on your time. If you garden, do it because you will save money on produce. Do it for the health benefits, but don’t focus on how much your time is worth. (For related reading, see: The True Cost of Growing a Garden.)

According to Dan Allen, author of “Don’t Start A Veggie Garden To Save Money,” if you have a plot of land to garden that is 96 square feet and you spend three hours per week working in your garden, with the cost of supplies running you about $50 per year and you netting 48 pounds of produce per year (approximately one-half pound per square foot) with a $3 per pound value for your produce, you would have grown $282 worth of food and invested $50 and 156 hours of your time.

This equates to $1.57 per hour. Unless you own a farm and have extremely low labor costs, gardening is not going to make you financially rich, but you will gain wealth in terms of the quality time you could spend with your children and grandchildren.

I am very grateful to have been able to work with my grandparents in their backyard vegetable gardens as a boy growing up in the Northern California Bay Area. As a result of what I learned watching and helping my grandparents, I planted a fairly large vegetable garden in my own backyard when I was in elementary school. I still remember the proud look on my grandfather's face when he saw what I had accomplished.

Let’s Not Forget The Health Benefits of Gardening

Being sedentary isn’t the best thing for someone who is retired. Like daily exercise, it is important to be active. Gardening is a great way to get exercise because it requires daily activity and maintenance, bending, squatting, kneeling, standing up, carrying tools, moving dirt, etc.

With the exception of owning a farm with cows, goats and chickens, a retiree can add years to their life and savings to their bank accounts by starting a home garden. More importantly, think about the opportunity to share your fresh, home grown produce with family and friends.

Now that we know planting a vegetable garden can help retirees save money, it is also not a bad way to spread the love!

(For more from this author, see: RMDs: How to Calculate and Make the Most of Them.)