I’ve never kept track precisely of the cost of gardening. I read The $64 Tomato a few years back, and I was a little disheartened by his cost analysis. Today, while Amigo got a haircut, I browsed a magazine that listed “Grow Your Own Vegetables” as a money saving trick. The featured couple broke even on their backyard garden, but they predicted a better outcome in follow-up years because the majority of their costs were incurred building the raised bed itself.
I had significant expenses in expanding my backyard plot this year. Chuck repurposed the boards, so those were no cost. He used mainly screws and tools that he already owned, so there again was no new cost. We laid down a base for the soil by using home made compost and biodegradable waste from our adorable pet bunny – her litter boxes, if you need it spelled out for you. We bought ten (twelve?) straw bales last fall at about $6 each. Then we built up the soil using commercial topsoil purchased from a local store for a total of about $120.
Seeds and seedlings added to the cost total, but not much. I save a considerable amount when I’m able to start tomatoes and peppers from seed rather than buying seedlings. This year, I lost some of those starter seedlings due to neglect while I regained my health. All that survived are thriving now – and that includes both me and the seedlings.
Then we’d need to figure out a cost estimate for the amount we saved. So many heads of lettuce, parsley (a.k.a. bunny food), radishes, salsa, tomato sauce, etc. – this would be difficult, if not impossible, to inventory and calculate. In general, we eat fresher and better quality when there are foods available in the backyard.
Then there are the perennials: rhubarb, green onions, raspberries, chives.. those incur no new costs. They just grow. Does that balance the produce I buy from the farmers’ market? It’s complicated, it is.
Cost savings? If I really want to, I could keep a spreadsheet next year. Then again, maybe not. It’s such a pleasure to plant seeds and watch them grow, I can’t really quantify it.
Frankly, no matter what the size, a garden is priceless.