Growing vegetables is a fun process. For you gardening-loving peeps, it’s probably one of your favorite hobbies, and for others, it’s a great way to utilize downtime. But that’s not the only good thing about it. It will give you a return on your invested amount by saving you quite a few bucks – provided you do it the right way.
Can growing your own vegetables save you money? Growing vegetables can help to reduce your food bills. How much money you’ll save depends on minimizing expenses and enhancing yield. Cost-Factors like Equipment, Seeds, Labor, and the Type of Greens you grow all determine whether you save money or not.
This saving of money depends on several factors, such as your initial investment, the yields of vegetables, and the variety you choose to grow. This can be better understood by having a deeper look at the expenses of gardening and the profits made while harvesting – the area of focus of this blog.
How much does growing vegetables cost?
Growing your own leafy greens and veggies requires an initial investment. This can be in the form of irrigating your garden, purchasing seeds and soil, performing soil tests to check for optimality and buying the equipment you need to sow and cut your vegetables.
The initial costs vary across gardens, but Gail Ann Langellotto, the State Coordinator Master Gardener Program at Oregon University, used different methods to obtain an average value for the cost of materials and supplies needed; this is predicted to be $237 when scaled to garden size. However, there is a large deviation of ± $85 in this value, which portrays the variability in costs.
There is now a diverse range of equipment available for gardening and growing vegetables. This innovation means you can choose from many different options. Some of this equipment includes:
You can purchase these from local gardening shops near you using help from the shopkeeper. If you don’t prefer visiting the store, these tools are just a click away; hop on to Amazon to get them now!
This equipment is mostly conventional – unlike the electronic equipment at farms that would cost you an arm and a leg – so they won’t be too heavy on your pocket. A good Shovel/Spade, Digger, and Pruner is the absolute minimum you’ll need to prepare your garden beds.
An additional piece of equipment bought by many gardeners is a garden cart rolling scooter that helps with any back pain you may experience while growing your vegetables. It can be found on Amazon for $24.99 – slightly pricey for a single item but a great investment in the long run!
To give you a general idea, the costs for growing vegetables in your garden will be of two types:
This includes the expenses involved in levelling the ground and managing water resources amongst others.
Summerizes the electricity bills (if you’re using any electronic equipment), the seeds to be sowed, etc.
Obviously, these would be at a small scale and nothing to really worry about if you have your required tools sorted out; they’re only hefty for farms and larger areas in acres.
Preparation and property cost (per 1000 square feet)
You either already own a piece of land, like a garden of appropriate size in your backyard, or wish to purchase a new area. The exact cost for a property depends on the area you want to select. On top of that, you may find yourself paying:
There is a base property tax on the assessed amount of the property you own.
You may carry insurance on the property you own.
Once you’ve decided (and purchased if required) where you’ll be growing your vegetables, you have to start preparing your land. This involves a series of steps:
Before you start growing, you want to test a sample of your soil to make sure your garden/area has the optimum conditions for vegetable growth. You can do this by collecting small samples from different areas of your garden and performing a basic soil test on them.
The actual testing process
The most basic form of a soil test is the Standard Nutrient Analysis – a chemical extraction to check the nutrients and pH of the soil. This test identifies any nutrient deficiencies and advises you on which ones you should add. It also gives recommendations on pH control. This test can be performed through a Cooperative extension office and costs $10.
How much do the seeds cost?
You’ve tested and set up your land and have your equipment in place. Now, the first thing you need to get started is the seeds of the vegetables you’ll be growing. These seeds vary in cost depending on the variety and type you choose.
One type of vegetable you can grow is carrots. You can purchase their seeds from a local gardening shop or Amazon; Heirloom, premium seeds are priced at $2.49 per gram.
Many of your leafy green buddies are herbs, such as thyme, cilantro and basil. A packet of their seeds cost only under $1 – a pretty decent price for disease-controlling food!
Non-GMO Okra seeds are hard to find in local stores at around $5 per pack, so purchasing them online is a great option. You definitely want those vitamins and antioxidants the veggies will give you! Surprisingly, amazon prices them just $1.59 per pack!
If you’re talking about volume, lettuce wins the game; you can get a large amount of yield from minimal production. Its seeds are also pretty reasonable – under $3 per pack.
Variety of veggies in bulk
If you’re sure of pursuing gardening and growing your own vegetables, you should consider a 22,000 Heirloom vegetable seed pack – the more you buy in bulk, the more reasonable the price. In addition to being budget-friendly, such packs usually contain a large variety, with this specific one having seeds of beet, broccoli, kale, lettuce, eggplant, cauliflower, and many more!
All in all, purchasing seeds won’t be too heavy on your pocket, with most varieties costing around $3 per pack.
How much will I pay for the water used in irrigation?
Watering your leafy buddies is essential to their growth, and the cost involved in doing so varies according to the method you adopt and the system you install:
The water can – you’re underestimating this little bud!
Going conventional is almost always the more reasonable route. Using water can do involve more effort than other relatively modern ways of watering, but it’s the most suitable option if you’re working around a budget and really focusing on those saved bucks.
Watering with a hose
As you would’ve guessed, using a hose is the pricier option. Kinda like the saying “easy things come with a cost” you know? Generally, you’d be paying a set sum every month no matter how much water you use; in this case, hoses make little to no difference.
However, if you’ve installed a water meter at your home, you’ll be paying for the extra water you use.
Why is using a can cheaper, and what’re the approximate figures?
You’re obviously using water either way, but utilizing a can costs less because it causes less water wastage. With a hose, you’d be using around three times more water for the same job as compared to a watering can. This means you’ll be paying three times more for the extra amount of water used.
A rough estimate shows that using a hose to water your vegetables will cost an extra 20 bucks on the water bill per month, compared to only an additional 7 bucks if you opt for a watering can.
Time cost – is there any?
Generally, hourly rates demanded by gardeners vary between 50$ and $100 per hour. These can go as low as $20 and as high as $150, depending on the expertise of the gardener you choose.
This is one place where gardening and growing your own vegetables saves you hundreds of bucks. Putting that effort in by yourself means you’re keeping that $100 to yourself – you sure deserve it for that care you show to your leafy buddies!
Here lies the crux of saving money by growing vegetables. Growing Vegetables will almost always cost you money – if you put the time you’re spending in your garden into the equation (using your normal hourly rate). However, every hobby grower – myself included – loves going outside and caring for their green friends. Excluding labor cost, it’s most definitely possible to save money with a hobby garden!
How much food can I grow on 1000 square feet?
It is a popular belief that 100 square feet can produce enough food to feed one person, which makes 1000 square feet enough to feed 10 people. But food consumption varies from family to family, and there’d be a large error in this value.
In an attempt to make this estimate slightly nearer to accuracy, you can use an online vegetable garden size calculator. According to this, 1000 square feet of land can grow enough of seven vegetables – beets, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, and potatoes – to feed 15 people.
This calculator also gives you an idea of the row length in feet and the number of plants for each vegetable you select. For example, for broccoli, these values are 35 and 210, respectively.
This value is slightly more accurate but still not exact, as different people consume different amounts of food. But it surely will give you the much-needed general idea you need before starting, so you have an amount in mind when you are looking for seeds and other supplies.
Which vegetables are worth growing to save money?
Growing all types of vegetables sounds like a good idea. But since there is such a great variety, that’s technically not possible in your 1000 square feet garden. Hence, you’d want to pick out a few vegetables, and for our purpose here, the vegetables that save you money.
Opt for types that don’t go bad easily
Selecting vegetables that you can store is especially important if you’re growing more than you consume – any of your surplus organic veggies going to waste means an equal proportion of your effort and initial investment going down the drain!
Varieties that can be last you months without going bad (provided you keep them in an optimum environment) include:
- Winter Squash
Vegetables like tomatoes and beans can be preserved in the freezer. To meet your aim of saving money, consider growing these varieties.
Go for vegetables that are expensive to buy
Growing cheaper vegetables makes a little difference overall; you’d be spending almost equal if you bought them from the store or if you grew them (it’d be just the extra effort)
However, growing vegetables that are expensive to purchase from the grocery store make a big difference – growing them yourself would really save you a pocketful of bucks! Some of the more expensive vegetables include:
- Winter squash
- Brussel Sprouts
Select vegetables that you consume regularly
Buying vegetables that you are more likely to purchase from the grocery store means cutting down items from your grocery list; cutting down items from your grocery list means a lower grocery bill, and a lower grocery bill means you’re saving money.
Hence, consider growing vegetables that you consume regularly, so you don’t have to purchase them (and consequently pay for them) in bulk.
Which vegetables will cost me more growing myself?
Growing vegetables means investing in the equipment needed, water sources, soil amendments, and seeds. This means you’re putting in a considerable amount of money, and it definitely wouldn’t be pleasing to find out that you’d be paying a lot less to purchase them from the grocery store.
That practically means still getting the vegetable at a reasonable price AND not having to put that extra effort in. Quite a bummer!
Here’s a list of the vegetables that are cheaper to buy than grow so you can keep these in mind while making your selection:
However, don’t be discouraged to grow these types of plants if you have the resources. I personally love growing potatoes even if it won’t save me any money.
Setting the bar: comparing to – organic or industrial farming
The way you grow your vegetables has a huge say in the amount of money you save. Now, what exactly does the way you grow your vegetables mean? Here’s a deeper look:
The organic way
This technique utilizes organic methods to grow vegetables, such as organic fertilizers to nurture the soil. Organic farming refers to regenerating healthy living by using natural processes instead of synthetic ones.
As you would’ve guessed, organic living is also the more expensive option. So, if you’re setting the bar for better yield in terms of health, you might as well be paying more. You might also have to spend a lot more time to get the hang of tending to your soil and managing pests.
The industrial way
Industrial farming involves using synthetic products, such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This means the vegetables grown will be of lower quality than organic ones in terms of health.
Industrial farming is a cheaper route – it involves less effort as well as cost in its use.
Hence, if you’re growing your vegetables the organic way, you should be prepared to invest more than someone growing inorganically/industrially (and get a better yield regarding healthy eating)!
Let’s tabulate the cost-effectiveness of vegetables for a clearer picture
|Vegetable||Approximate Growing Cost||Approximate Buying Cost||Money Difference|
|Lettuce / 7 romaine hearts||$3||$19||$16|
|Zucchini / 8 pounds||$10||$16||$6|
|Basil / 1 pound||$7||$14||$7|
|Beans / 6 pounds||$6||$30||$24|
|Okra / 3 pounds||$5||$9||$4|
|Tomatoes / 8 pounds||$4||$20||$16|
*Note that all values are approximate and growing values mainly encompass seed cost.
How much more money can I save growing my own vegetables
The “cheaper grown than bought” concept works for most vegetables. This means you’ll be saving bucks on almost everything you grow, with some saving a dollar or two and others saving up to 30 dollars.
Back to the study from Gail Ann Langellotto, she calculated an average yield worth 916$ throughout all the datasets she looked at. While needing an investment of roughly 240$ to get this yield. This averages to 678$ saved annually, if you exclude labor cost.
This figure is based on the average for most home vegetable gardens – if you’re lucky, you can save a lot more.
Are there any exceptions?
The bad news is that some natural disasters can make you go in loss. A pest attack or unfavorable weather conditions can slow down and harm your yield, and unfortunately, put your effort and investment in vain.
That is one thing you need to be prepared for before starting your home vegetable garden – there can be instances when your veggies are harmed (definitely a sad sight to behold!), but don’t let that bring you down or discourage you. Who knows, the next yield may be your best yet!
There’s some hot debate around whether or not growing your own vegetables is worth it; unless you’re a gardening-lover, you’d only want to do it if the extra effort is going to save you some extra bucks annually.
Sources say most vegetables grown at home really do save quite a decent amount – you just need to have a proper plan in place, including budgeting your equipment, choosing the right seed varieties, nurturing your soil well and opting for the vegetables that really will cost you less if you grow them instead of purchasing them (and not vice versa!).