Money! Money!

Some people don't garden because they think it cost a lot of money. Some people garden because it saves a lot of money. Both are right ... depending on the timeframe. When one starts gardening, one has some one-time outlays. Some are needed. Some are foolish. A list is provided of both from this gardener's experiences.

In 2012, this gardener's plot produced about $1.75 in vegetables per sq.ft. The figure was higher for some vegetables and less for others. With the worsening food crisis from droughts, money benefits will increase as grocery store prices rocket out of sight. Remember, the money saved is tax-free, that is, you would have to earn 50% or more in wages to buy the same amount of food which will not taste as good. Also, you will gradually replace your expensive "shop-till-you-drop" anxiety reduction routines with a cheap "grow till you glow" anxiety prevention routine. As the value of gardens increase so will the market value of your home.

In general, it has been found that seeds, water and fertilizer costs between two and five cents for each grown dollar of food. In 2012, the following were recorded

  1. Fifteen bushels of cucumbers for $30, or $2/bushel or two cents per cuke. Market value of $750 at 50cents a cuke.
  2. Ten bushels of sweet potatos for $40, or $4 a bushel.

I did not keep track of the tomatos produced since I ate them all the time as well as gave many, many away. I know that canned over 200 quarts using tomatos for salsa, sauce, and soups. In 2013, I intend to can over 25 gallons of tomato juice (watching Downton Abbey in the process as well as other DVDs)

One can look at the cost/benefits of individual plants.

  1. Seeds: Depending on the plant, seeds can run one to thirty cents a piece. The more expensive are rare heritage or new hybrids.
  2. Water: As to water with drip irrigation, one can expect to use one-half gallon per day over a 100 day growing season. (Raindays will fill in for another 30 days, hopefully) Remember, most plants mature at 50 to 70 days. Thus, each plant will use 50 gallons of water. At $4/thousand gallons in Richmond, VA, each plant will cost $.20 cents to water. Richmond has expensive water compared to most places: At $2, cost is $.10. At $1, cost is $.05 per plant.
  3. Fertilizer: By buying generic 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 soluble fertilizer, one will spend less than ten cents per plant as one uses drip irrigation lines to fertilize only the vegetables and not the weeds.
  4. Pest control: This gardener has items purchased many season ago which are used sparingly as morning trips reveal not only what Santa Claus left at night but reveal any unwanted invader. Quick application of an eco-friendly pesticide (Neem) usually takes care of the pest while a more potent bug-killer is kept (Sevin). When using pesticides make sure you have the right spray bottle--I laugh at my stupidity when I grabbed the Roundup to kill a few bugs and, for good measure, proceeded to spray the whole garden which required total plant replacement!

Thus, the cost of growing a plant is at most sixty cents ($.30 + $.20 + .10). Consider the yield of some plants.

  1. Cucumbers: 1/3 bushel or 33 cukes at $.50 for a market value of $16.50.
  2. Tomatos: Clusters every 12 inches or about 20 clusters per indeterminant plant growing 25 feet.
    1. Small tomatos will have clusters of 20 or more tomatos--see Romas.
    2. Sandwich-size tomatos will be two every foot if you reduce clusters and remove suckers/collaterals.
    3. Canners: Determinant tomatos are the best for canning. You can get bushels of tomatos from which to make salsa, sauce, juice and soups.
  3. Peppers: I have yet to me a gardener who did not find they were surprised by the number of peppers. I have never kept track of various hot peppers as I have smoked or canned them as they filled up the buckets. Bell peppers are a different story. A single plant will yield more than twenty over a season. At a market prices of $2.00 to $4.00, that is between $40 and $80 worth of tax-free food from a single plant. Not bad for an investmetn of less than sixty cents. (And, peppers can be frozen.)
  4. Beans: After my wife has complained about picking in the morning and picking in the evening with the storage full, we give the bean patch away to a neighbor.
  5. Squashes: One winter squash vine will yield upwards of twenty or more squashes with the vines thinking they are kudzu--see marauding butternut. Summer squashes are no different as indicated by every gardner at some point trying to give away zuccini squashes.

More important than money is mental happiness. Between the money savings and the mental rewards of a garden, a garden is a good investment of one's time and money.

School Money Maker

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