Is it really worth it?
Especially if you’re doing a raised bed, it seems to be pretty expensive to plant a garden. The materials to build the beds, the dirt to put in it, the plants, spraying, fertilizing, not to mention the time you spend in weeding and watering. Is it worth it? Couldn’t we save more time and just as much money just forgetting the garden and cutting it to the grocery store?
Estimating the costs
Considering the fact that once the garden bed is done, it’s done, your cost is relatively little. Even if you have four eight-by-four foot beds, you can pretty much count on it being less than $150 to put them together. Following the tips provided, you can let the beds be the most expensive thing in your gardening budget, and you will save over twice that much in your first year.
This is probably the easiest part, choosing which vegetables to plant. And all it costs is the paper you put it on! Books like Square Foot Gardening and Raised Bed Gardens help you know how far apart to plant things.
Most people buy plants, and don’t even want to think about starting their own, which is fine. But what you may not realize is that certain plants grow better and produce a LOT more if they are direct-seeded. (Planting the seeds where you want the plants) Among these are squash, cucumber, zucchini, watermelon, cantaloupe, melons, peas, and beans. It’s also a lot cheaper to buy a pack of seeds than just two plants!
I planted zucchini and bought zucchini plants this year. The plants I started from seed are about three feet tall, and four feet across. I have already gotten about twenty pounds of zucchini off of the two plants! The ones I bought are about one foot tall and six inches across, and are just now starting their blooms. Squash and zucchini especially don’t like being transplanted, and my zucchini are showing it!
For the weeds
Weeding is hands down the most trying thing in gardening, but what most people don’t seem to realize is that a little extra prevention can save a TON of work! The secret? Mulch! Pine straw, newspaper shreds, leaves, even old cardboard, just pile it on around the plants and sit back and relax for the rest of the summer. A good mulch not only keeps the weeds away, it also helps to retain moisture, making watering most effective.
No matter how much water you need to use watering your garden, any amount’s worth it. But because we like to use as much as we can that which costs little or nothing, here’s a couple tips.
1. Get a barrel or two to place under the drip edge or gutter end of your house and collect rain water. (Be sure to put a lid on it when it’s not raining so the water doesn’t evaporate.) You can either install a nozzle in the bottom of the barrel, or you can dip out the top to do your watering.
2. Consistency is the key. Water your garden an inch or two every other day (you can buy a rain gauge to measure how much you water), and you won’t have to water so heavily. In the long run, you actually save water.
3. Get a drip arrogation going. It will add some costs, but once again, it saves a lot of time and sweat, just go turn on the hose! Running a drip line under your mulch causes your water to go straight to the area where business is best. The roots don’t have to fight the sun for the water if it’s hand-fed to them, and they absorb much more and much better.
So, how much does it save in the long run?
Using minimum figures, let’s calculate how much we’d get from vegetables in two, four-by-eight foot beds. Let’s say 7 beef steak tomato plants, 1 cherry tomato plant, 4 cucumber plants, 4 cantaloupe plants, 3 squash plants, 4 pepper plants, 4 eggplant plants, 16 heads of lettuce (loose leaf or romaine), and 1 square foot each of basil, thyme, oregano, and chives.
Beef steak Tomatoes= at least 5# harvested per plant. At $3 per #, that’s $105 worth.
Cherry tomatoes = at least 2 pints. At $4 per pint, that’s $8
Cucumber plants = at least 20# per plant (these produce like crazy), at $1 per #, that’s $80 worth.
Pepper plants= at least 2# per plant (depending on the pepper), at $2 per # (again, depending on the pepper. Some are more, some less), that’s $16 worth
Eggplant plants= at least 15# per plant, at $2 per #, that’s $120
Cantaloupe= at least16 melons, at $2 per melon, that’s $32
Squash plants= at least 20# per plant, at $1 per #, that’s $60
Lettuce= 16 heads, at $2 per head, that’s $32
Fresh herbs can skyrocket, and I’ve only seen them as cheap as $3 per small bunch, and you’d be getting all you could use!
Congratulations! You’ve saved…
Not including the herbs, that’s $453 worth of produce in ONE year, using minimum figures! And it didn’t even cost half that much for the set-up!
So, you answer the question, is gardening worth it?