It's worth it.

mulberryknobJune 14, 2011

Awhile back we had a discussion about whether or not gardening was worth doing financially. (Some of us would garden even if it weren't, for the flavor.) So last night I'm in WM to pick up carrots, (one of the few items in the produce section I buy, because I have never successfully grown them) when my eye was drawn to a pkg of Sugar Snap Peas in a small plastic bag. The sign said $2.50 so I picked up the bag. It was 8 oz. That's $5.00 a pound. I didn't weigh the proceeds of my 50 ft row this year, but last year I picked 40 pounds--that made it to the house. Probably ate 5 pounds in the garden. So yes, it's worth it.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It's funny you mentioned this, because I've been seriously considering putting together a full-fledged cost-benefit analysis for my garden since I'm starting from basically nothing this year. My fiance is very spending-conscious and will support anything that saves us money, so I want to show him that it really is worth it. I'd like to try to track everything in a spreadsheet, from the up-front expense of the soil amendments, fencing, etc., to the seeds and fertilizer and watering costs. Then I'd like to track the price of produce where we shop as I'm getting yields from the garden to see what the market-value of our veggies are when we get them. Even if in the end it takes several years for us to break even, I can figure out what I need to grow in my space to get the most bang for our buck.

I wasn't sure how to go about it, though. Like, I'd love to share what I learn as I go, but I'm not sure whether to post it all in a thread here or start a blog about it elsewhere. I'm not even sure if anyone really cares at all besides me. XD


    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 12:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I am eating my lunch as I am catching up on the forum. I am eating a hamburger patty (a left over from the grill) that is smothered in beef gravy with loads of pepper and onion from the garden. The gravy has small Yukon Gold potatoes from the garden, and I ran out and picked a small head of chinese cabbage and the side shoots from the broccoli to make the salad.

Not from the garden is the lime, pepper, and olive oil for the salad dressing and the left over hamburger patty. Yeh, I think it's worth it. Problem is that you may not see the savings in the first couple of years when you have to factor in the start-up costs so you need to do that while you can afford it so you are ready to garden if you have to. But who wants to wait that long because gardening is rewarding even when it's not a big money saver.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 1:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Heather you sound very much like me (except the analysis part, lol) but we put in our garden last year and are still making improvements for fencing, pathways, soil etc. But I know we have already saved a ton on produce. Especially since we also harvested a ton of sugar snaps that my daughters love. Mulberry--I love your post!

You also have to figure in the health benefit of getting more veggies in your diet, etc. I (age 36) have lost ten pounds this spring and my husband's (age 38) cholesterol is an issue that I know our garden helps to alleviate. My girls (ages 5 and 6) would get full on sugar snaps instead of going in to get crackers or some other snack that would provide low nutrition value. Do u have kids yet? If not, and you plan to have kids, the money you are putting in now to "build" your garden will pay off exponentially in the nutrition value and life lessons you will be passing on to them. My girls already know how to plant and harvest what we have tried so far, and they can tell u what goes into compost, etc. They know which bugs are good and which ones we have to get rid of.

I am especially thrify, but there are a few things I consider necessary expenses, like a good pair of running shoes or a good car. The garden and all of it's accessories is at the top of that list.
I would love to see your analysis sometime, I imagine it would look similar to what we are doing. A blog would be great, or start here and create a blog as you go.

Good luck to you, it is daunting sometimes but like Mulberry said, it's SOOO worth it and I have benefitted from this forum in many ways, one of them being solid support and growing advice.


    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 2:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If I just counted fresh veggies it probably wouldn't cover my costs. When I count fresh herbs, spaghetti sauce and consider the cost difference of organic vs regular, which I normally don't buy because of price, it's well worth it. I use so much pesto, fresh oregano, thyme, sage and lemon grass. Those fresh herbs are really pricey.
We're having squash blossom soup tonight. If you can even find blossoms at the store, they would be so expensive it wouldn't be affordable. So, yes, the high dollar stuff like herbs and tomatoes makes all of it worth the cost.
Besides, this year I've spent very little. Some lumber for a few new beds and some new soaker hoses. Not bad, considering my yield so far.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 2:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We already eat a ton of fruit and vegetables in our diet, which is part of the reason I really want to do this. We have store-bought tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, carrots, lettuce, and fruit (whatever's in season and on sale) in our fridge at all times, year-round, and I know that we would be saving SO much money on tomatoes and lettuce alone if we grew it ourselves. Then there are things like raspberries, carrots, and potatoes that might be easier or cheaper in the long run just to buy from the store.

My fiance and I are both scientists by day, so we very much think in terms of numbers first and then qualitative benefits second. The idea of passing on life lessons to our (future) children and getting organic, nutritional food would be icing on the cake if we can make it work.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 2:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

With soaring food prices, probably no one can no dispute the value of growing ones own food. Those who do this have plenty of opportunity to mentor others.

Tahlequah, OK

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 2:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Heather, I would like to see a cost break-down. I have never though of my garden as a cost saving project but I hope to garden as long as I am able.

Just off the top of my head this year I can think of $349.00 for a tiller, at least 3 bag of potting soil at $13.00 each, one bale of peat at about $13.00. I have spent well over $100.00 for irrigation supplies, part of that is to run under ground water to within 50 feet of every thing I water. The fuel bill for my small engines run about half as much as my pickup fuel (most of the small engine fuel is used in the mowers and weed trimmers and I will have that cost anyway). I now need to add in at least $150.00 a year for water and $7.50 per hour for my labor.

You can see that my gardening budget is much like our federal Government, I have more going out than I have coming in. I plan on gardening till I'm broke, then I will garden in a different manor and maybe make a little money


P.S. I need to vote myself a pay raise. I'm so tired from the heat that I went to sleep typing this reply.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 3:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"I plan on gardening till I'm broke, then I will garden in a different manor and maybe make a little money"

No need to make changes. Just ask for a bailout. LOL. sort of.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 8:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Seedmama, that's a good idea but I never was one for a handout.

I love to garden, but my garden this year has been neglected much more than I would prefer. I try to look after mom and my step-dad and I am so slow I just cant get things done.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 9:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

There are so may more benefits than the cost of what you wont need to buy in the produce department.

Stress relief and distraction from your worries are top of my list. Counseling is how much $ per hour???

My DH of 22 yrs and I have found another interest we have in common, besides kids and casinos. I plant, fertilize, organize, plan and patrol....he waters. He is off the couch! He waters by hand, it relaxes him. And I am sprending my weekly "mad money" on the garden.

My 2 yo Granddaughter is coming from CA for the summer...she will love the garden and flowers....pretty is one of her favorite words. Last year we went to the park almost everyday...saving on gas this year and all those little stops along the way.

Back to the actual costs...I have been experimenting in everything I've done. I have done everything in a cost effective way and tried to keep records, but next year I am making a "diary". I imagine I spend more than I realize!

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 11:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


I'm finishing my Ph.D. and my husband is also a grad student. Needless to say, we don't have a lot of money. And we are both vegetarians. We shop at Aldi's bi-weekly. We love Aldi's, but they don't have the biggest or the greatest or the freshest produce section. Before we had the garden, we would have to make little side trips to Wal-Mart to pick up veg we couldn't find at Aldi's, which we would always pay a premium for. But now that we have a garden, we can go out and pick squash for a pasta dish if we've run out of veggies, or haul up some radishes for a veggie sandwich. My husband has a medical condition that precludes him from eating store bought tomatoes. So I decided to grow 20 plants and can as much of the excess as possible for the winter. I'm going to dehydrate several pounds of summer squash to use in winter soups and stews and last weekend, I just finished canning 12 jars of blackberry jam. I know that the cost of my gardening well out weighs the money I put into it.

And most of the money I did invest was money I received for my birthday. My parents bought me a seed starter heat mat for my birthday and my inlaws bought me $30 worth of seed. I picked up half of my plants from the Spring Fling and got a lot of my Fall seed through the Seed Exchange forum. I don't think gardening has to be super expensive if you share plants and seeds with friends and ask for gardening supplies for gifts and make your own compost from grass clippings and veg scraps. And the quality of the food alone totally is worth it.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 12:11AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Kelly, we have a local grocery store that we get a lot of our produce from, but like you there are things we have to get at Wal-Mart. I'm amazed sometimes at how fast it starts to mold or rot once we get it home, and we have to throw out a lot of it before we can even get a chance to eat it (I can't wait to get my compost pile started BTW..such a waste of good nitrogen!). There are many times when I couldn't even buy the tomatoes that were on sale because they were already molding at the store.

There are also a lot of things I would love to eat but choose not to buy just because they are so ridiculously expensive like fresh peas (any kind), fresh basil and mint, and red/yellow bell peppers. Those are at the top of my list for planting!

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 12:46AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Peppers here, too! I haven't bought them in forever, I just can't bring myself to pay for them, so I am growing them.

We started composting before we had the big garden, and tonight when I put some compost in, it was shocking how black it was compared to what we call our garden soil. No wonder things have been puny, it is still a lot of sand after two years of amending. No worries, I have a plan.

Kelley, you go on the PhD! I am currently working on my bachelors. My garden is a big competitor for my time, tho, I'd rather be researching gardening than writing papers.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 1:14AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
joellenh(6b Jenks)

I have been keeping a spreadsheet, and so far this year my family has picked and eaten $474 worth or organic produce from my small, inefficient garden. I expect that number will be over $1,000 by year's end.

If I managed succession planting better, I could double that number, and expect as I grow and learn as a gardener and as my fruit trees mature I'll come much closer to that $2,000 per year.

As far as expenses: I averaged my water bills, and during the growing season (april-oct), my average water bill is $15 higher than in non-growing months, so $105 per year.

I spend about $20 per year on seeds etc and about $50 on organic fertilizers/amendments.

So after the initial cost of beds/soil mix/fence etc is paid off, my recurring costs are under $200 per year.

My net profit this year will be $800 which will almost pay for my fence.

Next year I expect about $1500 of pure profit. I figure I garden about 10 hours per week give or take, so about 300 hours per year. Which will make my payoff a whopping $5 per hour, LOL.

But to me it's still worth it, because I love my garden, I love working in it, and I love giving my family the best and freshest food I can.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 7:59AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
joellenh(6b Jenks)

miraje, I wanted to address your post about raspberries not being worth the effort. From what I have seen, raspberries are one of the most crazy expensive items around...I'm guessing organic ones would run at least $5 per pint.

I have three raspberry bushes: two yellows that I just planted last fall and aren't producing much yet, and one red that I planted three years ago. That one red bush has given me at least five pints ($25). It is also sending out a lot of suckers which I will dig and replant this fall, so next year I will have many more raspberry bushes.

I also have a TON of blackberries coming in. In my experience, the brambles (blackberries and raspberries) are the easiest, most trouble-free things I grow. I seriously just ignore them and they have no issues, diseases, or pests. I don't even water them and they still produce.

If you haven't noticed, I am a berry fan :P and would urge anyone to grow a few bushes. You'll be pleasantly surprised!


    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 8:14AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Gardening definitely is worth it, although in the early years when you're building beds, and putting up fences, trellises and tomato cages, it may seem like it isn't.

A lot depends, though, on your soil type and how much you have to water. If you have clay soil like we have here that gets rock hard in the summer, you will use 10 times as much water trying to keep the soil moist as you would if you had sandy or sandy loam or even a clayey-sandy loam soil. It isn't fair to blame only my garden for the high water bill in summer because the grass, trees, shrubs and flower beds need water too as do the numerous containers, but my garden usually shoulders the blame. Our summer water bill in a dry summer (which is to say practially every summer) can be 5 to 10 times as high as it is in winter even though I do not water anything excessively.

Still, even with a high water bill, over the course of the growing season, our garden absolutely breaks even and produces a profit. I've already raised enough produce this year to cover all our gardening expenses for the whole year, and I say that based on how many lbs. of food we've already harvested even though I haven't run the numbers to back up what I'm saying.

I haven't figured out the dollar value of what our garden has produced this year, but I am jotting down the amounts of produce harvested and the cost that week for similar produce in stores and hope to have time at some point to go back and run the numbers and come up with a total dollar value of the food our garden produces.

We were at Central Market in Southlake, TX, on Monday and I looked carefully at the prices to see what the going prices were for produce I'm harvesting this week. Here's a few of their prices. Unless specified as 'organic', then these prices are for conventional produce. There was not a lot of organic produce at CM when we were there, which is very odd and which likely can be blamed on the Texas weather since they source as much of their produce locally as possible. For them, I believe 'local produce' is defined as anything that can be driven to their store in one day, with them using 8 or 10 hours as their definition of 'one day'.

Green beans, $3.98 per lb.
Onions, Red $1.49 per lb.
Onions, White $1.39 per lb.
Onions, Yellow $1.29 per lb.
Potatoes, Organic, 2.49 per lb.
Baby Potatoes (these are the grape-sized to walnut-sized ones that we laugh at when we dig them because they look pitifully small sitting beside the bigger potatoes) $3.99 per lb.
Heirloom tomatoes $4.99 per lb.
Cherry tomatoes (whether heirloom or hybrid) $3.99 for TEN OUNCES
Purplehull Pinkeye southern peas (already shelled) $5.99 per lb.
Spring Salad Mix, Organic (mostly baby leaf lettuce in red and green and a little Romaine) $5.99 per lb.
Pickling cucumbers (and this week's batch didn't look good or fresh) $1.29 lb.
Sugar Snap peas $4.99/lb.

At Whole Foods in Dallas this week, asparagus was going for $2.99/lb., blueberries were on sale with two pints for $5 (usually they are almost 4 dollars a pint), California peaches and organic seedless grapes each were $1.99/lb. and Texas-grown zucchini and summer squash were $1.29/lb.

Even if we weren't breaking even financially on the garden, we'd do it anyway because of the superior freshness and flavor. Also, we have the peace of mind that comes from knowing our food is being raised in a sustainable method and we aren't contaminating our food, soil or water by spraying chemical pesticides, fungicides or herbicides. We also are happy that we're eating food raised right here. Imagine how much fossil fuel is burned getting produce from the grower to the stores. Did you know the average store produce in the USA travels 1500 miles by the time it arrives at the local grocery store? How long can we continue using fossil fuel in that manner?

If you like to cook with fresh herbs, you can save hundreds of dollars a year just by growing a few herb plants. The price of fresh herbs in stores is outrageous and the quality isn't great either.

Tim and I go to Central Market and/or Whole Foods about once a month and their produce prices remind both of us that our garden, to us, truly is worth all the time, efffort and money put into it. Still, I'd garden anyway because even if the garden wasn't feeding my body, it still feeds my soul. That is pricelss.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 9:58AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Larry, I know the feeling, when other responsibilities take up so much time. Though I still get frustrated, I know it's the right thing to do. Hang in there. By the way, your rototiller isn't a yearly expense. So break that cost down over a decade, at least.

I have a rototiller, which was given to me. I use it infrequently because I hate to grind Bermuda grass into the soil and prefer the control of hand tools. Still, time and strength have their limits.

I believe home grown food is almost always better for you. I know for a fact that "fresh milk" in the grocery store is already 5-7 days from the cow. Veggies, no doubt, are about the same or worse.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 10:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Okiedawn OK Zone 7

I forgot to post the corn prices.

At Central Market, non-organic corn:

Unhusked, 2 ears for 99 cents

Husked, trimmed, de-silked and in a foam tray/wrapped with cellophane: 4 ears for $3.98

On Monday, we harvested 75 ears of early corn, and still have mid-season corn (now tasseling and silking) and late-season corn (about 2' tall and growing well) to harvest later. So, our early corn harvest more than paid for the seed costs for the three corn varieties we planted and likely for whatever fertilizer and irrigation water the corn has received this year too.

Our corn is organic but I couldn't find any organic corn prices locally to compare it to. Undoubtedly, organic corn would cost more than conventional.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 10:35AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
owiebrain(5 MO)

You're preaching to the choir.

I've always gardened on the cheap and most all it produced was profit (in the veggie sense, not that I sold the stuff). This year with the new place, not so much. We've spent quite a bit, at least for us. Garden-Tone to boost this overworked soil. New fencing (still not done) and cages for peppers plus the new support system for tomatoes. Fuel for the skidsteer to move the dirt around. Fuel for the truck to make runs for (free) wood chips & (free) wood & metal for various garden projects. Oh, and all of the fruit trees we bought this spring.

It's all adding up and we'll have probably spent $1000 before all is said and done. I haven't kept track and I don't think I'd want to -- too scary. Still, I bet what the garden produces just this year will work out to be $1000 or even more, assuming we don't have a completely crappy year. And, of course, years still to come will be riding for free on all of the money we spent this year.

Good grief, I just thoroughly traumatized my cheap self by mentally tallying the costs of what we've spent so far. I need to go to my happy place and calm down or I'll have a stroke right here on GardenWeb. Sheesh.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 10:41AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

When I played golf I had a bag full or clubs and a tub full of balls. when I hunted I had guns scattered every where, fishing was the same way. I go over board on every thing I do. I have three tillers and more hand tools than I can count. I don't think I will change. Like I said above "I will Garden till I'm broke".

Along the same note, I have been trying to get my son more interested in gardening and have been helping him some. He likes to play golf, I told him a few weeks ago that it only took me three years to learn that if I would pick up that golf ball and put it in my pocket and come home I would not spend half of my live looking for it, and they are not fit to eat anyway. He seems to be more interested in his garden now.

Gardening is the first hobby I have had that will even come close to giving me a pay-back.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 11:46AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Jo, what variety is your red raspberry plant? I bought a red Latham from Lowes in a 3 gallon pot about three or four years ago, and it has given me about six small berries a year. The canes look healthy and well-watered and are spreading through the bed pretty fast, but they just don't seem to want to produce. If that's happening just because it's in a spot that gets half a day of full shade every day or because I'm not using enough fertilizer, then I can fix both when I start a new bed for them this fall in the garden. If it's not producing just because of the heat, then I figured they wouldn't be worth the effort in the future.

Whenever I bring up the garden with my fiance he tells me that I have to plant raspberries for him, so I'd love to get some that will actually produce. Unfortunately he doesn't like blackberries (picky eater, sigh), so I don't plant them even though I know they grow like mad here. Are there any blackberry/raspberry hybrids that taste like raspberries and tolerate our climate better than raspberries?

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 11:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

miraje - It is not uncommon to have trouble growing rasberries in your part of the state. Soil and weather conditions are very different than the eastern part of Oklahoma. If I were you I would try to find someone that is growing them in your area and pump them for information. I grew up in south central Oklahoma and I never saw rasberries growing, but blackberries grew wild everywhere.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 12:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm planting blackberries this fall. I guess they do quite well her in AZ. Will they produce in a fairly shady area or do they need a lot of sun? I'd like to put them in some shade, just because I need something in that spot, but if not I'll find a different spot for them.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 6:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

" Still, I'd garden anyway because even if the garden wasn't feeding my body, it still feeds my soul. That is priceless."


I agree.


"The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies." -- Gertrude Jekyll

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 8:40AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I love your Gertrude Jekyll quote.

Now, I have one for you, but it is from someone who is not exactly a famous gardener.

"Okra! From the great state of Okrahoma!" said by the character Tim Taylor, played by Tim Allen in "Home Improvement".


    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 10:03AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"Okra! From the great state of Okrahoma!" said by the character Tim Taylor, played by Tim Allen in "Home Improvement".

Gimme some! <img class="cursor-magnify js-enlarge" data-imgurl="" data-pin-no-hover="true" src="""; />

Actually, I think I might have okra this year after two setbacks. The first was less than a week after planting, we had a 4 1/2" rain. I had planted 11 sets of 5 seed each of Stewart's Zeebest and 39 sets of 5 seed each Clemson Spineless. 8 of 11 Zeebest germinated at least one plant and only 2 of 39 Clemson Spineless germinated. The next setback was once the Zeebest got about 3" tall, here came the cottontails who began nibbling the tops off, even though I had 2"X4" welded wire cages around them to keep the little 'Healer' from stomping them and hopefully be enough to deter the rabbits. Actually I knew better about deterring the rabbits but I was hoping. I have since replanted with only Zeebest seed and wrapped the wire cages with chicken wire. So far all have germinated except for 1 set and even if it doesn't make, I'll have 23 Zeebest plants which hopefully will keep a couple of Okra Hogs like me and Peggy happy come August!!


    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 2:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I planted between 20+ Zeebest seed, only got 1 plant. I have Clemson and Green Velvet so I should have enough okra but hoping for more Zeebest plants. It that plant does well I will have seed for next year. I doubt that I have over 18 or 20 plants total this year, we have never tried to get by on that few plants, but expect to do OK.

My tomatoes are the pitts. I have not had time to tie up the plants and they look like a jungle.


    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 4:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Larry and Keith, You are not alone. I just planted Stewart's Zeebest for the 4th time and I have 2 plants. I soaked these seeds FOREVER so if this doesn't do it, I don't know what will. I don't recall ever having a germination problem with okra before. The first time I chalked it up to the temps because it turned cool just after I planted, but it is so hot and humid now I could barely stay out there to plant it. Heat Index is only 95 but it sure feels hot today. Yesterday I was outside off and on all day, but today I have spent a lot of time in the house.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 7:04PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
asparagus is up
Went out to plant corn and peas and noticed I had about...
mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma
strange new tulip
So my tulips are up and looking great. I have only...
mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma
Persistant Herbicide Progress
Here's an update on how some of my plants are exhibiting...
ID help
I love spring time. I get to start cleaning out the...
It was supposed to be cloudy with a chance of showers today...
so I got up and planted a row of broccoli by noon....
Sponsored Products
Vila Bronze One-Light Mini Pendant with Honey Glass
$274.50 | Bellacor
Avanity HAMILTON-LT22-FW 22 Inch Wood Linen Tower in French White finish
$899.00 | Blue Bath
Serena & Lily Riviera Counter Stool
Serena & Lily
Crosley LaFayette Natural Wood Top Kitchen Island - KF30001BBK
$370.00 | Hayneedle
Designers Fountain Galaxy 85930 Mini Pendant LED Light - LED85930-CH
$119.50 | Hayneedle
Solid Brass Square Knob with Round Base Plate
Signature Hardware
Antique Garden Tool Burlap Pillow
$19.99 | zulily
Count Dark Oak Night Stand 24 inch wide
Zuri Furniture
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™