Nutrition Articles

Calculating the Cost of Growing Your Own Food

How to Put Away Big Bucks with Your Green Thumb

Odds and Ends
One hidden cost you might not think about when starting up a garden is soil testing. If you are in the city or fear you have compromised soil, it’s a good idea to get a soil test from your local garden center or home improvement store. These run about $12 but are well worth it because you don’t want to plant in lead-tainted dirt that will contaminate your food!

If you don’t have gardening gear, you will probably need some basic supplies such as a wide brimmed hat, spade, shovel, and gloves. Home improvement stores or nurseries sell all of these for under $50. It may cost more up front, but it's a long-term investment that should last for the duration of your garden.
Additional Savings Tips
Many nurseries, churches, local organizations, or community garden clubs have seed and plant sales in the spring. You can score some major deals at these types of events, often up to half off what you would pay elsewhere! However, nothing beats the ease of simply trading with other gardeners in your area. Most people do not have a garden conducive to growing as many vegetables as a seed packet can grow. As a result, gardeners often have left-over seed that, if not stored for next year, is tossed out. Some garden clubs organize seasonal seed exchanges, so look for them in your community paper. Lastly, hit up the Internet for some deals on ebay or Craigslist. Many times, people will offer up plants and materials for free on Craigslist under the "free stuff" section.

Gardening is an investment and a labor of love, but it's worth it for the money you'll save on produce! Plus, it's a great way to get in some exercise while connecting with the earth. Start today to start reaping the benefits for your body--and your wallet.
Butterfield, Bruce. ''Impact of Home and Community Gardening In America.'' The National Gardening Association (2009): 1-17. Accessed April 2009.
Kitchen Gardeners. ''What's a Home Garden Worth?'' Accessed March 2012. ''Grow Your Own Vegetables Value Calculator.'' Accessed April 2009.
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About The Author

Jenny Sigler Jenny Sigler
Jenny is a stay-at-home mom to her young children, Augustine and Olive. An avid gardener and baker, she enjoys writing about health and childcare topics to empower people to make healthy choices. See all of Jenny's articles.

Member Comments

    I love to garden, but there has to be a reason I choose to grow something myself, either homegrown tastes significantly better, like tomatoes, or store bought is expensive, like lemons and figs. I grow zucchini for the blossoms. Artichokes are easy and expensive. But carrots are a pain to grow, and don't taste any better, so I don't grow those. Talking to others in your area can give you some ideas on what's easy, and worth it. By far the easiest is herbs, they don't require good soil, and your return on investment is good. - 10/15/2014 7:32:32 PM
  • I do about 4 raised beds and I'm sure I lost money the first couple of years until my compost started to mature. I would say I save money now but the quality and freshness...there is nothing like the taste of homegrown tomatoes and lettuce (kale too) so it is worth it to me. - 10/15/2014 1:11:40 PM
    If you have a small apt you can still grow window gardens of salad veggies,and a vertical garden in a south facing window works too...NO pests, no pestisides, no excess heat,shade cloth, or fencing... ...takes up about 2 ft of floor space...even hang them on a wall! Good luck! - 10/15/2014 1:15:48 AM
  • I started my own garden in pots on my deck last year and it's been a great source of joy along with food. We had a GREAT crop of lettuce last year, this year we haven't been able to harvest any. However, our green beans, basil, and parsley are out of control in a good way. We're also having some success with peppers, where they were duds last year. The investment of the planters was expensive at the time, but a great idea for the long run. Between seeds, starter plants, and dirt, we only spent $25 this year. That's a win! - 7/6/2014 5:14:38 PM
  • I would love to grow my own food but the time is just not there. And I think that I would need to invest in some tools and stuff to get me going, which would cost a lot. Granted, over time that would pay itself off but I am now participating in a local hybrid CSA where I get food from a local farm each week. This is a good one because I can pick and choose what I want if I want it with no obligations, so I don't end up with food that I don't eat. And I love supporting this local farm. I also get amazing organic free range eggs from them. - 10/8/2013 9:44:29 AM
    It never fails to amuse me when I read about amending CLAY by adding SAND. Welcome to adobe making 101. Compost, yes, sand, not so much. You would have to add about 10 inches of sand to one inch of clay to get anything resembling a workable garden soil, and you would STILL need the compost. Since you've added so much volume, at this point, you might as well build a few raised beds. - 11/5/2012 2:18:05 PM
  • Much of the cost of gardening depends on where you live. A friend of mine, living in southern Arizona, decided to plant a small garden. Because of the soil in the area, she needed to create a raised bed (purchased), buy topsoil, add irrigation, buy fencing to keep the animals out of the garden, buy shade cloth to protect the plants from the hot sun, and buy plants. By the time she eats her first home-grown tomato, if they haven't been killed by the 100+ degree temperatures, it will cost her over $700, and that doesn't include the work involved in weeding, or the additional water and sewer costs due to the additional - daily - irrigation required.

    By her own admission, it will take at least 5 years to break even, assuming any of her plants survive.

    - 8/12/2012 1:32:08 PM
  • I've had a small garden for years. It's amazing how much I get out of it! One of the best investments we made was to buy a small freezer. I freeze my harvest each year and it lasts most of the winter. There is nothing better than the taste of home-grown produce! This year, I started some grapes I clipped my father in law's grapes that came from Italy years ago. My husband and I are going to attempt to build a small arbor for them so we can have grapes in a few years. My first attempt at fruit! No chemicals and sprays for's mostly organic (I can't say all the seeds I buy are organic). I love learning new things about gardening, too. Good article! - 8/12/2012 11:04:45 AM
    I have grown a Square Foot Garden in my backyard for about 7 years now and I grow everything from seed. It is one of my favorite hobbies and my kids really enjoy it too. But it isn't there to save us money! Have you read "The $64 Tomato" by William Alexander? LOL! Between fighting vermin, fancy drip watering systems, and an indoor seed starting set up....there are so many hidden costs to hobby gardening (depending on how in-depth you want to get). But I still love it! Everything tastes so much better than store bought -especially the tomatoes - and it gives us so much satisfaction and joy! - 8/12/2012 10:50:18 AM
  • Growing your own food is priceless to me - the ability to control how it grows. I love seeing my garden grow with no chemicals. - 8/12/2012 10:20:10 AM

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