“Is starting a garden worth the cost & time?” This is the number one question I get asked as a kitchen garden consultant. My short answer is yes, but it truly depends on the person’s personal view and expectations. If they think a garden works with a push of a button and a sit back on a hammock, they might think again. Gardening is the progressive relationship we build with nature to achieve mutual benefit.
The right mind set
Before starting a garden you have to have the right mindset. There are several common thoughts we need to change to have a positive experience.
Switching gears from the fast-paced life to the low and slow mood is the first step. In the garden things take time to show results. May it be planting to harvest, soil improvement, or experimenting to find the right variety for your area. All of these and more need time and patience to achieve the final result.
2- Gardening is not exact science
This one is for the engineers and mathematicians out there, who try to calculate everything to reach and expect the perfect outcome. We have to understand that plants and soil are natural livings just like us. No two plants are created equal, and no two soil samples are the same. What would work in my backyard might not in my neighbor’s, and this year’s best crops may be a failure the next.
Many elements contribute to a garden’s production, such as disease, water quality, rainfall, soil, and so on. We can never make an accurate prediction about the outcome of a given season, let alone a whole year.
3- A garden needs love
“The garden’s best fertilizer is the gardener’s shadow.”Your garden is like a little child or a pet; you need to be there for it to keep it growing and well-maintained.
4- Set up reasonable expectations
As a beginner gardener, setting up reasonable expectations is the first step to a successful garden. Start small to get the feel of what gardening takes. Then once you get more experience and enjoyment, you can upgrade and expand to reach your goal. I started growing in two 4 by 4 beds, which provide 32 sqft of growing space. Six years into it now, I am at 200 sqft of growing space, providing my family of six plenty of food.
5- Grow and eat what’s in season
Walking into the grocery store, you may notice that the same types of products are available year-round. This makes it difficult to know what is in season and what is not. When you decide to grow your own food, the first thing you learn is that each crop has its own growing time or season. Once you get acclimated with the idea, you will only consume what is in season, which brings your grocery bill down.
The initial cost
The priciest part of having a garden is the initial setup. Raised beds and soil are the most expensive materials. If you are resourceful and handy, you may cut on the cost by making the beds and getting soil in bulk. The good news, though, is that this is the only time you will be spending considerable money on the garden. From then on, you will be only spending on seeds and plants, which is not bad, unless you are an impulsive shopper.
Will I get my money back from the garden?
There is no way to answer this question accurately. It depends on many factors, such as how much you invested in the setup, where you live, and what you’re growing. However, if you use your garden wisely, grow cost-efficient crops, and apply smart gardening techniques, you will definitely get your money back. It may take a few years before that happens, but it will. Bear in mind that the garden is here to grow alongside you, and as your experience grows, your cost will decrease.