“Is starting a garden worth the cost & time?” is the number one question I get as a kitchen garden consultant. My short answer is yes, but it 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 mindset
Before starting a garden, you have to have the right mindset. We need to change several common thoughts 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 suitable variety for your area. These and more need time and patience to achieve the final result.
2- Gardening is not an exact science
This one is for the engineers and mathematicians who try to calculate everything to reach and expect the perfect outcome. We must understand that plants and soil are alive. No two plants are created equal, and no two soil samples are identical. What would work in my backyard might not work 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, etc. Therefore, 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 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 four-by-four beds, which provide 32 sqft of growing space. Six years into it now, I am at 200 sqft of growing space, feeding 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 products are available year-round, making it difficult to know what is in season and is not. When you decide to grow your food, you first learn that each crop has its own growing time or season. Once you get acclimated to 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 costs by making the beds and getting soil in bulk. The good news 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 exact answer to this question. It depends on many factors, such as setup cost, location, and crop choices. However, if you use your garden wisely, grow efficient crops, and apply intelligent gardening techniques, you will 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.
2 thoughts on “Is Starting a Garden Worth the Cost & Time?”
My wife is the flower gardener and I am the vegetable gardener. She has been at it longer than I with the exception of a few tomato plants that I would grow each summer. We have been in our house for over thirty years and have turned the soil from a predominately clay and thin top soil yard to elaborate loamy rich soil beds. We are both in agreement that the biggest benefit one realizes from gardening is an inner piece that seems to grow every time you step in the garden and immerse yourself in its tasks. There’s no better stress reducer than gardening. That my friends has no price tag.
I agree with the authors point that over time you may reach a break even point and even be ahead financially but the second biggest benefit, especially with the veggies is that you can’t buy the quality and health benefits with garden grown produce. It’s getting more difficult in my area to find farmers market veggies that are not grown for the extended shelf life that retailers typically favor over taste. Over a long period you learn the best varieties for your area and growing techniques that produce the best quality and yields. Then there are the preservation methods that allow you to utilize these resources year round. When you factor in saving your own seeds for the second crop or next year’s crop you further reduce your cost. Gardening is an investment that truly pays multiple dividends and for those who are willing to put in the time benefit.
Thanks for the input. You are right, there is no price tag for the mental benefits of gardening.