When spring finally arrives after a long, cold winter, it always seems like a good idea to get outside.

“I’ll start a garden!” I think to myself. “I’ll save money by planting vegetables!”

But then I wonder: is it really worth it? I’m a skeptic, so I had to get to the bottom of it.

 

1. How much can you save per vegetable?

I looked at a few common, easy-to-grow vegetables to figure out how much they produce per seed, and therefore, how much growing one plant could save.

Cucumbers
Store price: $0.69 each or $0.99 each organic per cucumber
Price when you grow your own: less than $0.01 each

Generally one plant will produce about 10 cucumbers.
Average price of seeds: $0.06 per seed to grow one plant
Savings: About $7 for each plant grown, $10 for each organic plant grown


Carrots

Store price: $0.17 per carrot
Price when you grow your own: less than $0.01 per carrot

One 10-foot row of carrots would produce about 75 carrots.
Average price of seeds: $2 for 500, so less than $0.01 each seed that grows one carrot
Savings: About $12.50 per one row grown or 75 carrots


Onions

Store price: $0.74 per onion
Price when you grow your own: $0.03 per onion

One 10-foot row or about 40 onion sets planted would produce about 40 onions.
Average price of sets: $1.25 for 40 sets, or $0.03 each
Savings: About $28.35 for one 10-foot row of onions


Tomatoes
Store price: $0.50 per tomato
Price when you grow your own: $0.10 per tomato

One plant can produce as much as 50 tomatoes.
Average price of plants: $5 per plant
Savings: About $20 per plant grown


Radishes
Store price: $0.50 per bunch (about 12 radishes), $1.50 per organic bunch
Price when you grow your own: $0.03 per bunch

One 10-foot row would produce about 60 radishes.
Average price of seeds: $2 for 200, so about $0.01 each
Savings: About $2 for a row of 60 regular radishes, $7 for a row of 60 organic radishes


Zucchini
Store price: $0.40 each or $0.70 each organic zucchini
Price to grow your own: less than $0.01 each

One plant will produce about 25 zucchinis on average.
Average price of seeds: $0.15 per seed to grow one plant
Savings: About $10 per plant grown, $17 per organic plant grown

Green beans
Store price: $2 per pound, $6 per organic pound
Price to grow your own: $0.50 per pound

One 10-foot row would produce about 8 pounds of green beans.
Average price of seeds: $0.10 each (40 seeds needed per 10-foot row)
Savings: $12 for one row — 8 regular pounds, $44 for one row — 8 organic pounds


Watermelon
Store price: $6 per melon
Price when you grow your own: $0.01 per melon

One plant produces about 3 melons.
Average price of seeds: $0.04 each to grow one plant
Savings: $18 per plant grown

 

 

2. What about all that water?

So, clearly the data screams “It’s cheaper to plant a vegetable garden than to buy produce at the store!”

But, what about all the other things that go into it? The cost of water, for example!

The maximum recommended size for a manageable garden, especially for beginners, is 16 by 10 feet.

This would be 160 square feet of soil to water. In the summer months, this would require about 14.5 gallons of water per day. In the spring and fall, so April, May, and September, you could cut this in half, and use even less in October if you still have plants like squash and pumpkins growing.

Total Water Usage for a 16 x 10-foot garden April – October

 

Month

Water per Day

Water per Month

April 7 gallons 210 gallons
May 7 gallons 217 gallons
June 14.5 gallons 435 gallons
July 14.5 gallons 449.5 gallons
August 14.5 gallons 449.5 gallons
September 7 gallons 210 gallons
October 3 gallons 93 gallons
Total 2,064 gallons

 

On average across the United States, water will cost $.004 per gallon or about $.04 for every 10 gallons.

So if you used 2,000 gallons of water over the growing season, it would cost you $8, and 3,000 gallons would cost you about $12.

If we filled a 16 by 10-foot garden with two tomato plants, two cucumber plants, two zucchini plants, two watermelon plants, and one row each of carrots, onions, green beans, and radishes, we’d save $210 by not having to buy those things at the store and we’d spend $8.26 on water.

 

3. What else will you need?

Of course, you’ll need a few tools like shovels, hoes, rakes, and gloves. But you don’t need a lot to grow most things. Start small and then see what is really necessary.

If you have tomatoes or peppers, plan to spend a few dollars on cages or something to help them grow vertically.

If you plant in containers, that will be a big investment in the first year. Adding fertilizers, bug killers, or mulch can be another expense. Knowing what your overall savings will be can help you be super stingy about adding costs.

Don’t forget to coupon, bargain shop, and check out our Home Depot hacks where you can find gardening supplies, plants, seeds, and more.

 

4. Consider the time you’ll have to invest.

This is a huge one. You’ll likely spend a couple hours a week watering, weeding, pruning, and harvesting.

How much extra time do you have? What is your time worth? And how much do you enjoy being in the garden? (There are obvious physical and mental health benefits.) So…

 

 

6. Is it worth it?

With an average-sized garden, it’s pretty likely that you could save $200 on grocery bills during the growing season, even after the expenses.

If you spread that over the five months you are working in the garden, it’s $40 a month.

Considering you’ll likely spend two hours a week working in the garden for at least 20 weeks, that’s $200 for 40 hours of work or $5 an hour.

Honestly, that may not be worth it if gardening feels like work to you or you just don’t have that much extra time.

Therefore, it’s only worth it if you would enjoy all the other benefits of healthy eating, exercise, fresh flavor, being outdoors, and a therapeutic or family-bonding hobby.

 

UP NEXT: 18 Genius Gardening Hacks You’ll Regret Not Knowing

 

Does Growing a Vegetable Garden Really Save You Money?