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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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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|
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.
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