05 February 2012

Does gardening save you money?

 We have grown part of our food from the very beginning of our marriage. Mind you we started off with only two plants: garlic chives and parsley in pots, a gift from Wayne's Aunty Elaine. Those two humble plants were the start of my veggie growing odyssey.

When we moved into our house we added a couple of tomato plants in pots. Boy did we feel clever with our homegrown veggies. Looking back I can't believe that I thought we were really growing our food.

Then disaster struck. We literally did not have any money to spare, even for food. The groceries were the absolute bare minimum to keep the four of us going. When we made the move back to Melbourne I took a good long look at my mother's vegetable garden and I was sold.

I had already figured out that buying fresh ingredients and cooking from scratch was a much cheaper, healthier and greener way to shop and feed my family.  Growing our own food would slash our already very low grocery bill even more and I used Mum's garden as the inspiration for mine.

Having a food garden saves us money, that's a given. What it also does is give us much more variety in the foods we eat. For example we grow potatoes - five different varieties - and harvest around 160kg a year. If I had to buy potatoes I would only be buying the cheapest available and paying around $1.50 a kilo.  The seed potatoes I use cost around $30 initially, an immediate saving of $210. I always keep some spuds back to use to grow the next crop, making each successive crop of potatoes absolutely free.

When lettuces are $2.48 each at the greengrocer, ours cost around 4 cents - yes, that's right. A packet of seeds cost $2.95 and has around 80 seeds in it. I grow tomatoes from seed with great success. Each tomato plant costs around 30 cents to grow - even if I only get 1 kilo of tomatoes off it it's still saving me a fortune. Ditto beetroot, zucchini, cucumbers, capsicums, radishes, beans, sugar snap peas, cabbages, cauliflowers, pumpkins, rhubarb, melons, carrots, squash, broccoli, broccolini, celery, garlic, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, onions, parsley, chives,  and everything else we grow.

Yes, growing your own food will save you money, but the benefits far outweigh any saving you make.

By growing our own food we eat a lot better, for a lot less money. Eating from our garden frees up money in the grocery budget for other things such as better quality meat, poultry and seafood and organic dairy products. 

The vegetables we eat are fresh - really fresh. You can't get much fresher than picked 20 minutes before they hit the plate, which is often what happens. A quick trot out to the veggie plot and I pick what I want for the meal I am preparing. It really is straight from the garden to the plate.

The price and the freshness are huge factors, but so is the fact that what we grow is grown organically, or as organically as it can be in a suburban backyard in a capital city. I don’t use chemical fertilizers on our garden. The soil is enriched before each growing season with my own homemade compost. The plants are fed with my own homemade bokashi tea and compost tea.

Family and friends benefit from our garden too. I love being able to share the bounty we have grown. Dropping off tomatoes, lettuces and cucumbers to a friend whose father loves salads, or giving a jar of homemade jam or pickles to neighbours as a thank you for the produce they have shared.

Growing our own food is one small way we contribute to lessening our impact on our environment. Our small backyard veggie garden eases our carbon footprint when we don't have to travel to the market or the greengrocer as often, reducing our reliance on the fossil fuels and chemicals used to grow, transport and pack food.

Yes, growing our own food definitely saves us money. But more than that it gives me great satisfaction knowing that the food I am feeding my family is good - good for our health, good for our bank account and good for the environment.

Is it hard work? No, not really. It is regular work though - a few minutes every day to pull weeds, water, harvest crops and re-plant for a continuous supply. Is it really worth it then? Oh, yes.

Would I still grow our own food even if it didn't save us money?  Oh, yes. The benefits to all of us far outweigh any savings we make.

So do you grow your own food? Does it save you money? Is it as satisfying for you as it is for me?

6 comments:

  1. I just planted a whole bunch of seeds yesterday, so hopefully soon I can answer yes :)

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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    Replies
    1. I deleted my above comment in order to make sure that I didn't accidently do it for an earlier comment which disappeared. I am more than a little puzzled as to why that earlier comment either disappeared or was deleted.

      It was not offensive in any way and was based on my own personal experience of the difficulties in growing vegetables. This could have have provided a valuable opportunity for feedback or discussion of how to deal with those difficulties.

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    2. Hi Elizabeth,

      I have no idea what happened to your comment, I haven't logged into my blog emails yet so I haven't even read it and I have just logged onto the blog.

      I certainly didn't delete it. When I delete comments I leave a reason as to why and contact the person who left the comment if I can to explain the reason.

      You are more than welcome to leave your comment again, I love to read them (even if I don't reply to them all).

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    3. Here is a reconstruction of my disappeared comment.
      My experience at growing my own vegies has had less than stellar results. Over 2 years I had the following harvests.
      Tomatoes: 3 plants grown from seedling for a resultant 4 tomatoes.
      Snowpeas: one plant provided one (yes,really, just one!) snowpea...eaten by a caterpillar before I got to it.
      Lettuce: several plants gave me a few leaves each.
      Herbs: parsley & basil were successful. The basil was especially good value & used in making some great pesto.
      Other than herbs, it was not a cost effective excercise.

      I'd love to grow my own - it just seems as though I don't have a green thumb. At the time, there didn't appear to be obvious reasons for the failure - the soil was good, with good drainage & the plants well watered and fertilised.
      Later I discovered large roots from neighbours plants had spread throughout the garden bed - I'm not enough of a gardener to know if that made any difference. I also live in the subtropics (near Brisbane). Perhaps this requires different ways of growing vegies to the usual directions but I am reluctant to attempt the exercise again.

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  3. Elizabeth, I understand what you say. While others seem to have thriving gardens, I never seem to have success. My health is poor and the effort for what never works is hard to justify. I find it easier to shop at various supermarkets and get the best value I can. However if I could learn to grow my own food with success, then I would be very happy to do so.

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