Home Garden Economics

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Cary Sims
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.

Does home gardening make sense financially? I believe so.

Last Sunday at church, a dear friend, Virginia, was telling me how much she and her husband have been enjoying all manner of fresh greens harvested each week from their small garden. Cheap, abundant, healthy greens harvested a couple times each week.

Visiting later with another buddy, Billy Ray, later in the week, he showed me his garden patch of collard greens. “I put some of the chicken litter from my hens and a little triple-13 and I can’t keep up with them.” He gives away most of what he grows as he gets all he wants.

I was sharing this topic with my co-worker, Joel. He also agreed that you can be money ahead. He told me that last summer he bought a cherry tomato plant for $2 and got several harvests off of it. Each harvest, he told me, was about the same volume as a $2 basket of cherry tomatoes at the grocery store!

Looking online, none other than the Investopedia website said that growing your own produce can save you money. They cited, from the national Journal of Extension, that the average value of produce from a home garden to be worth $677 with costs totaling only $238. To be honest I was pleasantly surprised.

Now, please do not think that you can go buy a large tiller and all kinds of fancy equipment and tend a small garden the size of a bedroom and make the numbers work out. As with all economic endeavors, you have to watch your input costs.

But with a raised bed and some good soil growing produce 12 months of the year, one could see a small, to modest financial return. I think the biggest hinderance is keeping your garden plot going year-round.

Bear in mind your input costs of seeds or transplants, soil and nutrients, all the tools (and perhaps a few you don’t need), structures such as fences or cages, and the water bill that will certainly peak in the summer. They will add up over time.

If you want to drill down and get serious about saving money on your grocery bill and enjoy the outdoors, consider the following. First, grow only what you like and what you need. Even a flat of six transplants of any certain vegetable can out-produce what most households can consume. See if you can buy fewer transplants or swap with friends.

Second, consider the square-foot gardening method. This gardening system looks at each square foot as a production unit. Forget the three-foot-wide rows with lots of bare ground exposed, and interplant smaller, earlier maturing produce between longer maturing types.

Lastly, for the truly frugal, start everything from seed. From a $3 package of seeds, you will have worlds of seed that you can use in successive crops to spread out the harvest, or to use half in the spring garden and the other half in a fall garden.

So many of you have started a garden last year and I hope that, facing the shut-in that we may again face from Covid-19, you will relish the time outside and the joy of growing your own groceries from a simple garden.

If you are still a little hesitant, try out growing some herbs that you really like on your back porch in a pot. The idea is to make it enjoyable and worth your time outside, in the kitchen, and in the wallet.

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