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Enjoying the modern conveniences of life in a sustainable manner through technology, resourcefulness, and Zone 8a (North Texas) Gardening.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Cost of Gardening

This year I want to take a good look at how much I am spending on gardening and how much I am saving (on groceries) by gardening. Organic produce is in very limited supply around here, so I will use the USDA's market price data to determine the value of each of my crops. I used their table and converted everything to its price per pound or price for each; depending on what the item was.

First let's start with the garden's expenses. Some expenses will only last one season, while others will last several seasons. For those things that will last several seasons, I decided to spread their cost over the number of years they are expected to last.

This is my 2nd spring gardening, so these expenses are from both last year and this year. I have included absolutely everything that was purchased because of gardening.

Here are my expenses:

Fertilizer - My soil is basically hard clay and (professionally) tested to be low in NPK. It also has a PH of 7.0; so I've had to spend a little money on fertilizer and soil so that things would grow. I purchased alfafa pellets, cotton seed meal, organic bone meal, organic blood meal, fish emulsion, greensand, sulfur, lime, and epsom salt. I use all of these to mix my own fertilizer.

Mulch - I used free newspaper and purchased some straw hay. I have since switched to free leaves that are doing a wonderful job.

Seeds - As a newbie, I went a little seed happy.

Starter Soil - I had to do something to break up my rock-hard clay. I have since found a source for free composted horse manure. The owner stacks the manure behing his shed and it sits there. Horse manure is not salty like cow manure. And its free!

Protectants - As a newbie, the site of tomato hornworms scared me. I thought they would eat my plants to the ground. I purchased some BT. I sprayed once! Because spiders showed up and I saw maybe two more worms the rest of the season. Thrips were eating my corn to shreads so I purchased some neem oil. It saved my corn. Also as a newbie, I couldn't figure out why my tomatoes were dying, so I bought some green cure. I thought they had blight. Turns out, they were just old and it was their time. I had been harvesting from them for 4 months....sheesh...I had a lot to learn.

Canning - let's face it, I wouldn't own any of this stuff if it wasn't for the garden.
Preserving - this is basically the cost of a dehydrator and some freezer containers. I wouldn't own either without the garden. I debated adding the cost of the food mill, but I decided not to. I would own a food mill without the garden. I am a 'time is money' kind of person. So I like the sustainability of making my own jam using the modern convienence of a food mill....Sustainably Modern...lol

Irrigation - we installed a drip irrigation system that has worked wonders. We were the only garden able to survive last summers drought due to this drip system. However $262 of the $437 is what we estimate it will cost to water the garden this summer. So the drip system was about $175 and covers 600 sqft of garden. I'll give a detailed posting about it later.

Garden Stakes, Caging, Covers - If you've followed my blog for a while, then you have seen these. The pvc hoop house to extend the season or protect a crop; the tomato and pea trellis, etc... I invested in materials that will be useable for years to come.

Plant and Transplants - Well the big one here is the garlic. I paid $35 for gourmet garlic last fall. I really wanted to try more than the basic grocery store variety. I felt like it was a good investment because (if successful) you only have to buy garlic once. After that just save one or two bulbs from each variety for replanting. I spent $10 on potato seed. $8 on onion starts because none of my seed germinated (I tried to germinate it in the garden). The other whopper was herbs. This is my second year trying to start an herb garden...from seed. On Earth Day Lowes was selling all of their 1 quart vegetables for $1.5 each. So I went and bought myself an herb garden. I spend $23 on herb plants. Again 'time is money' and I don't know how much water and time and seeds and fertilizer I have used trying to start my herbs from seed.

So my yearly cost comes out to about $555. Some stuff I didn't amortize and took the entire cost this year. This is for about 600 sqft of gardening space. On a weekly basis, I will track what the market value of my garden's produce is.


  1. Wow! that is a lot. I believe I am going to do mine a little differently. I just am going to go with the cost of the food where I would normally buy it. What I want to know is what growing the garden actually saved me, if anything. Since I don't normally buy all organic, I am not going to price things as organic.
    Anyway, I will be interested to see the results for both of us.

  2. I always find it interesting what people spend their money on in the garden. Compared with me you have spent a lot more on supports and covers (but then I always covert everyone elses supports - I should really get some decent ones) but I spend way more on seeds - I always want to try new varieties of everything so have a tendency to get overexcited. I think the $23 on herbs will prove to be well spent - so far this year i have harvested over $90 from mine (admittedly this is in our summer).

  3. So far this year with my amortized costs I've spent $665. I've got a garden close to the same size as yours. Though the reality is that I've spent $265 this year and the rest is amortized from last year. Maybe I should have put my 5000' for garden twine and my new tools as amortized costs, but I just added them to this year's expenses. I would very easily spend more than that on the farmers market if I didn't grow my own. As it is I spend a fortune there on meats, eggs, and things like honey. I started keeping track when like you I wondered if it was a big bonus monetarily (I know it is one mentally). With my new garden it was interesting since I could put all the costs of making the garden in the amortized costs. With the last one it was a mature garden that I was counting from.