Can you really save money by growing your own fruits and vegetables? Yes, of course you can if you plant your garden and grow the right things. In fact, an average plot provides an estimated 300 pounds of fresh produce worth $600, according to a study by the National Gardening Association (NGA). That estimate is based on an average gardener’s investment of $70 – so $530 is a pretty nice return!
Of course, how you set up your garden to prepare to grow your vegetables can vary a lot and determine how long it takes to recoup your money:
- The simplest and cheapest method is to transform an area of grass using plastic to kill the grass and then layer a couple of loads of new soil and compost for very little out of your pocket.
- If you want to make it a little nicer, for a bit more money you can build a raised bed which will cut down on maintenance and weeding.
- The most expensive option is transforming a large area with permanent raised beds, pathways, arbors, and sprinkler systems – it may look great but can be expensive.
When it comes to growing the actual food, not all fruits, veggies, and herbs yield the same return. While gardening can be one of the most rewarding uses of your time – it’s mentally stimulating, provides exercise, and can be relaxing – some things are just more cost, time, and space-effective to buy in the store.
There are 5 things to keep in mind when planning what food you want to plant:
- What your family likes (food waste = money waste)
- What you have room for (to get the most from your space)
- What will produce the best for you where you live (it costs a lot more to grow one melon in the north than a bunch of heads of lettuce…)
- Start with seeds when possible, and start them early indoors
- Plant now to eat later – what crops can you eat now when fresh and later because they do well in long term storage, frozen, or canned
Here’s a list of some of the best fruits, vegetables, and herbs you can grow based on your space and taste that will help you save the most money year-round.
- Herbs – They are very easy to grow, aren’t affected by many pests, thrive in all types of soil, and need minimal water. Consider growing herbs that you use the most year-round because they taste great fresh or dried. Bonus – you only need 1 or 2 plants to provide a year-long supply of each type.
- Lettuce/greens – Leafy greens keep producing leaves as long as the weather is mild. If your family eats a lot of salad, this is a no-brainer. Romaine is one of the healthiest lettuce types to eat and it is one of the highest-yielding lettuce types. You can also plant from seed several times during the growing season to extend your supply.
- Tomatoes – They have a long harvest season and require little upkeep once you plant and secure them. Heirloom varieties, which can go for $4 a pound in stores, give you a huge return on your investment. Cherry tomatoes are also great for kids and salads. No matter what type you plant, you should get a large bounty which you can also turn into sauce, salsa, or eat fresh.
- Squash – Yellow, zucchini, and winter squash are high-yield crops. They do take up a decent amount of space in the garden, but you can grow enough to last the year with just 1 or 2 plants and freeze them or turn them into zucchini bread, zoodles, or even share your bounty with the neighbors!
- Green beans – One of my personal favorites. Green beans are one of those veggies that taste so much better when you grow your own. The grocery store ones are often a little older and tough. These are great to eat fresh or freeze for later and the plants produce over a long period of time.
- Cucumbers – Like squash, they do take up some space, but using a trellis can help you optimize your square footage. You can eat them fresh or pickle them, and they provide an abundant harvest.
- Blackberries or Raspberries – The right varieties can be grown in smaller spaces and still produce a high yield. We all know how expensive berries are in the store, so if you eat a lot of these sweet fruits, then growing your own is a no-brainer. They are also low maintenance.
There are many other fruits and vegetables that you and your family eat that might make sense, the above are just some of the most popular and get you the highest return on your money, time, and space.
Is gardening to save money possible? Absolutely if you plan, grow what you use and eat, and plant what gives you the biggest return on your investment. Plus it can be fun and something the whole family enjoys – and that’s priceless.
Branch Manager – Torrington