Grow a tomato, save money

Saturday, April 18, 2009


With the weather taking a turn for the beautiful, many of us will be out in our gardens.  The economy being what it is, a lot more people are turning to vegetable gardening as a way to save money.  The Wall Street Journal recently took a look at whether growing your own food is as fiscally inexpensive as people seem to think.

The nonprofit National Gardening Association just produced a study—sponsored by ScottsMiracle-Gro Co.—that found the average family with a vegetable garden spends just $70 a year on it and grows an estimated $600 worth of vegetables.

George Ball, chairman and CEO of seed giant Burpee, can rattle off the savings for dozens of homegrown crops. Green beans will generate $75 worth of crops for each $1 you spend on seeds, Mr. Ball calculates. Even the lowly potato will generate $5 of spuds for each $1 you invest in seeds.

Does it all sound too good to be true? Depending on your situation, it may be. Neither Mr. Ball nor the National Garden Association study focus on how much you may have to sink into your garden before you can grow anything.

I’ve been keeping a garden for a lot of years, both here out in the burbs and when I lived in the city.  I can attest to the fact that it’s easy to spend a lot of money on gardening accoutrements: fencing, soil and soil amendments, shovels, seeds, stakes.  But if you plan to keep a garden long term, the cost of these items - as the article points out - can be amortized over the life of your garden.  It doesn’t mean start up costs are any less hard to swallow, of course.  That said, gardening doesn’t have to involve all the bells and whistles - walk out to your back yard, dig a hole, and plant a seed.

Speaking of gardening, here’s a cool idea out of San Francisco - an urban gardener registry.  It’s basically a social networking site for SF gardeners, but apparently there’s a feature that allows gardeners with an overabundance of produce can get in touch with other gardeners who want their extra produce.  If only I had the programming prowess to make something like that happen here in the Philadelphia area!!

Posted by Nicole on 04/18 at 10:06 AM

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