I love gardening for a lot of reasons. It is a source of enjoyment that serves as a wonderful classroom for my son and it helps me save some money. While I have invested in building my garden this is the time of year it starts to pay me back in produce. Today I thought I would share some quick tips that I use to help save money while gardening.
Reduce the Cost of Groceries
The first and likely most obvious is the money you save by growing your own food. Every day I go out into the garden to harvest what will become about half of my lunch and surplus being preserved for use later in the year.
I estimate by harvesting my lunch from the garden every day between mid-July to late September I am able to save the 5-10$ a day. This would represent what it would cost me to purchase lunch while at work. My weekly savings amounting to between 25$ to 50$ a week and conservatively over a 10 week period I am able to save between 250-500$ even in my small urban garden in just the produce alone.
Focus on High Cost Crops
If you would like to enhance the savings your produce give you or if you have limited space you can focus on crops that are not available or costly in your area helping.
Free and Local Fertilizer Resources
In order for your crops to grow and produce food for you they themselves need nutrients. If you rely on store bought products it can be a continued cost of gardening. Over the last two years I have evaluated a number of free and local resources for fertilizer potential.
These resources are either produced in your yard such as autumn leaves or in your kitchen such as spend coffee grounds and tea leaves. If used for making compost or mulch they return their nutrients to the garden fertilizing your plants for free.
I have not purchased a store bought fertilizer in three years saving that cost and diverting these resources from the landfill.
Make Free Garden Soil
If you are just starting out you can save money by filling your garden with compost made from those free and local resources instead of purchasing it from a garden center.
Using Rain Water to Save Money
Rain water is another great way to save some money. During the summer if it is not raining enough I may need to water the garden. Typically when the garden needs supplemental water the prices jump as there is more demand on the municipal system. In past summers I have had my bills increase by 60$ a month during drier weather.
These rain barrels have more than enough capacity to capture and store enough water for me to get through these drier times. If I have another dry summer like 2015 these rain barrels can save me up to 360$ while reducing the likelihood that I will lose plants due to a drought.
Reusing Water from the Kitchen in the Garden
If your rain barrels are not full you can re-use water from the kitchen. Water can be saved from vegetable washing, boiled water and many other sources and used directly in the garden.
Save Seeds to Save Money
Before you even get into the garden for the season you can save money by starting your own seedlings. Saving seeds and participating in seed swaps can build you a large library of seeds that often did not have to cost you very much if anything.
Starting your own Seedlings Saves Money
Once you have the seeds you can often start your own seedlings for a fraction of the cost of purchasing them. If you have a south or southwest facing window (north or northeast in the southern hemisphere) you can use the seeds you have saved in the garden along with recycled containers filled with bulk potting soil to start your seedlings often for a cost of pennies. Seedlings in garden stores are not usually very expensive but when you think of how many plants it takes to fill even my small garden those savings can really add up.
Investing in perennial fruit and nut producing plants
When I do go into a garden center I do invest in perennials that produce crops for me. I look for crops that I cannot find here or focus on the more costly crops that my family eats a lot.
Perennials are great as you invest once and they can produce often for decades paying themselves off many times over.
Propagating Perennials to Save Money
You can also extend the savings by propagating your perennials. Propagating does not have to cost a lot and some crops such as strawberries and raspberries self-propagate and if you give them the space can produce large crops.
Process Crops to Higher Value Products
Once you have the crops in you can further increase their value by processing them into higher cost items at the grocery store. For instance I will often take crops such as grapes, rhubarb and surplus berries and make wine with them. You can also recover the value of crops that may not be fresh enough for other purposes but not quite rotting by turning it into wine.
Each batch of wine costs me about 10$ to make and yields 30 standard bottles of wine. At the store each bottle would cost at a minimum of 10$. By making these crops into wine each batch increases in value to around 290$.
Building from Recycled or Naturally Sources Materials
Initially setting up the garden is often the most expensive part of gardening. If I can I like to use recycled lumber like what I made this bed out of or naturally sourced materials such as stone.
When I have to purchase materials for projects I make sure to figure out when the project will pay itself off in produce or savings. Often most of my projects like this rain barrel pay themselves off in the first year but other projects may take a few more years.
After this year I am moving from the more expensive phase of expanding or setting up my garden to maintaining which is much cheaper. I expect the garden will cost me significantly less over the next few years and will continue to pay me back in produce. In fact as my perennials mature the garden will produce more food further increasing the savings on my household budget.
I would love to know what other frugal methods you use to save money while gardening.
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