Growing Your Own Garden: Is It Worth It? (My biased opinion)

garden blog title corrected

Ahhh – gardening…some do it to save money, while others do it for the love of digging in the dirt – one way or the other, you can’t beat watching those little seeds grow into lovely plants that produce the tastiest. food. ever.

While I’ve dabbled in gardening off and on for the past 15 years, for most of those years, I just threw some seeds in the ground (or bought a few plants from the nursery), watered them now and then and harvested whatever veggies they happened to produce.

Two years ago, we moved to a home on a one acre lot. Here, I thought, was my opportunity to dive in and become a “real” gardener. And while I’m really still a novice, I’ve learned a ton about gardening over the past two years. In fact, I was able to successfully harvest about 600 pounds of produce last year. I’m on track to bring in even more this year, barring unforeseen weather, critters, or other pests (I’m talking to you, you pesky squash bugs).

The cost of getting started

Getting a garden started can be expensive, but doesn’t necessarily have to be.

DSC_0028 (2)
Four of my raised beds (May 2016).

I have six 8’ x 4’ raised beds inside a nice fence my husband built this year (to keep the deer, dogs, and rabbits out). The materials for the beds, fence and compost to fill the beds was approximately $700, so my overall startup costs were pretty huge.

But starting a garden doesn’t have to cost a heap of money. I did add a corner garden this year, which is outside of the fenced area and is not a raised bed (though I did build it up a little).This garden didn’t cost anything but a load of compost ($20) and a little labor. I knew I was taking my chances on the critters nibbling on the plants in this particular garden and, while the deer have taken a couple of tassels off my corn, they aren’t likely going to touch the pokey leaves of the squash.

Costs of planting and maintaining

seedlings in cage
I grow my seedlings in a very large dog crate so my cats don’t eat them (they ate all of my pepper seedlings last year!). I use small grow lights since I start seeds in late February.

I keep costs low by starting all of my plants from seed, make own some of my own compost (right in the garden itself) and mulch with cut grass (we don’t use chemicals on the lawn).

To maintain healthy soil, I plant cover crops (I use crimson clover) in the fall to add nutrients to the soil and make sure I rotate crops each year (except the  strawberries).

So far this year, I’ve spent $119 on my garden (with the exception of the fence). The money was spent on seeds* (and seed potatoes), composted manure, soil to start seedlings in the winter, fertilizer, diatomaceous earth (a natural attempt to deal with squash bug problem), string for trellises, peat moss, 50 strawberry plants (bare root) and 5 blueberry bushes.

potatoes and grass mulch
Potatoes along the fence line mulched with grass clippings.

Water is the area that I really need to improve on as far as gardening costs go. We are on rural water that is super expensive, so this definitely cuts into the garden savings. I’ve not seen a huge increase in the water bill yet this year, but I expect it will happen. I am trying to convince hubby he needs to make me a rain barrel system but, so far, no dice.

We planted 5 apple trees, 2 pear trees and 3 peach trees two years ago and 5 blueberry bushes this year. The trees and bushes cost between $10 and $20 each and won’t produce fruit for another couple of years, so we’ll just call that an investment in the future.

Is it worth it?

My answer is a resounding “YES”! But I’m completely biased. That’s coming from a person who loves to be outside and has found a new passion for gardening over the past two years. I can go out to my garden intending to spend 15 minutes and, low and behold, 2 hours have passed before I know it. (I miss my garden on vacation – like really miss it. Is that weird?)

july garden
Mid July raised beds. I grow on the trellises to grow more in a small space.

Gardening does definitely take a good deal of time, so if you aren’t willing to commit at least a few hours a week outside, sometimes doing rather difficult laborious work (during hot, sticky, buggy days), you may want to stick with a smaller garden, or consider container gardening on your patio (or skip it altogether).

apple trees
The apple trees are looking great this year!

That said, gardening can fit into even the smallest of budgets. Even if you just throw some seeds in a pot or a little plot of ground, you will likely be able to raise a few delicious veggies, which can save on groceries during the summer months.

My harvest of 600+ pounds of produce last year is nothing to sneeze at and it definitely cut down on produce costs at the grocery store for a few months. Plus, I do preserve some of my bounty for later – I am all about freezing extra produce, but I don’t actually can anything other than salsa (oh my gosh, homemade salsa is so yummy!) and dill pickles.

Is gardening for you?

Obviously, the time and energy spent gardening is worth it to me, but not everyone is going to love it like I do. Gardening can be expensive and time consuming, but doesn’t have to be. It can be done on a budget with just a little time involved (particularly small gardens). Any way you cut it, you just can’t beat the taste of fresh veggies grown in your own backyard!

My cost effective back garden with sweet corn, winter squash, and cantaloupe!


How is your garden growing? Are you a new or seasoned gardener? Any tips for frugal gardening?

*I always go a little overboard when buying seeds but, once the package of seeds is open, I do keep what’s left in the fridge in a sealed container, so I am using many of last years’ seeds.

34 thoughts on “Growing Your Own Garden: Is It Worth It? (My biased opinion)

  1. Anything we’ve tried to grow in our yard has gotten eaten by the deer, even apple trees. (And the trees started out at about 7 feet) We’ve had some luck with herbs in containers on the patio, and it’s nice to be able to add fresh basil or chives to pasta and salads or cilantro to guacamole. I think we’ll try again on the trees, but invest some money in fencing.

    1. The deer eat on our trees a little. When we first planted them, we put a circle of cheap wire fence (supported by small metal posts) around them and this deterred them. They still nibble now and then, but haven’t killed anything. I like the fresh herbs too – it’s great to be able to just walk out and grab them for dinner (and cheaper too!).

  2. Gardening can be very time consuming and depends on your location more than anything. My parents tried their hand at gardening and we have had very little success outside of a lime tree that has sprouted up! I hope I have the green thumb as I would like to have a little garden once I purchase a house in future years as the quality of food should be better.

    1. Thanks, Stefan! The food tastes amazing! But, you are right, gardening can be time consuming and we are fortunate to live in an area with rich soil (Iowa!). I never thought I had a green thumb, and feel like it’s still dumb luck when something works well, but I’m learning.

  3. Gorgeous garden! We keep soil costs low by using manure, preferably composted. We have a fenced in yard, so no large nibblers can get in. And we’ve stopped buying tomato cages and plant ties, and using scrap wood and cutting up old shirts for ties. The longer we garden, the cheaper it gets. And you definitely have to compare the cost to organic, local, super-fresh produce!

    1. Thanks, Kalie! I love that you are reusing the wood and clothing to tie up the tomatoes! The cost of the cages adds up and they don’t last long. We built the trellises for that purpose but found they need to be restrung each year. My garden costs are so much less this year and next year should be next to nothing! It’s true – the cost of local, organic produce is often high, so in that respect, we are saving a ton!

  4. I’m way jealous of your garden! Looks fantastic.

    With my relatively small garden I struggle with justifying its cost effectiveness. I use a rain barrel for watering needs which helps though, but it’s definitely a lot of time to plant and maintain. I do it for the joy though… Similar you why I blog 🙂

    1. Awww, thanks! I understand gardening and blogging for the joy! 🙂

  5. Your garden is beautiful! Ours fries here with 110 degree summers, and something is eating holes in the cages we built to protect our plants. (Gophers? Rabbits? Birds? The boogeyman?)
    But we enjoy it from fall to spring. Even if all that survives is herbs, it’s still nice to get outside and get dirty. We also have fruit trees that pretty much care for themselves, which is wonderful but doesn’t give the same satisfaction.

    1. Thanks, Julie! Your critters sound persistent! We’ve had a couple of really hot weeks here too, with the head index hovering around 110-115 and the tomatoes don’t like it at all. It’s great that you’re able to have something growing through the winter – nothing survives past November here.

  6. We are on “phase 2” of our yard, which consisted of having 18 (more) cubic yards of dirt taken out and most of our yard re-graded. We don’t have as much room as you do (based on your pic of your epic garden!) but my wife has been asking for a garden for over three years now. I can finally give her one so we will be putting in a couple of raised beds this Fall and planting next Spring – if all goes as planned : )

    1. It doesn’t take a ton of space to have a decent garden. Your wife will love her new raised beds, I’m sure! That’s how we started – just a couple of raised beds, and then more and more and… Anyway, good luck with the new garden in the Spring. I’d love to hear about it!

  7. Wow, your garden looks great! We had an avocado tree and a grapefruit tree growing up in South Florida. I’ve wanted to start a garden here off and on, but we don’t have the room and our homeowners association wouldn’t allow it.

    Any idea how much your 600 lbs of produce is worth? If nothing else, it’s a much cheaper hobby than golf and you get good food to eat!

    1. Thanks, Jon! It’s too bad you can’t have a garden – maybe a small container garden? You could plant a large pot with tomatoes, onion, jalapenos and cilantro for fresh salsa!

      Definitely cheaper to garden than golf. Last year, I figured the 600 pounds of produce was worth around $1000 (a very conservative estimate), which more than pays for the garden. And my cost next year will be next to nothing, so it is paying off in the long run. The last few days, I’ve been picking 15-25 pounds per day, which is a bit overwhelming.

  8. Gardening is one of those things (like knitting) that I admire so much and wish I could do! The idea of taking on another task makes me tired. I have trouble keeping on top of things as it is. And I have a bad record when it comes to killing plant species. The idea of gardening appeals to me very much. The reality? Maybe when I’ve retired?

    1. I hear you, Ruth! You will have plenty of time to kill plants try gardening when you retire! 😉

      I had been telling my husband I wanted to expand the garden once again next year…that is until the produce started really rolling in. I’m up to my eyeballs in tomatoes and cucumbers – it’s currently a bit overwhelming. It certainly takes a good deal of time!

  9. I garden on a fairly small scale–I have a little plot with nice juicy rich soil in which I grow whatever we want to eat. This summer it is tomatoes and some herbs. I also have had great luck with container gardening and with raised bed gardening. There is something so very satisfying about growing lettuce, clipping off what you need for fresh salads every night, and enjoying the fact that it’s all-natural and totally fresh. Great article! Thank you!

    1. Thanks, Nancy! I agree, it is so very satisfying to walk out your door to pick your dinner. Gardening can be done on any scale and it’s fun to experiment with growing different veggies. This was my first year for cantaloupe and, though I haven’t tasted it yet, it’s done very well and I’m looking forward to the tasty goodness!

  10. Wow! It is just beautiful! Not being able to have a garden is one of the major drawbacks of living in a city. I would give anything!

    1. Awww, thanks Linda! Yes, living in the city puts a damper on the gardening. Maybe you could dabble in some container gardening, though?

  11. I really want to do this, but I need to make a plan for the garden first. Our garden is TINY it really bugs me, lol. I will definitely be coming to you for tips once I start growing stuff!!

    1. Well, you could do it my way and not do a whole lot of planning, just throw boxes out in the yard with some dirt and go from there! So far it’s worked out, though I am having trouble maintaining an entirely organic garden this year between pests and disease.

  12. Ah, gardening! I would love to be able to grow my own produce, but I know me and the outside just aren’t friends. I’ve tried to convince my hubby to do it for me, but he won’t because he had to garden in his younger years and hated every second of it. It would be nice to walk outside to some good veggies, so perhaps we can keep it to small containers, who knows?

    1. Oh, too bad your hubby won’t do it for you, Latoya! Yes, a few seeds or plants in containers wouldn’t require much time and you’d still get some yummy veggies!

  13. I have totally thought about growing our own garden, however, we live in Arizona and I have seen many friends and family try and fail because of the crazy heat. It does work well for some things but others dont last long.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Deacon! Arizona would be tough to grow much in the summer (I visited last summer – and was scorching hot!). But I bet you could grown lettuce, herbs and a few other veggies during the winter months (in raised beds or containers). Plus you guys can have oranges, lemons and limes – I’m totally envious of that!

  14. Your garden is seriously beautiful! I wish I had the same green thumb. My husband is actually very interested in starting his own, but because we live in a condo we are stuck with urban gardening. This summer he started with cucumbers and tomatoes, and he absolutely loves it. Unfortunately with the weather here, growing anything more than that year round outdoors is tough. I’ll show him this immediately! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you, Alyssa! I’m not sure how green my thumb is, but it’s getting greener each year 😉 ! It’s great your husband enjoys gardening! Container gardening can produce more than people think. We have full on winter here too, so nothing will grow between October and April, but we have rich soil, so take full advantage of the warmer months! Thanks for stopping by!

  15. I’m SO impressed by your garden! wow. It looks super organised and well-planned too (my biggest pet-peeve with gardens is that they are often so unorganized, gives me slight anxiety haha).

    The main reason I do any planting in our garden is to reduce weeds (we get a lot of weeds). I hate how much time we have to spend wedding.. so we have been planting some low-maintenance stuff to try and combat the weeds. Though we are renters.. but I’m not sure if I’d ever want to go into extreme produce gardening even when we own a home. Yours is stunning though!


    1. Thanks so much, Jasmin! I like to be organized and somewhat weed free, but I didn’t really plan much. I just start things and figure them out as I go 🙂 ! Planting the low maintenance plants does help to keep weeds down, and if they are perennials, they will spread each year, so you should have less weeds each year. The produce gets completely overwhelming this time of year, but it sure does taste good!

  16. That is a great looking garden, and 600lbs of produce is incredible! Our setup was a good bit cheaper we just put in a basic 4 foot garden fence and are planting in raised rows. To start out we just used 10-10-10 fertilizer, but our soil has been getting better over the years as we add compost from our leaves, grass, and chickens.

    1. Awww, thanks 🙂 ! I really would’t have had to spend what I did on the set up. My back corner garden was much more reasonable and works just as well. Just goes to show, you don’t have to spend a ton of money. I haven’t added any fertilizer, just compost, but you have me wondering if maybe I should. And I’m completely jealous that you have chickens!

      1. A bag of 10-10-10 is cheap and goes a long way. I usually add some when the plants are fruiting or if they start to yellow. Chickens are fun, and the eggs are tasty.

        1. Thanks!!! I do think I am going to try the fertilizer, as some of my newer planting areas didn’t do so well this year. Yep, would love to have the eggs…maybe someday!

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