Kimberly believes that by combining simple living with investment income, everyone can escape the rat race sooner than 65.
Cheap and Lazy Gardening
I’ve been gardening for around two years now. I still consider myself to be a beginner gardener, because I’ve always had a cheap, lazy approach to gardening.
I don’t measure the pH of my garden, I don’t pay too much attention to the seasons. (Except winter, of course. It freezes here.) I don’t routinely prune my plants or rotate crops to maintain soil health.
I spend maybe 20 minutes a week in my garden, mostly to pick ripe fruits and vegetables and plant new ones. Even with all this, I consider myself to have been fairly successful and would like to share my experiences with other beginner gardeners.
Cost of Setting Up a Garden
My garden consists of two beds: one raised and one not. They’re both around 3–4 feet wide and 12 feet long.
The raised garden bed was made from old wooden fence posts I got for free on Craigslist. The non-raised bed was just dirt that I added some homemade compost to. It was originally a placeholder for some plants so that I could get a couple of raised beds in, but eventually, it became so successful that I decided to leave it.
For irrigation, I use a drip system with an Orbit timer, a Y splitter, an old hose with holes drilled in, and a Rainbird drip system. Moving forward, however, I’m going to skip the Rainbird drip irrigation system and instead just use hoses with holes drilled into them.
I found that the Rainbird drippers would clog up because of the hard water in my area, and I feel like I’ve spent too much time and money replacing them. Eventually, I removed a majority of the drippers and drilled holes directly into the 1/4 irrigation hose instead.
Total Cost of Garden Irrigation System
I think this is worth the investment.
Not strictly needed, but I use one.
Mine was free, but you can find one for cheap.
Rainbird Drip Irrigation Kit
Skip it and use the hose instead.
I already had one.
I think I might be watering more than the average gardener, but it seems to be doing alright. I have my timer set to water every six hours for 30–40 minutes. I live in a hot desert climate, and 100°F days are normal in the summer.
The Cost of Seeds
You can buy seeds from other gardeners or websites. They’re not too expensive, typically ranging from $1–$2.
Seeds From Grocery Store Produce vs. Buying Seeds
Here’s the exciting part—you can get many more seeds for way cheaper.
This special seed bank is called the grocery store! I’ve had massive success buying fruits and vegetables from the grocery store, then planting the seeds. My favorites are tomatoes, green onions, cantaloupe, potatoes, and lots of different squashes.
One kabocha squash has dozens of seeds, and then you can have an abundance of kabocha squash for months! Same goes for tomatoes and cantaloupes. You only need one to get a huge garden started.
Is Gardening a Good Investment?
As mentioned before, I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. Growing your own food provides a couple of different returns:
- You’re more likely to eat it if you grew it.
- You don’t have to buy as much food.
For example, I can go to Trader Joe's and buy a butternut squash for around $2. That same butternut squash—although this will take a few months to grow—will produce literally dozens of butternut squash.
I have around four plants (the exact number not known since my plants are all tangled up), but I counted ten almost-mature squash, with around ten more small squash currently growing. Over the season, I’ll have around twenty squash from four plants. If I were to buy those squash in the store, that would be a cost of $40 dollars.
Similarly, I planted cantaloupe seeds from one I purchased at a grocery store in April. Since the beginning of August, I’ve been able to pick around two or three cantaloupes a week.
They’re usually around $2 dollars each in grocery stores, and I counted thirty fruit. There were around ten plants, although I didn’t count since they just popped up in my compost pile. I decided to leave them to grow. The full thirty-fruit harvest would cost $60 in the store.
I didn’t plant all my plants from seed. I was walking through Home Depot in June and found a six-pack of crookneck squash plants for $3. I could have purchased the seeds for $1–2 dollars and then germinate them myself. But by buying the plant, I was able to save at least two to three weeks of growing time. That means two to three weeks of more production. I quickly bought them and now they produce 3–4 lbs of squash a week.
They usually go for around $1.29/lb at my grocery store (the straight neck variety, but close enough). To date, I’ve harvested twenty-three yellow squash, averaging 0.5 lb (so they don’t become tough) for a total of 11.5 lbs, which adds up to almost $15 dollars at the grocery store.
A Rough Estimate of My Savings
I could go on and on about my garden and my plants. But if I had to give a rough estimate on the savings my garden has provided this year, it would be around $200. With the cost of the timer and all the other supplies to be around $65, that’s a return of 308% in one year!
Next year would likely be even better since I won’t have to worry about those start-up costs. You won’t get that sort of return from any other investment, and the year’s not even over yet.
What ROI has your garden provided? If you’re an experienced gardener, I’d love to hear tips on how to make my garden more productive.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Kimberly (author) from SoCal on July 10, 2020:
The cost of water is pretty negligible in a suburban garden. Just for reference, I live in a desert climate. I have everything hooked up to the drip system. It's 100 degrees as I'm typing this, and we're expecting 108 degrees this weekend. I've also increase the size of my garden 10 fold since I've written this article. My last bill from the water company consists of the following: $25.356/month service charge (no matter how much water I use) + $0.85 for water usage (2 months of usage).
Jordan Pounecy on July 09, 2020:
Are you calculating water cost into your roi?