The Cost Effectiveness of Growing a Garden (2024)

Growing your own food is a healthy way to save money and enjoy fresh produce at home. When done correctly, even the smallest backyard plot can produce copious amounts of fruits and vegetables and possibly even a significant savingto the grocery budget.

However, it takes time and patience, and a small outlay of money to buy seeds, and tools, if you need them.

Key Takeaways

  • Growing herbs (mint, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme) is one way to save money, as fresh herbs can be expensive.
  • If you live in an apartment or have a small backyard, consider square foot gardening.
  • The National Garden Association is a good resource for new and seasoned gardeners.
  • Heirloom and organic vegetables are often more expensive than other types of plants.
  • Growing a food garden takes time, commitment, and patience, but the potential outcome in produce may lower your grocery bill.

What Are the Expenses to Garden?

The total bill for a do-it-yourself veggie plot will vary by type of plant grown, the number of plants purchased, and the length of a growing season in your home region.

To calculate the true cost to start a garden and maintain it throughout the year, add together the following factors:

  • Cost of plants or seeds
  • Cost to provide nutrient-rich soil (dirt, fertilizer, and worms)
  • Cost to protect and structure plants (cages, coverings, and fences)
  • Cost to water plants
  • Cost of tools and accessories (tiller, gloves, and spade)

The Real Return on Investment

The National Gardening Association reported that the average gardening household experiences a positive return on investment. Food gardening does have some risks. An infestation of bugs, a streak of unseasonable weather, or other nature-related problems may wreak havoc on your investment. But for most gardeners, the return on investment pays off. How much can you save? It depends on what vegetables you grow and how many crops your garden yields.

For example, one pound of organic tomatoes from Whole Foods costs as of July 2021 $2.99, but a package of organic, heirloom tomato seeds can yield multiple tomato plants over time, costs $3.99. To put it into perspective: one tomato plant may equal 10lbs to 30lbs of tomatoes.

Another bonus of home gardening? Growing your favorite vegetables and fruits may insulate you from the impact of drought and diseases that slow down production in the fields and orchards of large-scale growers across the country that ship and sell produce.

As much potential as a garden can bring to the bottom line of the average foodie, it helps research where to obtain affordable plants and seeds for your garden. Seeds can often be purchased in bulk packets, too.

Ways to Save

There are ways to stretch your dollars and it is possible to start a food garden on a shoestring budget. Below are three suggestions to get you started.

Start Early With Seeds

At $3.00 a package (or less), gardeners can give their plants a home-grown start and spread the risk over several tiny plants. Picking the strongest from the bunch for transplanting outdoors will give you a comparable alternative to that expensive plant from the nursery.

Give Square Foot Gardening a Try

This popular gardening technique isn't just highly effective at producing the healthiest plants with the smallest effort, and it's affordable, too. If you live in an apartment or have a small backyard, square foot gardening is also a space-saving garden. The costs associated with a square foot garden vary wildly, depending on materials (garden box versus ground) and what you are planting, but a small square foot garden is 4 feet by 4 feet.

Grow Only What You Need and Like to Eat

While it's nice to have an abundance of produce to share with family and friends, the upkeep of a larger-than-life garden could be too expensive and too much effort to maintain. Also, don't plant vegetables and fruits that your family doesn't eat. It may be cheap to plant rows of zucchini plants, but if no one likes zucchini, that's a lot of wasted produce.

Consider just one or two of each of the plants you like most, and avoid planting rows and rows of veggies simply because you have the room. Food waste is a common problem for overzealous gardeners.

The Bottom Line

In the end, the decision to create a food garden is a personal one. Don't feel that it's necessary to go 100% into a gardening scenario. Many gardeners grow things that are the easiest to produce like cherry tomatoes, carrots, and herbs, like mint, rosemary, thyme, and lemon verbena. Consider starting small your first season, and purchase trickier varieties of fruits and vegetables at your local farmer's market.

The Cost Effectiveness of Growing a Garden (2024)


Is growing a garden cost-effective? ›

When done correctly, even the smallest backyard plot can produce copious amounts of fruits and vegetables and possibly even a significant saving to the grocery budget. However, it takes time and patience, and a small outlay of money to buy seeds, and tools, if you need them.

How effective is gardening? ›

It's been shown to lighten mood and lower levels of stress and anxiety. It's very gratifying to plant, tend, harvest and share your own food. Routines provide structure to our day and are linked to improved mental health. Gardening routines, like watering and weeding, can create a soothing rhythm to ease stress.

How much money can you save by planting a garden? ›

WILL A FOOD GARDEN REALLY SAVE MONEY? The average household with a food garden will spend $70 a year for seeds and garden supplies; but will reap $600 worth of food. That's a $530 return on your investment. With food costs skyrocketing you can expect even greater returns in 2023.

How much money does it take to grow a garden? ›

You can, of course, start simply for a couple hundred dollars, or you can invest more significantly with a few thousand. If you're DIY'ing your garden installation, expect to spend anywhere from $25 to $50 per square foot of garden space for wood raised beds. Stone, brick, and steel will be more expensive.

How can gardening help you save money? ›

Growing all—or even a portion—of your own vegetables and herbs at home pays you back in freshness and convenience. You'll save money by eating what you grow and making fewer trips to the grocery store.

Is gardening good for the economy? ›

To help generate jobs and revenue

Given the challenge of attracting new companies, economic gardening provides tools for communities looking to support companies that are already in their backyard. And research suggests that these second stage companies can be big job generators because of their capacity to grow.

Is gardening an expensive hobby? ›

Gardening can be an expensive hobby, but it doesn't have to be. These money-saving tips from industry insiders will dramatically cut the costs – from getting plants for free, to a touch of DIY. It's easy to overspend on gardening – buying costly plants, treatments, and equipment.

Is gardening good for the brain? ›

Things like weeding, digging, and raking are a good exercise. Regular exercise reduces anxiety, depression, and other mental issues, and can help prevent dementia. If you don't like going to the gym, gardening can be an enjoyable way to still get these benefits.

How much money is spent on gardening? ›

The average household spends about $616 on lawn and gardening activities a year, based on the 2023 National Gardening Survey. This number shows that about 80% of American households participated in gardening in 2022.

Is it cheaper to grow or buy? ›

While starting vegetables from seed may save the most money, buying plants may also save some money depending on the amount yielded. “Growing a garden has the potential to reduce the amount of money spent on groceries.

How profitable is gardening? ›

Gardening can, in fact, be very profitable but requires a lot of time and energy. On the other hand, garden money-making can consist of simply earning a little pocket change to spend on new gardening tools or something else you enjoy. Are you intrigued? Let's explore some ideas for making money from gardening.

How much does it cost for a garden? ›

Depending on the size and scale of your garden transformation, you can expect to pay between £5,000 and £10,000. Often, the cost of hiring a landscape gardener will vary based on the size and scale of the project, as well as any features you'll be adding, such as a patio or a pond or fountain.

How much is gardening worth? ›

The global gardening market value passed the 100 billion U.S. dollars mark in 2020, valued at approximately 104 billion U.S. dollars. Steady growth was predicted for the global market for garden equipment and supplies, with a sales value of nearly 130 billion U.S. dollars in 2024.

How much can a small garden make? ›

You can also calculate it on a square foot basis which in our case works out to be roughly $1.50/ft2. That would mean that a smaller garden of say 400ft2 would produce $600 of produce. Keep in mind that these are averages and that certain crops are more profitable and space efficient than others.

Does growing a garden save energy? ›

In particular, gardening reduces energy consumption during the agriculture and transportation phases of food production. You might not see the difference on your energy bill, but it will help you lower your carbon footprint and reduce energy demand collectively, which is great for all energy consumers.

Does having a garden increase home value? ›

Professional Landscape Planting Design and Installation

Landscape design and installation can raise your property value anywhere from 12% -15%, and the ROI can reach 25% – 400%. Of course, this depends on the value of your home and purchase price.

Is having a home garden worth it? ›

Is Having a Home Garden Worth It? In my experience, the home garden is worth every trouble. Gardening always gives me a sense of purpose and self-pride. Taking care of plants and seeing them grow and flourish under my watch always gives me a sense of accomplishment.


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