The question, How much does a vegetable garden cost is tantamount to, How long is a piece of string? It depends entirely on the size and vegetable garden area as well as how and what you plant. There are many different options from conventional layouts on flat ground to raised garden beds and the vertical tower garden system.
There is no pat answer when it comes to the cost of establishing a vegetable garden. Total costs can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. It depends on what you want, what you need to buy, and what prices you have to pay for all of this.
Is vegetable gardening expensive?
Vegetable gardening can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. It depends on many factors, and it isn’t that easy to estimate costs in advance.
It also depends on what you include in your costs. For example, the cost you assign to your own time and effort can be subjective and highly variable.
If you get paid a high rate per hour or per day, you will need to balance this with the time you put into vegetable gardening. But if you put different values on your input, it will be a completely different story.
You might also want to work out how much you get per pound in relation to the vegetables you are able to grow.
How much does it cost to create a vegetable garden?
The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) Extension suggests a framework for home gardeners to estimate costs and cost savings from veggie gardening. But you won’t be able to work this out accurately in advance.
They say there are three factors to consider:
- Your gardening costs
- The size of your harvest
- The price you would have paid for vegetables if you didn’t grow them yourself
But it’s not a very easy calculation. In fact, it’s very complicated, if not mind-boggling!
You need to calculate the costs for each vegetable and the materials for multiple vegetables, together with tools and supplies. The link supplied will help you establish how much your vegetable garden is likely to cost to create.
Then, mixed up in all of this will be the soil conditions, climate, and so on. After all, some home veggie gardens will be a lot more successful than others, depending on where they are located.
The most obvious startup costs will relate to basic infrastructure costs as well as costs for the many tools you will need.
If you are starting completely from scratch, you might want to include fencing, netting, stepping stones, and other structural elements. If you don’t have a gardening toolkit, you’ll need to fork out for this too.
If you want to include a raised bed, you will need to cost in these materials too. A tower garden can be useful in confined spaces, but these take extra budget too.
Whichever route you take, you will probably need compost or other organic matter to add to your soil, and possibly even new topsoil.
Then there will be the costs of seeds, seedlings, or established plants.
What you need
What you need depends entirely on what you have already got. The basics are mentioned above.
Realistically though, you are likely to find that you will need to buy certain items as you get more and more into your new vegetable garden.
Maybe you’ll need a small garden fork, garden gloves, snippers, or secateurs for harvesting the fruits of your labor. You will probably also have to buy compost and fertilizer from time to time.
More seeds and seedlings will become a given!
The space requirements for any vegetable garden will depend on what you plan to plant as well as the space you have available. So, step number one will be to plan your available space carefully.
Weigh up the two elements and decide on your priorities. Also, be sure to factor in things like vegetables that shouldn’t be grown in the same soil every year.
For example, some plants, including ever-popular tomatoes and peppers, need to be grown in different areas every year. The soil runs out of nutrients and the plants become susceptible to soil-borne diseases.
This means that you need enough space to shuffle them around year after year. But it’s not a daunting task. All you need to do is practice crop rotation!
Types of vegetables to plant
Studies, including Langellotto’s quoted below, show that tomatoes rank among the top five most profitable garden crops. Just remember that they are heavy feeders and they need to be rotated with vegetables like beans and peas, which are legumes.
You could have a few raised beds and then alternate them each year.
Langellotto also says that leafy green vegetables are profitable in many home gardens. Other profitable types include eggplant (aubergine), peas, squash, and strawberries.
But there are hundreds of other vegetables that will thrive in home gardens. North Carolina State Extension has a list that might help you. But as always, it will depend on the climatic conditions in your part of the world.
Some vegetables need more maintenance than others. But you can’t ignore any of them.
You need to check continuously that they are not being attacked by pests and haven’t been beset by common diseases. You also need to feed your veggies (some more than others) and make sure they have enough (and not too much) water.
Weeds tend to pop up in vegetable gardens, simply because the soil is usually of good quality. So, controlling weeds is another very important maintenance task.
Is it cheaper to grow or buy vegetables?
Not everybody grows vegetables because they think it is cheaper than buying them. With all the costs you incur creating and then maintaining a vegetable garden, you may find that it is considerably cheaper to buy fruits, vegetables, and salad ingredients from a farmer’s market.
But there is something very satisfying about growing your own food. If it’s a new challenge, you’ll find it immensely gratifying to watch your plants grow and harvest.
Homegrown vegetables also taste fresher and tastier than grocery store items. If you have access to a farmer’s market where folks are selling their own homegrown produce, this may not be the case.
However, you can also control production elements to ensure that you have organically grown fruit, vegetables, and herbs.
A 2014 paper by Gail Ann Longellotto of Oregon State University discusses the concept of cutting household costs with a home vegetable garden. The paper is entitled What Are the Economic Costs and Benefits of Home Vegetable Gardens? It suggests that home vegetable gardens are profitable if garden labor is excluded from the calculated costs.
She says that the average cost of a home vegetable garden is $238 for supplies and materials. On average, the gardens yielded about $677-worth of fruits and vegetables.
However, she says it isn’t fair to promise home gardeners this type of financial reward because there are too many factors involved. There is also a wide price range, including gardener cost.
But if family members do the hard work, you will certainly save money. This will reduce the gardening cost overall.
Other gardening type alternatives
Since we’re talking about vegetables here, let’s stick with food grown at home. The obvious alternatives will be fruit trees or a herb garden, rather than flower gardens.
That said, you could create a flower garden and only plant edible types.
Obviously, if you have fruit trees or fruits that grow on vines, you will always have fresh fruit in the season.
While herbs can be grown with many vegetables very successfully, a dedicated herb garden can be a lot of fun. They can be as small or expansive as you like.
For instance, you can dedicate a small part of your garden to a selection of herbs in a garden bed. You can also grow them along the perimeter of a deck or patio in pots.
Another lovely idea is to create a chequerboard design with paving stone alternated with soil into which you plant different herbs. This makes harvesting individual herb types super-easy.
If you are committed to creating a vegetable garden, it may be important to estimate what it’s going to cost you. Just remember that it doesn’t only mean what it will cost to create the veggie garden, but also what sort of budget you need to make it viable.
Viability doesn’t necessarily translate to profitability, but if you do it right, it can.
The key is to, at the very least, estimate how much you are going to have to spend to create a viable vegetable garden. Then, once you have started growing your own veggies, keep a handle on your profits and rewards.
You might not even need profits, but it is a good idea to have a good idea of your costs.