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Does gardening really save you money?

By Penny Stine

There are plenty of people who say that gardening doesn't save anybody any money whatsoever. They claim that by the time you add up the cost of seeds, plants, dirt, soil amendments, water, pest deterrents and the costs to actually build a garden, it's cheaper to just go buy produce at the grocery store.
Obviously, there's money in garden supplies, or I wouldn't be receiving garden catalogs in the mail every other day. These are only half of the ones I've found in my mailbox so far in 2014. My friend, Jan, has the rest.
While it can seem expensive in the years that you're putting in the bones of a garden - buying all the bits for irrigation, and the edging, boxes or whatever you're using to define the garden space, I've always suspected that yes, gardening saves a boatload of money, but people don't want to say that because it's also a boatload of work. Those that don't enjoy garden work can simply write it off as an expensive hobby they're smart enough to not pursue.
If gardening didn't save people money, why did everyone do it during the depression and World War II years? I think we eat something from my garden (either picked that day or picked from the freezer or the canning shelf) almost every day.
Because I like research (even when not done in a truly scientific fashion), I decided 2014 would be my test year to determine how much money I spend on my garden and how much produce I actually get for all that money.
I should have started this on Jan. 1, but I didn't think about it then. I'm going to include all the frozen and canned stuff that came from my 2013 garden in this year's garden credits, even though the expenses came out of my 2013 pocket.
I'll keep a running tally of garden bounty consumed and a running tally of expenses. Who knows, I may even go back and try to amortize the initial expense of changing the irrigation system and building the garden boundaries and add in a yearly expense based on a five-year amortization.
I'll keep you informed.  


OK, since I posted this first thing this morning, I managed to create a spreadsheet to tally garden goodies versus garden expenses. I'd love it if a few other gardeners would join me in my experiment and will be happy to send you the spread sheet. So give me an e-mail address if you're willing to play along! 


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