Friday, March 23, 2012

Frugal Retirement-Will a Garden Save Me Money?

Confession:  I do not have a green thumb. It's not black, but to grow things I need to work at it.  Most of my life I've had a yard with some flowers, but no garden.  That yard was thanks to my husband who at one point in his life managed a group of golf courses. On more than one occasion would he sit and and "be one with the lawn".

I've increased my yard and tree knowledge a bit with ownership of this house-I understand the difference between grasses. I don't have a lawn service (I have a healthy college student), and I've learned how to weed, feed and so on.

When it comes to growing other things, last year I began with some flowers in large pots, a single (potted) tomato plant and a squash plant.  While the flowers thrived., I only was able to harvest about four crook necked squash. The tomatoes bloomed and had lovely flowers but never came to fruition. (it's been suggested that this was because they were on a patio that was protected on three sides and there was not enough wind to cross pollinate-what do i know).

This year, as you can see from the "before" photos, we need to begin some serious landscaping that will probably require a three year plan (both in terms of budget and labor). I lost a willow tree and need to do something with that corner. The beds need to be extended  out from the fence (after the fence is repainted and sealed) and I need to slowly change over to low water plants. One of the considerations is whether to include a garden, and if so, what that garden should be. Extremely raised beds (to eliminate kneeling)? Add many large containers for vegetables and berries?  Both?  None?

The the question I'm asking myself is this-why would I be expanding my garden, and is it worth the expense and effort.  Obviously, the things I grow that I have managed to harvest have been extremely fresh. On the other hand, I live in an area where local farm markets abound, and fresh produce is almost always available. My last frost was a month ago. With a couple exceptions, what I grow will not be enough to feed me-I'll still need to purchase throughout the summer.  I certainly will not be able to grow enough to can extras-at least this year.

I'm pretty sure that the costs of gardening go down from year to year. Whatever tools I might need to invest in would last other years. I could learn how to save seeds  I'm sure that I could learn many frugal techniques.

So I guess my question to other small gardeners is this?  Do you save money? Do you garden because of the freshness factor?  Is it a hobby? Is it a combination of all three?  Now is the time to begin planting, so I guess a decision is due.  I expect that Ill never be a hobby gardener.  The question is, will I be a gardener at all.


  1. I would give a small garden a try. I think raised beds are the way to go, less weeding for sure!!!! We started out slow a few years back, it has grown and grown as we have improved or skills (luck) I am now able to put back many things we grow by canning, dehydrating and freezing the extra, we also give away lots of fresh veggies to our local soup kitchen. If you end up not likeing veggie gardening you can us the beds for flowers!

  2. My guess is that if you have not been a gardener by this probably would have a hard time with anything large scale. I love to garden, but I hate to can or freeze anything. Plus, the critters and the bugs often get the best of my efforts. I too have bad knees and find using the half barrels works well for tomatoes and the bush type zucchini. Actually you could plant beans or other things too. I would have to say tho that it is cheaper to go to the farmer's market. I love the home-grown tomatoes so much that I will never give those up. But potting soil, fertilizer, cages, etc...not a money saving proposition. If you try it...start small and work up if it goes well. I don't remember where you live but I live in Minnesota and it is looking like a very early spring here for us. Good luck if you do try gardening!

  3. Jane I am finding I do like canning and preserving, although I have not done it on a large scale. small batches like cranberry walnot conserve, homeade (all the way) barbecue sauces and the like. but I think that I can get those things reasonable at a farmers market.

    Im in texas and Ive been wearing sandals for a month and a half. If Im gonna plant the time is now.

  4. Debby, I am going to try something, It may only be one raised beds or a couple pots I think, Unfortunately I have to do it now now now or it will be hot hot hot and they will die.

    Ill let you know how it goes. I got a couple books, one of them iis incredible vegetable gardening or some such..I will have to share the title

  5. Last year I spent around 100 dollars and got tomatoes, but nothing more. I will plant tomatoes again in pots. You would think that on 17 acres I could grow something else but the moles eat everything!
    Good luck!

  6. Janette-and here I thought you had a big garden............

  7. If you don't really like gardening I'd stick with your local farmers market. For the most part you can get as good of stuff.

    But if you wanted to do a small garden, I'd start with tomatoes (Sweet 100's--I've had lots of luck with those and I've never replanted them from year to year--they just keep volunteering and they are really prolific even when the other tomatoes aren't. All summer long I go pick a bunch, cut them in half and toss with salt, olive oil and a little balsamic.

    My next choice would be strawberries--nothing like running out to grab a few to cut up in your morning cereal.

    The rest of the stuff you can let the farmers do for you. (Although lettuce seems pretty foolproof to--and then you can make a salad whenever you want.)

  8. 4 squash is 4 more than I've ever gotten - I get blooms but not produce. Yet every year(ok a few exceptions) I try! I love to try! I have a townhome and part of the 'yard' gets some sun but mostly HEAT and it gets really hot down here in the Houston area. so far I wouldnt' save $ with gardening but it is so nice to get to a tomato before the birds! and manage a few peppers - I'm hoping this year I'll have better success - I have some in the ground and some in big containersa nd a couple in smaller containers. someone on another forum suggested teh lack of wind as well and told me to occasionally shake the plants a bit to loosen the pollen or whatever the wind usually does. this will be my first chance to try this.
    I'd like to try raised beds - at work they did a project for an autism house that wanted raised beds - they used cinder blocks and stacked them up(think they cemented them too) and filled with soil and in the 'holes' in the blocks they filled and left for planting herbs and flowers like marigolds. It looked nice and better than bending over IMO.


Things I'm Enjoying This Monday-And A Couple Things That Are Frustrating Me!!

One of the many reasons I don't do serious (other than visiting family) travel during the summer is the chance to stay at home. Warm w...