Is gardening really budget-friendly? I mean, by the time you finish buying all of the stuff you need, do you really come out ahead?
We have two square-foot garden plots, each of them 3' x 4', giving us 24 feet of garden space for vegetables. We also have a strawberry bed that is probably another 24 square feet.
The first year we put in the garden was 2010, I think. I'm not sure, because we didn't write anything down. This is unfortunate, because this would have been when most of the major expenses like soil, material to construct our compost pile, pipes to make the trellis, etc. would have been purchased.
Potato seeds $5
netting, soil, zip ties, PVC $50
strawberry plants and Miracle Grow $20
two extra plant containers $10
four tomato plants Miracle Grow $10
That year we planted strawberries, peas, lettuce, carrots, chives, beans, tomatoes, potatoes, and basil.
The harvest was pretty sparse, but we ended up with 165 different items. For simplicity's sake we counted by item plucked, not by serving, so a carrot and a single leaf of lettuce or spar of chive count the same. We would have paid $.58 per item. That's not all that hot for a single peapod, but it's not too bad for, say, an organic, vine-ripened tomato.
However, our 2012 expenses were just some seeds and tomato plants: $10.68.
We harvested 1,139 items, not counting basil, of which we got so much that we are still eating through what we froze, and this is March. (Our 23 strawberry plants went nuts, and we stopped counting at 792 strawberries. We also blended and froze some four drizzling over ice cream in the winter.)
Anyway, our cost per item was .009 cents. If you include the extra $40 a summer in watering expense, it goes up to about four cents. (We are going to be a putting in some rain barrels.)
My conclusion about gardening is that it is worth it if:
1. You enjoy it, and therefore are not counting your labor as an expense.
2. You are at least on a five-year plan. There is a lot of trial and error that you only benefit from if you apply what you learned to the next year.
3. You can taste the difference between home-grown and store-bought, or you value knowing exactly what has and hasn't gone into the production of your food.
If you are just doing it to be cheap, I'd skip it.