Why You Should Not Plant a Garden

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Think a backyard garden will help you save money and eat healthy? Here are 7 reasons why you are wrong.

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If you are trying to save money and eat healthy, and you have any bit of a crunchy spirit, you have probably considered gardening. Before you fix your mind on this solution, let me warn you.

My childhood is painted on the backdrop of a huge garden. When I was eight, my parents left the suburbs and bought 6 acres in a town with one stop light. The goal was to raise their children where they could explore the woods and play outside without worrying about the drug house down the street.

One of the first things my mom did was plant a huge garden. Every summer thereafter tasted like fresh lettuce, tender cucumbers, and tomatoes ripened in the sunshine. You have never tasted a good tomato unless you picked it directly from the vine and popped it in your mouth.

Watering the pallet garden

As a child, it seemed like such a simple process: plant seeds in the ground, water them diligently, and feast on the harvest 3 months later.

Turns out gardening involves a little more.

When I first started trying to save money and eat healthy, I was convinced a garden would help our budget. However, seven years of urban and backyard gardening have taught me a few things.

Why You Shouldn’t Grow a Garden

  1. You think it will save you money.
  2. You catch the planting bug every spring, so why not?
  3. You have a really tight budget, you want to eat organic produce, but you don’t have a big yard – a few pots will do the trick!
  4. You think you will still be willing to pull weeds mid-July.
  5. You are going to plant your garden far away from your house.
  6. You’re just going to dig up some dirt, toss in some seeds, and see how it goes.
  7. You aren’t willing to buy dirt.

In my experience, if any of these are your primary reasons for planting a garden, it is mostly a gross waste of time and money.

Number 7 is a lesser exception. I know plenty of people who plant their seeds directly into the dirt and reap an abundant harvest for very little money. However, you have to have enough space to plant a huge garden and be very very willing to spend much of your summer weeding or resort to spraying weed killer.

chard seedling

When I was growing up, weeding was the bane of our summer. Of course, there are far worse ways to spend your summer. However, I think new gardeners or aspiring gardeners need to know what they are getting into. If you do not buy dirt, you will spend a lot of time weeding. Know yourself and your capacity in this season before you invest your hard-earned money.

Personally, I am not that dedicated of a gardener, and using chemicals on my organic garden feels backward.

So far, I know this is not very encouraging, but hold tight. It gets better.

Why You Should Grow a Garden

  1. Gardening can save you money…. down the road.
  2. Gardening is a great way to care for your overall health and well-being.
  3. A backyard garden is the perfect place to teach your kids where their food comes from.
  4. Gardening can empower your selective (picky) eaters to try something new.
  5. If you do it right, gardening isn’t that much work.
  6. Backyard gardens are beautiful.
  7. Gardens help the environment by providing flowers for the bees (and maybe some food for the rabbits – ugh).
  8. A backyard garden fills your table with fresh, local (and sometimes organic) fruits and vegetables that you might not otherwise eat.
  9. If you arm yourself with some knowledge, you just might fall in love with it.
flowers and lettuce in a bowl

The act of connecting to the earth and growing food for my table is extremely relaxing and rewarding to me. It gets me outside when I could be scrolling Instagram.

My kids are not very enthusiastic about raw spinach unless it is connected to the actual plant, and they get to pull it off and eat it themselves. Same goes for almost everything (including kale raab) except cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers – they still don’t care for those.

The first year we build our garden, it cost more than it saved. However, the only investment I have to make (and likely will make in the future) each year is a bag of compost. No tiller, no soil enhancers – I don’t even need a shovel. So theoretically, the garden will save more money every year until we move.

Consider whether you are renting and will be moving soon. If you own your home, how many years do you plan on living here? These answers play an important and practical part of how much a garden will save you money long-term.

We live in a modern world, and for some of us, the cost and inconvenience of a backyard garden often outweigh the practical benefits and savings. That feels really wrong to say, but it has been true in my experience.

snap peas

All That to Say

I think backyard gardens are extremely important. If you have the room in your budget, a garden can be extremely beneficial to your health, well-being, the environment, your table, and eventually your budget.

My square-foot garden is the highlight of my summer – next to the neighborhood pool. It took a little time and investment when I first built it, but it has paid for itself in convenience (very little weeding!) simplicity (no complicated soil or feeding rules), and harvest (so much produce in such a small space!). The book, The All-New Square Foot Garden, is one of the best gardening books I’ve ever read. (I read and own the second edition, but there is a third edition out now!)

Years ago in another home, I had a huge pallet garden. This was a really inexpensive way to dabble in gardening before I was willing or able to build my own. Here are my thoughts and a quick tutorial on that! When we moved, the square-foot garden was the perfect HOA-friendly solution.

If you are considering growing a garden this year or in the near future, I encourage you to evaluate your reasons for wanting a garden. Consider the time, energy, and money you have to invest in it. Take a few minutes and research which method might work best for you.

May your harvest be bountiful and your weeds minimal!

What You Can Do Now:

Do you have a backyard garden? What motivated you to start it?

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Cheapskate Cook garden gems – Raddichio


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