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Signal30
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Can a beginner at gardening really save money?

One of the biggest reasons I have heard some people promote vegetable gardening is to save money by not having to buy vegetables at the grocery store.

Seasoned veterans at gardening I think that's true because you have experience and have already bought the supplies.

Now please excuse me for this is just my opinion, but how is it possible for the beginning gardener to save money by growing your own vegetables? To make a area big enough to plant enough crops you are going to need at least a few tools.

You can go the cheapest route possible by just having a shovel and starter plants. Dig up the ground, use the shovel to turn it over and what not. Go online to get information and do the best you can do with limited resources if you do not have the money to get everything else. But without materials for some fencing, fertilizer, and pest control products (organic or not). Some of your crops will fall victim to nature.

Personally, I do not garden to save money on vegetables. I garden because I like it, it's therapy to me, and I like home grown veggies. I spent quite a bit of money on lumber to make the raised beds, fencing, fertilizer, some tools, etc.

So I sum this post up with a question. Do you think it is possible for the beginning gardner on a tight budget to save money by growing your own vegetables?
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gumbo2176
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True what you are saying about initial cost. With just about any endeavor, there are initial costs to consider. Depending on how large you want to make your garden, whether a traditional in ground or some raised beds, that is where a good bit of cost comes into play.

If you plan on a fairly large in ground traditional plot and your soil is packed, you may want to opt to rent a tiller for a day or so to do the initial breaking of ground. On the other hand, if you plan on a few raised beds, there is the cost of materials to build the beds and the cost of garden soil to fill them. If you amend your traditional type garden soil, you can likely dig it by shovel after the initial ground breaking.

There's the alternative of a container garden where you plant things in large pots and go from there. Hit job sites for empty plastic 5 gallon buckets that joint compound and paints come in. Most paints today are latex and the buckets clean out real easy.

Unless you are going to work the ground with a few hand tools like a shovel, hoe, rake, it can get a little costly initially. However, once you have the ground broken, started a good compost pile to help amend your garden soil, it gets less and less expensive as time goes on.

The only thing I really spend money on now is plants. I sometimes only grow a few plants of different varieties and it is just as cheap to buy the plants from a nursery in 4-6 packs as opposed to buying seeds, potting soil, starter trays and all the work involved getting them going and tending to them.

Bottom line, cost likely outweighs harvest the first year or so. After that, you get ahead. Heck, just my lettuces and other salad greens this past year have more than made up for the cost of keeping my garden.

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SPierce
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I started gardening 1- because I love it, and 2- so I could save money.

I spent maybe, oh, 250 my first year on soil, raised beds, plants and other garden supplies.

This year, I spent about 200 on soil and other amendments for it, and started from seed.

One trip to the grocery store for me can range from $50-100 weekly.

Once my garden starts producing (last year was a fail, i didn't do well at all and most of the plants died) will I save? You bet!~

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gixxerific
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Probably not unfortunately. Though with some ingenious rigging here and there you could still do it fairly cheap. yes tools and such like netting for rabbits etc and pots to start plants plus a medium for growing said plants can cost money.

You would have to start small and grow with it. It will come eventually, the tools and the experience. I have been doing this for a long time and still wish I had more for my garden like cages or tomato stakes whatever. But when I don have something I do without or get creative.

The main thing is anything form the garden is way better for you, if done right, sure tastes a whole lot better.

My advice for anyone starting out would be "start small" even just maybe pots of this and that. Find other gardeners you can get stuff from for cheap. Find nursery's that will give you pots for free.

Does it actually cost less in the long run, who cares. It is way batter quality hands down!!!!!!

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gixxerific
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SPierce posted while I was compsing my relpy. And no offense but very rarely will I pay for any ammendments. I have my own compsot though it is not enough for my garden I know of a place that sells great stuff for cheap. I use manure a lot as well I have never paid for that ever. There are a lot of horse and cow farms that a happy as pie to let you have there pile of poop. In fact they are sometimes a little upset you didn't take more. :lol:

pickupguy07
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How much you save (I won't say 'if but how much) it depends on your circumstances, and how you plan.
(parden me for being so long)... and I know I over generalized.

1) as someone stated - spending money on raised beds can run into some extreme cost. Then add in amendments, etc.. Yeah gonna shell out some cash there.. and in a few years the wood that holds the raised beds will be rotted out (or at least going bad) In my opinion the only way to go is to do it in ground. (I know some folks don't have the space, etc)

2) We all have friends and co-workers. If you ask around, generally you can find someone who has a tiller you can borrow (for free) If you have to rent one.. a 1/2 day is very cheap.

3) as far as adding amendments, you can get those free of you put in a little effort. Folks that have horses, cattle, etc are GLAD for you to come clean out their stalls so they don't have to, and you do the work and get it for free.

SO to this point if you put a garden in-ground, borrow a tiller, and get free manure,.. so far you have a total invested cost of zero.
This is my first year for a garden, and I had zero invested when it came time to put in plants.

Now.. something else to do with 'saving money" by gardening is this. You have to decide what you are growing, and how much it costs to buy it in the store. For example corn; takes a lot of ground to grow much corn, and you can generally buy it for 25 cents an ear in the store. So all the effort put in, etc probably easiest to just buy it.
On the other hand.. Lets say you grow tomatoes, if you buy a plant (instead of starting from seed) you can get a plant for a few dollars, and it produces TONS of tomatoes. Same with Bell Peppers. I grow the colored one (red, orange, yellow). Plants cost $2 for four plants here. The peppers in the store cost $2.50 EACH.
Also can help save by canning. Growing things that can easily be canned will save you money all year (and not just in the growing season) Several things can (practically be grow year round with planning) Cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, brussel sprouts, etc... Garden rarely ever sits idle.

My Dad has had a garden every year for 40 years... This is my first one. And I wonder why I waited so long. Like someone else said, even if you just break even, it's good exercise, you get satisfaction from growing it yourself, and nothing beats the taste of fresh from the garden veggies.
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nes
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My first year I think I spent less then $20 on seeds & used a shovel I already had, and turned over sod & double-dug a HUGE patch of sod.

Yes you can save money your first year of gardening.

Did I save money my second year when I bought better tools, $100 of seeds (which I have spread out over at least 2 if not 3 years), and put in raised beds from recycled wood? Yes.

This year I used seeds left over from last year & seeds I saved (but hubby just ran out and bought me $20 in seedlings to supplement what I couldn't start b/c of the move). I think I spent an additional $5 on some seeds I needed (+ broccoli I didn't have last year). Am I going to save again this year? Definitely.

Then again we also bought a new house to put the garden in so if that counts I'm in trouble...

A head of lettuce costs me $3-5 at the grocery store (depending on season) at home I can have a salad every night for pennies. I haven't bought lettuce seeds except for new varieties because I always let mine go to seed. Same with beans.

You don't need fancy gadgets to garden. You need a shovel, and a will to work. I also live out in the country where I don't have to pay $5 a bag of manure, I just go ask the cows.
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rainbowgardener
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Maybe possible, but I think would be very rare for people to break even the first year.. partly because of needing to buy some basic tools (rake, hoe, shovel, trowel, snippers, etc) and partly just because of experience and knowledge, like the person who said her first year garden didn't produce much. Not uncommon, there's a lot to learn!

By the second or third year, definitely you can be saving a lot of money. I start everything from seed and seeds are remarkably cheap. Course that did mean some initial investment in shoplights, etc. But now my set up is all together, I don't spend any money on it, except some potting soil and the seeds, and I produce at least 500 plants a year.

And yes, on a budget, things can be done cheaper and you can acquire tools a little at a time (but don't cheap out on them - cheap hoes and trowels just bend and break and you end up buying them over and over). Even raised beds don't have to be expensive. I built mine out of 4x4" pine fence posts stacked alternating and held together with steel rebar. The fence posts and rebar are cheap. And they are now in their tenth season and still VERY solid. (I sealed the wood inside and out before I put dirt in and I refinish the outside every couple seasons.)

And yes, saving money is about last on my list of why I garden. I save money on veggies and then spend it on buying shrubs and trees and native plants ... Gardening keeps me outside in the sunshine and fresh air (away from my computer! :) ), doing something physical, listening to the birdsong, watching the hummingbirds and butterflies and all those things everyone has mentioned.
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gixxerific
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Reading the last 2 post I thought I would add I got a $.20 (yeah that is 20 cents, plus tax) on a salad mix of lettuce. All I did was toss it out and walk away in my flower garden in Feb. Well that patch has and is still doing better than any lettuce I have planted purposely.

Go Figure :lol:

Well the butter crunch I planted did great but that has since bolted but the flower garden lettuce, is for the most part still going strong.

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SPierce
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gixxerific wrote:SPierce posted while I was compsing my relpy. And no offense but very rarely will I pay for any ammendments. I have my own compsot though it is not enough for my garden I know of a place that sells great stuff for cheap. I use manure a lot as well I have never paid for that ever. There are a lot of horse and cow farms that a happy as pie to let you have there pile of poop. In fact they are sometimes a little upset you didn't take more. :lol:
I got my compost for free! :D However, my native soil sucks and I have to buy quite a bit of soil to go on top of my sucky native soil, so it took me a while to set up. Then, i decided to do some container gardening this year so I had to buy soil for those.

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jal_ut
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So I sum this post up with a question. Do you think it is possible for the beginning gardner on a tight budget to save money by growing your own vegetables?
Good question. I would say it depends on a number of things.

Are you growing in the ground or making raised beds? If you have a plot of real soil that can be farmed just by preparing it you can grow at less cost than making raised beds.

What are you using for water and how costly is it. Water can be a big expense in some areas.

Planting seed or plants? Growing your own from seed costs less.

What kind of critters haunt the area, and will you need fencing?

What are you going to plant? Some things just produce more. Corn, beans , potatoes and squash are the top four producers for the home garden.

What scale are you thinking of? You stand a better chance of making a profit if you do a fairly large garden as opposed to 100 sq ft or the like.

This question comes up now and then. It is generally thought that gardening is just a pass-time with no real economical benefits. I do not agree, as I am able to realize a large boost to the economy. One must be careful though about spending money on a lot of things that are not necessary.

My suggestion is that if you have a plot of ground, a hoe, a digging fork and some seed is all you need to buy. With beans at $2 a pound, that investment can very quickly be offset.
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DoubleDogFarm
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Here's my twist.

If you grow organically, compare your expenses to store bought organics. It a better comparison than the mass produced traditional.

Up front expenses. What does a trip to the store cost?
What did your car or truck cost? What is your yearly maintenance on said vehicle? How much gas do you burn driving to the grocery store? How much is your auto insurance.

If you walk or bike to the store expenses will very. :D

We could talk environmental cost or not. :wink:

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We started gardening way back when (as a teenager) my mother told me to go out and dig up some ground for her tomatoes. Some fertilizer was added and a six pack of tomatoes from K-Mart were put into the ground. Total cost if purchased new today: $10 shovel, $5 fertilizer (enough for several years), $3 tomatoes. Yield was at least 60 lbs of tomatoes at $2 pound market price. Each year I dig up more with a shovel and expand the garden. Lights, potting mix etc for seed starting are not needed because there are other options, but even those things can be done cheaply. I collect all of the neighborhood leaves each fall for mulch-soil ammendment, and our county has free woodchip compost.

Compare that to the guy who wrote the book "The $64 Tomato". He wanted to do it right so he hired someone to design his garden (they designed rectangular beds for him), heavy equipement came in and tore up his yard in the muddy clay. Electric fences for deer and groundhogs (plus live trap), much ammendment for heavy clay soil etc. In the end after several years he had a bad neck from shoveling because he was totally organic and refused to use a tiller, and as a result he had to stop gardening or chance permanent significant nerve damage. He calculated that each tomato cost him $64. He was a city guy that move to the country.

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soil
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find some soil, get some seeds, put them in and water. simple as that.
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jstrausss
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soil wrote:find some soil, get some seeds, put them in and water. simple as that.
thank you for your post. After reading all those others about saving? not saving? Jezzz Gardening like most things can be as simple as was said in the above post or complicated as was said in all the rest of the posts in this thread. If you are that concerned with try to save money then find a stick and dig the dirt with your hands and plant what you eat from a $2.00 seed pack and water. you will sure save money the weeks your crops start producing. Maybe we should all watch the documentary of how the Pilgrams did it. LOL

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I've always thought that "saving money" can be a lifestyle in and of itself, if you are so inclined, and no reason not to apply it when gardening. Some people include not buying organic though I personally don't agree -- well I GROW organically so I get to compare prices against organic prices as someone else said. After harvesting gallons of organic strawberries this season, it's fun to snicker at the lame organic strawberries sold in stores. :wink:

Tools -- second hand, Carigslist, Freecycle, or sale and other promos.
Soil Amendments -- home made compost from recycled household waste, collected waste like used coffee grounds, spoiled vegs, etc., free manure, leaves, grass clippings, etc.
Containers -- a couple of sticky threads about using recycled materials in seed starting and container gardening.

As with any project, more your own Time and Labor used, the less money spent, though not necessarily saved. I prefer to not waste time over spending money sometimes, and to do plenty of preliminary research before starting a new project.

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Gary350
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Not counting the cost of your tools I think you can save some money but with a small garden you will not notice a big savings. You will notice the food is many times better than some things you buy in the grocery store.

It is a little bit like making your own wine or beer. I can make excellent wine equal to $50 a bottle wine if I age it 3 to 5 years. I never buy $50 wine at the store. There is a BIG difference between cheap wine and good wine just like the difference between grocery store tomatoes and garden tomatoes.

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because he was totally organic and refused to use a tiller
The person in the story may have felt this way, but it is simply not true. Equipment is allowed in organic farming. This is the second time this spring I have heard this.

Eric

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rainbowgardener
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Equipment is certainly allowed for certified organic farmers.

On the other hand a lot of people who are trying to garden naturally a la Ruth Stout and others do not believe in tilling since it is so disruptive to soil biologies. But Ruth Stout's no-till methods, she calls "no work" gardening; it is less work not more and doesn't require shoveling.

So this guy either made the whole thing up or he totally had no idea what he was doing and ruined his health for nothing.
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He wasn't trying to follow the "Organic" rule book. He just didn't want to use petrolium for his garden. I'm at the other end of the organic spectrum. "Organic" to me is keeping poisons off of the produce, everything else is equivalent to wearing clothes with a designer label as a status symbol, IMO. Personally I see no difference (when trying to save the world) between using synthetic fertilizers and driving into the big city to buy organic fertilizer (or using a gas stove to can the produce, -- natural gas is used to make nitrogen fertilizer).

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It's hard to say as an absolute since there are so many variables. I mean, you may have many or all of the tools that you will need, or you may have too buy them (and spend variable amounts of money).

I won't even consider seeds because you will certainly make up for one pack of seeds with just one fruit.

You may rent a tiller, you may dig it yourself.

You could also spend money on fencing, lights, irrigation, etc, but these are really investments, so when you break down their costs over their life-span, the costs per season dramatically decrease.

Lastly, it depends on the value of what you are growing and how much of it you are growing and how much you harvest. A pesky rabbit could come through and cut down all your tomatoes or lettuce etc.

So, I suppose it depends on many factors.

Is it possible, I think so. Will a beginner save money the first year, he may or may not depending on what he does.
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Being a newbie here I want to believe that I am saving money by gardening my own. I guess in the long run time will time. In the meantime, I am suprised no one has mentiond the Canning and passing the abudance on to others.

I am in the process of learning how to can this summer, which ought to be fun and challeging at the same time. Will I save my family money from this? I sure hope so. There isn't anything better than homemade canned picklers, relish, etc. But more importantly, besides helping my family out with a full pantry, I can also help out others who may not be as lucky as I as to have a garden.

In the process of becoming a "gardener" I have become wealthy in knowledge of what I can grow and can and in also sharing with others.
Learning as I go and surprising myself when it all comes together......

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jstrausss
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gardenbean wrote:more importantly, besides helping my family out with a full pantry, I can also help out others who may not be as lucky as I as to have a garden.
Very good point

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gixxerific
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In the end does it really matter?

I would rather pay $64 for my own tomato than a $1 for those so-called tomatoes they sell at the grocery store. That goes for everything else coming out of my garden. :lol: :wink:

By the way in the off season my wife has strict orders NOT to buy tomatoes. 8) I would rather do without.

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gixxerific wrote:in the off season my wife has strict orders NOT to buy tomatoes. 8) I would rather do without.
My Wife & I do the same thing. It was never said but we just do it subconsciously. We do not like the store Tomatos and we only eat our own tomatos in the summer.

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Organic" to me is keeping poisons off of the produce, everything else is equivalent to wearing clothes with a designer label as a status symbol, IMO. Personally I see no difference (when trying to save the world) between using synthetic fertilizers and driving into the big city to buy organic fertilizer (or using a gas stove to can the produce, -- natural gas is used to make nitrogen fertilizer).
Yes, We have to make choices. I burn gasoline in my truck and equipment. I cook and heat with propane.

I do not wear designer clothing, in fact I don't wear anything with a company logo on it.

What ever feels right / good. :wink:

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garden5 wrote: You may have many or all of the tools that you will need, or you may have too buy them (and spend variable amounts of money).
.
First of all this is a great discussion with varying positions
I wanted to mention tools also..
DEPENDING on how long you plan on gardening, it will help determine what kind of tools you purchase.

IMO I thinking spending a little extra money pays off in the long run. If it is something you are just "trying out" and may not do it but a year or so... then spending a lot of money on tools you only use for the garden (tiller, etc) - thats probably not a godo idea. Might get by borrowing or renting one for a little bit

However if you think this is something you'll do for many years, then your tools are an investment. As for me personally I'd rather buy a good used tiller, than dig up a pretty good sized garden spot every year... then you also need a tiller to work in amendments over the winter and maybe in the spring... especially if you compost. To me, the investment is well worth all the effort involved.
Even tools such as a hoe, pitch fork, shovel, etc make a big difference. Quality products usually have some type of softened grips on the end of the handles, and usually have a nice length to the handles so it is easier on your back, and gives you better leverage, even the way the shovel or potchfork heads are attached makes a difference.
Quality tools heads are ribbited or screwed to the handle so they stay permanently. Cheaper tools the head just 'sticks' on the end of the handle, and is a short time the wood shrinks, and the head falls off.
Life is great..... but if you get lemons - compost them :-)
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gixxerific
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Bingo pickupguy quality tools will last forever and it is so hard to tell the difference these day's without knowing what you are looking for. The consumer has to be careful. Everything looks super hard core but.........

Like gramps used to say "they don't make things like they used to". :x

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TheWaterbug
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TZ -OH6 wrote:Compare that to the guy who wrote the book "The $64 Tomato".
Heh. I can sympathize. Last year's pumpkin patch probably produced the world's most expensive pumpkins.

But I didn't do it to save money. I did it so my suburban-born 7-yr old could watch something grow.

There are lots of good life lessons to be learned by gardening.
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Great Discussion!

My thoughts are this...

First thing is you can save a ton of money by being crafty and planning ahead. For example like many others have posted you can get free manure and soil. I know that my local dump has soil that is made from the yard waste that is brought into the dump. It's not soil coming from the landfill with all the other wast but simple organic soil/compost. You take your truck and take what you want.

Seed starting can be as simple or as complicated as you like. People have grown seeds in solo cups, newspaper cups and other recycled containers. My first year gardening on my own I bought two fluorescent lights from home depot for $20 each. Got a few starter trays $5 - $10 each. Took two jack stands and a 2x4 and zip tied it together and used that to raise and lower my lights. Started it in my kitchen on a little folding table I had. We all know seeds cost next to nothing. 1 bottle of Safer Soap from the store cost me a couple $$ and lasted me all year to help battle the pests.

When I planted my 8 x 12 garden I borrowed a tiller and bought some garden soil from Home Depot $3/bag @ 5 bags = $15. A couple days of soil prep and the plants went in. I borrowed some rebar from a friend and got a $25 roll of chicken wire and made a fence that kept out the critters.

My total investment was around $120 and could have been lower if I would have gone the route of paper cups and free soil.

Most on this board are very dedicated to their gardens and want to create the best possible growing situation for their crops. But lets face it most of us are doing way more than what is necessary. These are plants that will grow in nature with or without us manipulating the earth. They may not produce as much, be as healthy and may fall victim to pests or disease but at the end of the day they often find a way to survive.

It can be as complicated or as simple as a beginner would like. It will cost as much as you are willing to pay. I think at the end of the day it depends on how much time you spend on finding ways to do it cheaper. This is not always easier but hey if you are on budget and want to start a hobby like gardening you will have to decide what size project you want to take on and how you plan to get there and still save $$.

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But lets face it most of us are doing way more than what is necessary. These are plants that will grow in nature with or without us manipulating the earth. They may not produce as much, be as healthy and may fall victim to pests or disease but at the end of the day they often find a way to survive.
:? If we grow only natives, this would be mostly true. Seeds are from all over the world. We have to manipulate to become more like the origin of the seed. Hybrids, I believe, are developed to over come these difficulties. I'm pretty sure even open pollinated seed, does not resemble exact original specimen.

Grow vegetables meant for your climate, it makes life easier. :wink:

Eric

TZ -OH6
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Here's another direction to take


https://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/arts-culture/blogs/jk-rowling-to-flatten-16m-home

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soil
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i have to add that growing in different seasons will relate to cost as well. in the winter i can toss out some lettuce seeds, kale, broccoli, etc... not have to do a damn thing and ill end up with more food than i can eat. the winter rains water the plants and the soil feeds.

summer farming takes a little more effort.
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Joined: Mon Jan 19, 2009 3:20 am
Location: Northern Utah Zone 5

When I go into the local garden store, I am amazed at the variety of "stuff" that they have to sell. Of course if you gotta have one of all those, you can spend a bundle of money. I buy seed and a couple dozen of the nursery plants in the small size. That's it. If they depended on me to buy all that other "stuff", they would go broke quickly. My point is what others have said too, you can garden with very little outlay of money, or spend a bundle if that is your wish.

Well, OK, I have some tools that cost money, but good tools last a long time. At the end of their life, they haven't cost you much per season.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

garden5
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 3062
Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2009 9:40 pm
Location: ohio

It's so true what Gix said about modern-day tools. Not only are some of them flimsy/unreliable, but it hard to tell sometimes which ones are good and which ones are junk. Forget what the packaging says: everything uses heavy duty/built to last/etc. You really have to just experience junk and then experience quality and then you'll see what's good and what's not and then You'll know what to look for.
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pickupguy07
Senior Member
Posts: 253
Joined: Thu May 12, 2011 11:06 pm
Location: GA

Just yesterday my dad and I spent 5 or 6 hours canning stuff I grew myself in my garden.
This is tuff I just harvested in the last week or so, and just a FRACTION fo what I will harvest this year. We canned 16 quarts of tomatoes, 12 pints of bread & Butter pickles, and 12 pints of sweet relish.
I have already frozen 12 gallon freezer bags of squash, and have much more to harvest.. Not to mention all the lettuce and cabbage we grew and have eaten as they came in...

Now I am getting ... well lots and lots of other stuff.
I have already canned more (dollar wise) than I spent growing my garden this year (that even included buying my canning sypplies). And I have LOTS to come in yet...

OH.. NOT to mention.. the quality time I got to spend with my dad. That's priceless.
Life is great..... but if you get lemons - compost them :-)
Near Atlanta GA... newbie to gardening & Composting

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