Most of us frugal people have heard that to save money on groceries you should grow vegetables in your backyard. While this is a purely plausible idea in theory, it can actually end up costing you more, or in my case, a lot more money than you would have spent just buying the produce at the store.
As a child, my mother always had vegetable and flower gardens. I helped her, and I eventually went on to have beautiful, elaborate flower gardens of my own. As an adult, I never had a great backyard for vegetable gardening, so I turned to container gardening. I mean how hard could it be? All of the money saving experts said it was the best way for apartment dwellers to grow food cheaply. Who was I to argue?
For my container garden, I bought one big plastic pot, soil, and several plants. In the big pot, I planted a cherry tomato plant that was advertised as perfect for patio gardening. In several smaller pots that I already owned, I planted an eggplant and a yellow cherry tomato plant.
I watered my little plants every day. They slowly grew, but after time I realized they weren’t growing any vegetables. The summer went by, and I only harvested a handful of cherry tomatoes.
So, in the end I didn’t save any money. Basically, I’d spent around $30 on a handful of cherry tomatoes.
So what went wrong? Here are some things to think about so that you can learn from my mistakes:
- Consider how much sun your patio gets. Mine faced the north, so it got very little sun, depriving my plants of nutrients they needed to grow veggies.
- Read up on what kinds of plants are best for container gardens. My poor eggplant probably never had a chance.
- Don’t go on a week-long vacation without lining up someone to water your plants while you’re gone. I probably could have gotten another handful of cherry tomatoes out of my plant if it hadn’t died of sudden drought.
- Use BIG containers. My cherry tomato plant that was in an enormous container grew three times taller than the cherry tomato plant that was in the smaller container, even though the one in the smaller container got more direct sunlight.
Can you save money by growing your own food? Sure. But take a little time to do some research and planning before you start. That’s a lesson I’m taking to the bank this indoor-growing season.