By Gary L. Pierce, Horticulture Extension Agent, Harnett County
Question: Can I save a lot of money by growing my own vegetables?
Answer: When gasoline was $1.50 or less, it really wasn’t possible for a homeowner to raise enough vegetables to save any money. Now that gas is well over $3, it is a different story. High priced diesel fuel affects the cost of production and transportation. These higher prices are passed on to the consumer (you). Every meal or snack that you can grow at home will help you save some money.
Growing your own food is a lot like vehicle repair. If you can rebuild a transmission, then you will save lots of money. If you only know how to add wiper fluid, then you don’t save much by doing it yourself. If you plant and harvest enough vegetables to fulfill most of your nutritional needs for a whole year, then you will save some money. If you only have 5 or 10 plants, then you won’t save much.
Whether you are considering gardening or automotive repair, the success of these ventures depends on intellectual preparation and experience. Most people think gardening is easy. Simply put a seed in the ground and return later to harvest tons of veggies from every plant. This must be a genetic memory from the Garden of Eden. Gardening nowadays involves a series of unexpected twists and turns. Timing, fertilization, insects, diseases, irrigation and weeds are the tip of the horticultural iceberg.
Growing plants is easy. The problem is our expectations of this process. Solving pest problems and knowing “when to do anything” are not intuitive processes. Most folks do not realize how much information they have to gather in order to be a bountiful gardener. Most gardeners usually gather this information over time through experiential learning (on the job training).
Beginning gardeners need to start small (changing a sparkplug). Most horticultural concepts are the same whether you grow 5 or 50 plants. It is cheaper to risk 5 plants than 50. As knowledge and confidence builds, garden size and productivity will also expand. Before you know it, you may be able to change brake pads, replace a battery cable or radiator hose. The average person is not going to take the steps necessary to be able to replace their own transmission or grow enough vegetables to be self-sufficient.
Examine your motives. If money is the only reason you want to grow vegetables, then you probably won’t be successful. However, if you want to have flavorful, healthy, summer meals, then grow vegetables. If you want to spend time with your family working in the peaceful outdoors, then grow vegetables. If you want to match wits with a squash bug, then grow vegetables. If you want to develop a much greater appreciation for hardworking farmers, then grow vegetables. There are many reasons to try your hand at vegetable gardening.
For info on starting a garden, visit http://www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/PM819.pdf or http://www.growit.umd.edu/Gardening%20Basics/index.cfm If you don’t have internet access, call me at 910-893-7530 or email me at email@example.com
Whether gardening or mechanicing, there is no substitute for experience. While I don’t recommend you believe every so-called “tip expert,” you can trust Red Green http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkk-sOo8Hqw or http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=2QiNuDKqbz4&feature=endscreen
Gary Pierce is a Horticulture Agent at the Harnett County Cooperative Extension, 910-893-7530