The popularity of gardening as a hobby has increased dramatically in the past few months, but no one really talks about the cost of gardening.
The cost of gardening is often overlooked when considering the pro and cons of gardening, but it can be important if you’re trying to live frugally.
Gardening has loads of benefits that overweight the cost, but it is important to go in well prepared.
As a complete beginner, I definitely wasn’t prepared, but I have tracked every penny I spent so if you’re on the fence whether to start gardening or not, this might help.
A quick word on my background. I am no gardener and have no experience in growing anything. Even my sage died, and it is meant to be a plant that survives anything.
I grew up in the Italian countryside, and my grandpa loved planting and tending flowers. Other than that, my interaction with fruit and vegetables was limited to purchasing at the supermarket and eating at home.
Why I decided to start gardening
In the past few years, I got more and more into sustainability and frugality.
I read a few articles online and growing your own vegetables seemed like a great idea to combine the two.
Personally, I love the idea of growing my own produce, reducing carbon footprint, and plastic.
They say it is definitely cheaper than supermarket-bought veggies – and it tastes better!
So when I purchased my forever home, I was keen to have a garden where I could try and grow some vegetables.
Gardening during lockdown
So in 2020 for the first time I was ready to start my gardening adventure – the house was finally (almost) fully furnished so it meant I could focus on a new project.
For months I had saved some money in a sinking fund to make sure this new hobby did not impact my budget, even though I didn’t really know how much gardening cost.
Related: A beginner’s guide to sinking funds
I bought books, read blogs, watched episodes after episodes of Gardeners’ World, I was so ready!
What I didn’t plan was starting gardening during lockdown.
Very suddenly, the shop closures, along with the increased interest in all garden related stuff, made purchasing all the necessary equipment, seeds and soil extremely difficult and more expensive.
My gardening experience
Given the shop closures I had to rely on online deliveries, so I purchased quite a few things to get me started.
What I bought and how I started
- A few seeds packets – I tried to pick seeds that didn’t need to be planted at the same time because I wasn’t sure of how much space I had. I went for: basil, courgettes, carrots, spinach, tomatoes and seed potatoes.
- A propagator – I read this was very important when growing seeds, even though not mandatory. The sunniest room in the house is also ironically the coldest so I decided to give my seeds all the help they needed to grow into strong plants
- Compost – I started with 60 lt peat-free all plant compost. The choice of quantity was more dictated by online availability and cost, but it did last quite a while.
- Vermiculite – another optional purchase, but I read it helped seeds growing so I was happy to give it a try, and bought a 10 lt bag.
- Seedling labels – a packet of 100 that will last me until the end of time, I guess.
I started by planting tomatoes in the propagator so it wasn’t until a few weeks later that I realised I needed some bigger pots to repot them into. The tomatoes were growing strong and I literally had no idea you’re meant to repot them a couple of times before they’re ready to go out in the garden – I’m probably less than a beginner at gardening!
Wilko in-shop purchase
Luckily by then my local Wilko reopened so I bought:
- A couple of small pots
- 3 medium pots
- Some more seeds (fennel and dwarf french beans) because why not? I have no clue what I’m doing so I might as well go all in
- A spade – required to prepare the raised bed
- A hand trowel – a must-have if you don’t want to re-pot using hands and kitchen spoon (my original plan)
Then I planted the seed potatoes outdoor and I was glad I had the spade and hand trowel. That also made me realise I needed more topsoil and compost, otherwise I wouldn’t have enough soil to mound up the potatoes when they grow (and to grow other stuff).
After that, I think I got my head around how basic gardening and didn’t have to purchase anything else for the remaining seeds.
I’m still waiting to see if any of the plants will grow fruits and vegetables
The cost of gardening
This is the detailed breakdown of everything I purchased in the first few weeks to get started with the garden
- Basil – £ 1.49
- Courgettes – £ 1.49
- Carrots – £ 1.49
- Spinach – £ 1.49
- Tomatoes – £ 2.29
- Seed potatoes – £ 6.59
- Fennel of Florence – £ 1.00
- French dwarf beans – £ 1.00
- Propagator – £ 10.45
- 60 lt peat-free compost – £ 12.99
- Vermiculite 10lt – £ 9.64
- Seedling labels (pack of 100) – £ 3.95
- A couple of small pots – £ 1.00
- 3 medium pots – £ 7.50
- Spade – £ 7.00
- Hand trowel – £ 3.00
- More compost – 100 lt – £ 13.95
- Topsoil for the raised bed – 1 tonne – £ 84.00
Total cost is: £170.32
How to reduce costs
This is my first year gardening so it was really hard for me to save money on it, given it was (and still is) all very new.
I carefully reviewed what I purchased and realised most of it is actually stuff I can use for many years to come.
So even though the total I spent across a few weeks is quite high, I think it was a reasonable cost for some basic equipment I needed to get stuff going.
Tools, pots, a propagator, but most importantly top soil are the basis for gardening and I hopefully won’t have to buy them again.
However, there are a few things I’d like to try in my gardening adventure that I am sure will reduce my gardening cost:
Get a compost bin
I have noticed the cost of compost is quite high, and I am sure we will need some every year.
So after a bit of research, I decided to invest in a compost bin.
Luckily in the UK, you might be able to get one at discounted rates through the council; I have ordered mine here.
A compost bin helps you transform your food and green waste into compost for the plants, plus it reduces the amount of waste you actually send to the landfill. It’s a win-win situation for both the environment and my pockets.
Grow vegetables from scraps
Whilst seeds are relatively inexpensive, I definitely want to try and grow vegetables from scraps.
I’ve read a few articles that explain all the vegetables you can grow and how easily it is.
I feel confident it’s something I can achieve and it is now on my to-do list for next time I have got scraps.
Get seeds from plants
Another alternative to purchasing seeds packets, is to get seeds directly from plants.
This article from Drugstore Diva on how to harvest blackberry seeds inspired me to try this method. It will hopefully save me some money, but most importantly it is great for the environment.
Don’t focus only on growing outside in the summer
I always thought that you could only grow outside and in spring / summer, but that is not true.
This article from Homemade Texan with tips on how to start an indoor herb garden is a great example you can grow indoors all year round. Definitely something to try!
Learn from the past
This is my first year growing vegetables and managing my garden but I already realised it is super important to find a way to track everything I’m learning, to avoid making the same mistakes next year, and to make sure I continue doing whatever I have done right!
That’s why I have created a gardening journal. I have printed and stored it with all my gardening equipment and I update it whenever there is something I need to log.
I also use it to plan my to-do list – who knew there is so much to do in the garden? – and to keep track of my cost and shopping needs.
If you feel like you have the same problem, I share my gardening journal printables (all 15 of them!) in my Etsy shop – they are now 15% off!
Gardening is such a great hobby and it can be as expensive as you want it to be.
With just a few swaps, a bit of effort, and DIY, you can really reduce the cost of gardening in the long run.
Let me know in the comment below – do you grow vegetables in your garden? and if so, how do you keep cost down?