One of the first questions every new food gardener asks is: “Is it really worth the effort growing my own vegetables?”
A visit to your local food store will make it painfully obvious that food costs are soaring. There are many reasons for that. One of the major factors is the rising fuel cost that affects fresh produce in more than one way. And we can only guess what the impact of the sharp increase in labour costs will have on our own food bills in the very near future.
The Food Garden Organization explains the impact of fuel as follows:
“ …tractors are used to prepare the ground and harvest, petroleum-based fertilizers are applied to improve growth, then it is packaged and shipped thousands of miles. In addition to making it harder for families to put food on the table, these carbon emissions contribute to global warming…”
Let’s crunch some numbers.
Let’s say you have a small 10 square meter (about 100 square feet) food garden and you just grow 3 crops – green beans, beets and Swiss chard. You only run this garden for say 20 weeks of the year – most food gardeners run theirs for 30 – 40 weeks.
Your input costs will be compost, seed (1 packet of each will be sufficient), water and about 30 minutes of your time per week. The compost and seed will cost about R100 at current prices.
If you are a beginner and you just plant one planting of each crop you can expect to harvest 6 kg bush beans, 10 kg beets and 10 kg Swiss Chard from your small food garden. You can do more than three times that from the same area using the practices discussed in Grow Bigger and Better Backyard Crops.
So what’s that harvest worth in rand and cent?
Well, yesterday’s prices at my local supermarket were: green beans – R37 per kg; beets – R2,80 per kg (and if you could see the quality you’ll now why they were so cheap); and chard – R40 per kg.
If you had to buy just one planting of each crop at the above prices you would have burned a R650 hole in your pocket. Subtract your input costs of R100 and that hole is still a whopping R550.
So growing your own vegetables does make economic sense.
But there’s more…
You’ll have the added advantage of eating veggies grown without harmful chemicals, harvested when at their peak and brought to your table the same day.
So start you own food garden today, or if you already have one, think about expanding it.