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7 Ways to Save (and Make) Money with Your Vegetable Garden
The average American family spends $130 on groceries each week, according to Time - and plenty of that goes to waste.
Don’t throw your money out with your leftovers!
Planting a vegetable garden full of leafy greens yields healthier food for you and your family - and more savings, too.
“In 2009, the NGA estimated that an average 600-square-foot garden requires about a $70 investment and produces nearly 300 pounds of fresh produce worth $600 during the growing season,” reports Lori McDaniel at U.S. News & World Report. “Simply put, that's a whopping $530 return and a whole lot of fresh food.”
Here are 7 tips from other savvy gardeners and growers for how you can save (and make) money with your vegetable garden:
1. Grow What You Eat - Sell What You Don’t
New to gardening? Planning how you’ll use your plot - and only planting what you and your loved ones can eat - will help you get the most mileage out of the food you grow.
“A good rule of thumb is to look at the vegetables you’re buying at the store already,” explains home gardener Heather Levin at MoneyCrashers.
“For instance, I eat a ton of kale and spinach, so these are two crops I always try to grow at home,” she adds. “I also love green beans, so every year I make my own homemade Dilly Beans, and can them myself.”
Once you’ve harvested your veggies and leafy greens, there may be leftover produce you can’t possibly get to.
That’s ok - just share the wealth. Start selling your wares at local farmers markets or by creating wholesale relationships with local restaraunts, suggests gardener Vanessa Vadim at MNN.
Read more from Vadim about how to get started in the veggie business here.
2. Add Herbs to the Mix
Have you ever shied away from purchasing fresh herbs in the grocery store because they just seem too expensive?
Commercial markets sell herbs in huge bundles that wilt and rot before the average at-home cook can possibly use them up - making the true cost of fresh herbs even more outrageous.
Thankfully, herbs are incredibly easy to grow yourself - as long as you start them from seed, rather than buying plants from a grocery store.
“Fresh herbs from the supermarket are grown in intensive, hot-house conditions, and can be fed with a host of unsavoury pesticides and fertilisers,” explains gardening expert Kate Bradbury at BBC Food.
“Because they're put under so much pressure to produce lots of lush leaves, their root-balls don't develop properly, so they're most likely to die as soon as you've got them home,” she adds.
Want to get entrepreneurial with your herb garden? According to the Profitable Plants Digest, chefs and produce buyers at restaurants are always on the lookout for quality herbs.
“Chefs are willing to pay a premium price if the quality is there,” Craig Wallin writes - so be sure to emphasize that you’re a local grower with a regular delivery route. And always bring samples that back up your claims!
3. Experiment with Canning and Preserving
One of the biggest challenges of growing your food is harvesting and preserving everything you produce so nothing goes to waste.
That’s what makes canning such an incredible tradition to embrace. Think pickled vegetables, homemade tomato sauce, jams, jellies, and condiments.
According to the University of Florida, “it’s important to [can] foods at the peak of their quality, and be sure to follow the strict canning procedures specified for your product.”
Although you should be careful to check your canned goods for signs of spoiling, if you’ve canned correctly, you have a nutritious - and delicious - winter ahead of you.
Not only will preserving veggies from your garden extend their shelf life, but you’ll also learn a skill that plenty of other health-conscious shoppers will pay good money for.
When Monica Pugh, a home gardener from South Dakota, wanted to start selling her wares, she reached out to local health departments to find out more about licensing requirements.
“I started asking lots of questions,” Pugh told South Dakota State University. “I was so surprised by how willing people were to help.”
Now Pugh regularly sets up shop at local farmers markets. “When I’m standing in front of my customers, I can tell them my jams and jellies are verified,” Pugh said. “As a seller, it gives me confidence that I’m selling a safe product.”
4. Start a Veggie Stand
From roadside stands to an official booth at your local farmers market, there are plenty of ways to turn your backyard veggie garden into a small business.
“Farmers Markets help you get your product out of the kitchen,” explains food marketing expert Amanda MacArthur at The Balance.
“Jump ahead of getting onto a retail shelf and use the farmers market stand to get your product on the consumer's plate,” she suggests.
Just make sure that you’ve done your research. You’ll have to comply with your state’s food safety laws and square your vendor set-up with the organization in charge of your local farmers markets, too.
5. Don’t Forget Flowers
When it comes to gardening, flowers aren’t just for show. They can be a crucial component of attracting bees and other pollinators to your veggie garden, says gardening expert Rebecca Straus.
“Companion planting flowers and vegetables in the same beds is a strategy professional growers use to boost yields and keep crops healthy, and it’s easy and beneficial for beginners to do, too,” writes Straus at Rodale.
Fresh flowers aren’t necessarily easy for vendors to come by, either, and plenty of businesses look for them - from wholesalers to small business owners who want to spruce up their space.
Read more about growing and selling flowers here.
6. Share Your Space
Have plenty of room to plant? It may be worth renting out plots on your land to other growers in need of space.
While renting out your land can open up additional logistical questions, inviting the public into your garden can be a different - and less worrisome - source of revenue.
In England, where there’s a longstanding tradition of touring private gardens and houses, plenty of gardeners welcome outside groups into their spaces.
“Hosting an open garden event is an easy way to make money, and can be a great way to raise money for charity,” suggests Hannah Gransden at LovetheGarden.com.
Spring, summer, and early fall are perfect seasons for event hosting - make sure your community knows your space is available.
7. Save on Household Expenses
Caring for a garden may take a lot of time and elbow grease - but the extra work could save you money in unexpected ways, reports McDaniel.
For starters, landscaping your lawn to include more trees and plants can help you save as much as 50% on your water bill.
“To put that in perspective, the Energy Department estimates that only three well-placed trees save the average household about $100 to $250 per year in energy costs,” writes McDaniel at U.S. News & World Report.
Add these savings to your lower grocery bill, and you’re looking at a substantial bump in your budget this year.
Whether you want to save - or make - money with your vegetable garden, one thing’s for sure: planting your own fruits and veggies guarantees you’ll have plenty of good eating ahead.
Start your own mini cottage industry, strike up relationships with customers at the farmers market, or simply enjoy the fruits of your labor.
The choices are yours - and they’re delicious.
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