Cost Benefits of Starting Your Own Straw-Bale Garden

Few things are more satisfying than a fresh-picked, garden tomato dusted with salt. Yet, try as you might, you simply cannot find that delicious, mouth-watering, pure-happiness taste in a tomato purchased at a grocery store. And, I’ll wager that the same goes for any number of your favorite fruit and vegetables.

Fortunately, growing your own food is easier than you might think, requires less room that you’d imagine, and can be done with or without good soil. Further, growing your own food – especially staple produce items, can be both cheaper on your wallet and better for your overall health.

Think about it for a moment, what actually goes in a commercially grown tomato? How long does it take to get from the vine to the store? What costs are passed on to the consumer (transport, chemicals, seeds, etc)?

Now I’m by no means an expert, but I am capable of doing a bit of research – and this is what I’ve found:

  • “There are 110 different chemicals in the official Florida guidebook for commercial tomato growers that you can spray on a field over the course of the few months that those tomatoes are in the field, including many that the EPA rates as acutely toxic, which means they can kill you.” (source)
  • Commercial growers can expect spend roughly $5.66 to produce a single 25 pound box of tomatoes. If there are roughly 2 tomatoes per pound, that’s approximately $0.12 per tomato. (source – note, there are a lot of variables that go into that number including the size of the farm and the amount of equipment, chemicals, and labor used. This numer should be taken with a grain of salt.)
  • Picked green, ripened with ethylene gas, packed and shipped directly to a retailer, commercially grown tomatoes may take 10 days from the time they leave the vine to the time they end up in your BLT sandwich. (source)

On the flip side, here’s what I know about my garden-grown tomatoes:

  • Last year, my Dad and I planted 4 straw-bales with 7 tomato plants, 1 zucchini plant, and 1 yellow squash plant. Of that, the garden yielded over 250 tomatoes, 2 zucchinis, and 2 squash.
  • In total, my 2012 garden cost me $40 in tomato plants, $16 in straw-bales, $7 in fertilizer, $15 in water or $78 total. That works out to $0.312 per tomato.
  • If I went to the grocery store, those same pieces of produce would cost roughly $.44 per piece.
  • That’s a savings of 29% not including the cost of gas and the wear I would put on my vehicle when driving to the store to purchase the tomatoes.

People, the numbers don’t lie. 29% savings in growing my own produce. Think about it this way, if I ate one tomato a day, from May through August it would cost me $54.12 at the grocery store – if I ate strickly tomatoes from my garden, it would only cost me $38.38 or over $15 less! Plus, the taste of tomatoes grown in my garden far surpasses any commercially grown tomato.

So, now that I’ve overloaded you with numbers, hopefully you’re wondering how you can tap into these savings for yourself. Don’t fret, like I said at the beginning, it’s much easier than you think. Plus, I’ll be walking you through it, step by step, with a seires of postings that will appear here over the next few weeks.

We’ll look at what you need to get started, what you can plant, how to maintain the garden, and general tips.

I truly belive that everyone can grow and maintain a garden – no matter the size of your space, the quality of your soil, or the greenness of your thumb. All you need is a bit of sunlight, some basic supplies, and a little know-how.

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