When you grow food in your garden, you can save far more than just money. Growing your own crops is a great way to contribute towards tackling our climate crisis. Taking small steps towards sustainability by doing things like growing your own can turn you into a sustainability super hero!
And you can’t put a price on growing your own when it comes to the health and wellbeing of your family. The more you can grow in your garden, the healthier and more fulfilling your diet (and your life) can be.
That said, most of us do still need money! And being able to save some in your garden can be important. So, what should you grow in your garden to balance the books? Which crops can save you the most money?
Let’s take a look at some excellent options if you are considering crops from a financial perspective. The following crops are all offer great value for your gardening investment:
Soft Fruit Crops
Soft fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, currants, blueberries etc. can be relatively expensive to buy – especially if you are looking at sustainable, organic options. Packed full of vitamins and very healthy, fresh berries are wonderfully cost effective things to grow, and they really won’t take up much of your time – especially if you grow them under cover in your polytunnel. Of course, these plants can also continue to provide you with a yield for years – rather than just for one season. So that means they will save you even more money over time.
Of course, a fruit tree can also save you a fortune, delivering high yields for a long time. So an easy-care tree like an apple tree, for example, can also be a great investment.
Asparagus (and Other Perennial Crops)
When it comes to saving money, perennial plants are always a better investment than annual ones. You’ll have to be patient to see yields after planting asparagus, since it can take a couple of years before you can enjoy a harvest. But once growing, asparagus should deliver ‘free’ food year after year. A great return, especially considering how much fresh, organic, seasonal asparagus costs when you buy it from the shops.
But asparagus is not the only perennial vegetable to consider. Growing other perennial vegetables – from well known examples like rhubarb, to less well known perennial cabbages and onions – can be a great way to save money. Many can save you money not just over one season, but over several, and save far more money than annuals long-term.
When it comes to annual crops, one of the best value things to grow is lettuce, and other salad greens. Not only will growing your own allow you to enjoy healthy and varied salads all year round. It will also give an excellent return – you’ll get far more out than you put in – in terms of money, effort, time and space.
Lettuce and other salad greens are remarkably expensive to buy (in plastic packaging). So to save money (and reduce plastic waste) everyone should grow their own. These leafy crops can be grown in even the smallest of areas, very quickly indeed. And many are cut and come again.
Another of the plants that can save you the most money is garlic. This is another crop that won’t take up that much space in your garden. Garlic may not give the most enormous of yields. But when you look at how much has gone into growing it, and consider the cost of buying garlic at the shops, you will see that this is another excellent option. Want a plant that can save you even more money? Consider a perennial like elephant garlic instead of the annual options.
Curly kale and speciality kales are incredibly healthy. But they can be rather expensive to buy. Again, rather than buying it in plastic packages, grow your own. It can keep you supplied with more healthy, leafy greens than you can eat over a very long harvesting season. And you can grow it over the winter months too, when there is far less fresh, seasonal food around.
Another of the top brassicas that will save you money is broccoli. Pound for pound, broccoli can deliver an excellent yield, but little input when you consider what the heads cost in the shops. Broccoli might be ubiquitous and relatively inexpensive, but you can still save a lot of money by growing your own. You can also grow more specialist crops, like rapini or purple sprouting broccoli for far, far less than it would cost you to buy these items (especially organic options) at the shops.
Potatoes may be cheap to buy, and readily available. But growing your own is cheaper still. Yes, potatoes take up a lot of space compared to some other crops – but you can grow them in smaller spaces too. When you get 7-10 potatoes from each plant that grows from a seed potato – consider how much a small bag of organic potatoes will cost. The maths is clear. It definitely can make financial sense to grow this staple crop at home.
Most crops are good value for the money they save you in growing rather than buying the equivalent. But some are more so because of how high a yield they can deliver. Courgettes are one example of a plant that produces prodigiously and just keeps on giving. Plant a single plant and you’ll have plenty of courgettes over several months. These can really help in reducing the cost of feeding your family.
Beans are also crops that can deliver very high yields from relatively small spaces. Broad beans, French beans and runner beans can all deliver quite a lot of food over the growing season, to save you money. And like other legumes, they will also help you in fertilizing your garden – helping to fix nitrogen from the air. With all the food you won’t have to buy, and fertilizer for free, beans are another great crop to choose.
Tomatoes (Especially Heirloom/ Heritage Crops)
Tomatoes are a definite favourite with polytunnel gardeners, and there are plenty of reasons why this is the case. Growing your own won’t just save you from buying them at the shops. It will also allow you to try out a whole range of heirloom or heritage tomato varieties that are difficult or impossible to buy. Tomatoes, when cared for correctly, can also deliver bumper crops for you and your family – which can be preserved in various ways for use during the rest of the year.
Peppers (Bell Peppers and Chillies)
In the same plant family, bell peppers and chillies are also interesting options to grow in a polytunnel garden. Since most of the options you find in the shops come from abroad, they can be costly – again, especially when you choose organic options. Growing your own, therefore, can save you money, as well as limiting your negative impact on the planet.
Fresh Culinary Herbs
Finally, it is also worthwhile branching out from fruits and vegetables to think about how much money you can save by growing fresh culinary herbs. Small bundles or bags of fresh herbs can be expensive in the shops. But you can grow your own, even in a small space, for next to nothing. And of course you can also dry many herbs for use during the winter months.
Of course, many, many other crops will save you money too. And it is also important to think about what you actually like to eat and would have bought it you were not growing it. You should always shape your crop choices around the things you and your family actually like to eat.
Which crops that you grow do you believe offer the best value for money? Which save you the most money over time? Share your experiences and tips with new gardeners in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.