How To Save Money with a Vegetable Garden

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How we saved 50 CHF with our vegetable garden

This year was our first year with a vegetable garden. There were several goals in growing our own vegetable garden. The first was because we wanted to have fresh vegetables. The second was that we actually like gardening. And finally, we also wanted to see if it was possible to actually make a profit with a garden.

Since it is now the end of the gardening season, I am going to summarize the results of our garden. It is pretty empty right now since we only have a few winter vegetables. During this season, we kept a precise list of what we got out of our garden. And we of course also kept the list of our expenses. With this, we should be able to know if our garden was profitable or not ;)

Regardless of its profitability, it was a great experience for us. It is so good to be able to enjoy healthy and home-grown vegetables in our dishes! In this post, we are going to show what we got from our vegetable garden. I am also going to share what we learned and the mistakes we did for our garden.

Our vegetable garden

Here is how our vegetable garden looks like at the end of the season:

Our vegetable garden at the end of 2018
Our vegetable garden at the end of 2018

As you can see, it is way more empty than when we started. We only have a few winter vegetables. However, we still have a few Chinese cabbages and a few broccoli plants. These will not live through winter. We are going to pick them soon but they are not very big. The garlic should normally survive Swiss winters. And as for the cabbage, it is special winter cabbage, so it should be fine. We will know at the return of the nice days.

It was really a great experience for us to start our own vegetable garden. Even if not everything went well, it was enjoyable. And it was so good to have fresh vegetables out of our garden. Our garden is still very small. So we had to buy some vegetables too. But we still had some very nice returns. With more experience and a bigger garden, we will be able to get more vegetables next year!

The harvest

A few fresh vegetables from the garden
A few fresh vegetables from the garden

We tried to keep track of everything that we got from the garden. It is quite possible that we forgot a few things ;) But most of it should be on this list:

  • 14 salads
  • 24 zucchini
  • 15 green pepper
  • 5 white cabbage
  • 10 fennels
  • 15 eggplants
  • 4 small red cabbage
  • A small bowl of peas
  • 20 small onions
  • 10 Leeks
  • 2 Broccoli

Overall, it is really not too bad! Some of the plants really gave a lot of vegetables. We had much more zucchini than we expected. And we did not think eggplants could grow that well in Switzerland. We also have to remember that we had an incredibly hot summer and autumn. There was a lot of sun and the beginning of the autumn also was nice and things continued to grow. Next year may not be that great in terms of weather. But that is all right!

A few of our vegetables did not grow at all. For instance, none of the garlic seeds gave anything. We planted some more garlic at the end of Autumn. We will see how they are going when Spring comes back. And a lot of onions did not grow either. In the end, the onions stayed very small. It may come from our soil that is not very good yet or the lack of sun. The red cabbage did not grow a lot compared to other gardens this year. I think that our soil was not fertilized enough.

Money results

Let’s see the final results in term of profitability. Here are the detailed costs of our garden:

  • Original seeds and seedlings: 39.25 CHF
  • Product for the ants: 4.30 CHF
  • Another product for the ants: 14.95 CHF
  • More seedlings (July): 2.50 CHF
  • More seedlings (August): 5.20 CHF
  • Even more seedlings (August): 5.20 CHF

In total, the vegetables from this year in our garden cost us 71.40 CHF.

Now, we have to see how much the vegetables are worth:

  • 14 salads = 30 CHF
  • 24 zucchini= 50 CHF
  • 15 green pepper= 7 CHF
  • 5 white cabbage= 7 CHF
  • 10 fennels= 6 CHF
  • 15 eggplants= 12 CHF
  • 4 small red cabbage= 4 CHF
  • A small bowl of peas= 0 CHF
  • 20 small onions= 2 CHF
  • 10 Leeks= 4 CHF
  • 2 Broccoli= 1 CHF

In total, the vegetables from this year would have cost us 123 CHF had we bought them in our general shops. This is an estimation of course since we did not weight every single vegetable ;) I took the price for the non-organic food. Because this is what we generally buy. However, the vegetables from our garden are organic so that is one more advantage!

We made a profit of more than 50 CHF with our garden! This is pretty great for the first year. I was honestly thinking we would not have made a profit this year. As I mentioned in another post, a vegetable garden is one of the ways to save money on your food budget.

As you will see in this post, we have made several mistakes. I think we could have reduced the expenses quite a bit. Hopefully, next year will be as good as this year for the sun. Normally, the soil should be better next for the harvest! We will see. I will be sure to keep you informed :)

What we should have done better

One thing that we did quite wrong is the location of the garden. We planted in the space that we used the least outside. However, it was also the place with the least sun on our lawn. This is too late to change, but we should have planted it in another, more sunny place. But it did not turn out too bad :)

We should have found a good way to keep the insects away from our plants. We used some products for ants. It was very expensive and not very effective. Finally, we burned down the big nests of ants with boiling water. This worked quite well since we almost had no more ants. But this did not prevent other insects to lay waste to some of our vegetables. For next year, we need to do something against slugs and some insects. We will see what we do.

Another thing is that we were not careful enough with some of the plants. For instance, we let some of the zucchini become too big. They are stronger to eat when they get too big. It is not as good. We also let a few salads go up too much before taking them. Next year, we should definitely watch over our garden more seriously.

We should have grown some vegetables that produce a lot instead of some that produce very little. For instance, we got only very few peas from our peas plants. Next year, we are planning to plant green runner beans. They produce a lot and do not use a lot of space on the ground since they grow up.

Another thing is that we should not have planted some plants. For instance, I planted some basil out of habit because my father always planted some. But we do not really know what to do with it! Next year, we will focus on plants we use to optimize the room for more efficiency.

We did not fertilize enough the soil in my opinion. We only used some fertilizer from the shop. Either we should have used more fertilizer. Or we should have directly used a greater quantity of manure in the soil when we turned it. My father always used manure for this. I think that is what we are going to do next year. I am going to see if I can find cheap manure at one of our local farmers.

Finally, our timing was not great. We started a bit late in the season. It took us longer than we expected to get started. We should have planted the seeds and seedlings at least two weeks earlier. And we planted the last seeds too late. The fennels and broccoli that we planted after we had more room in the garden did not have enough time to grow. Next year, we are definitely going to try to plant earlier.

Conclusion

In total, our garden made us a profit of 50 CHF in one year! And it gave us excellent organic vegetables during the harvest season. We are really happy with the result. I was not expecting a profit from our garden this year honestly. It was a lot of work but we enjoyed it a lot. And we learned a lot during this year. We did many things wrong. But we are learning from our mistakes and we will not make them again next year. But I am pretty sure that we are going to make new mistakes next year!

Next year, we will probably still be in the same apartment. So we will still do the same garden. We plan to make it slightly bigger, but not a lot. Probably about thirty percent bigger. On the other hand, we are going to work on improving what we did wrong this year. I hope we are going to get better at it every ear :) Once we move to a bigger house, we are going to check for the possibility to have a garden too.

Do you have any gardening tips for us? Do you have a vegetable garden at your house?

About the author

Mr. The Poor Swiss

Mr. The Poor Swiss is the main author behind thepoorswiss.com. In 2017, he realized that he was spending more and more every year, falling into the trap of lifestyle inflation. He decided to cut on his expenses and increase his income. This blog is relating his story and findings. In 2018, he saved more than 40% of his income. He made it a goal to reach Financial Independence. You can send Mr. The Poor Swiss a message here.

8 thoughts on “How To Save Money with a Vegetable Garden”

  1. We also have our garden.
    If we calculate all cost, with water for
    irrigation and our work than result is negative.
    But main and only motive for having garden is healthy organic food for our family.

    1. Cool!

      Yes, once you factor in the costs of your own time especially, it gets quite crazy. It is not really worth your time as a side hustle. Water is pretty cheap in Switzerland and we didn’t irrigate much.

      As you said, organic DIY vegetables is awesome to have :)

  2. I had a garden in the latest several years (rented to our commune) – I still have no confirmation for this year so it might be history….

    I spend less than you because:
    – I make compost for fertilizer. The kitchen scraps, coffee waste, cardboard etc. => compost bin
    – perennial plants – buy once, harvest forever: kale, mint, some leaf plants, etc.
    -let 2-3 plants to make seeds and replant it. Again, if by mistake, our small potatoes are going to sprout (we buy organic food so there is a good chance to) – I save and plant
    – follow plants that I harvest several times. Zucchini, small cucumbers, green beans. For zucchini and green beans I frozen so I didn’t buy a part of winter. One cabbage can be harvest once, but kale I am harvesting for 3 years already, several leaves each time.
    -condiments here are f***ing expensive. I am not joking, some are 40-50 euro per kg…so I plant ill, parsley, celery, mint, cilandro etc. try a small pot to buy and spread it.

    Think the gardening is fitness :)

    1. Hi Claudia,

      Wow, you really take gardening seriously! That’s pretty nice!

      We are doing compost as well, but not at home, at my father’s home. This spring, we plan to use free compost for the garden.
      We do not use a lot of condiments, so I do not think we would save a lot on that one. In fact, we planted a few and we almost did not use them.
      I never tried to make seeds myself but that’s a great idea!
      I will also think about perennial plants this year.

      Thanks a lot for your advices!

      1. So let’s start to garden :)

        (I just received the confirmation from the commune administration: one more year of gardening for me :D – I informed my husband and he seems to be in the “enthusiast” mood :D )

        1. Hi Claudia,

          That’s very good news!

          Good luck with your garden this year once the season starts!

          We are probably going to increase the size of our garden a bit this year. But we are waiting to have a house for long-term gardening.

          Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Try beer traps for the slugs. 😁

    I’ve been gardening for the past 2 years with no prior experience and have had mixed results. We’ve gone on holiday during the middle of each summer we haven’t had an epic harvest yet. So hopefully this year with no planned holidays, we can grow an awesome garden.

    It’s winter here currently in New Zealand so we have spinach, carrots, and so far just tiny seedlings of kale, cauli, brocolli and onion.

    Nice to see another Financial Independence blogger keen on gardening.

    1. Hi Piki Dad,

      Thanks for the tip for slugs. I am going to try it if they come back this year.

      Yeah, a garden can be painful with holidays because of no watering. We have had to ask our neighbors several times for this.

      We don’t grow anything in Winter here, too much snow :P And we do not have space inside to grow seedlings, unfortunately.

      Good luck with your garden! I hope you will an awesome harvest this year!

      Thanks for stopping by!

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