In a study conducted by the USDA, one tomato seed can grow you about $50 worth of tomatoes. Is this number accurate? Maybe, maybe not, but I wanted to verify all of this for myself doing my own testing...’sort of’ real world testing.
With a pack of beefsteak tomato seeds in hand at a whopping cost of ninety-eight cents, I ventured on my not so scientific testing of whether or not I could grow $50 of tomatoes from a single seed. Using nothing more than what was already available to me, namely my backyard, I planted a single seed in an area that receives sunlight all day and close enough to my water source, namely the hose.
Currently at my local supermarkets, tomatoes of the beefsteak variety, retail for anywhere from $1.99 per pound to $2.99 per pound. So in order to be ahead of the game my tomato plant would have produce at least one tomato that weighed in no less than a half pound. That would equate to the total cost of the seed packet.
Now I know what some purists might be saying. What about the costs for water? While that is a legitimate question, my home resides in a township and we pay what is called a minimum water amount. This means I pay “x” amount of dollars for “x” amount of gallons regardless of whether or not I use that many gallons in a given month. I will say this, that watering one tomato plant at no time increased my water usage to the point where I went over the amount I was allotted before I was charged for additional usage. So in essence the cost of water has not been a factor.
What about your time? Your time is worth something right? Absolutely. However, it took me all of 10 seconds to plant the seed and then about ten seconds each morning to water it. I know my time is worth something, but I think I can afford 10 seconds a day. In order to get that 10 seconds back later in the day, I will be sure to visit my Vegetable Gardening Facebook page once less time.
Currently, as I am in the midst of tomato season here in NJ, my beefsteak tomato plant has 4 tomatoes on it, with plenty of yellow flowers on it that are about to produce more. If each of those four tomatoes weighs simply a quarter pound each (and they are well over that already), this one tomato plant will break even my costs. Of course I expect the plant to produce throughout the gardening season (barring any unforeseen disasters). Will it produce $50 in tomatoes? I say if it doesn’t it will come darn close. At the low end of $1.99 per pound this plant would need to produce 25 one pound beefsteak tomatoes, and if you have ever grown a beef steak tomato you know that really isn’t that hard to do.
But lets just say I planted five of those seeds instead of just one. Your cost per seed based on what a pack costs is still so nominal and really a trivial cost it becomes nearly irrelevant. Not to scoff at ninety-eight cents in these tough economic times, but you will easily get that back as I have already shown you and now you can multiply that success by five (or the number of seeds you planted).
Obviously different varieties of vegetables will have varying cost saving success rates. High producing vegetables such as cucumbers, zucchini and tomatoes will give you the greatest savings as will planting varieties of vegetables in your garden that cost the most at your local grocery store.
So who really is telling you that you can not save money with a home vegetable garden? Large companies? Mass production farm cartels (I made this group up)? No. I polled a number of people from my area and those that believed it didn’t save you money and was simply a waste of time were neighbors and those in my surrounding community. They felt it was cheaper for them to jump in their cars (at $3.49/gallon of gas), drive to a local supermarket and buy the fruits and vegetables there. I didn’t find this interesting, in fact I found it quite disturbing that there are those that believe that walking out your back door, picking a ripe tomato of a vine is far more expensive then driving to a store.
With so many people still believing a home vegetable garden is too expensive, I see that I, and other home vegetable gardeners still have plenty of work to do in converting the naysayers.
About the Author
Mike Podlesny is the owner of Mike the Gardener Enterprises, LLC, the exclusive home of the Seeds of the Month Club, which has appeared on NBC, ABC and MSN Money as a great way for consumers to save money.
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