Horticulturalist Claire Bickle crunches the numbers to show how growing your own fruit and veggies can save you money. She also shares her autumn tips for revamping or starting a produce garden in Brisbane's cooler months.
How much you save by growing your own fruit and veggies will depend not only on the size of your garden, season, soil preparation and plant care but how much you are currently buying/consuming in the way of fresh herbs and vegetables and fruit.
But on average, an everyday backyard can produce literally 100’s of kilos of produce every year and I find this can save up to 50% or more on a typical weekly fresh grocery bill.
Some cost estimates
If you are starting out, there will generally be an initial set up cost. You will need to buy seeds, plants, fertiliser, mulch and maybe even soil and organic matter will need to be brought in. There may also be extra water costs when growing through the heat of summer or during dry spells. This is where rainwater tanks come in handy.
On average the initial set up costs are around $200 to $300.
Compare this, however, to the average bunch of fresh of herbs you might buy at $5 a bunch each week. And if you are buying three or four bunches a week, there’s $20 a week cost straight up in herbs. If you’re growing you’re own basil, parsley, lemon grass and other common herbs I’ve found that can equate to a saving of up to $1000 a year, allowing for the minor costs of buying seeds or seedlings when you need.
And that’s just the herbs.
Crunching the numbers further and looking at vegetables, consider tomatoes as an example at $4/kg in the shops. A packet of 100 tomato seeds will cost on average of $4. These plants will produce roughly a kilo of tomatoes a week once established. Even when you have to add in those initial growing costs, if eating a kilo of tomatoes a week you still will be at least $200 a year better off.
So as you can see, a productive patch can not only be joy with regards to nurturing and harvesting your own fresh produce but it can also be a joy to the hip pocket.
Of course, there are the benefits of gardening and growing your own you can’t put a cost on – physical health from getting outdoor exercise, mental health from the therapeutic benefits, and all that skill-building along the way.
Autumn & winter tips
Below are some tips to get you going during Brisbane’ cooler months – a time that finds favour with many varieties of veggies and is also just a beautiful time be be outdoors.
Garden bed/container preparation
- Remove all spent crops if any, or if starting a new garden from scratch, remove grass and weeds.
- Replenish or create good, productive garden soil by adding organic matter content in the form of some well-rotted animal manures, compost and or worm castings.
- Then mulch gardens thickly with lucerne mulch or sugarcane. For those starting out, you may also need to add liquid gypsum if your soil has high clay content equating to poor drainage.
- If growing in containers, use a high quality potting mix that has all the Australian standard ticks on the side of the bag such as Rocky Point Potting Mix.
What can you plant in autumn and winter?
Kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kohl rabi, potatoes, loose leaf and hearting lettuce, garlic, strawberries, snow peas, peas, spring onions, onions, tomatoes, beetroot, carrot, Asian greens, such as choy sum, bok choi, tatsoi, wombok, mizuna, mibuna, silver beet, spinach, beans, rocket, endive, dill, fennel, coriander and more.
Mushroom kits of white and brown button mushrooms can also to be set up during the cooler weather months.
You do really reap what you sow when it comes to gardening.
The more effort you put into growing and feeding your edibles, the better the results will be. Once planted, regular side dressings of pelletised manure fertilisers can be applied through the growing season.
Regular applications of liquid seaweed and fish emulsion at fortnightly intervals will encourage good growth and improve overall soil health.