KC Gardens

New Year’s resolution: Start a vegetable garden (now!)

By Dennis Patton

Tomato seedling
Tomato seedling Submitted

Welcome to 2016!

And for the gardener at heart the next couple of months are torture. We feel cooped up in the home, and we can often be found on a cold winter day staring blankly out the window thinking, planning and chomping at the bit to see the first signs of spring. But for now we must wait.

Over the last few years many people have caught the gardening bug by planting vegetables. There are many reasons to grow your own vegetables. People often say they grow their own fresh produce tastes better, plus a vegetable garden provides exercise, fun and a family activity.

If you have never planted a garden now is the time to start planning for the arrival of spring so that the first seeds or transplants of the season will be ready to go into the garden.

Kansas State Extension has several fact sheets that help make the process of starting a garden easier. The Kansas Garden Guide is your local step-by-step source for success in the garden. Even though it was authored by K-State, the information is still applicable to Missouri. The simplest way to find the guide is to just Google Kansas Garden Guide. It usually pops up as the first link. The guide can also be purchased if you prefer a hard copy instead of electronic.

Have you ever stopped to consider what the value is of growing your own vegetables? Some would say it is priceless. The joy of growing is reward enough, along with the supply of fresh-for-the-table, making it well worth the effort. But for those that like hard numbers here are some ways to quantify your investment.

Oregon State University Extension studied the savings a home vegetable garden can provide. Based on its research, gardens had an average value of $0.74 per square foot. That would equal $148 for a 200 square foot garden. These studies included the cost of establishing the garden the first year. These costs would certainly be less in the years following.

Personally I find this value low. Another way to determine value: how much would fresh vegetables cost if we purchased them at the grocery store or farmer’s market? Think about the price of a pound of tomatoes, peppers or small bag of spinach. I know in my own garden, for an investment of less than ten dollars in tomatoes and pepper plants I had more produce than the family could eat during the whole summer. And, the freezer is full of peppers for cooking this winter.

I don’t think people decide to garden thinking they will save money, or what the value is of the produce grown. We do it for so many other reasons. Whether you are a seasoned gardener or planting for the first time, use these cold winter days to make plans. That can only lead to success. But until then let’s go back to our day dreaming.