Todd from the Big Blog of Gardening recently commented on an article here about Planting Your First Vegetable Garden and took exception to the idea that growing your own is a lot cheaper than store bought produce.
To illustrate his point Todd cited some expensive tomatoes that were raised in his backyard garden:
Well, I don’t know about the “cheaper” part of growing your own vegetables. Yes, seeds are cheaper, but when you add up all of the organic inputs, I’m sure that each tomato is costing me $64! However, I wouldn’t have it any other way….
The Home Gardener’s Guide to Cultivating a Priceless Tomato
I’m sure that Todd was exaggerating when he described those pricey tomatoes that were harvested from the garden, but he may just be on to something; could it actually be possible to grow such an expensive tomato?
Well here are some things that one can do to help cultivate such a high priced fruit:
• Purchase Transplants – Sure transplants are convenient and in the case of tomatoes, probably the best option for the new gardener, but I’ve seen individual seedlings priced as high as $4 to $5 apiece. At that rate you’ll be well on your way towards producing the world’s most expensive tomato!
• Got Tomato Cages? – If not, they’re a bit pricey at a few dollars per cage for the flimsy generic models that don’t work very well. Purchase fancier Texas Tomato cages, tomato ladders, spirals, or one of the other deluxe support devices and you can easily spend upwards of $25 per plant just for the supports!
• Gourmet Tomato Food – Yes, you’ll find all sorts of special tomato fertilizers on the market, and I’ll admit that the last thing you want to do is feed your tomato plants a steady diet of high nitrogen fertilizer, but I’m not convinced that they need expensive, gourmet quality food either.
• Planting Early – Even if you start your tomatoes from seed you can still enter the running for a $64 tomato by sowing your seeds super early. If you start them during the month of January you can incur additional expenses on heating and electric lighting to pamper the transplants until it’s warm enough to set them out in the garden next May.
• Tomato Supplies – Here you’ll encounter everything from tomato irrigation devices, organic pesticides, blossom end rot treatments, seedling trays and containers, bloom sprays, special colored mulches, hydroponic grow systems, and more. Total everything up and that $64 tomato is beginning to look like a bargain!
Less Expensive Alternatives to the $64 Tomato
So it looks like it really is possible to grow a $64 tomato… but it’s just as possible to raise a tomato that will cost you pennies compared to what you’ll pay at the local market. And you’ll know exactly how and where it was grown, what was used in its cultivation, and it will taste better than anything on the grocer’s shelves!
I’ll admit to using my share of gadgets in the garden, but I also know how to do without the devices and outside inputs if necessary. Last weekend Roger Swain, former host of the Victory Garden program was in town for a garden show and mentioned that one way to judge the success of your vegetable garden is by how little money you spend in it. That’s a great point of view and measuring stick to use in the garden!
If your goal is to produce a $64 tomato of your very own, we’ve covered enough ideas to start you well on the way towards reaching it. But if you want to cultivate tomatoes and save money in the process, browse the section on raising homegrown tomatoes, watch the video of an inexpensive trellising system, and learn the simple trick to encouraging stockier seedlings.
Download the Veggie Garden Primer to Avoid Costly Decisions
I’ve also written a new eBook that’s designed to help you avoid creating the world’s most expensive vegetable plot. Start your new garden off right by downloading a copy of the “Veggie Gardening Primer” eBook. It’s free when you subscribe to the Gardening Secrets Newsletter, and features a 7-part companion email series of tips for the beginning gardener.
You decide… you can raise the next $64 tomato, or you can harvest loads of fresh produce from your backyard relatively easily and inexpensively. And while you’re deciding, feel free to comment below and share the most costly contributions that you have made in the past towards a sixty-four dollar tomato of your very own!
Other Related Vegetable Gardening Posts: