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Top 6 most cost-effective vegetables to grow

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If you are growing vegetables in the hope of saving money, here are some suggestions for crops which have delivered real cost savings for us…

By Greg Seaman, Eartheasy Posted Jan 19, 2011

Tomatoes There are many benefits to growing your own vegetables, but saving money is not necessarily one of them. Some vegetables are simply cheaper to buy at the grocery store, and no amount of gardening savvy will result in a cost-saving benefit.

Over the years we have experimented with many vegetable crops, and while saving money is not the prime reason we grow vegetables, it is a consideration in our choice of what to plant. Although we are fortunate to have plenty of ground space for gardening, the work required to keep the beds fertile and weed free discourages us from planting some crops which are ‘dirt cheap’ when bought in season.

If you are growing vegetables in the hope of saving money, or want to make the most from limited garden space, here are some suggestions for crops which have delivered real cost savings for us. When planning your garden and buying seeds, however, be sure to choose varieties which do well in your growing region. Even within regions there are ‘micro-climates’ which affect growing conditions, so check locally for advice about recommended varieties for your locale.

1. Lettuce

Lettuce You may have noticed the price of lettuce has risen considerably in the past two years. At a nearby market today, red leaf lettuce cost $1.79 for a small bunch. (And the Spring Mix, a ready to serve assorted lettuce mix sold in a plastic box, cost $4 per 300 grams!) If you grow your own lettuce, from a $2 package of seed you’ll recoup the cost within a few weeks and enjoy your own fresh lettuce for months. Be sure to plant only a small amount of seed, or the unharvested mature lettuce will bolt. Save the remaining seed for replanting every two to three weeks throughout the growing season. This will ensure a steady supply of fresh greens for the table.

In our garden we grow two varieties of leafy lettuce, Magenta (red leaf) and Concept (green leaf). We do not grow head-forming lettuce, like Iceberg, because it takes longer to mature and when ready it gives us too much lettuce at one time. We find that head lettuce also harbors more slugs. The leafy varieties are easy to harvest by picking the outer leaves, and this lets the plant continue to grow and produce.

2. Bell peppers

Bell Peppers Green bell peppers cost about $1.50 each at our supermarket, and yellow and red peppers are even more expensive due to their extended ripening times. Pepper starter plants, however, cost about $1 each at our local nursery. This past year we planted ten pepper plants and each plant produced at least six peppers. We let most of our pepper crop mature until they turn red because they taste sweeter than green peppers. My rough estimate is that our $10 investment yielded about $100 in peppers. We don’t use commercial fertilizers, but did add about $5 in peat moss and $5 in amendments like rock phosphate and lime.

Easy to grow, peppers are commonly started early in small pots and transplanted when it’s warm enough outside. Pick off any small peppers that may form on transplants or the plant growth will be stunted. Pick the green peppers as soon as they reach size; this will stimulate new fruiting and increase the yield per plant. You can leave some plants unpicked if you want the peppers to sweeten and turn yellow or red; however, these plants will produce fewer peppers.

3. Garlic

Garlic The price of a garlic bulb ranges from $1 to $7 a pound. Our homegrown garlic, grown from cloves saved from the previous crop, cost less than $.50 a pound to grow ourselves.

Garlic is one of the easier crops to grow, but we lost our first couple of crops due to over-watering when the plants were mature. Garlic is often grown over winter which makes good use of garden space. Weeding is important as garlic does not like competition. Harvesting on time and curing properly are important for producing bulbs with good keeping qualities.

In northern regions, garlic does best when planted in the fall. The timing of fall planting should be such that the roots have a chance to develop and the tops do not break the surface before winter, about three weeks before the ground freezes. In some regions spring planting is traditional. We have planted garlic in the spring with mixed results.

4. Winter Squash

Squash At our local supermarket today, winter squash varieties cost between $1.29 and $1.99 a pound. (This is mid-winter pricing, which is more costly.) Our four homegrown squash plants yielded about 40 squash, weighing 4 lbs each on average, which adds up to about 160 pounds. This is worth between $200 – $300. We were given the starter plants, and spent about $15 in soil amendments. Squash starter plants are available for about $2 each.

Winter squash are a favorite among gardeners because they’re easy to grow, don’t require weeding once established, and most importantly, they keep through the winter to provide a valued vegetable for eating all winter and spring. The squash bed does need to be richly prepared before planting, and the runners need a lot of room to spread. If you have space to spare, then growing winter squash makes sense, and saves dollars. (In the photo below, all the squash leaves are from a single plant, which yielded 14 large squash.)

Squash Plant


5. Tomatoes

Tomatoes It’s difficult to come up with an accurate figure for the cost of tomatoes because the cost varies so much by season and region. But assigning a range of $2 to $4 a pound is reasonable for this comparison. Last summer we planted four plants of a large variety (Big Beef), two cherry tomato plants (Sun Gold), and two paste tomato plants. Each of the larger plants produced at least 15 large beefsteak tomatoes weighing 1 pound or more. I would estimate that we grew 80 pounds of tomatoes (worth $160 – $320) for a cost of about $40. (Starter tomatoes are about $4 each, and we added about $15 in amendments.

We grew all eight plants in the same 6’ x 12’ plot. The cherry tomatoes provide an early harvest, the large tomatoes are used for summer and fall eating, and the meaty paste tomatoes are good for freezing and canning. Paste tomatoes also make excellent fresh or cooked salsa and sauces. Having a ready supply of tomatoes for cooking during the winter months adds value, since the price of tomatoes goes up in winter.

6. Broccoli

Broccoli Broccoli costs about $1.50 a pound, which is pretty cheap. Central head weights range from 0.3 to 1 pound, so you get a fair amount of broccoli for the price. After cutting off the central head, many side shoots will grow below, and will equal two to three times the original crown. Our ten broccoli plants produced about 2 pounds each, so we grew about $30 worth of broccoli for a cost of about $10 in soil amendments. The amount of money saved is not enough to get excited about, but the convenience of having fresh-picked broccoli available for 6 – 8 months is a real bonus.

Broccoli is a cool-season crop, and can be grown both as a spring and a fall crop. Broccoli is a heavy feeder and requires soil rich with organic matter. We plant our beds in green manure during the off-season which is a low-cost way of fertilizing the soil. Before planting, compost and peat are worked into the soil, and lime and rock phosphate if needed.

Broccoli is highly nutritious and has been deemed an anti-cancerous food by the American Cancer Society. This vegetable is a good source of Vitamin A, calcium, and riboflavin (or vitamin B2). Even in our northern region, we are usually able to keep a few broccoli plants over winter and harvest the side shoots which continue to sprout. We’ve even had a few hardy plants continue to produce while covered in snow.

The figures used in this article are approximate. We did not weigh every tomato or leaf of lettuce. And the list is by no means exclusive. There are other crops which are cost-effective to grow, and some of the crops listed on this page may be difficult to grow in some regions. The examples listed here show what’s worked best for us, and serve to illustrate that growing your own vegetables can bring down your family’s yearly produce expenses.

As any gardener knows, growing vegetables is more than about saving money. Growing your own vegetables is healthier for the family because the produce is fresh and (hopefully) grown without chemicals. It is better for the environment by reducing the cost of food transport, there are educational benefits for the children, and oh yes, the vegetables will taste so much better!

To learn how to grow your own garden, see our page Backyard Vegetable Gardening.

For raised garden beds, composters, and other products to help you grow, check out our online store here.

Greg Seaman is the founder and editor of Eartheasy

Posted in Organic Garden Tags , , , ,
  • Annette G.

    I would suggest adding asparagus to your list. It costs $2 – $4 per lb in my supermarket. Asparagus is a perennial so one planting will give years of asparagus harvest.

  • rudalf

    You must include onion also as now the price of it increased in India.

  • Bruce Clement

    Have a look at New Zealand spinach (Tetragonia tetragonioides) it's very easy to grow and will self-seed in temporate climates.

    I used to grow it a few years back, and the only problem I had was that the leaves would go a bit "woody" once the plant was getting a bit old.

  • Mel

    Avocados are expensive and avocado trees can be grown yourself if you live in a warm climate zone. They like soil ph of 6 to 6.5. It is a shallow rooted tree that needs good aeration and does best when mulched with coarse material such as redwood bark or other woody mulch about 2" in diameter. Use about 1/3 cubic yard per tree, but keep it about 6 to 8 inches away from the trunk. Plant in a non-lawn area with full sun, protected from wind and frost. The ideal time to plant is March through June.
    Planting an avocado tree is a good long term investment.

  • Zoe

    I appreciate this information! You speak from experience and we are eager gardening neophytes!

  • Andyslog

    Very interesting article and Blog. I never thought about growing bell peppers. When is the best time to grow them?

    • Greg Seaman

      Peppers are a warm weather summer crop. Plant peppers in late spring.

  • Ken D Berry MD

    Great thoughts! You have to start somewhere, and growing your own is a very smart idea. Everyone should try it. Whether it’s herbs, or berries, or veggies, the financial and health benefits far out-weigh the small amount of time spent…

  • tur

    I appreciate this information.

  • Wow! very informative blog. It is a good idea to grow your own but now a days the price of Agricultrul land is also increasing boomingly so its a question (?) for me how I purchase land for growing my own.

  • Medical

    Awesome post. I am really impressed with your efforts put into this blog. It’s very useful for us. Thanks

  • Matt

    I just used to ignore the tomatoes but now I’m reading few good reviews about it so iI think I should start eating tomatoes .

  • Meg Garmin

    Very useful information, thanks!
    Raspberries are an economical crop to grow if you have the space in your garden. They are perennial and so one planting gives value for years, and raspberries are expensive to buy.

    • Greg Seaman

      Good suggestion Meg. We gave up on raspberries becasue the birds were relentless. Our neighbor has a decent crop of raspberries because he has built a large walk-in cage around the raspberries to keep the birds out.

  • Sherry

    I've tried to grow peppers but the fruit rots before it matures. How do you get such beautiful peppers?

    • Greg Seaman

      Could be a calcium deficiency. We add lime to keep the ph up, and put crushed eggshells into the soil. Also, we mulch the soil which keeps moisture levels even. Peppers will rot if stressed due to dry soil conditions.

  • aisha

    plant a cherry tree!

  • minnie

    Ever-bearing strawberries are perennials so you are saving money over the years. Strawberries are easy to grow too and fun for the kids.

  • bradappleton

    I have a great spring/summer garden but really don't do anything in the fall/winter season. I love garlic so will be planting that this year. I'm in the southern hemisphere so just nearing end of summer – what other vegetable are good to grow in the colder month that don't require a heap of attention?

    • Greg Seaman

      Edible perennials will survive the colder months with little effort on your part. Asparagrus is one of our favourites. Annuals, such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, and cauliflower do well in moderate winter climates, although they may need protection during cold snaps. We use a portable cloche and set it over some crops when the cold snap hits.

  • alex

    Great post ! I am a vegetarian and seriously thinking about getting myself a vegetable garden. Thank You

    • Greg Seaman

      Go for it! You'll find the rewards on many levels beyond the dinner plate.

  • Gothic Jewellery

    I've never had much luck with garlic I always appear to end up with single cloves and not bulbs I have tried again this year, I think perhaps I always put it in too late as it's normally late january before I plant it?

    Tomatoes I used to do so well with but it's been so wet the last 2 summers in the north of Ireland that I have been plagued with blight 🙁

    • Greg Seaman

      Plant your garlic in the fall, that is the key in your region.
      As for tomatoes, your problem is common to your region. The solution is simple and (for us at least) 100% effective. Just build a simple structure over your tomato plot so you can staple a sheet of clear plastic sheeting overhead. Leave the sides open, only the top needs covering. This will keep the rain off and you will have no blight. Also, mulch the bed which will keep moisture levels more constant, and water by hand, taking care not to water the foliage. This will work!

  • mas raden

    I really like tomatoes, because tomatoes are so many kinds of vegetables that benefit. . primarily to prevent heat illness in. .

  • Emma

    Your winter squash plants are astounding! I wish you would write an article about your secrets for growing squash.

  • i agree with rudalf, onion is stable food of millions of people

  • jeannie

    You have to include asparagus in your list! One plot of aspargus will produce for many years at no cost at all since asparagus is a perennial. And home grown asparagus tastes delicious, not like the bland asparagus from supermarket.

  • Smithlee

    Thank you for the Beautiful Article, really vegetables are good for health & i am also a vegetarian.

  • gritsngravy

    I just want to thank you for such a great article. But for someone who lives in a duplex, with no room of ANY kind to plant ANYTHING, then, what can I do? I'm lucky to be able to hang potted plants. Either way, I love your post. Many thanks, Texas

    • If you have a balcony or outside entry way you should be able to plant a couple plants in pots. I used to plant a tomato plant, pepper plant and had rectangle planter for strawberries when I lived in an apartment. You can also grow some plants on a window sill. Basil is a great window plant since it needs a warm climate. Sure you can’t do anything fancy but at least you should be able to have a few plants depending on your climate and needs. 

      • Elizabeth

        Check into sprouting. Organic seeds are available.

    • Browneyes87

      you can plant the bush variety of green beans, they only get about 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide, they have shallow roots. you can also grow lettace, they also have shallow roots and dont take up too much space

  • GritsNGravy – Have you considered a community garden plot? We’re working hard at getting one going in our neighbourhood.

  • Nilesh Shukla

    Very nice information about vegetables. I like Tomatoes so much like(We grew all eight plants in the same 6’ x 12’ plot. The cherry tomatoes provide an early harvest, the large tomatoes are used for summer and fall eating, and the meaty paste tomatoes are good for freezing and canning.)

  • Xan

    After 10 years trying to grow proper winter squash in my small (ish) backyard, I fully understand why it's so expensive. Temperamental and space-hungry. But I'll keep trying! Great article and great blog, thanks to The Yarden for turning me on to you!

    • Greg Seaman

      The key to growing squash successfully is preparing a rich hole with compost, peat and other amendments (e.g. lime, rock phosphate if needed), then filling the hole and forming the soil into a mound. Plant the squash on the mound so water drains away from the stem. We have had good results for squash with this method.

  • annisveggies

    My main interest is experimenting with growing perennial veggies, however as these cannot supply as wide a range as traditional annual veggies I am, like you, interested in growing veggies that are value for money. It is useful to know what you have found to be best value. I live in the UK so prices may vary a bit, but I think your choice is good guidance for us as well.
    Anni Kelsey

  • Helpful article for those who want to grow their own local food.As commercialization of Organic food is causing lots of chemicals and pesticides to seep into organic food. Home grown vegetables are the best bet.

  • Bradley Adams

    An interesting idea that would help us what to plant in our garden. Currently I only have tomatoes and garlic but will add it with winter squash and bell pepper .

  • Jfw57

    When I move, I definitely plan on tomatoes, apples, blueberries, raspberries, ect. What I have to learn about is how to control garden pests in an organic way. It sounds simple but pests are a major problem in gardens and any ideas I can learn will be new to me. I have the old attitude of spray poison and kill off everything, but this isn’t healthy. There has to be a way to do things smart!

    • Aprilsuerose

       To control bugs my dad plants marigolds in his garden.

  • Zml661415

    CUCUMBERS easy to grow and soo plentiful!! buy a couple $3 plants and they will easily pay for themselves when cucumbers are almost a dollar each!

    • As someone whose interest in gardening spilled over into market gardening (small farming_), I have to agree in general that (especially if the person has decent soil, a supply of water to add if needed. and enough warmth of climate and sunniness of the precise growing spot_) that cucumbers have to be high on the list of potentially very productive vegetables.

      Another key to high production (or, if you want and try hard enough, potentially “colossally” high production of cukes_) that some may not realize is vital, is keeping each and every vine picked reasonably on time: If you let even one cucumber get fully mature (overmature really_) into overly big size or maturity that lets it start maturing its seeds trying to form inside it, that particular vine is very likely to nearly shut down production of any more cukes. The built in goal of plants like this, is more one of maturing seeds inside the “fruits”–in other words, achieving the goal of potential reproduction–it is to produce a lot of “fruits.” They’ll settle for the minimal production if allowed to , if allowed to fully mature (over-mature_) any of the fruits into ones with the matured seeds inside that are the plants’ real goal. But prevent any cukes from overmaturing that way, and they’ll (until frost or other cause of end of season growth_) be likely to keep the fruits coming like there’s no tomorrow.

      Pretty much the same (all of the above-picking and production, site need including sunny spot, decent soil/decent watering needs_) for most all the squashes (except pumpkins somewhat , since they can handle somewhat poorer soils and some amount of shade._).

      The article, and some commenters, praise peppers as highly productive. In some areas, “maybe” so–maybe for all I know, areas where the soil leans toward basic instead of acidic. I do think that for the many many in areas of acidic soil, peppers , at least sweet ones and especially the “bell” type mentioned, are more likely to prove fairly much the opposite: rarely productive and if anything, on the difficult and tricky side to get more than minimal success with. I’m in the mostly acid-soil/acid rain Northeast, and only rarely do I see _sweet_ peppers doing very well anywhere around here. Only a few gardeners seem to have figured out the right “tricks” they apparently need here, to do well.

      Now, that being said, I don’t necessarily rule out , as a reasonably decent choice if wanting high production , another kind of pepper: “hot” peppers. It seems pretty clear that by and large, most any hot pepper variety is much more cooperative with less rich or less humus -filled soil, less careful growing methods and such. Here anyway, and naturally i suspect “in general” in most places elsewhere, the “hot” pepper varieties are a much much better bet (if you like them and will in fact be apt to put them to a lot of use_); they’re just much more cooperative and responsive to average , maybe non-expert and casual, efforts at growing them. sunny, warm to hot spot for growing and even just half-decent efforts at helping them grow, are about all most hot types seem to need to respond quite well.

      Most areas of the country “will” need, with peppers, to get plants instead of just seeds, or alternatively get seeds and grow their own future transplants indoors for a couple months before transplanting.

      With cukes, the relatively larger sizes of transplants can be worthwhile (as opposed to little tiny cucumber transplants_) but simply buying and planting seeds is quite apt to bring successful results almost as fast _( as to first fruits and such_)than going with transplants. and in the long run, seeding cukes instead of transplanting plants of them, if anything is fairly apt to bring a higher level of harvest per plant, due to seeded plants never having had the setbacks and likely partial stunting, that cuke transplants usually end up with.

      By the way, “if” you have storage space for long term storage, “or” simply use a lot of the item–“and” are at least a little versed in gardening principles–you might to keep in mind that some of the root vegetables–almost all of which are normally planted from seeds that in their cases especially tend to be very very low cost–can be (various types of root vegetables, I mean_) quite notably high in production. The most outstanding example for most, might be carrots. If you have the discount ten cent to twenty five cent packages where you are, then two or three of those packages could probably pretty easily bring you buckets full of carrots by the end of the growing season. In limey or high humus soils, same with beets (buy two or three times, at least, of seed though with beets_). Radishes can be very productive too, though they may need a little more care than their reputation for super-easy growing, would suggest “and” they’re best grown either mostly just in spring or fall, “or” if in summer in most areas, grown using mulch and plentiful watering and looking after.

      “String” (snap_) beans can be pretty productive so long as given basic care and watering and , as usual, kept picked without allowing much of any overmature beans happening…although they (except pole types_) aren’t so much constantly producing so much as capable of producing about two flushes of growth , after which they’re about done (except pole types_) no matter what you do. Can grow quite well in non-rich soil and may produce at least some picking in soil distinctly on the thin or poor side so long as it’s not ridiculously poor or pure sand. (String beans one of the best “beginner’s” (including children’s) choices .

      • Great comments all around Heath. You’ve inspired me to give carrots a try again!
        There is a note you made in the section on cucumbers which is a valuable tip – pick the crop as it matures. This is the case with many crops. Scarlet runner beans, a favorite of ours, will shut down and stop flowering if the early beans are left on the vine.
        These is so much useful information in your comment, I thank you for all the gardeners who may read this.

      • I guess if you’re into pickles— but how many cucumbers can you eat? And what do you do with all those cukes?

        • Amber Jo

          You can make pickles of all kinds as you mentioned, but you can also make a cucumber, oil, vinegar, salt & pepper salad; corn, tomato, & cucumber salad with oil & vinegar, Italian dressing, or mayo per your tastes; cucumber & black-eyed pea salad; add cucumber to regular salad; cucumber & cream cheese sandwiches; cold cucumber soup; etc. There are tons of cucumber recipes out there, but you have to be willing to experiment.

        • ararar3

          cucumber can be eaten diced in a salad with diced tomatoes, it’s a very practical side dish with grilled meat.

    • jeffs53

      So true,they grow like weeds!!

  • thewealthyearth

    love it, love it, love it. Keep up the good work…

  • Shannon

    What a great list. I grow all of those things and would agree with your asessment of the cost savings – the only difference being I wish I could grow winter squash! Looking at yours I’m thinking I haven’t given them enough space, and probably need to concentrate more on my soil. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Marcie

    Thanks for the info. Can you grow the squash as a winter crops in Cleveland Ohio ? If so how?

  • Cindy Scott Day

    But you can experience such a wider array of varieties by growing them yourselves, even if there isn’t a huge cost savings, especially delicate ones that can’t survive shipping and supermarket handling.

  • Linda Douglas

    Many garden centers, nurseries and home improvement stores are clearance pricing the vegetables they have left so you can get a head start on your fall garden by planting half-grown plants.


  • Here is our guide to growing a backyard vegetable garden.

  • Mince three to four cloves of garlic, and add them to two teaspoons of mineral oil. Let this mixture sit for 24 hours. Strain out the garlic pieces, and add the remaining liquid to one pint of water. Add one teaspoon of liquid dish soap. This mixture can be stored and diluted as needed. When you need to spray, use two tablespoons of the mixture added to one pint of water in a spray bottle.

  • mizirma

    Try the Square Foot Gardening book. I think it’s printed by Rodale, It has excellent plans for small space gardens.

  • We grow our own tomatoes every year, and can our own sauce. It is a lot healthier than the stuff you can buy at the store, not full of sugar and salt. Plus it tastes great! I use my own garlic, green pepper, onion, basil etc. And I live in the suburbs in southwestern Michigan, so it’s not like I’m in farm heaven here. If I can do it, anyone can. Even if all you have is a sunny windowsill in your apartment you could grow a pot of chives to season your food with.

    • Good comment Bill. Thanks

    • Melanie Kies

      I absolutely agree about the chives – any herbs, really. They’re terribly expensive to buy but really easy to grow. If you cook at all, fresh herbs make a big difference in the quality of your food.

  • Lisa

    I’m not sure I would include winter squash. I have been buying them for 88 cents at the grocery store. I am cooking them, pureeing them, and freezing the flesh. I use it in pumpkin recipes with no difference in taste!

    How about sugar snap peas? They cost a small fortune in the stores, but produce like mad in the garden. Leave them on the vine for pod peas. I think these are the ones that are the best money savers for me.

  • Tomatoes is one of my biggest cost savers. easily keep seed for the following year for free. Fresh toms all summer and canned and frozen for the winter.

    Saving cash on Fresh but also canned toms. Not yo mention the canned salsa and ketchup we make.

    • I so agree. Tomatoes are such a valuable and productive crop. Here it is December and we’re still eating fresh tomatoes.

  • Yes. One shortcut is to get 2 – 3 year old root clumps to plant when first establishing an asparagus ged.

  • Adam Morgan

    Great web site for the young people of today (Me)

  • After 5 years, you will start gathering bumper crops of Rhubarb!

  • HI Jan,
    Yes, garlic likes good draining soil so that is to your advantage.
    I am friends with a garlic farmer who has over 30 years experience. I will give him your email and ask if he will contact you. Perhaps he can offer some long distance advice for you.
    Good luck with your new venture.

  • doconnell864

    KALE – grow from seed and cut and come again, frost to frost – health benes cant be beat

    • So true. Easy to grow, survives frosts and mild winters, great for soups and salads.

  • Eli Silverman

    I really liked your article. I have a small garden (using Square Foot Gardening) that I will be expanding next year.

  • rmwilliamsjr

    it all depends on where you live. here in tucson, at about a penny per gallon for water, tomatoes cost $5/lb in water alone. my july water bill alone was equal to 9 months of our food bills.

    • Tough conditions for growing with such costs for water. I guess you are experts at using mulch, drip irrigation, xeriscape principles and other water saving gardening techniques.

    • Deckilaoi

      We live on the guadelupe river in seguin tx, so we have all the water we need for the plants and animals free!

      xoxo 🙂

    • trumpsahead

      If you mulch and compost heavily you will cut down your water bill to almost nothing: Any and all weeds should be chopped up and left in the garden soil, leaves in the fall should be saved and gathered into the garden, then mulched or ground up and used as ground cover along with the weed choppings, add rotted wood chips from a nearby wooded area, grass clippings, create a compost heap and use profusely, save your all your urine and dilute then add to compost heap.
      If you get a nice three inch layer of mulch all over your garden you will not get much of a water bill because your ground will retain moisture for weeks.

      • Good advice, thank you.
        The only time we don’t use mulch is in early spring when the soil needs the direct sunlight to warm up for getting seedlings to take. We also pull mulch back in spring to remove cover for insect pests which prey upon the young seedlings. Once the seedlings are established, the mulch is restored to cover the exposed soil.

      • Collie Nike

        I just had to respond to this–even a year later– because it’s sort of hilarious. I’m not dealing with the conditions out in Arizona, but I am in Southern California, where we have experienced major drought this past year, severely restricted watering requirements, and the hottest year on record since around 100 years ago, as I recall. All that said, it may interest you to hear that in Arizona, like in Southern California, there really aren’t many trees that drop leaves in the “fall” because, for starters, we don’t really have much of a fall. And due to extremely warm and dry conditions, many of the trees grown here are either evergreens or are actually ornamental succulents/cacti. Frankly, there’s a lot of just dead brush and brown and gravel too. I literally laughed out loud when I read your comment about a “wooded area”–we don’t have those, and the “wilderness” type areas we do have are full of pines or cacti or both and rocks (and rattlesnakes), I wish we did, but that’s bad of what makes trips to other parts of the country so magical: the terrain seems utterly foreign. And lastly, a very large portion of the population in AZ and NV, and even here now, thanks to the drought, don’t have any lawn at all; in the southwestern desert people have opted for gravel “lawns” dotted with succulents for decades. So yeah, not really any grass clippings to be had. I agree with your general points, of course, and mulching helps tremendously, but most everything that had previously relied on irrigation is dying here now–even super well-established, mature, old trees–where I live, for example, we had no rain at all from January of 2015 until a few days ago, and it’s now January 7, 2016.

    • David Wilson

      “at about a penny per gallon for water, tomatoes cost $5/lb in water alone” — if you are using 250 gallons of water for each 8oz tomato produce, you should have a LOT of opportunities to cut that usage down! Mother Jones recently did an estimate of water usage for crops (in the context of CA drought) and their estimate was 3.1 gallons per tomato. Seriously, given how many tomatoes a typical plant produces, you are saying you use thousands and thousands — tens of thousands — of gallons of tap water for each plant each year. That sounds like a double digit number of gallons per day average per plant, which is, quite frankly, almost unbelievable. I would actually kill my tomato plants if I watered them anywhere near that much.

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