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Espalier Apples

Homegrown food saves money

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Sometimes gardeners are reluctant to admit it, but growing your own food saves money. JUSTIN RUSSELL runs through a few quick calculations to show that when it comes to generating astrononical returns on investment, nothing beats organic food gardening.

There are plenty of compelling reasons to grow your own food. Flavour. Freshness. Provenance. Nutrition. Satisfaction. But the one reason many gardeners seem reluctant to acknowledge, probably for fear of appearing tight-fisted, is money. Growing your own food, as opposed to buying it, will save you money. Take the example of an apple tree. Actually, for pollination you’ll need a second variety, so let’s say two apple trees. From a specialist fruit nursery, a pair of bare root trees on semi-dwarfing rootstock will cost you about $26 each plus some postage, adding up to total of roughly $60. Once those trees hit full production in about five years time, they’ll each bear an average of around 50kg of fruit every autumn (probably more). If we take the average supermarket price of non-organic apples of $4 a kilo, each tree will produce $200 worth of produce for a total of $400. Sounding pretty good? You bet. As a return on a $60 investment, the single year yield represents a very respectable 566%. But apples bear for a lot longer than a single year, of course, and a well cared for tree will continue to produce crops for a century or more. All kinds of variables might come into play over the course of 100 years, but let’s be purely hypothetical for a minute and work out the return over the productive lifespan of the two trees. An initial investment of $60 produces $400 kilos of fruit per year over 100 years at $4 per kilo. No even considering inflation, that’s a total yield of $160,000 worth of fruit, or a return of 266,566%. That’s so off the charts it would make a Wall St banker piddle in his pants with excitement. While my calculations aren’t perfect, and the return on annual vegies isn’t quite as astronomical as that for fruit, the principle is rock solid – food gardening using organic methods will save you lots, and lots of money. And the best part about saving money is that you can buy yourself time. If you’re growing most of your own food, you don’t need to work quite as many hours away from home (nor will you want to). You’ll free up more and more time to build thriving relationships with family and friends. You’ll have have greater opportunity to invest in the things that really matter.