The DIY Farmer

Why You Should Garden During a Recession? Advantages and Risks Explained!

You may have heard the news outlets warning us of the looming financial decline in the United States. If this makes you feel scared or confused, you’re not alone. 70% of Americans are afraid there will be an upcoming economic recession. We have already felt the impacts, too – soaring inflation and a more expensive cost of living across the board. It is easy to understand why many of us are feeling uneasy, and looking to change our habits to prepare, to start a garden.

It can be the perfect time to pick up cost-saving habits that make you feel in control of your life. Rather than spend your energy worrying about something out of your control, you can plan and take control of your future. Enter the perfect opportunity to take up gardening and grow your own food!

When making the jump, there are a few factors to consider in recession gardening. Is this a good time to start gardening for you? Do you have space for new plants, either indoor or outdoor, to start growing? Even so, what are the cons to consider first? We clearly biased toward sharing the beauty of gardening with the world. However, embracing your green thumb entails preparing for what lies ahead.


Advantages of Growing Food During Economic Downturns

We will explore the advantages of growing food below during economic downturns, shedding light on how this practical skill can be a source of stability and empowerment during challenging times.

Growing your own food can be a sustainable way to reduce grocery bills and ensure access to fresh produce during economic downturns

Save Money on Food

Paying for food is one of those expenses that is hard to cut. During recessions, it’s common to see people pause spending on Netflix, coffee, and pizza delivery to save money. However, many of us don’t have the privilege to stop paying for grocery needs altogether. Even so, the price of groceries has increased by 10% in the past year! So, why not explore growing your food?

Most people think they are unable to grow their harvest if they live in an apartment or compact space. However, this could not be any further from the truth. Even studio apartment dwellers can get creative and find space to grow. For more details on how to optimize your space, check out our Tiny House Gardening Guide here. No yard? no problem!

We will touch on this more later, but there are upfront costs to gardening. The key is that over time, the cost of gardening supplies is far cheaper in the long run compared to purchasing the grown food from a supermarket. If you are willing to let time work for you and plan on growing food for years to come, the cost of supplies will pay back several times over.

A resource to regrow your food also bears more opportunities than just reduced grocery bills. There are so many ways to be creative here. Perhaps you can sell extra veggies to your friends and family to add a little side income. Yes, gardening could make you money, not just cut costs! 

Even better, why not move to an old-fashioned trade system? Bartering is less common than it used to be but is fantastic for the gardening community.

Imagine finding a neighbor who drops off a carton of eggs, fresh from their home chicken coop, and leaves them at your front door each month. All it costs you in return is a basket of farm-fresh tomatoes from your backyard garden. This is far more attainable than it may seem, and a great way to add variety to your homegrown food palate (especially if you constantly have “too much” of one harvest to eat all by yourself).

Learn a Resourceful Skill

Economic struggle makes people scared for the future. Are supply chain shortages likely? Might I lose my job? Will panic buyers empty store shelves as in 2020? While I wish we had more control over this, I will say that gardening helps me feel more prepared for uncertainty. 

Gardeners are Disaster-Prepared

Have you ever heard of “Survival Gardening?” Perhaps you’ve seen this on zombie apocalypse TV shows, but this is a very real concept. Growing food is a vital skill that disaster preppers are learning to plan for the worst. In case of a natural disaster emergency where our food supply is at risk, gardening is almost as important as learning CPR or how to start a fire in the woods. 

Reduce Carbon Footprint

Unfortunately, there is a lot of waste in the United States’ current agriculture system.

For example, did you know that US produce travels an average of 1,500 miles to reach you? This means more fossil fuels, greenhouse gas emissions, clean water, and agricultural chemicals are involved in the farm-to-table process.

Sourcing food locally is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint for two main reasons. Not only is your food not traveling miles and miles to reach you, but most likely you aren’t using the same resources to grow your food (such as power equipment and strong chemicals).

By the way, shopping at your local farmer’s market is a fantastic way to limit your carbon footprint! Local food travels far fewer miles to reach your kitchen table when grown nearby. local food, typically farmed more sustainably with fewer miles traveled, leads to healthier and fresher eats all around. You also may meet some like-minded people who can give you some pointers on gardening!

Growing food during all the ups and downs in the economy means doing your part at the end of the day. After all, “feeding the world” shouldn’t be synonymous with damaging the environment.

Enjoy Higher Food Quality From your Garden

Fresh and convenient: enough said. The luxury of farm-to-table food speaks for itself. Cut out those last-minute trips to the grocery store while indulging in fresh-picked food!

But how does this apply to the economy?

The effects of sourcing food in a grocery store are exacerbated during rough economic conditions. For example, “panic shoppers” and bargain hunters in 2020 emptied grocery shelves for weeks on end. Not only was there a toilet paper shortage, but fresh produce and meat were hard to come by.

More people stocking up creates more demand, putting pressure on farms to stock grocery shelves faster. In other words, the process is rushed. Speed is prioritized over quality, especially when the economy is in a pinch.

Risks and Downsides to a Garden

Having a garden can be wonderful, but it’s important to know that there are some tricky parts too. Knowing about these challenges can help gardeners be ready and find ways to deal with them. Here are some risks and downsides of having a garden.

Gardening can sometimes lead to unexpected challenges such as pests or plant diseases which pose risks to the health and yield of your plants

Potential for Stress

Don’t get me wrong: gardening is fun. It can also be relaxing, and mindful, and help you be more in tune with the Earth. However, learning a new skill can also be an emotional rollercoaster.

Trying something new means making mistakes, and the frustration that comes with it. I love having greenery in my space, but I cannot say I enjoy finding pests, constant dirt on the floor, and unexpected bumps in the road. It is also too easy to criticize yourself when not everything goes as planned. I know this is something I am working on inside and outside of the garden.

Maybe this is the time to start, but maybe it isn’t. There is value in changing one thing at a time and being patient. Economic uncertainty is already a scary time for lots of us. So, just be aware of how picking up a new hobby in an already chaotic world may negatively add to your plate.

We still stay true to our opinion that gardening only betters your life – especially growing your own food. However, even though there are net positives, there will be small bumps in the road and learning experiences. This isn’t to deter you, but to make you more prepared for what lies ahead.

Learning Curve

This builds on our previous point. Everyone starts somewhere, and it takes time to learn the ropes of gardening. The reason this is important because it may take more time and sweat to grow your own food when accounting for the learning process. Be prepared for trial and error as you learn what works and what doesn’t.

Garden results are not guaranteed – especially at first

Sometimes gardening feels more like an art than a science. What works for some people does not work for everyone. There is also an infinite list of what can go wrong: nutrient deficiencies, pesky insects, overwatering, and so on. Be prepared to learn as you go and know that the full healthy harvests you see on Instagram are not what everyone experiences. Stay in the game and keep growing.

For more guides on how to garden as a beginner, check out our tips here for starting out. Don’t worry, we have got you covered every step of the way!

Cost of Trial and Error Garden

Recession Gardening
Embracing the trial and error of gardening can involve upfront costs but it also offers valuable learning experiences and the eventual reward of homegrown produce

In the long haul, it can and will cost less to grow your own food. However, this does not come for free. There are startup costs that may not pay themselves back until a few months or years of harvest. These starting expenses include potting soil, gardening containers, fertilizer, equipment and tools, seeds, and so on.

Let’s crunch the numbers as an example. Here is what it costs to grow your basil:

  • Seed Packet: $2
  • Seed Starter Tray: $3
  • Nursery Pot: $3
  • Bag of Potting Soil: $6
  • TOTAL: $14

(This is being extra cost-savvy, so we won’t build in costs for tools or the incremental cost of water.)

You spend $14 on gardening supplies to grow basil. After weeks of water, sunlight, and patience, you will find plenty of fresh basil at your fingertips! The longer it grows, the more basil there is to enjoy.

By the way, you can buy a whole pot of pre-grown basil at the grocery store for $3-6 in total. Does this sound like a better deal? Is it worth the time and money for something relatively inexpensive to buy? Do you like the idea of saving time and space in the growth process?

On the other hand, the first option is recurring while the $3 basil is one-and-done. Your $14 gardening investment will bring you TONS of herbs in the long haul. Your homegrown basil will keep giving back in the long run, far more than the 2-3 batches this money would buy you at the supermarket. It is also worth noting buying supplies in bulk and sharing them for multiple crops will reduce the cost overall when you can pool resources. It just depends on your goals and how long you are determined to stick with it.

To summarize, if you see yourself growing food short-term, it may be cheaper just to purchase your groceries at the store. However, if you are determined to stay in the game and grow around the clock for at least a year, most likely this will be a cost-saving investment. It is up to you to weigh your options and your goals to determine if this is more cost-effective or cost-consuming.

Time Commitment

Not only is there a learning commitment and cost commitment, but it all takes time. Some herbs take a couple of weeks to grow, while some trees can take years before bearing fruit. Be prepared to be impatient.

We LOVE instant results

Instant messages, oatmeal, and downloads. We are accustomed to everything at our fingertips with virtually no wait. The problem here is that gardening is by no means instant! The plants make the rules. Gardening is here to remind us that nature cannot be rushed.

The good news is this can be spun into a positive if you choose to accept it. Learning to appreciate the passage of time is one of the beautiful benefits of living off the land. There are some things we just cannot rush or control. Learn to surrender your control in the garden.

We hope this helps you see the ins and outs of growing food during an economic recession! For some helpful gardening tips, please check out our other blog posts here.

Related Article: Garden Business Plan: The Best Free Advice


1. Why should I garden during a recession?

Gardening during a recession offers financial savings, fresh produce, and therapeutic benefits, enhancing self-sufficiency and resilience.

2. What are the advantages of gardening in tough economic times?

Gardening allows you to reduce grocery expenses, cultivate nutritious food, and promote mental well-being, fostering a sense of security and independence.

3. How does gardening contribute to financial stability during a recession?

Growing your food reduces reliance on expensive store-bought produce, offering long-term savings and a reliable food source amid economic uncertainty.

4. Can gardening help mitigate the impacts of food shortages during a recession?

Yes, by growing your fruits, vegetables, and herbs, you can supplement food supplies and reduce dependence on external food sources, enhancing resilience in times of scarcity.

5. What are some potential risks to consider before starting a garden during a recession?

Factors such as unpredictable weather patterns, limited gardening space, and the time and effort required for maintenance should be taken into account when planning a garden.

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Finn Anderson

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