There are few things as satisfying in life as standing back from a newly-weeded garden plot and surveying your work. Whether that bed is full of shrubs and colorful flowers or tasty edibles doesn’t matter: it feels good to be able to say “I did that” while pointing to a beautiful garden bed.
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are lavishing attention on their gardens — particularly those who grow fruit, vegetables, and herbs for their own use. Backyards that used to be sown with grass are now filled with beds dedicated to farm-style living, with rows of tomatoes, beets, and carrots.
If this sounds like you, we invite you to read on. This guide will help you find ways to dive into the gardening movement, eating organically and tending flowers, while also impacting you homeowner’s insurance in the process.
In this article:
Benefits of Having a Home Garden
According to the National Gardening Association, even before the pandemic, one in three households were involved in growing their own food — a number that has risen consistently in the past several decades. Some of the highest growth is seen in young adults and millennial families who live in urban areas. Even a postage-stamp-sized backyard can be used to grow a row of sweet spring snow peas or juicy tomatoes, and people are digging in (pun intended) with gusto. Why? There are several reasons for the increase.
When you grow your own food, you can control the additives you feed it. The organic garden industry is also growing rapidly, and there are many fertilizers and disease control options available today that don’t use harmful chemicals. Integrated pest management is easy and allows you to control the insect population without ingredients that are known to be harmful, like glyphosate. As a result, you know that the food you’re feeding your family is fresh, local, and, most importantly, safe.
An engaging hobby
Gardening can be an engaging and enjoyable hobby. Once your garden is set up and you have a set of garden tools, it’s not expensive: you’ll probably buy seeds once a year, and maybe some starts from the local garden center, which aren’t expensive. If you use compost, you don’t need to buy fertilizer, and there are few other inputs that your garden needs to thrive. It’s fun: planning your garden in the snowy months, raking the ground smooth in the balmy spring, and picking a trug-load of tasty veggies can be very satisfying. And it’s great exercise, with a mix of cardio and strength-training motions that can ease off the pounds while helping you stay heart-healthy.
In addition to the physical exercise, gardening has mental benefits as well. Providing your family with all the ingredients for a savory meal of, say, pasta primavera is immensely satisfying. But that’s not all: working in your garden, away from the distractions of TV, cell phone, and other devices, can soothe the soul and help you regain a centered mind in the midst of a chaotic world. The time you spend in your garden is never wasted, and offers mental and emotional balance while you tend your plants.
Costs Associated With Having a Garden
One of the great things about gardening is that you can spend as little or as much as you want on it. Your garden might cost you only $10 or $20 for a few packets of seeds, or you might spend thousands on professional landscaping and beautiful plantings. It’s all up to you. There are several factors to take into consideration when planning your garden budget.
In general, the larger your garden, the more it will cost to build and maintain it. With a small backyard garden, you can get away with a few hand tools and not much more, but a larger garden might require more expensive equipment such as seeders, compost spreaders, or a pricey broadfork to till the soil.
Your location may impact your garden costs as well. If your home is situated on rich, dark soil that is light and friable, you’ll be able to plant just about anything and have it grow. On the other hand, if, like many people, your house is built on disturbed soil, with thin or non-existent topsoil, you may incur costs in bringing in good soil or amendments to improve it.
Unless you make due with plants given to you by others or foraged at the roadside, you’ll have a cost for each plant you grow. Seed packets are generally available for around $5 or less, and a single packet gives you the possibility of multiple plants. Purchasing pre-grown seedlings at your garden center may run you $6 or more per plant. So if you have a simple garden with a few grown-from-seed flowers or veggies, your costs will be minimal. A more complex garden structure, however, with dozens of flowers or a whole kitchen-worth of produce, may cost more.
As we mentioned above, if your soil is poor, you may incur costs for bringing in topsoil or soil amendments, such as fertilizer, mulch, or compost, to improve quality. For some gardeners, the best solution is to use raised beds with soil purchased by the cubic yard, which can be delivered right to your house from many garden centers. Cost for this varies greatly depending on your location, but you should be able to get several yards of soil delivered to your home for a few hundred dollars or less.
Seeds are probably the least expensive garden cost. For less than the cost of a cup of coffee at Starbucks, you can buy a packet of seeds that will give you a whole garden bed worth of colorful flowers or veggies. Many people plan their gardens and purchase seeds online from one of the many purveyors of quality seed in the U.S., such as Burpees or Johnny’s Select Seeds. A packet of seeds, which may contain hundreds of potential plants, will cost roughly $5.
Most gardens can benefit from a fertilizer amendment, and you can purchase bags or sprays at your local garden center for less than $20. You can also improve your soil for free by composting your kitchen wastes. Keep a spot in the corner of your yard for dumping veggie scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds, and other kitchen cast-offs, and in six months to a year you’ll have a rich, dark amendment that can be spread around plants — at no cost to you.
How much you spend on pest management supplies depends on where you’re located and what sort of insects are in your area. Avoid spraying chemicals whenever possible, especially on food crops. Natural pest management — such as setting out trays of beer for slugs, who will crawl in and die — is easy, cheap, and efficient. It also helps to preserve the “good” bugs, like ladybugs and praying mantises, that eat the insects that prey on your garden crops. A quick online search will yield tons of information on how you can control pests without the use of chemicals.
What about pests that are larger than insects? A roaming deer herd or hungry family of bunnies can decimate your lettuce and more. But here, too, there are a range of options that may help. The most expensive — and, admittedly, the most effective — is fencing in your garden. But if the costs of that are prohibitive, there are many low-cost remedies on the market that repel everything from rabbits and raccoons up to deer and larger animals.
Homeowner’s insurance coverage
Having a garden doesn’t always mean you need to pull out your wallet: your garden can also save you money. Living on land with a well-groomed garden or green space may increase the value of your home by 15-30%. That can pay off in a big way when you put out a for sale sign on the front yard.
It may also impact the amount of homeowners insurance you purchase. Dwelling coverage is the portion of your insurance that covers your home and its environs, including exterior spaces. Since your landscaping and gardens add value to your home, you’ll want to consider that value when you buy your policy.
What happens if a disaster damages or destroys your garden? Are you out for all the costs you put into it, from soil to seeds? Probably not, depending on your insurance. Most policies consider your garden to be a “permanent feature” of your home, and so your garden would be covered if something happened to it that was caused by a named peril.
Your policy should spell out for you the named perils that are covered, but here’s a list of what’s generally considered a named peril:
- Fire or lightning and smoke damage
- Hail or windstorm
- Riots and vandalism
- Falling objects (such as trees)
- The weight of snow, ice, or sleet
- Accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam
- Accidental tearing, cracking, burning or bulging
- Sudden damage caused by a short circuit
- Volcanic eruption
If damage to your garden, garden tools, or structures such as a greenhouse occurred because of one of these perils, you would be covered — minus your deductible. So if, for example, a tree crashes in your backyard, destroying your tool shed as well as a garden bed with a mature Japanese maple and other shrubs that cost you hundreds of dollars, you should be covered.
It’s worth noting, however, that coverage for landscaping is limited to a percentage of your dwelling coverage, usually 5%. So let’s say your dwelling coverage is $300,000, and you have a $2,000 deductible. Your coverage for the fallen tree would be that $15,000 minus your deductible, for a maximum of $13,000 for the landscaping repairs.
The tool shed, on the other hand, may be covered under your other structures coverage, so different limits apply. The cost of removing the fallen tree, meanwhile, may be covered, depending on your policy — but only if an insured structure is damaged. If not, you’re on your own for the debris removal.
Another point to be aware of: the most common types of homeowner’s insurance don’t cover flooding or earthquake damage — both of which can wreak havoc on your garden. You’ll need an amendment to your policy or additional flood insurance if you’re located in an area where these disasters are known to happen.
Although you’ll want to include the value of your gardens when you consider the amount of dwelling coverage you purchase, having a typical backyard garden shouldn’t increase your premium costs significantly. The only time when you’ll need to consider additional insurance for your gardening activities is if your garden has grown to the point where you are selling your produce or flowers at a farmer’s market or to restaurants or other food sources.
In that case, ask your insurance rep about coverage for this small agricultural business. Insurance for small farming businesses is available that will cover challenges such as crop failures due to weather conditions or pests, which would not be covered by residential homeowner’s insurance policies.
Whatever the nature of your gardening activities, it’s a good idea to read your policy documents carefully — even the small print — and to ask your insurance agent if you have questions about coverage for your garden and landscaping. Every policy is unique to the circumstances of the individual policyholder, and you want to be sure you are adequately covered if something should happen to your home’s exterior spaces.
Gardening is a commitment — of time, money, and energy — but the rewards in store for you when you have cultivated a well-maintained garden are immense. You may end up spending more time than you thought you would out in your garden, purely for the enjoyment of being there.
It’s important to make sure that your investment is protected by your homeowner’s insurance. Although you’re on your own if aphids attack your roses or cucumber worms show up on your broccoli, your policy should cover you for larger disasters that may leave you on the hook for thousands of dollars worth of plants and hardscaping.
The best way to ensure your garden is adequately covered is through a quick phone call or email to your homeowner’s insurance company to make sure that your coverage is solid when considering the types of disasters that may strike in your region. This will give you the peace of mind in knowing that you can look forward to years of floral beauty, healthy food, and the serenity that comes naturally in a garden.