Monday, December 28, 2009

Some Garden Economics

Today I made rosemary focaccia using the recipe from the blog Stephen Cooks. I heard about the recipe first, though, through Farmgirl Fare.

The rosemary I used was from my yard, and it’s a good thing that my plant is large, because the recipe calls for 4 tablespoons of chopped rosemary. Until I saw the growing pile of stems on the counter, I didn’t realize how many little leaves it was going to take to get to 4 tablespoons of chopped herb. However, chopping the leaves was more fun than I expected.

Since rosemary from the grocery store costs $1.99/oz, for the kind that isn’t grown following organic farming practices, this is one of those times when growing my own saves money in addition to tasting great.

The Cheap Vegetable Gardener reported in his blog last winter about some research he did into the economic value of garden crops, and his study showed that herbs and salad greens in general give a good dollar return on the space they take up.

To calculate economic values, he used someone else’s list of production values per square foot for the different crops and then went to his grocery store (Safeway) to find prices for the organically grown versions of the crops to use in calculating monetary production per square foot of garden space.

Of course, rosemary isn’t on the list of garden crops that were evaluated, probably because it is a perennial shrub that isn’t usually included in food gardens, but plenty of other herbs are on his list.

While his method of determining values may not be the way Arizona Extension conducted their research into the economic value of garden crops, and the list likely isn’t perfect for every gardener since the data for production per square foot are from Seattle (P-Patch garden) and prices per unit of veggie/herb vary somewhat across the country, The Cheap Vegetable Gardener’s list is fairly extensive and provides information that can be used by ordinary gardeners in making decisions about what to grow when dollar value of the food produced is an important factor in choosing what to grow.

The Cheap Vegetable Gardener’s list (note that prices in some cases are for ounces rather than pounds):

“Vegetable USD Value/SF
Cilantro $ 21.20
Arugula-Roquette $ 20.92
Green Salad Mix $ 17.55
Chives $ 16.40
Dill $ 16.40
Lettuce $ 16.20
Tomato, Cherry, small & medium $ 15.57
Turnip $ 9.90
Tomato, large $ 9.50
Squash, Winter $ 8.40
Tomatillo $ 8.00
Cucumber $ 7.74
Basil $ 6.63
Radish, Red $ 6.22
Pumpkin $ 6.20
Chard, Swiss $ 6.14
Celery $ 6.00
Squash, Summer $ 5.96
Choi $ 5.70
Peas, Snow $ 4.50
Pepper, JalapeƱo $ 4.50
Squash, Summer, Zucchini $ 4.17
Onion, Bunching $ 4.14
Pepper, Bell $ 3.60
Brussels Sprouts $ 3.59
Carrots $ 3.56
Rhubarb $ 3.25
Squash, Winter, Butternut $ 3.20
Kale $ 3.07
Grass, Lemon $ 3.00
Peas, English $ 3.00
Onion, Bulb $ 2.63
Radish, White $ 2.60
Bean, Bush $ 2.51
Peas, Edible Pod $ 2.50
Artichoke, Globe $ 2.40
Cabbage, Chinese Napa $ 2.24
Squash, Winter, Delicata $ 2.10
Spinach, Spring/Fall $ 1.80
Leeks $ 1.75
Potatoes $ 1.50
Parsnips $ 1.50
Garlic $ 1.37
Squash, Summer, Yellow $ 1.34
Parsley $ 1.31
Corn $ 1.25
Squash, Winter, Acorn $ 1.20
Squash, Winter, Hubbard $ 1.20
Eggplant $ 1.10
Greens, Mustard $ 1.10
Rutabaga $ 1.00
Beet $ 0.89
Cabbage, Savoy $ 0.80
Broccoli $ 0.80
Kohlrabi $ 0.75
Cauliflower $ 0.60
Broccoli, Chinese $ 0.60
Cabbage $ 0.50

Now, most of us are not going to live on, say, cilantro alone, so some common sense will have to be used along with the list in making decisions, but I am glad to have confirmation that the bits of space in my garden given over to herbs like parsley and cilantro are space well-used in economic terms.


  1. That's what I thought, when I ran across The Cheap Vegetable Gardener's list!

    Sometimes people ask me what plants will give them the most bang for their buck (not usually phrased that way, of course), and I've always listed tomatoes, salad peppers, cucumbers, and green beans as being good producers, and added blueberries as the home-garden fruit of choice for this area, but I've never actually evaluated the plants and their production to know for sure.

    I was glad to find the list, since it confirms that these are good choices. Now I can add "any herbs you use a lot of" when people ask!


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