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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Growing Veggies Grows Money

Growing Tomatoes and Potatoes - Gardening to Save Money on Food - The Daily Green
garden vegetables
If you shop at the grocery store for tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, salad greens or strawberries -- and who doesn't? -- then you are the perfect candidate for becoming a kitchen gardener.

Growing your own will save you an incredible amount of money -- more than $1,200 if you plant all five, according to the analysis of one Maine gardener.

Roger Doiron, the founder of Kitchen Gardeners International (and a 2009 Heart of Green Award winner), undertook the painstaking process of determining how much his garden was worth. He weighed what he grew and compared it to the cost -- on a per pound basis -- of buying the same amount of conventional produce at the grocery store, local produce at the farmers market or organic produce at a nearby Whole Foods.

Doiron has a pretty big garden -- 1,600 square feet -- and he estimated spending $282 on seeds, supplies, a soil test, compost and water during the year of his analysis. He grew 834 pounds of produce -- 35 varieties of vegetables, fruits and herbs. All told, he saved between $1,914.50 (compared to conventional produce at the grocery store), $2,149.15 (compared to local produce at the farmers' market) and $2,266.93 (compared to organic produce from Whole Foods).

Try and find a better financial bet in this -- or any economy. His return on investment was a whopping 678% (assuming he'd have bought that much produce at a grocery store).

Will you save that much? That depends on how much you spend on planting and maintaining your garden, how successful your harvest is (Doiron's apple tree was a bust), and how much the same produce costs at your local markets. (The analysis also papers over one confounding factor: Few would purchase 72 pounds of zucchini or 47 pounds of winter squash in a year, but if you've ever had a garden you know that part of the pleasure is finding recipes to deal with the mixed blessing of high yields.) Regardless, his analysis is a good indicator that you can save a bundle with a little effort -- effort that is rewarded not only in dollars, but in flavor, nutrition, exercise and time spent outdoors.

Here's a look at the 20 vegetables he grew that were worth $25 or more each, listed from most lucrative to least. For simplicity, we're listing only the value of the garden crop as compared to buying conventional produce at a grocery store. We've also rounded to the nearest pound and dollar. To see the comparison to farmers' market and Whole Foods prices for all 35 of Doiron's crops, and every decimal place, check out his raw data.
20 Garden Vegetables Worth $25 or More
garden vegetables

Crop Pounds Value
1. Tomatoes 158 $630
2. Potatoes 142 $211
3. Salad Greens 26 $198
4. Zucchini 72 $136
5. Strawberries 35 $104
6. Onions 54 $81
7. Carrots 34 $68
8. Cucumbers 34 $68
9. Peas 12 $62
10. Nasturtiums 1 $53
11. Snap Beans 21 $53
12. Winter Squash 47 $46
13. Leeks 12 $46
14. Celery Root 10 $39
15. Eggplant 21 $38
16. Peaches 13 $38
17. Basil 4 $32
18. Cabbage 40 $31
19. Endive 6 $28
20. Asparagus 9 $27

Read Doiron's account of his garden accounting and find more tips and encouragement for growing your own garden at Kitchen Gardeners International.

Thanks to KGI for sharing the data, and the cool money crop photo. The vegetable photo is by Sue Wilson/Getty Images.

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