Mel Bartholomew, whose Square Foot Gardening books have sold 2.5 million copies, turned his calculator toward the food we grow in our gardens to see what gives the biggest bang for your buck.
“There are real costs involved in growing,” Bartholomew says. “If you’re going to make an investment in edibles, treat your garden the same way you treat your 401K. It all comes down to ROI.”
Bartholomew, a former engineer, developed a mathematical formula for objectively calculating return on investment. Using data from the US Department of Agriculture and price surveys of produce costs in stores throughout the country, he was able to determine which garden crops offer the biggest payback. He analyzed the 59 most popular vegetables among home gardeners and, when the study was complete, some definite winners and losers emerged. The results of the study are detailed in, Square Foot Gardening High Value Veggies: Homegrown Produce Ranked by Value.
According to Bartholomew, the veggie with the highest return on investment is: Herbs, including favorites as cilantro, oregano and thyme, which finished at the top of the study offering a return of nearly $70 worth of produce for every square foot planted. The runner-up and highest-ranked true “vegetable” is the parsnip at $35 per square foot. At the other end of the scale are some popular crops, including bell peppers (you’ll lose about $2 for every square foot planted). At the bottom of the Veggie Value list are potatoes, with a return of negative $6 per square foot, compared to the cost of buying them at market.
Top Five High Value:
- Cherry Tomato
- Heirloom Tomato
Bottom Five High Value:
- Brussel Sprouts
- Bell Pepper
- Swiss Chard