Originally published July 1, 2009. See more of The Daily Green's innovative gardening tips.
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).
Related: Cheapskate Gardening Tips
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.
|3. Salad Greens||26||$198|
|11. Snap Beans||21||$53|
|12. Winter Squash||47||$46|
|14. Celery Root||10||$39|
Thanks to KGI for sharing the data, and the cool money crop photo. The vegetable photo is by Sue Wilson/Getty Images.
More from Roger Doiron
13 Questions for Roger Doiron: Gardening for Beginners (and for Politicians)
15 Ways to Eat More Local Food: Tips from Kitchen Gardeners International
How to Make a Backyard Greenhouse, otherwise known as a "hoophouse"
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