But how economical is that home vegetable garden? Pretty economical, horticulturalists, educators and seed sellers say — if you choose your crops wisely and know what you’re doing.
Ball says the average cost-benefit ratio of home-grown vegetables is 1 to 25, based on a garden of 30 vegetables his company studied last year. That means every dollar spent on a garden produces $25 worth of vegetables.
However, with six of the most popular vegetables — tomatoes, beans, peas, bell peppers, butter head lettuce and carrots — the ratio is much better, he says.
A $10 investment in those seeds plus $80 to pay for soil, fertilizer and the cost of building the bed could yield $650 worth of vegetables — a savings, theoretically, of $560, Ball says. Burpee is offering those six vegetables for $10 (ordinarily sold individually for a total of $20) in an online seed collection called “The Money Garden.”
Yields are highest in raised beds, rather than traditional garden plots:
In a traditional home garden, good management may yield about .6 pounds of vegetables per square foot. Records of production over three years in a raised bed at Dawes Arboretum near Newark, Ohio, indicate an average of 1.24 pounds per square foot, more than double the conventional yield. Raised beds do not require the usual space between rows because no walking is done in the bed to cultivate or harvest. Hence, vegetables are planted in beds at higher densities – ideally spaced just far enough apart to avoid crowding but close enough to shade weeds.