What’s a Garden Worth?

In 2012 I decided I’d see if I could calculate the value of the produce we get from our garden. I set up a form I posted inside the pantry door and whenever we’d harvest something it would get counted or weighed and recorded on the list. For values we used the prices we would have paid had we purchased the same produce from the farmers’ market. After the last Brussels sprouts were harvested on December 23 I figured it was safe to say the gardening year was over and I ran the final numbers.

chinese cabbage

How did we do? The gross value I calculated was $426.48. That sounds like a respectable number for a plot that’s only about twenty-five feet square.  Once expenses were subtracted–primarily our plot rental and a surprising $38 for seeds that was almost offset by my $36 in plant sales–we still had around $360. One of the twelve beds produced practically no value given that it was planted in strawberries and two others were devoted to the bean crop I shouldn’t even count since I barely had enough to keep for this year’s seed thanks to the beetles.  With a different mix of crops and lower levels of insect predation I honestly think a value of $400 could have easily been achieved.

Granted, if I hadn’t planted a garden it’s unlikely I would have purchase seventy pounds of organic tomatoes at the market. Still, by growing them ourselves—as is the case with much of our produce—we’re inclined to eat more of them overall. And in the case of the tomatoes and other crops we’re able to preserve or store through the winter we’re eating from our garden year round.

As I mentioned, the biggest expense is the plot rental. But until we move someplace with a sunny spot we’re pretty much stuck, not that community gardening doesn’t have its pluses.

I’ve been mulling over ideas to keep expenses down for the 2013 garden and I may even issue myself a no-pay garden challenge. That would preclude purchasing some of the started plants including some herbs I would like to add to the mix this year. Look for more on this in the future.

Have you ever seriously looked at the economic value of your garden? It might be more than you thought.