The Cash Value of Home Gardens

The ROI (return on investment) of a home garden can be $1,000 a year and $30/hour.

The benefits of a vegetable garden extend beyond the food being grown and the superiority of that food in nutritional value and quality over agribusiness-grown vegetables. I listed some of these intangible benefits in The Hidden Value of Gardens (September 13, 2014).

But we shouldn't overlook the actual cash value of gardening. The ROI (return on investment) of a productive home garden can be $1,000 a year and $30/hour.

Longtime correspondent Bart D. (Australia) recently shared a spreadsheet of his garden's yields, the cash value of these harvests and his cash/labor costs.

Rather surprisingly (at least to me), his garden produced over $1,000 in cash value and netted him over $30/hour.

"This economic summary excludes my fruit growing and poultry enterprises.

A major point of value that this overview doesn’t show is the huge improvement in the ‘quality’ of the product being consumed as prices are only for ‘supermarket grade’ product. I believe that the real value amount should be raised by somewhere between 50% and 100% of the amount shown to reflect the improved quality.

The quantities are metric. Conversion is 1 square metre is about 10.7 square feet. There are 2.2Lbs to the Kg.

I feel the $33.30 per hour of time invested is a return worth pursuing for anyone in a low to medium income household. Beats the $9.00 per hour being offered by Walmart!

One hour in your own garden means 4 hours you don’t have to spend shifting stock at Walmart to earn money to buy food."

Thank you, Bart, for sharing your calculations. I suspect my time probably nets out at a much lower rate per hour, but I have never attempted to weigh our small garden's harvest or its value. It is certainly over a hundred pounds of vegetables and dozens of pounds of fruit per season.

Here's a photo of our tiny urban garden:

One of the many veggies grown in this small plot--chard:

Our scarlet runner green beans--from the vine to the cutting board to the wok to our dinner plates:

One of our peach tree's annual offerings:

This large bowl of peaches represents a small part of the entire crop:

And the end use of the peaches: pies!

Some of our tomato crop, which I used tomake a delicious home-made pasta sauce: From Home-Grown Tomatoes to Home-Made Pasta Sauce (October 25, 2014)

As always, I need to confess that I am a lazy gardener (and cook). My garden is not picture-perfect; it has weeds, volunteer flowers, and not every experiment is a success. The point is even a lazy gardener like me can obtain a remarkable yield of high quality food with relatively little effort. And there's nothing like cooking with your own veggies and fruit and sharing the bounty with friends and family.

I think Bart is absolutely correct that one of the less quantifiable yields is a better quality of soil and thus of vegetables/fruits. I think it is quite reasonable to double the value of Bart's garden to $2,000 on this basis alone. In effect, every vegetable from a well-tended garden is an artisan product that commands a high price in the marketplace.

Many people live in apartments and condominiums with no yard for traditional gardening. But that doesn't mean growing vegetables is not an option. The Kratky method, developed by Dr. B.A. Kratky at the University of Hawaii (my alma mater) is a hydroponic method that everyone interested in sustainability and/or taking control of at least some of your own food sources should consider: A Suspended Pot, Non-Circulating Hydroponic Method (PDF).

This essay was drawn from Musings Report 46 (2014). The weekly Reports are emailed exclusively to subscribers ($5/month) and major contributors $50+/year).

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