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Vegetable Garden Quality, Yield, Savings Comparisons

How do you put value on your vegetable garden and the crops you grow? It depends upon what you want in return for the time you spend and the space your garden requires.

Fresh vegetables. If you want a steady supply of fresh vegetables for the table, make small successive planting over several weeks or a month or two so that your crops will come to harvest in small quantities and can be taken fresh to the table at harvest.

Flavor. If you are gardening for flavor, grow crops that you can pick at their peak and serve immediately. These are crops that do not store well, and that will lose flavor in even a few days: tomatoes, sweet corn, and peas.

Storing. If you are growing to keep vegetables on hand over several weeks or months, choose vegetables that will not lose flavor or texture when kept in the refrigerator or pantry: cabbage, potatoes, and dry onions.

Freezing, canning, or drying. If you plan to preserve your crops for long-term use, you will need larger quantities of a crop and all of the crops should come to harvest at the same time.

Saving money. If you are growing vegetables to save money–spend less at the grocery store, then you will want to concentrate your efforts on crops that usually cost more per pound: tomatoes, summer squash, and peppers.

Vegetables That Give the Most for the Least:

Here’s my list of crops that will give you very good value for your time, effort, and space.

  • Tomatoes. Grow two plants for each person in the family.
  • Bush beans. Grow 5 feet of row for each person.
  • Beets. Grow 2 feet of row for each person, but sow several times in succession.
  • Carrots. Grow 2 feet of row for each person; make several sowing.
  • Lettuce. Grow 3 feet of row for each person; make three sowings.
  • Chard. Grow 3 feet of row for each person.
  • New Zealand spinach. Grow 2 feet of row for each person.
  • Radishes. Grow 1 foot of row for each person; make 3 or 4 successional sowings.

Now, let’s compare more than 30 crops:

Several seasons ago, the agronomists at Washington State University Extension compared the relative quality, productivity, and monetary value of commonly homegrown vegetables. They made three comparisons: 1) the quality of garden-grown crops to store-bought crops; 2) the crop yield to the square feet required to grow the crop; 3) the money saved by growing your own compared to the cost at the grocery store. A “High” rating is the best value.

How Vegetables Compare in Quality, Production, and Monetary Value*

 VegetableGarden vs. store difference in quality Yield per square footRelative monetary value
 Asparagus high medium high
 Beans, bush medium high medium
 Beans, pole medium high 
 Beets low high medium
 Broccoli medium high high
 Brussels sprouts high low high
 Cabbage low medium low
 Carrots medium high medium
 Cauliflower low medium high
 Celery low medium medium
 Chard high high medium
 Cucumbers medium low  high
 Eggplant  high low  high
 Kohlrabi low medium medium
 Lettuce, leaf medium medium high
 Lettuce, head low low medium
 Muskmelon  low  low medium
 Onions, green high high high
 Onions, dry low medium low
 Parsnips low medium medium
 Peas high medium medium
 Peppers medium low high
 Potatoes low medium low
 Pumpkin  low  low  low
 Radish low  high  medium
 Rhubarb medium high high
 Spinach medium  low medium
 Squash, summer high high high
 Squash, winter low medium low
 Tomatoes high medium high
 Turnips low high  medium
 Watermelon low low low

*Source: Washington State University Extension

Related Articles:

Vegetable Crops Yields, Plants Per Person Estimator

Vegetable Garden Quality, Yield Savings Comparison

Estimating Yields of Vegetable Crops

Vegetable Crops for Beginning Gardeners

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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