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Vegetable Garden Quality, Yield, Savings Comparisons

Garden bed yieldsHow do you put a 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, that will lose flavor in even a few days: tomatoes, sweet corn, 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 crop 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 home grown 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*

 Vegetable Garden vs. store difference in quality  Yield per square foot Relative 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

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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