Rosalind Creasy along with her writing partner, Cathy Wilkinson Barash decided to experiment with creating an edible landscape to see what kind of cost savings could be realized at the grocers. Their results are chronicled in an article in Mother Earth News.
The Objective I took a 5-by-20-foot section of garden bed by my tiny lawn to see how much I could grow in just that 100 square feet. I wanted to produce a lot of food, and because it was part of my edible landscape, it had to look good, too. The Plants I wanted to make this garden simple — something anyone in the United States could grow. I didn’t include fancy vegetable varieties; I chose those available at my local nursery as transplants. I also selected vegetables that are expensive to buy at the supermarket, as well as varieties that my experience has told me produce high yields. The first season (spring/summer 2008), I grew the following:
The Results To determine what my harvest would cost in the market, I began checking out equivalent organic produce prices in midsummer. On a single day in late August, I harvested 49 tomatoes, nine peppers, 15 zucchinis of many sizes, and three handfuls of basil — which would have totaled $136 at my market that day. From April to September, this little organic garden produced 77.5 pounds of tomatoes, 15.5 pounds of bell peppers, 14.3 pounds of lettuce, and 2.5 pounds of basil — plus a whopping 126 pounds of zucchini! Next time I won’t feel bad about pulling out those extra plants. I figured the total value of my 2008 summer trial garden harvest was $746.52. In order to get a fair picture, I also needed to subtract the cost of seeds, plants and compost (I can’t make enough to keep up with my garden), which added up to $63.09. That leaves $683.43 in savings on fresh vegetables. Of course, prices vary throughout the season and throughout the country. I live in northern California, and for comparison, Cathy, who lives in Iowa, checked out her prices and figured the same amount of organic produce in her area would be worth $975.18.
- Two tomato plants: ‘Better Boy’ and ‘Early Girl’
- Bell peppers, which are often luxuries at the market when fully colored: two ‘California Wonder,’ two ‘Golden Bell,’ one ‘Orange Bell,’ and one ‘Big Red Beauty’
- Four zucchinis: two green ‘Raven’ and two ‘Golden Dawn’
- Four basils (expensive in stores but essential in the kitchen)
- 18 lettuces: six ‘Crisp Mint’ romaine, six ‘Winter Density’ romaine, and six ‘Sylvestra’ butterhead