As you leaf through your seed catalogs and visualize your garden for this upcoming season, consider the financial return that seed order will bring. This piece by Celeste illustrates the significant return her garden provided.
The Spring/Summer of 2008 was the last year that Denver Botanic Gardens Community Gardens was located at the corner of York and 11th Ave. Those plots had been upgraded by organic compost, manure, and gardeners over many years. My 10x15 foot plot was one that was new to me that year (each year '06, '07, and '08, they moved me to a different plot). A friend the year before had asked me if I thought that the $50 I spent on plants at the DBG plant sale had paid off. I also had read the monetary value of growing on relatively small areas of land. It seemed to be an exaggeration. So I decided that 2008 was the year I'd keep track--more or less--and let my friend, and anyone else, know.
So I think I spent about $65 on seeds and seedlings that year. I began my planting with peas and lettuces and radishes in Mid-March, followed in a few weeks with two kinds of kale, beets, & carrots. By Mother's Day weekend, I had put in the rest of my crops: 4 kinds of heirloom tomatoes; 2 or 3 kinds of winter squash/pumpkins; green beans, eggplant, basil (2 kinds) and maybe some other herbs. The beans took over as the peas were finished; the kale likewise stepped in as the lettuces bolted.
Since my plot was along the fence line on 11th Ave., there often were passers-by with whom I'd get into conversation...and offer some of the bounty. On my way back to my Capitol Hill apartment, I'd pass through Cheesman Park. When the tomatoes were bearing wildly at their peak, I'd offer fresh tomatoes to some of the homeless men in the park, which they thought a grand treat.
I kept an approximate record of my harvest's value. Like "3 bunches of kale" or 25# of mixed produce, eggplant, tomatoes, squash. Then I priced out my produce by comparing prices at farmers' markets or Wild Oats/Whole Foods. A rather loose calculation revealed the value of my harvest was $1,173. I canned maybe 20+pints of tomatoes; froze lots and lots of kale; had more than enough squash to keep me through the winter, and of course lots of produce all spring and summer long. I had to smile to tell Constance that I thought the $65 was a good investment... She was duly impressed. And all from a 10x15' garden plot!