What’s your garden worth?

Today, I unloaded four bags of Cactus/Palm Tree soil, six bags of compost, a bag of steer manure, one bag of worm castings, a jug of B-1, and Coconut Coir. Total: $120.

You would think that I am building a whole garden as wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of bags entered the gate. However, it is all for two banana plants in a large raised bed area that already has some soil in it from previous use. The plants purchased added another $120 to my two-day total = $240.


lady finger banana plant
The Lady Finger Banana Plant can grow 12-18 feet tall in the low desert. It is a “dessert” banana because of its sweetness. The banana is 4-5 inches long, approximately the length of a finger.

I’ll write an article as I install the banana plants next week, but I am focusing on garden ROI in general this week and what that means to each of us since now is the time to prep your garden and begin planting.

Each of my Lady Finger banana plants will product 30-40 pounds of bananas a year. I won’t see my first banana for 12-18 months and the plants require a lot of water, fertilizer, and compost.

Clearly, if I added up the startup costs, future needs, and water, I would be much better off buying my bananas in the organic foods section.

My ROI isn’t just about money, however. I want to know where my food comes from, that it really is organic and I want the freshly-picked-while-ripe flavor. I also want to eat what I can’t find in the stores. My Lady Fingers dessert bananas are hard to find. The stores usually only carry the typical Cavendish banana or Plantains (not really a banana).

So ROI can be many things to many people:

  • Financial savings
  • Self-sustainability
  • Flavor
  • Organic needs and control of product
  • Availability of the item or rarity of the specific type
  • Satisfaction of growing it yourself
  • Exercise


Right now, I have broccoli waiting to be planted. Each plant takes up about two square feet in my raised bed at maturity and only produces one head plus some small pups. Broccoli takes a long time to grow and loves water.

It is selling for approximately $1.80 per pound and a large head, including the stem, weighs about 1 pound. You can also collect another half-pound of florets if you let the plant stay in the ground after you harvest the main head. I paid about 50 cents for the transplant in a six pack. If I was in an area where rainfall was plentiful, I would have a great return on my investment. However, in the low desert, water is also a factor. It really doesn’t make ordinary broccoli a good financial ROI.

Romanesco Broccoli
Romanesco Broccoli is both beautiful and shocking. Even though it is a broccoli, it tastes more like cauliflower. It is highly sought after by chefs.

I don’t grow it for the financial savings, however. I grow it for everything else in the list. One of the types of broccoli I grow is Romanesco. It sells for about $2.99 a pound when you can find it. Frankly, I just love it for its look and how it dresses up a plate. I also enjoy the looks on friends’ faces as they tour the garden and find this other-worldly vegetable.

You will have to consider why you garden or want to garden. There is no correct answer for you but your own.

I tell people to grow what you will eat, what costs you a lot of money to purchase, or what you really want but can’t find easily in the stores. Along the way, experiment a little with something unusual or new to you.

And if you have children, let them plant whatever they want. They will enjoy watching it grow and will probably eat the vegetables they harvest. Now THAT is a return on investment!


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I am a certified agriscape designer and Maricopa County Master Gardener. I have been gardening since I was six years old and worked in my grandfather's garden. I believe that the only way to be a responsible gardener is to garden organically. It improves our soil, is safer for us to eat, sustainable and it protects our pollinators and soil from chemical poisoning.