Although it’s never really gone away, it’s great to see interest in vegetable gardening on the rise as we approach spring. Home-grown vegetables are fresher, more nutritious and cheaper than those from the store. You know what fertilizer and chemicals have been applied to them, they haven’t been transported thousands of kilometers and, perhaps best of all, there’s the deep sense of satisfaction that you’ve grown this food yourself.
You can’t measure that in money, but in a recent column in the Philadelphia Enquirer George Ball, chairman of the venerable seed company W. Atlee Burpee & Co., argues that in the current economic climate an investment in vegetable seeds is not only prudent, it’s a sure-fire high yield offering.
Ball points out that right now tomatoes are 75 cents to a dollar each in the supermarket. I spent $2.99 for three this past week. A tomato plant will yield over the course of the growing season between 30 and 40 medium to large fruits, depending on the variety. Total yield in dollars would be an average of $35.
If a seed packet contains 30 seeds and 25 germinate that packet would generate, at today’s price for tomatoes, $875 worth of tomatoes. Even if the seeds cost $3 to $4 a packet, the return on investment is not 10 or 20%, figures that were being tossed around a few years before the economic troubles, it’s better than 20,000%.
Even if you factor in the cost of fertilizer, tomato cages and soft-sided twine to tie them up with, or say the price of tomatoes goes down to 50 cents each, the return is over 10,000%.
Plus, with this investment you can sauté, roast, slice, dice or simmer into tomato sauce while drinking red wine and listening to Frank Sinatra! As Ball writes “Try doing that with a share of Lehman Brothers.”
His point is that if your well-chosen stock portfolio is “swirling in the drain” (a phrase I heard recently to describe the economy) you can find some real, tangible returns if you grow your assets in the vegetable garden. Plus it’s fun and it tastes great.
I’m going to devote the next three columns to vegetable gardening, specifically how to plan and prepare as we lurch towards spring. Next week will focus on the site for the garden and how big it should be. The following week we’ll look at that most important of subjects when it comes to growing anything in the garden, soil. Finally, with some feedback from two “veteran” vegetable gardeners, my parents, we’ll concentrate on varieties.
I’ll leave you with some more words from George Ball. “Green investor? Looking to make money and save the planet? Hop into your Birkenstocks and join Mother Nature in the tomato patch. Speculative investor? Looking for a big payday? Doff your pinstripes, slip into your jeans, and get into your garden. Think of seeds as God’s microchip, and this is the ultimate tech stock.” Have you seen the numbers on the markets this week? I’ll take my chances with tomatoes, carrots, peas and lettuce thanks