Asphalt Garden: 2011 Summer Season Earnings Report

I just brought in the final harvest from the vegetables I planted way back in March. At the start of the season, I broke down the costs I had incurred to create and plant a container garden on my apartment building’s parking lot. Throughout the summer I’ve been weighing everything I’ve harvested and eaten. Let’s take a look at how much I harvested, and how much of my investment I earned back.

I had lots of start-up costs (planters and soil, mainly) that I never expected to earn back right away. I spent $239 on those items.

Of course, I also had annual costs that would stay consistent from year to year. Those were fertilizer and the vegetable plants. I spent $66 on those items. (Note: In my original calculation, I left off the cilantro plants.)

So, how much money did I earn back? Below is the plant-by-plant breakdown. The prices I used to calculate the value of my harvest were from my local farmers market.

Clockwise from top left: sun gold and early girl tomatoes, suffering zucchini plant, bunch of basil, oregano (with thyme in the background), jalapeños. Coriander (from cilantro plant) in center. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Plant Costs and Earnings

Plant Cost Farmers market price Harvested amount Earnings
Sun gold tomatoes $3 $3/lb 2.46 lb $7.38
Early girl tomatoes $3 $2.50/lb 2.44 lb $6.10
Zucchini $3 $1.50/lb NA 0
Basil $4 for two $1/bunch 12 bunches $12
Oregano $3 $2/bunch 1 bunch $2
Thyme $3 $2/bunch NA 0
Jalapeño $6 $2/basket 2 baskets $4
Cilantro $4 for two $1/bunch 1 bunch $1
Coriander NA $5.71/ounce 1.15 ounces $6.56
Total cost $29 Total earnings $39.04

At first glance, it looks like I earned $10.04 by planting my own vegetables. I haven’t calculated the cost of the fertilizer, however. I used a few scoops of slow-release fertilizer, half a box of organic fertilizer, and half a bottle of fish emulsion. I also misguidedly bought a bottle of fungicide. That adds up to another $19. (If I hadn’t bought the fungicide, I would have exactly broken even.)

I haven’t made a dent in my one-time purchases, but that’s OK. I learned a ton during this first season of the Asphalt Garden and I’m sure my yields will be better next summer. I’m excited to plant a new crop of winter vegetables. I’m starting from seeds, so my initial plant costs are already much lower.

  • Laura

    love that you did the calculations

  • Dard1557

    Awesome post! Interesting info to know.

  • Charlotte

    You are inspiring me to try again; my Earth Box tomatoes were not fabulous, but maybe next planting!  Thanks for sharing.

  • Lydia

    After reading your posts, I decided to plant cherry tomoatoes in May and I’m so glad I did. I didn’t do a single calculation about my investment or what I harvested but it’s been very fun going outside and picking the fresh tomatoes. And their taste is unsurpassed. It’s great to think I might have even saved money. Thanks for inspiring me!

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