Garden Economics: How Much is a Productive Garden Worth?

February 11, 2010

Traditional estimates for the added value of a good landscape usually land around 20% of a homes value.  Generally this accounts for the value of the curb appeal that an established garden gives, the value of outdoor living areas, and any special features like pools, play areas or any other special landscape feature.

But after reading this article at Hyperlocalvore about the economics of yard sharing I am starting to wonder if perhaps the right landscape, specifically a productive one, might be able to justify  a lot more value.

plum harvest

In the post, Liz makes the following case for yard sharing – a practice she encourages for people without a lot of space or initial investment.:

“Let’s assume that each of  (3)  families enjoys approximately:

  • 2 lbs organic Granny Smith apples @ $4.50 per week.
  • 1 lb organic anti-oxidant rich blueberries @ $12.00 per week.
  • .5 lb organic almonds @ 7.00 per week

That’s about $24.00 per week per family, or about $1250.00 per family per year for three pretty basic healthy staples. It’s $3750.00 per year for all three families to eat yummy organic green apples, blueberries and almonds. Now let’s assume that to produce this amount for three families you will need:

  • 4 almond trees (producing about 64 lbs per year)
  • 2 apple trees (producing about 600 lbs per year)
  • 15 mature blueberry bushes (producing about 150 pounds per year)

Your group wants the benefit sooner rather than later so you agree to purchase mature trees and shrubs.

  • 4 producing almond trees – 8′ @ $80.00 = $320.00
  • 2 producing apple trees 8′ @ $90.00 = $180.00
  • 15 producing blueberry bushes 4′ @ $40.00 = $600.00

Your one time investment is about $1700.00 (plus tax and shipping) for all three families, including one time purchase of tools and starting garden costs using a rough figure of $600.00, assuming you have no tools between you and your soil needs a lot of help. Add some sweat equity and a year to let the trees and shrubs settle in.
This works out to about $600.00 per family for 20 years worth of apples, almonds and blueberries! Growing their own saves all three families a total of $74,000.00 over 20 years. – Assuming your families share, or 24K, is conservatively invested expecting a 2.8 % return over those 20 years and adjusted for inflation – that’s $61,072.13 clams via the magic of compound interest!
Now the almond trees, treated well, will produce almonds for 40+ years. The apples for 30, and you may need to replace the blueberries. We’re just playing with pens and napkins after all.
So, how do you like them apples, almonds, and blueberries?”

If you consider that the $1700 dollar initial investment is part of the purchase agreement and in return you get over (3*$61,072.13=) $183,216.00 ROI just from the produce alone,  – that means that a modestly productive landscape would, over the life of the loan, pay for the cost of the average home in America.  Could it be true?  Are the value of mature productive landscape seriously under valued?  Should we think about installing blueberries as “foundation” plantings and apple trees instead of ornamental cherries or Japanese maples making the landscape value much higher?  (I think so) This really has me thinking….let’s discuss…

Note: Numbers were originally published on Feb 4th 2009.

image by sitting rock

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  1. Liz McLellan says:

    Thanks for linking to that blog post, I still wonder about it myself. I love thinking about growing in the long view. Of course, bad weather and bugs will have their day but less than an acre you can certainly feed a family of four most if their fruits and vegetables minus some of you more exotic items. Of course your zone determines much of what you can grow as well. I would think that a house with an installed productive landscape would be at the very least 70K more valuable to a certain kind of family.

    There are lots and lots of people for whom fresh clean food has become a priority and many pay a premium for it. The convenience of walking out the door and picking your meal is a pleasure a lot of us haven’t had.

    I had always been interested in kitchen gardens but was blown away by how wonderful it was to have when when I got to house sit for a month for someone who had a huge kitchen garden in Big Sur. They didn’t have a lot of mature fruit or nut trees, but about 20 tall beautifully made raised beds and every variety of vegetable any home chef could want.

    Of course the maintenance is a lot of hours but, for me gardening provides a ton of exercise – the kind where I don’t get bored by the repetition as in a gym. Gyms bore me to death! A garden is at all times a learning experience for kids and grown ups!

    Also – some folks are starting to build “yard farming” businesses. So you may be able to hire your own farmer to install and maintain your system some day soon. We have many of these folks on the site. Folks can write me if that interests them I will see if there’s anyone doing that sort of work in your area. Though this is all just starting to take off.

    It’s a very new model of keeping the carbon footprint of our food way down. And it’s taking off!
    I think the other thing people may want to factor into their 20 year out look is that the price of gas and petroleum based products including nitrogen and pesticides are very likely to go up and stay up at a rocky plateau. This means that the price of food will not be stable or necessarily low forever. So those base numbers are likely to edge up consistently.

    As you can see I take the long view on many things… and that I think is really a good way to look at any landscaping investment.

    Thanks for linking to us!
    Lovely site! I look forward to seeing what people think!

    Liz McLellan
    owner hyperlocavore

  2. Louise says:

    Loved this post! There are getting to be quite a few Edible Garden design folks out there now that focus their design and veggie garden skills from seed to harvest. So Great!
    Good luck liz with your Co-operative project.
    a couple of nice websites…

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