PhotoSome choose to garden for the experience, but for others, the joy of gardening can be found in the end result. Successfully growing your own herbs and vegetables can provide an undeniable sense of pride and may even help you save a little money at the grocery store.

Fifty-four percent of gardeners say they grow produce to save on food bills, according to the National Gardening Association. But as it turns out, some veggie varieties will save you more green than others. Mel Bartholomew, founder of Square Foot Gardening, says that, in ranking the 59 most popular vegetables by value, there are definite winners and losers.

"There are real costs involved in growing," said Bartholomew in a statement. "If you're going to make an investment in edibles, treat your garden the same way you treat your 401K. It all comes down to ROI."

Cost of gardening

Indeed, when factoring in the initial cost of setting up a garden, the desired output can become more of a concern.

According to David Greenberg, executive director of Growing Gardens, a home garden made of two 4x8-foot in-ground beds will cost gardeners about $200, including the cost of soil, lime, compost, and straw. From there, gardeners are looking at an upkeep cost of about $50 per year. 

To help balance the cost, it's important to choose vegetables and herbs that will work for you in the long run. Doing so will entail steering clear of certain types of produce that ultimately cost more to grow than to buy from the store.

Valuable veggies

Bartholomew's study, which used data form the U.S. Department of Agriculture and price surveys of produce costs in U.S. stores, details which vegetables to seek out -- and which to avoid -- if it's value you're after.

Top five high value:

  • Herbs
  • Parsnip
  • Cherry Tomato
  • Garlic
  • Heirloom Tomato 

In the bottom five for value were potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, Bell Peppers, Swiss Chard, and Asparagus.

While herbs such as cilantro, oregano, and thyme offered a return of almost $70 worth of produce for every square foot planted, Bartholomew found that gardeners who grow potatoes see a return of negative $6 per square foot compared to buying them.

Detailed results of the study can be found in his book: Square Foot Gardening High Value Veggies: Homegrown Produce Ranked By Value.

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