Do you know which veggies provide the best yield per square foot of growing space?

In urban gardening, space is naturally limited. So what to grow that will produce the greatest yield in the least amount of space is important to know.

Whether you’re urban gardening for yourself and family, or as an urban, suburban or rural farming business, it’s important to have an idea of what’s reasonable to expect in produce from your gardening and farming efforts.

There’s an old 1978 chart circulating—in fact most stats we’ve found online are using this old data. However those numbers have since been updated and tweaked between 2009 and 2012. An update was really needed since seeds and gardening methods are able to produce more today than when that research was conducted, and there are more urban gardeners today as well.

So here’s some more updated information. If you have even newer data, please let us know and we can adjust and tweak this to be as current as possible.

Yield Expectations for Mixed Stand, Small-Scale Agriculture

Excerpted from Rutgers Urban Fringe Report1)

For anyone considering small scale farming for a living, whether supplemental at first or full time, it’s important to set realistic expectations based on averages available.

As a General Guideline, 1/2 lb per square foot is an average yield for Mixed crop, Small-Scale Agriculture.

Now to decipher profitability is another thing. You’d of course have to calculate estimated costs against the wholesale or Farmer’s Market price you could get per pound on the crops you’d like to grow to sell.

Let’s go a little deeper into crop yields and price comparisons next.

Small Scale Farming and Profitability

For example, a short foray into calculations reveals a yield of .4 lb per square foot for broccoli and 1.8 lbs per square foot for tomatoes.

urban gardening, shutterstock_132270866

As of this writing, the retail price from our local Harris Teeter grocer for organic vine ripened tomatoes for is $2.99/lb. Surprisingly it’s the same for broccoli.

Retail Price Per Square Foot

  • Tomatoes @ 1.8 lbs per SF x $2.99 = $5.38
  • Broccoli @ .4 lbs per SF x $2.99 = $1.20

So… tomatoes have the potential to earn approximately 77% more than the broccoli. Now remember, this is retail.

Without even knowing the wholesale and costs for growing, it’s easy to see that tomatoes are more profitable than broccoli. So, if you have limited space or can only produce one crop to start, it would more likely be tomatoes than broccoli.

In the book The Market Gardener there’s a very handy chart that outlines the typical annual sales profitability and rank by crop the author produced on his farm. Indeed there as well, tomatoes were ranked as number one in sales and high in profitability.

Conversely, broccoli was ranked as nine in sales and low in profitability. Mesculin mix greens were ranked number 2 in sales and high in profitability.

So this should give you an idea to get your mental juices flowing in calculating what’s possible for you.

Urban gardening, shutterstock_194704892
Farmer’s Markets are a great places for urban gardeners to sell their fresh produce.

If you’ll be selling at the Farmer’s Market, you’ll want to frequent your local one(s) and observe everything while keeping notes on prices.
Chart from Rutgers, New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station

Next, are you familiar with high tunnel farming?

High Tunnel Farming

Excerpted from

high tunnel farming, shutterstock_367749560

High Tunnel technology has been in use for many years. Tracing back to an apparent origin in Spain and France, people in these countries were making use of simple, low-cost metal framing and lightweight polyethylene covering material to form tunnel like structures over their crops. These structures protected their crops from the natural elements and extended their growing seasons.

High tunnel gardening, shutterstock_3950587 (1)
Editor’s Note: This is a Shutterstock image, and NOT the Untiedts farm.

The Untiedts family farm in Waverly, Minnesota, has been using high tunnel growing methods for 30 years… back before it was popular. High tunnels are about more than tall hoop houses, they also create their own microclimate system that incorporates pollinators such as bumble bees.2)

For inspiration on what’s possible in urban gardens, especially in the warmer sunny climate of Los Angeles, and places like it, you may enjoy this documentary (as of this writing it’s free through Amazon Prime), titled Urban Fruit, where you can also see the trailer.

References   [ + ]

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I’m LeAura Alderson, entrepreneur, ideator, media publisher, writer and editor of Pursuits in recent years have been more planting seeds of ideas for business growth more than gardening. However, I’ve always been interested in medicinal herbs and getting nutrition and healing from food over pharmacy. As a family we’re eager to dig more deeply into gardening and edible landscape for the love of fresh organic foods and self sustainability. We thoroughly enjoy and appreciate the creative ingenuity of the GardensAll community.