Evaluating ROI – Broccoli and Cabbage – or anything else

The garden is an important part of my life.  It’s important to my daily sustenance and my health.  It’s so much a part of me that I really don’t think I could be happy without it.

Nonetheless, as with anyone — there is only so much time, energy and priority you can give your garden because there are other things that have to be done.

A Plan is Important

So you have to have a plan about what you will grow and how much of it you will grow.  There has to be some determining factors for you to make your decisions. And you will probably adjust those factors every season since life can be continual change.

The determining factors I use can be summed up in 3 words: return on investment (ROI). Since the seed cost is minimal by comparison— I’m talking about the investment of time, energy, and garden space. 

Your Determining Factors – Consider what growing the crop involves:

  • choosing and ordering the variety you want
  • planning the planting time
  • planting and caring for
  • transplanting to the garden
  • how much space you have available and how much of it this crop will take
  • pest control – row covers – hand picking, etc.
  • harvest – When and how much time will it take?
  • Can you preserve the crop? Will you be able to use it all if you can’t?
  • What have you sacrificed (in terms of your other crops) to grow it.

Making the Determination about Cabbage and Broccoli in My Garden

I don’t usually grow cabbage or broccoli. I did this year. Here’s what happened.

A lady I know in Pennsylvania grows about 6 cabbages each year and they always look so beautiful in her tiny garden.  She uses something like a rabbit wire or fencing and bends it over the cabbages securing it in the ground.  Her row cover fabric goes over that. (I think this is the best method of pest control for both cabbage and broccoli.)  Looked so easy and so good in her garden.

I wanted to grow the ones she did, but she had purchased her plants at a nursery and had forgotten the name of the variety.

I choose 2 heirloom varieties (one early and one late) that would be smaller than many cabbages — thinking that I would have plenty of room for them. I started about 5 seedlings of each on February 3rd.  I transplanted to the garden the first week in March. (Did the same with broccoli.) Even mixed about 2 or 3 cups of compost with soil before putting them in.

Slugs ate the smaller ones.  I put Escargo around the others. That solved that problem.

Broccoli starting to form in May.

Somehow, not being a grower of either cabbage or broccoli — I thought they would grow a lot faster than they did.  They sat there for about a month before they took off and even then — as with most things — some stayed smaller than others.

I had planted them in beds designated for tomatoes— thinking I’d have plenty of time for them to mature before it’d really made a difference to the tomatoes.  I was wrong.  By the time the broccoli and cabbage started looking great— I felt the tomatoes were suffering because they didn’t have enough room.

It was May before most of the cabbage and broccoli started looking great and by then I didn’t want to just yank them out.

Cabbage in late May. Note the tomato seedling in the support.

But the varieties that I had chosen didn’t give me a lot of bang for my buck.  More plant than anything else and very small heads. Even though the harvest was only 4 heads of broccoli and about 6 cabbages — it took until the 2nd week in June to plan them into meals and get them out of the garden.

I could have frozen the broccoli — but with that small a planting I wanted to enjoy it fresh.  (The fresh tastes far superior to anything you can buy in the store.)

I didn’t use row covers, since the broccoli and cabbage was staggered (wide) so I’d have room to plant the tomato seedlings in May.  I lucked out and didn’t have any pest damage on the broccoli at all.  Not even one little bug.  The cabbage worm finally showed up on the last cabbage I harvested in June.

Bottom line — I won’t grow it again.  In short — too much space, time and effort for very little return.  Not to mention that without row covers in future years I’m sure I’d have to fight the cabbage worm every step of the way – and for something that is just a delicious tasty once a year treat — it’s not worth it.

Final Thought

I’ll use my garden space and allotted gardening time on crops like onions, tomatoes, peas, blueberries, potatoes, various greens, Hakurei turnips and a few other things that allow me to eat consistently from my garden into the fall and some of the winter months.


Organic Gardening is easy, efficient, effective and it’s a lot healthier.


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  • Sometimes it’s just fun to try something different! For instance, this year I’m trying watermelons in the front yard! I grow what we will eat and what we can process into jars for the winter. If it was all about ROI we really should go very heavy on root crops and winter squash, more nutrients and easy to store.

    I really love your whole philosophy of gardening and am moving as quickly towards it as I can! I went all natural about 3 years ago and it’s been a great process. I’ve sent the link to this site to almost all of my gardening friends, we need to move away from chemical growing as fast as possible.

    Keep up the good work, I always look forward to your new posts!

  • Theresa, I hardly ever hear anyone talk about this aspect of gardening. I’ve been obsessing over my brussels sprouts now for MONTHS. At the end of it all, I’ll be doing well to get a couple of meals worth of food. And, I’ve read since planting, that spring brussels sprouts are bitter by the time they’re mature here in MD. I’d love to grow them, and I might give them another chance by planting the seeds in July/Aug, for a winter harvest, but if that doesn’t work (and I’m not optimistic – the white butterfly is still around then) that’s going to be it for me with brussels sprouts – bad roi!
    Sometimes it’s smart to know when to stop!

    What is your top 10 best ROI vegetables – seed to table. I’m guessing onions, maybe potatoes? lettuce?
    I’d say mine has to be swiss chard.

  • Congratulations Scott, on making the decision to move away from chemical growing. By going “natural” I am assuming you mean – going “organic”?
    I’m so glad you’re enjoying TMG and hope you will continue to benefit. You encouragement makes it even easier to write. 🙂

    And watermelons in the front yard! Good for you! What a fun thing to do. I hope you’ll have a bountiful harvest!

    And by the way Scott, would you let me know how you found my site. That’s always helpful. Thanks.

    Keep in touch and let me know how you’re doing from time to time.

  • You made my point very well Sandra. As Scott said, sometimes it’s fun to try something new, but what it boils down to on a regular basis is ROI.

    And yes, peas,onions, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, chard, kale, Hakurei turnips, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cucumbers, and peppers are all priority items for me. And even annual herbs like parsley and basil are necessary in my garden. Magentaspreen will be on the list from now on. And spinach is great crop for fall.

  • OMGosh Theresa, We are definitely on the same wave length or something. I was looking at my broccoli and thinking, “that sure does take up a lot of room for a small amount of produce”. I was tempted to pull it up but have been enjoying all the little secondary,tender broccoli. They are so tasty and like you said, unlike anything you can buy. However, I would not plant them again. Next year (or maybe this fall) I am going to put in some broccoli rabb or broccolini (sp). It is more like a green and is expensive to purchase at the store. I have planted some in the past, but really did not know how to cook it and did not appreciate it. It takes up about as much room as a spinach plant. I did cabbage last year and that was a bust. Did not plant any this year. Thanks for covering this topic it was very helpful

  • So glad it was helpful, Alice. I think a lot of gardeners feel this way — but sometimes it takes someone talking about it before we can see it in the proper light.

    I’ll be interested in knowing how the broccoli rabb does for you this fall (or next year). Also would like to know how you plan to cook it.

  • Theresa, what a timely post for our family! With my husband working over 60 hours per week and my being a stay-at-home Mom with two small children (one 10 months old and breastfeeding) and a garden which is about 1/4 acre in size and two acres of grass to cut, along with life’s daily and seasonal demands…well, you can imagine that some days it’s difficult to keep going at the speed needed to get it all done. We actually had this discussion before I had a chance to read your post! The end result of our conversation was the question…What do we want? Then what is first, second, third (priority). Then what is the plan to achieve sanity! Ha! We both committed to a minimum daily 15 minutes in the garden for work (weeding, bug squashing, plant inspection, etc). Our, “plan” will no doubt continue to evolve, as you mentioned, and we both anxiously await the day when we’ll find good balance. I’m reminded that no matter what we strive for in life, balance is so incredibly important and must always be in priority. We love gardening and all of the benefits of it for our family’s health and our children’s education. Thank you for such wise advice and encouragement, Theresa! You continue to be an incredible teacher and essential part of our learning.

  • Theresa, I honestly can’t remember where I found the link to you. It may have been on Permies forum. Yes, by natural I mean organic. We hit 113 degrees here today, lot’s of mulch and a drip tape system under it are keeping the plants alive now!

  • 113 degrees! Wow! That’s hot. Sure glad the mulch and drip tape system is keeping your plants going!
    Thanks for letting me know how you think you found my site, Scott.

  • Theresa, I’ve tried to read all of your posts (still finding new ones I haven’t seen), but this is the first one I can remember you mentioning Magentaspreen. Can you share a little more about your experience with it & if you still grow it every year. I’m very interested after googling it to hear more from you on it.

  • Betty, I couldn’t find Magentaspreen mentioned in this post. I mentioned it in two posts that I can remember:
    The first one gives a picture and more information.
    I use it for backup. It gets tall and huge in my garden soil if I let it. Outside the garden it will stay short – about 1 or 2 feet and small.

  • Thanks for the links. I read them both. If I don’t get to it this year, (too many other new plants I want to try), I’ll try it next year. I always need fresh greens for my shakes. I really believe they are helping me stay well when I make them daily.

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