The Price of a Garden

by Frank Niccoli

We like to comparison shop, and we like to understand whether we are truly saving if we choose one product or another. Many times, the options are not clear-cut and straightforward, especially when we are talking about water, landscapes, and dollars. But today I want to present a very clear case of saving dollars, water, and the environment.

In 2003, the City of Santa Monica installed two gardens in adjacent residential yards. Both gardens were 1900 square feet. Both sites had compacted soil that was low in organic matter, alkaline, and had high levels of heavy metal. One garden was installed using sustainable practices, and the other was installed using traditional practices. We will call them sustainable and traditional gardens, respectively, just so we can differentiate between them. The gardens were monitored from 2004 until 2008 for water use, green waste, and maintenance costs. The traditional garden cost $12,400 to install, and the sustainable garden was $16,700 to install. The additional costs for the sustainable garden were for the installation of permeable pavers and tying all of the rain gutters into an underground infiltration pit to recharge the aquifer.

The traditional garden was installed with plants from northern Europe and the eastern United States, a standard user-controlled irrigation system, and no system for capturing water runoff.

The sustainable garden was installed with climate-appropriate California natives, low-volume drip irrigation with a weather-sensitive controller, and a system for capturing storm water runoff to recharge the ground water.

So far it has cost me $4,300 more for a sustainable garden. Where are my savings? Let’s look at the numbers over a four year period.

Over a four year period, you would have saved $7,344 just in maintenance costs. And how much could you have saved in water? Water costs about a nickel a gallon. Multiply a nickel by 219,585 gallons and another $10,979 could have been saved. Total up the maintenance and water costs and you could have saved $18,323 dollars in a four year period! So sometimes, it is not just all about saving the environment   – it’s about saving a buck! I work too hard to lose $18,000 dollars and I’m sure the same applies to you.

The Village Gardener has years of experience in creating sustainable gardens and have certified water professionals to answer your questions. Learn how you can start saving money on your garden, and call us today!

Traditional Garden Sustainable Garden Difference 
Installation Cost  $12,400  $16,700 $4,300 more for Sustainable Garden
Water Use (4 years)  283,981 Gallons 64,396 Gallons 219,585 Gallons less for Sustainable Garden
Green Waste (4 years)  648 Pounds 219 Pounds 429 Pounds less from Sustainable Garden
Maintenance (4 years)  $10,704 $3,360 $7,344 less for Sustainable Garden