diaveborn ♥ asked about the efficiency of gardening in the forums, so I thought I would do some experiments. There was little chance that it was going to be anything but efficient to grow yellow flowers, but it's always worth getting exact quantities.
First of all, let's talk a little bit about converting currants to imagination. Previously I've used 1.07 currants to buy one imagination, but that was based ratio between imagination from donation and currants from vendor sale. Since then, though, we've gained access to upgrades that give us 10% more from selling to vendors. That means that we could be getting 10% more currants to imagination. And yet, I have to assume, we are still donating. So we could up our ratio to 1.18 currants per imagination.
Using that ratio, egg seasoning goes up to 26.36 currants per second and animal harvesting goes up to 28.2. So that's a baseline for us to contrast gardening against.
I timed myself gathering and replanting the garden and it came out to about 4.86 seconds per plot, so in order to compete with our best gathering and crafting items items we'd need to get around 137 currants out of each plot.
Before we even get going on the herbs themselves, fully gathering and replanting costs 6 energy, gets me 20 imagination and produces around 46.1 currants worth of swag like rubies, fuel cells, music blocks and such. That's a net gain of 65.2 currants per plot, meaning we need to gather 71.8 currants worth of herbs to make it worthwhile. Bear in mind that is 71.8 currants at the vendor, not in list value.
It turns out this is within reach for some herbs, but not for others. For the non-flower herbs you harvest an average of 1.6 per plot with maximum upgrades. You have to reinvest 0.25 of those herbs as a seed to replant, so you gained 1.35 herbs. Gandlevery, Rubeweed, Hairball and Rookswort respectively are worth 40, 55, 66 and 75, so 1.35 of them at the tool vendor would sell for 44.6, 60.8, 72.9 and 83.7. Only Rookswort hits the mark.
For the flower herbs you harvest 4.8 per plot and invest about 0.36 of that into a seed. Purple, Silvertongue and Yellow Crumb are worth 12, 50 and 66, so at the tool vendor you are taking home 44.4, 182.2 and 239.9 currants for your yield.
Does Growing Purple Suck?
People seem to get in a bit of a tizzy when other people plant purple flowers in herb gardens. Do my numbers above justify that? Even though purple is the herb with the lowest reward I would say that they don't, but I'll have to go into a bit of detail to explain myself.
First of all, even though they are at the low end, purple flowers still comes out to around 22.5 currants per second for the time you spend harvesting. Not the best thing you can do but far from the worst. For most Glitchen, the time spent harvesting purple is going to be better than their average use of game time.
But also, using glitchmarket.com to look up the price that purple is selling for, we see that the average is around 15 currants. Of course some people sell it for significantly under the list price, but the supply at prices under 12 currants seems quite short, only a few hundred at any time. If you actually want the purple, then you might value it at 15 instead of at 10. This, however, still only increases your currants per second value to 26.6 for the time you are harvesting purple, while the value for time harvesting yellow crumb is 62.9.
But of course you can harvest purple 9 times as often as you can harvest yellow crumb. That doesn't mean we can just multiply the returns from purple by 9, though, because with purple you also spent nine times as much time gardening, so you pay nine times the opportunity cost. So a value of 26.6 per second doesn't help the case of purple at all if you compare it to harvesting from animals. After all, harvesting purple is a loss compared to harvesting from animals. But that's only relevant if you log in, harvest animals 100% of your play time, stopping only to cash in a the tool vendor or a shrine.
The break even point is when you are earning 22.1 currants per second. If you are earning that much then your equally well off planting purple or yellow crumb. Any less and you are better off with purple. So what activities generate 22.1 currants per second or less? It turns out practically all of them. There are a few select activities that do better than that, but for the most part you are making less, and assuming you do things like talk to your friends - or anything else that isn't dedicated purely to earning - you are almost surely below that number.
Of course this is all still assuming that you want the purple. If you don't want it and we value it at its vendor value instead of its economic value then the break even point is 16.9. That's still actually quite high. My guess would be that the vast majority of Glitch players are not making that much even when they are spending time at dedicated earning.
But I'm leaving something out of this that we all should be doing.
Not Flowers, Seeds
Sorry to anyone who was hoping to keep this under their hat, but I think you'll agree that at this point it is quite unbelievable that the developers don't know we are doing this - it's not even an exploit or a bug, it's just how the game works. For the "flower" herbs - purple, silvertongue and yellow crumb - seeds are worth exactly the same as the flowers. But you can shuck flowers into an average of about 2.8 seeds. So vendoring seeds instead of flowers gives you a massive increase in profits. The currants per second value of harvesting yellow crumb goes up to a whopping 151.9 and the currants per second for harvesting purple goes up to 38.5. Once again this looks bad for purple, but the break even point actually goes up to 24.3.
I think it's fair to say that it is only the tiniest fraction of the population that actually earns 24.3 currants per average second of playing. And that means that unless you are purely devoted to absolutely using every second of play time to maximize your profit, purple is the best herb to plant, not yellow crumb.
This is Some Kind of Trick
Actually it is, it's some kind of trick. After all, you aren't really going to harvest purple nine times as often as yellow crumb. You are actually going to go to work and not harvest at all during those nine hours, or go to sleep. Or you were only going to play for two hours so you would only have harvested purple twice or three times at most. So we're back to yellow crumb, except that we aren't, or at least we shouldn't be all the time.
One of the two arguments I just gave is a proper argument in favour of planting yellow crumb. If you are about to go to bed or to work then yellow crumb is the way to go. If, however, you are only going to be playing for two hours, then plant purple when you log on and then plant yellow crumb when the round of purple is done. Why waste an hour of growing time that you could be capitalizing on?
Even if the price of seeds doesn't stand - and we have to expect that it won't since it's a kind of an artifact of the pre-upgrade days - most players will still be better off with purple than with yellow crumb. And on a public route where people come by frequently, it is quite reasonable to believe that many more harvests of purple will happen, even if you yourself are about to log off.
Herb gardening is absolutely worth your time, and as long as the price of yellow crumb seeds hold up is is the highest return per second of any activity I've seen so far - probably higher than running apartment basement puzzles or event tickets from the imagination deck. I don't think it is in desperate need of a nerf because yellow crumb does have a nine hour cooldown, but I think one is probably coming.
Also - and I think this is a more important conclusion since I really didn't doubt that gardening herbs was a reasonable use of time - persecuting those who plant purple over yellow crumb is completely mathematically unwarranted. One or the other flower will in fact be better based on who is using the route, how often they come by, how many cycles of purple actually get harvested per cycle of yellow crumb that actually gets harvested and so on. The important thing, though, is that it actually could go either way. Without a very good model of how the particular gardens are actually used, it is unreasonable to claim with authority that one is better than the other.
If, however, you have to place a bet, I'd put my money squarely on purple being better. If you are spending your time wandering gardening routes to see what's been planted, you simply aren't playing with the kind of optimized, hardcore play that it takes to make yellow come out on top, and as few as four and a half or five purple harvests per yellow harvest - the equivalent of a person wandering by every two hours - would make purple win.