A recent survey of Gardening Trends shows that 43 million homes are now using vegetable and fruit gardening as a way to supplement and offset the costs of feeding their families. This number is up from 36 million homes in 2009.
The National Gardening Association says spending on food gardening including growing vegetables, fruit trees, berries and herbs jumped 20 percent in one year to $3 billion in 2009 and stayed at that level last year, said Bruce Butterfield, research director for the nonprofit association.
“It’s a perfect storm for food gardening,” Butterfield said, noting the downturn coincided with growing interest nationwide in eating locally produced food.
While the recession started in December 2007, he said the economy really “tanked” at the end of 2008, fueling the gardening boom the following year. And, Butterfield said he expects the trend to continue with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s switch from a food pyramid representing its nutritional guidelines to a plate encouraging people to eat more fruits and vegetables, and people spending more time at home, either because they’re unemployed or avoiding expensive vacations.
“A lot of folks, I think they kind of look at the evening news or read the paper or read something online, saying ‘Jesus, this world is out of control and I can’t have any influence on what happens out there but, by God, I can control what happens in my backyard,'” he said.
Seed supplier W. Atlee Burpee & Co. said its sales of vegetables seeds and starter plants have jumped substantially in the past several years, with 30 percent growth in 2009, 15 percent to 20 percent growth last year and another bump in March. The company based in Warminster, Penn., speculated recent rises in gas and produce prices have prompted more people to try to save money by growing their own food.
The average garden costs about $40 a year in seeds and fertilizer to support. Water costs are extra and will depend on the type of vegetables you plant and your location.
With about $75 in additional supplies it is possible to can most of your harvest or freeze it for later months.
Approximately 10 zucchini plants can produce enough for a family of 3 to have food until late spring. Tomato plants can provide food off the vine or canned diced or whole tomatoes can be used for up to a year.
Pickled vegetables do not have to start and end with cucumbers and either packed in brine, vinegar or fresh water most of your vegetables can be stored even without the need for refrigeration.
Root plants can often be left in the ground and harvested late into November.
And Fruits can be stored in a variety of ways year round.
With a just a little preparation and a little work every few days most people can manage a moderate sized garden. If you find the benefits enjoyable you can expand your selection to herbs, lettuce, onions and other items that take just a little more work.