As food prices shoot up, so do backyard gardens
Gasoline and food price spikes have had what could be called a 'Miracle-Gro' effect on the backyard garden movement.
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Indeed, the rush to plant was so great this year at the two-acre urban garden that the management put in four more plots for newcomers.Skip to next paragraph
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To be sure, food security (especially with the 2006 spinach scares), a rising demand for locally grown organic food, and taste are big factors in the garden movement. But it was $4 bowls of edamame, or soybeans, that caused Ms. Van Parys to reconsider the kind of impact even a small vegetable garden can have on a household budget. "You get more bang for your buck out of a seed packet," she says. [Editor's note: The original version gave the wrong date.]
That's a message that appears to be resonating nationally. At the Garden Writers Association, which surveys people annually to see how they plan to spend their gardening dollars, there was genuine surprise at the big increase in preference for vegetable gardens. For years, the top three on the list were lawns, annuals, and perennials, with vegetable gardening a distant fourth. This year, vegetable gardening jumped to No. 2.
"You've got a double whammy: The cost of food is going up disproportionately, and so is the price of gas to go get it," says Robert LaGasse, executive director of the Garden Writers Association in Manassas, Va. "With a garden, there's the cost savings, and add to it the time savings to walk out your back door and pull a couple of tomatoes from the garden for dinner tonight. It's wholesome, convenient, and you know what was done to it."
That's exactly the message that folks at the National Garden Bureau in Downer's Grove, Ill., have been promoting for years. The nonprofit educational organization, which is funded primarily by seed distributors, is hoping that this year's spike in vegetable gardening could jump-start a long-term trend.
"Once people taste their home-grown tomatoes and basil and cucumbers, they're not going to go back and buy a store-bought one," says Nona Koivula, the garden bureau's executive director. "The taste is so much better, and the nutrition is there, too."
But like other garden experts, Ms. Koivula believes there's also something more powerful and less tangible coming into play. "There are a lot of different reasons to garden this particular year, but I do think there's also this innate desire in all of us to actually put seed in the ground because that's how we all fed ourselves years ago," she says.
Back in Killingworth, Francis Barkyoumb couldn't agree more. He's been gardening since he was a little boy, with his father and his grandfather. "Just growing stuff, being outside, nature, getting your hands dirty, teaching the kids about getting their hands dirty, being one with the earth generation after generation: That's why I garden," he says.
Decatur mom Jerilynn Bedingfield agrees that there's something special about gardening.
"I just think that it's just a happy place to come," she says. "I go to the garden to find my peace of mind."