Skip to comments.[MN] & Millions of Other Americans Expected to Raise Bumper Crop of Backyard Vegetables
Posted on 03/11/2009 9:47:53 AM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin
A couple of weeks ago, local gardening editor Mary Lahr Schier thought she'd start sprouting vegetable seeds indoors to get a jump-start on the Minnesota growing season. But when she went to Menards to buy the grow light she needed, the store was sold out. An employee told her more folks seem to be starting vegetables from seeds.
You bet your butternut squash they are.
"The big trend we've identified this year is the 'GIY' trend the grow-it-yourself trend, as opposed to the DIY or do-it-yourself trend," said trendspotter Susan McCoy, president and owner of the Garden Media Group. "We've heard reports from seed companies that sales are up as much as 80 percent."
Is it rising grocery prices? The comfort that comes from digging in dirt? The keep-it-local movement? Whatever the reasons, Minnesotans already are gearing up for a backyard bumper crop.
"We offered one Urban Vegetable Gardening class last year, and it filled up completely, plus we had 10 more people waiting at the door," said Paige Pelini, co-owner of Mother Earth Gardens, an organic garden center in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis. "So we decided we should do two classes this year. We still have people calling every day, asking us to do another class or wondering if there's some way they could sneak in the door."
(By the way, this week's "Chickens in the City!" class "Live Poultry Will Be Present!" is filled, too.)
Classes aren't the only way Minnesotans are seeking help growing their own veggies.
Schier, editor of Northern Gardener, the Minnesota State Horticultural Society's magazine, is noticing an uptick of traffic to the vegetable gardening posts on her My Northern Garden blog.
The magazine's publisher sees the growth from a different angle.
"When I talk to our commercial members and advertisers, they say they have noticed a significant increase in sales of herbs and vegetables," said Tom McKusick, publisher of Northern Gardener. "It's something I've been hearing from garden centers and nurseries since last fall, and I suspect it will only increase this year."
A National Gardening Association survey, conducted in January, backs up that prediction: 43 million U.S. households plan to grow their own fruits, vegetables, herbs and berries this year, a 19 percent increase from 2008. Perhaps even more telling, 21 percent of those households are planning to start not continue a food garden in 2009.
Seed companies have noticed.
"I would say vegetable sales are up 20 percent from last year," said Renee Shepherd of Renee's Garden, a seed company specializing in gourmet vegetables, kitchen herbs and cottage garden flowers.
"In the past, we've sold more flowers than vegetables, but that has sharply reversed itself. It's the economy, simplifying lives, food safety, a healthy way to spend quality family time together."
George Ball, chairman of the W. Atlee Burpee & Co., said his company's vegetable seed sales are also up 20 percent as of January. He pins it all on the economy.
"Forget about the perfect storm this has created the perfect hurricane in terms of sales for our business," Ball said. "Trends like locavores (people who eat food grown or produced locally), that's what I call a fashion. But this recession is a structural trend. When you take away or reduce people's income, or reduce their nest egg by 40 or 50 percent, you have almost a depression mentality. People are quite anxious."
Ball said he noticed the cost of fruits and vegetables at grocery stores remained high even after fuel prices had dropped. So his company did a cost-analysis study, and concluded that people who invest $50 in the vegetable garden on seeds and fertilizer can harvest the equivalent of $1,250 worth of groceries from a store. As a result, the company introduced "Burpee's Money Garden," a $10 seed purchase that Burpee estimates will produce more than $650 worth of vegetables.
"People talk about replacing a light bulb, insulating their window sills or wearing a sweater these efforts save a few dollars here and there but for a family of four with a good-sized vegetable garden, we're talking about saving a couple of thousand dollars," Ball said.
It's sometimes called "survival gardening." In this economy, this mind-set has made media sensations out of people like Clara Cannucciari, a 93-year-old great-grandmother from New York who remembers her own Great Depression garden as she cooks meals from the era and whose work can be seen on YouTube. (Check out her Poorman's Meal of potatoes, onions and hot dogs via her Web site, greatdepressioncooking.com.)
A local green thumb sees that hunger for information.
"People increasingly are interested in the idea of being self-sufficient, of being able to grow their own food to increase their ability to really survive on their own," said Carrie Christensen, who teaches the Urban Vegetable Gardening classes at Mother Earth.
RECLAIMING DOMESTIC SKILLS
For Debbie Lang, 32, of Newport, a stay-at-home mom of five hungry boys, self-sufficiency is important, especially as the family struggles to recover financially from when her husband was out of work for 11 weeks. But cost savings is not the only reason the family will attempt to grow as many of their own vegetables as possible for the second year in a row.
"We absolutely love eating fresh vegetables there's nothing like it," Lang said. "And there's such a reward of being able to reap something from your own effort; if you want a tomato, you can go pick a tomato in your own garden."
Lang fits in with one of the root causes related to the increasing popularity of homegrown food, identified by Garden Media Group.
"The housewife is back," McCoy said. "Crafting, canning, sewing, gardening traditional hobbies that used to be 'women's hobbies' are hot with the younger generation."
Pelini, of Mother Earth Gardens, sees that interest blossoming in her own daughters, a 16-year-old and 14-year-old twins.
"I'm a single mom. For years, I barely had time to take the laundry out of the dryer, much less have a vegetable garden," Pelini said. "But now they can participate. So last year, we did grow a vegetable garden, and it was really great. ... We're foodies, so we enjoy it. ... My daughters knit, too. We've talked about how they're reclaiming domestic skills without the cultural baggage."
And, well, there's just something scrumptious about homemade anything, whether it's the handmade Christmas gifts the Pelinis give or the fresh vegetables they grow in their back yard.
"We derive great satisfaction," Pelini said, "out of standing in our garden and eating a hot, somewhat dirty Sun Gold tomato."
ping to my query in above post.
Deer come in my yard all the time (they got some tulip sprouts this week).
I have a chicken wire fence 30” high, with 3 strands of electric fence on top.
I have no problem with deer in the garden.
I agree. The Mennonites grow some awesome vegetables.
We go to the Versailles area frequently for produce I don’t have room to grow.
I used to work for them. I totally vouch for them. :)
Next week there will be a news report over the crisis in unsafe back yard vegitables.
Cities will outlaw this agricultural hazard.
(ala FL orange growers trying to outlaw back yard trees a few years back)
I’m another Mennonite shopper, but love growing things in my small garden.
Checking out the SSE. Loving it! Already up to $36, though! argh!
Buy heirloom seeds at rareseeds.com
Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company
They have hundreds of varietys but are selling out fast.
I got everything I ordered a couple weeks ago except for one item they were sold out of.
They interbreed? Who knew? Oi.
Makes me wonder what else I can mix.
The critters are my mnemesis. I noticed the other day all my new corn shoots were gone. Don't know who ate them, but I have constructed a blind in my backyard and am prepared to wait them out with my Daisy BB gun. I say I don't know who the miscreant is, but I have an idea, as there are recurring troublemakers in our neighborhood.
What is needed to raise “laying hens”? Are they noisy? Would they bother the neighbors? How much does it cost to feed them and what kind of shelter is involved.
I know nothing about this :)
“I wish I could raise chickens, but I dont think were zoned for it.”
Raise quail, claim they’re songbirds.
That's the way I look at it as well. We farm in addition to gardening and lose a great deal of harvest to deer, hogs, racoons and bears every year. The squirrels don't do quite as much damage, but they are a problem.
We planted 5 acres of watermelons three or so years ago and discovered that melons are the best deer attractant in the world. They can smell which are ripe and then with a few swift kicks the melon is open. Lost probably half of the crop. Found watermelon vines all through the woods that autumn. LOL!
You simply have to plant more than you plan on harvesting. We also look at it as fattening program for the critters that we end up harvesting during hunting seasons. One way or another we get fed. ;-)
We aren't either, but I have seen people doing it.
I have a chicken wire fence 30 high, with 3 strands of electric fence on top. I have no problem with deer in the garden.
We often have deer in our yard, especially at night. Last year they really took a liking to the rose bushes right next to our house.
I want to put in a vegetable garden so I've been worried about this. Someone on FR gave me a recipe for deer repellant, but I haven't tried it out yet. I'm not sure I'd want to put in an electric fence 30" off the ground as I have a young child.
Couple of questions, m'dear:
What do you start the lettuce, radish, and spinach in? and do you then transplant them or keep them in the container you started them in?
Now, a greenhouse question (or 2 or 3). Mine is finally finished and I moved all of my stuff in there and filled a bunch of starter cells with growing mix. In the past, when doing them in the house, I've always covered the trays with plastic wrap, do I need to do the same in the greenhouse?
I'm curious about the proper depth for growing vegetables, as well as the best materials to use, lumber vs. blocks, etc. We have plenty of space available.
And canteloupe. The deer absolutely the baby canteloupes. My husband swears they must be like Sknickers' bars to the deer, but he insists he wants to ry them again this year........
I’m glad I kept reading before giving you a repeat reply :)
I see that others have given you the info I would have given you !!!
Thanks for the ping! I started a “layer garden” after reading about it on the survival thread. I laid down newpapers (wet)and straw, and today I went to the recycling center to their compost pile and loaded up a bunch of garbage bags. I hope to see a decent bed ready for planting in a month! Also, I remember my grandpap starting his plants in a small hot house made of a couple of windows and a box made of four planks. I have everything I need so guess what I’m doing this weekend! It’s still pretty cold in our neck of the woods, so I figure I can get tomatoes started.
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