Gardening doing well in Recession

Today a newspaper in upstate New York reported that for gardening centers business is better this year! See below: Ernst Lamothe Jr. • Staff writer • May 20, 2009 Richard Thomas, owner of Thomas Garden Center in Webster, NY has been in the business for many years. He knows that because of Rochester's iffy spring weather, most people start coming to his store around Memorial Day to pick up their mulch, Miracle Gro soils, perennials and other plants. But this year has been different. He started seeing more than a steady stream of customers coming into his business in early May, three weeks ahead of schedule. "It's just a fact that people are spending more time at home, and staying in. Making your garden look great, is really inexpensive," said Thomas, who said his business is up 10 to 20 percent from a year ago. "The economy doesn't seem to be having any ill effect on us." While many garden centers were unsure they would be as busy as last year for landscape and flowering plants, they've discovered the market is flourishing, according to the National Gardening Association. The Burlington, Vt.,-based group found that food gardening in the U.S. is on the rise and the sagging economy had a lot to do with it. Seven million more households plan to grow their own fruits, vegetables herbs, or berries in 2009 than in 2008, a 19 percent increase. In 2008, gardeners spent a total of $2.5 billion to purchase seeds, plants, fertilizer, tools and other gardening supplies to grow their own food. "We see a big jump ... every time there is a recession," said Bruce Butterfield, research director for the National Gardening Association, which does an annual gardening survey. "People are trying to save money by growing their own food and through the survey, we found people feel like this is one thing they can control. They can't control what is happening to their 401(k) but maybe they can control what is happening to their garden." Bob King, director of the Agricultural and Life Sciences Institute at Monroe Community College, said many of the garden centers he has talked with reported revenue increases as high as 50 percent specifically tied to the economy. As more people are opting not to travel, they are using their homes and yards for entertainment. "Usually Mother's Day is the kickoff of the season and right before Memorial Day, things start picking up tremendously," said King. "But this year things were in full swing much earlier." The National Gardening Association's annual survey found that 11 percent of households active in food gardening plan to increase both the amount and variety of vegetables they plan to grow in 2009. A third of people deciding to grow their own food said that the current recession played a vital role. "As the economy is going down, people want to plant more of their own vegetables, and we are seeing a lot of people try gardening for the first time," said Tom Johnston, of Spencerport, who owns Shelter Creek Nursery and Garden Center in Chili.