I have recently written about how the garden is calling my name. I can’t wait to start building my garden and planning this year’s crops. But I am clearly not alone. All the big box stores have been gearing up for the Spring planting season since early February, at least.
Judging from what has popped up in these stores, this year’s trends seem to include seed starting kits and organic seeds. The Greenwood, SC Lowes has seed starting kits in every conceivable combination of size, shape, and quality (even some designed for children), and our Walmart has a huge display of certified organic seeds from Seeds of Change.
What I have witnessed in Greenwood, however, is indicative of a national surge of interest in vegetable gardening. Last Fall, the New York Times and the National Gardening Association noted that home vegetable gardening has increased steadily since 2008, and various news reports from every corner of the nation attest to the fact that this is, indeed, a national trend. In the latest publically available figures from the National Gardening Association, 36 million American households had home vegetable gardens in 2008, and the number was expected to go up 19% in 2009 to 43 million. The NGA sells their research findings to businesses that market lawn and garden products, and because of this it does not freely distribute extremely current data; nevertheless, the resources it does make available indicate that the trends observed in 2008-2009 are continuing apace. From the evidence I’ve been able to dig up, it seems that the recent increase in home vegetable gardening is the most dramatic increase since the Victory Garden campaign of World War II, which peaked in 1943 with approximately 20 million American families planting such gardens.
While the popularity of home vegetable gardening is increasing, various methods of gardening are also proliferating. I subscribe to two gardening magazines and both of the recent issues included plans for building raised beds. “Container gardening” is now so popular that a Google search for the term yields over two million hits, and “vertical gardening” also seems to be increasing in popularity. I have even read an account of someone converting shipping pallets into attractive patio planters.
The bottom line is that when we talk about gardening today, we think of more than hauling out the old tiller and a bag of 10-10-10 fertilizer. More people than ever are gardening and doing it in a variety of ways; there are more informational resources available for home gardeners than ever before; and, with the simultaneous rise of interest in organic gardening, I expect home gardeners are using more earth-friendly and sustainable practices than they have in the past. In a month that has brought us disturbing stories about “pink slime” and “Ag-Gag” legislation, we should all celebrate the good news that home gardening is alive, well, and growing.