Published April 2009
Tough economies usually trigger two responses in people’s behavior: They start looking for more ways to save money, and they spend more time at home.
Local gardening centers are reaping the benefits of these phenomena.
Ben Samuel, general manager of Barnes Supply Company on Ninth Street, reports that more and more new customers are coming in looking to start home gardens. And it’s not just your grandmother out planting tomatoes (she’d be doing that, recession or no), but twentysomethings showing up in the middle of winter to buy seeds for their summer gardens.
Samuel says the store did more than $6,000 in business one Saturday in February. “We never sold that much in February ever before,” Samuel says.
While the nesting and frugality instincts brought on by the recession definitely are factors, gardening center operators also say environmental concerns are pushing people to find out what can grow in their own backyards.
If you buy your food at the grocery store, it likely traveled more than 1,000 miles from a farm, perhaps from as far away as California or Chile, before you bought it and drove it home. A lot of energy was used to plant, fertilize, process, package and then deliver that lettuce, which all contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
(To be sure, gardening at home will use some energy too. But your thighs and middle will thank you for the personal expenditure of calories: the planting and weeding kind of energy burning does not contribute to global warming!)
All the altruistic reasons aside, the real reason to plant some of your own food is that there’s nothing as good as a warm ripe tomato right off the vine, or fresh basil on your pasta. Gardening is addictive, but if you have never done it before, don’t be afraid to get your knees dirty. Durham has a wealth of knowledge to help get you started.
Take Merrill Davis, general manager of the 40-year-old, family-owned Stone Bros. & Byrd on Washington Street in downtown, who has everything you need to get started in vegetable gardening. But the real reason to visit Davis is his knowledge. On a recent visit to Stone Brothers, Davis was overheard helping a customer pick out just the right yellow squash seeds to buy. “You want the ‘Gold Bar’ variety.” He told the gentleman he was helping “They produce a casserole, not just a squash.” DM