Close-up of greens.
Close-up of greens. - 
Listen To The Story


Renita Jablonski: We continue with Food Fight, our series on the global food crisis. Today, a look at one way to cope. No matter where you shop, or what you buy, food is getting more expensive. Prices are up nearly 4.5 percent over last year, and experts say they could rise another five percent this year. That's inspiring more people to plant their own food. As Stacey Vanek-Smith reports, that has the gardening industry growing like a weed.

Stacey Vanek-Smith: The Stanford Avalon Community Garden spans several blocks of the Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles. It has a long waiting list for its 87 plots. And with food costs rising, Executive Director Miguel Luna expects the garden will keep get even more popular. With prices going up in the grocers this is ideal. You see what you're growing, you're able to grow it and you take it home. Lupe, who works as a nanny, finally got her plot three months ago. Her mint, cactus, basil and greens are flourishing.

Lupe: Of course, I save a lot of money. I wish to grow beans and rice.

And lots of us wish we could grow Chinese takeout or at least make gardening that convenient. Products that make growing food easier from plants to tools to fertilizers are boosting garden store sales.

Josh Peoples: They want convenience. No one wants to spend hours and hours and hours outside.

Josh Peoples is Director of Marketing for Scotts Miracle-Gro. He says new gardeners have been snapping up products that save time, including soil that has fertilizer and food already in it and single packs of plant food.

Peoples: There's no getting your fingers dirty or having to know how much to measure. You just rip open the top, pour it into a watering can and you're ready to go.

Peoples says container gardening is also flourishing. That's growing plants in tubs and pots, popular with urbanites and weekend weed whackers. A Miracle-Gro soil that resists over-watering -- a big problem with container gardening -- has seen sales jump 40 percent a year. Of course, it all starts with the seeds. Sales of those are up 25 percent at gardening stores across the country.

Price: We're seeing a strong interest in garden seed this year. Probably more so than in years past.

Patti Price is Senior VP of merchandising for Lowe's outdoor living products. She says growers are looking beyond the typical choices.

Patti Price: We're seeing the typical tomatoes and peppers growing. But we're also seeing things like blueberries and raspberries and blackberries that are growing.

Gardening centers are expected to be a bright spot for companies like Lowe's and Home Depot. Both have been hit hard by the housing downturn.

I'm Stacey Vanek-Smith for Marketplace.

“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VA

As a nonprofit news organization, what matters to us is the same thing that matters to you: being a source for trustworthy, independent news that makes people smarter about business and the economy. So if Marketplace has helped you understand the economy better, make more informed financial decisions or just encouraged you to think differently, we’re asking you to give a little something back.

Become a Marketplace Investor today – in whatever amount is right for you – and keep public service journalism strong. We’re grateful for your support.

Follow Stacey Vanek Smith at @svaneksmith