Read at : Google Alert – gardening
As prices go up, more people plant vegetables
BY TAMMIE SMITH
Media General News Service
Published: April 17, 2008
Rajeswari Sasikumar has planted a backyard garden of tomatoes, eggplants, okra and peppers for three years now. This year will be no different. With her in-laws and 3-year-old daughter along, Sasikumar spent part of a recent afternoon shopping for plants. She eyed a pepper plant, put it back and picked up another. “I like it, and it’s economical too,” said Sasikumar, explaining why she gardens. “The main thing is I like it.” The garden plot at her Glen Allen backyard is about 5 feet by 8 feet. A few aisles away at Strange’s Garden Center on West Broad Street, longtime gardeners Ellie and John Mikalchus filled their cart with vegetable and herb plants. The retired couple lives in Columbia in Fluvanna County. “We started out thinking the garden was going to be smaller,” said Ellie Mikalchus. “Because everything has gotten so bad and food prices have gone up so much, we’ve decided to make the garden bigger.” Her garden is about 30 feet by 30 feet, and they also have blueberries, fig and other fruit trees on their land. “We really are trying to be a little bit more self-sufficient,” said Ellie Mikalchus. With bread selling for close to $3 a loaf and gas well over $3 a gallon, folks looking for ways to cut expenses have to look no further than their backyard. For avid vegetable gardeners, saving money is just a bonus.
“Most people are gardening for fun, not economic reasons — better-tasting, quality food and bragging rights for the first ripe tomato,” said Bruce Butterfield, of the National Gardening Association.
A lot of the interest in home vegetable gardening is related to people wanting locally grown, healthy and organically grown food, said David J. Ellis, of the American Horticultural Society, based in Alexandria.
“But I have heard from a few people who are looking at growing vegetables to save money because of the high cost of organic produce,” said Ellis. “I have a friend who is growing vegetables because he is concerned that our economic downturn will worsen and that food prices will skyrocket as the price of fuel rises.”
Judging by the calls master gardener Joseph Logan is getting at the Richmond office of the Virginia Cooperative Extension service, folks are itching to get gardening.
“A lot of them want to know when is the last frost date,” said Logan. In Richmond, that date is around April 13, but there is always the risk of a late frost. “May 1 is pretty much your optimal time” for planting, he said.
Logan said folks could still get out and break up the soil. It’s also a good time to get a soil test done.
“A soil sample is good because it lets you know if you will need lime to lower the pH or need to add potash or some other stuff to raise the pH,” said Logan. “pH either will hinder the plant’s growth or help that plant to grow faster. You also need to have an idea of what you want to plant and the nutrient requirements of those plants.”
Folks like Stacey Moulds would like to see more people take up gardening. Moulds is a board member of Tricycle Gardens, which has transformed a lot in the Church Hill area into a community garden.
“I think more people are gardening for environmental reasons as well as taste and nutrition,” Moulds said. “Recent books by Michael Pollen, Barbara Kingsolver, Eric Schlosser and others . . . have emphasized the importance of locally grown, organic and fresh food.”