Hoarding vegetable seeds not necessary yet

DeWayne Bartels

Amid the rain, wind and wildly fluctuating temperatures Peoria has been experiencing, some people are thinking ahead to the warmth of spring and vegetable gardens.

For some, that thought is generating fear. The fear is that dinner plates in Peoria this summer could be devoid of homegrown veggies at a time when watching pennies counts.

That fear has been manifesting itself at the seed display of Kelly Seed and Hardware.

“We had a guy with a little bitty garden we’ve been selling seeds to for years buy $300 worth of seeds. There’s some fear among people they won’t be able to get seeds. They are hoarding them,” Roger Jeremiah said.

A larger than normal number of gardening novices are turning out to buy seeds this year, Jeremiah said.

He said that what he is hearing is there is fear about the economy and that gardens will save money.  

“Gardening is not just seen as a hobby this year,” Jeremiah said. “It’s seen as a necessity. But, there’s also a Y2K type of fear.”

Fear not

Mark Meyer, owner of Meyer’s Country Gardens and Produce in Manito, said he has not seen any seed shortages yet.

“It’s pretty early yet. But, you never know what spring will bring,” he said.

Elizabeth Haag, annual and perennial manager at Greenview, said she is seeing full availability of seeds right now.

“Things might be out of stock for a fewweeks if we get a run,” Haag said, “but I see no reason to be fearful.”

Vegetable seed sales were up 20 percent in 2008, said Bruce Butterfield, research director for the National Gardening Association, and added everything  he has heard is that they will be up in 2009.

“I doubt that there will be any shortages,” he said.

However, it appears, George Ball, chairman of W. Atlee Burpee & Co., will be under pressure to deliver more seeds.

“The economy is part of the reason for the increase. People are gardening to save money ... Through our cost-analysis study, we found that an investment of $50 for seeds and fertilizer can produce $1,250 worth of groceries purchased at a supermarket,” Ball said.

“A hundred dollars will produce $2,500 in groceries. That’s $2,400 a family can save in five months.”

Interest growing

While concerns about seed availability seen by Jeremiah may not be widespread across the country, interest in gardening is exploding.    

The National Gardening Association’s Impact of Home and Community Gardening in America survey shows food gardening in the United States is on the rise, as 7 million more households plan to grow fruits, vegetables, herbs or berries in 2009. That is up 19 percent from 2008. That is almost double the growth in vegetable gardening activity from 2007 to 2008.

“As in previous recessions, we’ve seen increased participation in and spending on food gardening as people look for ways to economize,” Butterfield said.

“That said, these results suggest the interest in food gardening may continue to increase, even after the economy improves.”