Garden goodness

Jacob Dhooge, 5, helps dad Kenny Schindler pull weeds from the family's backyard garden in West Ashley. Schindler is among a growing number of people turning to gardening for fresh vegetables.

As the country battles the recession, a residential gardening boom is sprouting up across the nation, and seed sales are dramatically increasing. South Carolina is no exception.

While many people enjoy gardening and many others have food safety concerns after E. coli and salmonella poisoning outbreaks, new gardeners and garden industry workers said the change from store-bought to home-grown food can be credited to the poor economy.

"At this point, we've been good without going to the store to buy vegetables," said Kenny Schindler, 31, who started his first garden last year at his home in West Ashley. "It definitely saves me money, and it feels a lot better just going right out here to get them. It's gratifying in a lot of different ways."

What started as an experiment is now a successful garden containing a wide variety of vegetables and herbs.

"Every day it takes about an hour at least (to maintain), but it's an enjoyable hour," Schindler said. "The work you put into it is definitely what you're going to get out of the plant."

Schindler isn't the only one catching on to the home gardening re-emergence. Seed producers and sellers, along with gardening experts, said sales have greatly increased in the past year for seeds, potted plants and gardening equipment.

George Hyams, owner of Hyams Garden & Accent Store on James Island, said that while his seed sales remain relatively small, gardening equipment sales and gardening questions from rookies are on the rise.

"People want to stay home more instead of going on big vacations," Hyams said. "They want to spend a lot more time in their yards."

Stephanie Turner, the Park Seed wholesale seed and accessories manager in Greenwood, said that because of the recession, the company also has seen an increase in sales, mainly vegetables that grow easily in this climate, such as tomatoes, corn and beans.

"Why not take advantage of growing your own vegetables, saving some money and getting some enjoyment from it?," Turner said.

Mike Watkins, the South Carolina Foundation Seed Association executive director, said the organization has had a substantial increase in sales this year, even selling out of a few types of seeds.

Carl Ludlam, who works in the garden department at the West Ashley Home Depot, said he hasn't seen a large seed sale increase, but sales of pre-grown potted plants have jumped this year. Ludlam said also that he believes part of the increase in home gardening could be because of a desire to control one's diet and to avoid going to the store.

Schindler, an Ohio native who grew up around farming and gardening, said he feels as though everything is so easily provided today that his kids' generation does not understand what older generations had to undergo to provide for themselves.

Since he was able to learn that from stories of his grandparents' struggles, he wanted to use the garden to teach his two sons about the value of hard work.

"I kind of feel like those times are a little bit closer than they were five or 10 years ago," Schindler said.