The great vegetable boom of 2008 and 2009 is over

An interesting article in The L.A. Times today. Titled, "After two years of eco-living what works and what doesn't". Written by Susan Carpenter she tells the story of "transforming my humble California bungalow into a test case for sustainable living — an experience that's cost me hundreds of hours of my time and thousands of dollars, an endeavor that has tested the limits of not only my checkbook but also my sanity." Susan say's there we're a number of things she is quite happy with.  Her gray water system has worked so well she is hiring a plumber to expand it. Solar panels and rain barrels come in second and third in her estimation of value for the buck. Some things she would do without include composting toilets and chickens, which we're a favorite food for the local raccoons. Included in things she could do without is "edible landscaping." That's LA  talk for a vegetable garden.

Susan say's, "If I had to do it over again: I would install one or two planter boxes. I'd buy the rest of my produce from a community-supported agriculture group such as Equitable Roots." Like many people when the economy started to tank a couple of years ago she, "...couldn't shake the fear that the American infrastructure was about to crumble and that I should start growing my own food. Thus began an incredibly long, expensive and back-breaking journey. Not only did I have soil that was high in lead, but I also had critters that liked to dig and destroy. Then there's the water issue. It takes a lot of the wet stuff to grow most fruit and vegetables."

Let's face it, that is going to be the story from a lot of people next year. Nurseries that have counted on the sales of edibles to help carry them through the downturn may not have that going forward.  Around here a miserable summer vegetable season has soured lot's of folks garden plans. I suspect that next year vegetable and related sales will not be as good as they we're a year or so ago. The people who have vegetable gardened in the past will likely continue. There will be some new people trying it out, but the massive rush we saw a couple of years ago is done. Susan sum's it up by saying, "...this is a project for people with time, money and a love of gardening and cooking. It isn't a job for single mothers with high-stress jobs who'd rather not spend their precious down time watering, pulling weeds and bringing in their harvest."

So what does this all mean to the horticulture business? I don't think we are going to see a uptick in ornamental gardening anytime soon. The money used in the past to fund landscaping is just not there. With a potential leveling off of edible gardening where is the growth going to come from? I don't see a lot of growth coming down the pike. That means a continuation of what we saw this year. Slow or no growth.

I believe there will always be a need for good garden centers.  Just not as many as we have now. There will be further shrinking of the industry. Wholesale and retail nursery closures will continue. Garden magazines and other media will continue to shrink. There was a lot of growth in the industry during the boom times, and now we are seeing a contraction of the industry as the new realities of the world we live in sink in. No counting on the avalanche of newbies we saw two years ago. Garden centers will have to go back to what's important, taking care our core constituents. As I have said in the past, "small is cool".

Extra: I just came from Doug Greens blog. Today's post is titled, "Vegetable Gardening Boom is Over." File that under, "Great Minds Think Alike" or "Old Fools Think Alike." Your Choice.