HONOLULU (KHON2) — The pandemic and increasing cost of groceries led to a surge of people wanting to grow their own fruits and vegetables. But a master gardener said it may not save you as much money as you think.
The city runs 10 community recreational gardens with more than 1,200 plots. Nate Serota, Department of Parks and Recreation Spokesperson said all of them are occupied.
“Interest in our community gardening program really skyrocketed during the pandemic,” Serota said. “We have a wait list for all of them.”
The demand is so high Serota said they’re trying to expand the program.
Rising food costs likely contributed to the interest.
According to the Consumer Price Index from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price of fruits and vegetables went up more than 5% compared to a year ago, so a $10 bag of fruit last year now costs around $10.50.
The price of other food items went up a whopping 15.1%. That means a $100 grocery tab last summer could cost as much as $115 today.
While growing your own fruits and vegetables may sound like a smart way to offset the cost of groceries, master gardener Bonnie McCann said it’s not that simple.
“Just because you plant it doesn’t mean it will grow. Just because there’s fruit on it, doesn’t mean it’s going to ripen to the points that you can eat it,” McCann explained.
KHON: “Can it end up costing you more when you try to grow things?”
“Absolutely,” McCann said. “There is a running joke for the $200 tomato.”
She said you have to look at the cost of water, soil, other supplies and even your time — it adds up quickly.
McCann suggests starting with something easy, that’s guaranteed to grow.
Anyone interested in growing fruit, should consider the calamonci, also called the calamondin. According to McCann, it’s one of the easiest citrus trees to grow. She said it can grow in a pot and it’s very esthetic.
McCann said if you want leafy greens, do swiss chard — it’s much easier to grow than lettuce or spinach.
And if you want tomatoes McCann said cherry tomatoes are best
“They are very pest resistant, they would be prolific. They’re easy to grow. They’re fun to grow,” said McCann.
Despite some of the challenges, McCann said there are also a lot of pros to growing your own fruits and vegetables.
“I think the biggest is personal satisfaction and there’s a lot to be said for that,” McCann said. “And then when you eat it, I don’t care what it tastes, like it’s the best one you’ve ever had.”
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When you find the thing you can grow, she suggests trading or sharing the fruits of your labor because many times that generosity will come back to you.