As the cost of living rises, homegrown fruits and vegetables are a resource to fall back on

With lettuce and cauliflower costing $6 each and recent weather events expected to push prices even higher, more and more backyards are transforming as people start looking to grow their own.

Rebecca Johnson, managing director of the Limberlost Garden Center in Cairns, said she was seeing an increase in sales of seedlings, fruit trees and seed packets.

“Everything gets a little more expensive to buy, so growing it yourself gets more appealing,” she said.

“Recently there has been an increase in demand for things like lettuce, herbs and tomatoes.”

Rebecca Johnson says she sees an increase in sales of fruit and vegetable seedlings.(ABC Far North: Phil Brandel)

“The Beans Taken Off”

Tablelands author Jo Whitton started growing her own food a few months ago after beans fetched $40 a kilo at her local supermarket.

“I wanted to start growing a lot more of my own food because of rising food prices,” she said.

“With all the growing uncertainty in the world, I wanted to have a garden in my backyard to fall back on.”

Green beans priced at $44 per kilo
Jo Whitton grows her own produce due to high supermarket prices.(Provided: Jo Whitton)

So far Ms Whitton has planted lettuce, spinach, peppers, chillies, tomatoes, beans, beets, carrots and potatoes.

“Some of them take longer than others, but the beans took off, which I’m happy about because I saw them in the store for $44/kg the other day,” she said. declared.

“I’ve never planted on this scale before and there’s a lot to learn. I’m still researching where to plant and what grows well together and what doesn’t.”

An unexpected benefit, according to Ms Whitton, has been the amount of food donated by others who grow their own food.

“I’ve had people drop off bags of fruit and boxes of avocados and I can’t wait to return that favor.”

Jo Whitton in a black shirt and gardening gloves holding a plant with soil and visible roots
Jo Whitton with some of her turmeric harvest in her garden.(Provided: Jo Whitton)

Cost and Health Benefits

Ms Johnson says there has been an increase in the sale of seedlings, not just because of cost savings, but also because people are becoming more health conscious.

“People are realizing the benefits of growing their own food. They know what’s in it, they know what’s sprayed in there, and you can harvest it right from your own garden,” she said.

There has also been an increase in the number of people without backyards who are getting into the grow-your-own trend.

“Herb gardens can be grown in a pot and tomatoes grow very well in pots here,” Ms Johnson said.

“Dwarf fruit trees are popular and people are using hanging baskets to grow strawberries on their balconies.”

Community gardens can’t keep up

Neryl in yellow shirt and brown cap standing behind tall green plant
Neryl Smith says there is a waiting list for garden beds due to high demand. (ABC Far North: Phil Brandel )

Bungalow Community Garden President Joe Jensen said community gardens have also seen an increase in participation since COVID, and the trend isn’t abating.

“We couldn’t accommodate everyone who wanted garden beds or the fruits or vegetables we produced,” he said.

“The demand has been constant over the last few years, we haven’t been able to keep up.”

Mr Jensen says people want to go back to basics by growing their own fruit and vegetables

“We seem to have come full circle; we’re back to growing our own food and getting our hands dirty in the ground.

“It’s like a primal instinct that we have to touch the earth and grow our food.”

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