We're digging deep to put home-grown veg on menu
FORGET flowers -- veggies are the big growth area for green-fingered gardeners.
Sales of herbs, fruit and veggies to plant in your own garden soared by 43pc last year even though the general gardening market has wilted with the rest of the economy.
The grow-it-yourself trend has gone from strength to strength, according to figures compiled by Bord Bia.
It put the total value of the edible gardening market at €20m last year -- up from €14m a year earlier -- based on purchases of seeds and plants for planting out. Sales are twice what they were a decade ago.
That success goes against the grain as the general gardening and amenity market, which includes landscaping services and cut flowers, has fallen by 31pc since the height of the boom from over €1bn to €717m.
Herbs, salad, cabbage, broccoli and root vegetables are our favourites to grow at home, with fruit more of a niche area, Bord Bia found in a survey.
There's also huge demand for allotments around the country, as space-strapped gardeners look for extra room to grow vegetables.
Fingal County Council said it had to open up new allotment plots in the last couple of years because of huge demand.
Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council said it had a waiting list of 141 people for its allotments in Goatstown.
It also recently opened a new community garden in Shanganagh which has proved hugely popular, giving another 70 residents and their families access to new plots to grow their own produce.
Fingal County Council said it had to close the waiting list for its allotments in Donabate as there were already 200 people on it.
It also has 400 fully subscribed allotments in Skerries and Powerstown, with another 200 set to open in Balbriggan later this summer.
Brown Envelope Seeds in Skibbereen, Co Cork, which sells organic seeds online, said the surge in interest in growing your own food paradoxically meant they were being squeezed by competition from Lidl and other supermarkets, which have been getting in on the act as vegetable-growing becomes more mainstream.
"In the last few years it's definitely become more about growing useful food, and less about growing something exotic like watermelon," said company owner Madeline McKeever.
"People were trying to save money as a kilo of green beans might cost €5 or €6 in the supermarket, but you'd get up to 10kg from a packet of seeds costing €2.50.
"We're also selling quite a lot of oats, quinoa and wheat. There seems to be a move to grow your own muesli," she added.
With continued economic uncertainty, sales of 'Armageddon Gift Boxes' containing seeds such as oats, beans, peas, squash, leeks and onions had also been extremely strong at Christmas.
The "heady Celtic Tiger days of instant gratification and pop- up gardens are gone", according to the study carried out by Amarach Research for Bord Bia.
Consumers were no longer planting fully mature plants but were turning to cheaper options by buying seeds and investing more time rather than money in nurturing their produce.