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Monday, September 27, 2021

More Gainesville residents are giving their green thumb a shot these days, in line with a national trend aimed at lowering the grocery bill.

A survey released by the National Gardening Association found that as the economic recession continues to grow, the number of household gardens is spreading, too.

The number of Americans cultivating home-grown veggies rose by 7 million, up 19 percent from 2008, according to the survey.

Sydney Park Brown, a UF extension specialist for the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, said alternative gardening is a good choice for college students who may not have a backyard.

Hydroponic gardening, which does not require soil, is one of those options.

Shannon Ivins, manager of Simply Hydroponics, said she's seen a major increase in the number of customers in her store since the start of the year.

"People are trying to feed their families without spending so much at grocery stores," she said.

Ivins said although hydroponic gardens are a bit pricier, they produce higher yields.

"You can get a good garden going for about $50," she said, adding students receive a 10 percent discount.

She also said nutrients can be sold for as low as $7 a pound. When diluted, this makes about 100 gallons of plant food.

However, Park Brown said hydroponic gardens can be tricky to maintain, since the water's pH levels and nutrient levels must be checked regularly.

"Students shouldn't only consider hydroponics as the only alternative gardening solution," she said. "There are several above-ground options like growing plants in containers."

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