As American families tighten their purse strings in unstable economic conditions, many folks are turning to cost-saving measures, including following a new trend called “Grow It Yourself.”

Statistics show that more than one in four of all U.S. households grow vegetable plants, one of the fastest growing pastimes, and one that is becoming more of a necessity rather than a hobby.

“This ‘Grow It Yourself’ trend is something similar to what you found 50 years ago, when families grew vegetables in their own backyards as a way to reduce household expenses,” says Bob Bartels, of Alabama-based b2 ideas, a public relations consultant who has worked with companies such as Bonnie Plant Farm, The Quikrete Companies and The Home Depot.

“Consumers are being thrifty with their dollars, but there are several other benefits to growing your own herbs and vegetables. Gardening is a great family activity, it helps to reduce stress, it helps to maintain healthy eating habits, and it can be accomplished in small spaces,” Bartels says.

Container vegetable gardening is a $1.3 billion industry, and Bartels expects more brands to enter the category, with an emphasis on green products, gardening start-up kits and high-yield vegetable plants. Additionally, companies understand that gardening has few socio-economic boundaries, and more urbanites and suburbanites are also entering the category, thus opening up new sales channels for opportunistic brands.

Mini-gardens are growing in popularity, as consumers develop balconies and patios into gardens utilizing containers. “Gardening is easy, plants are readily available at home improvement retailers, new biodegradable containers make plant care simple, and vegetables can be grown year-round,” he says.

Bartels cited some additional statistics that back a new ‘Grow It Yourself’ trend:

— More young persons 18-34 are gardening, spending more than any other
group on vegetable plants.

— Seniors are still the largest group of vegetable gardeners, making up
more than 25 percent of the category.

— Herb gardening continues to grow at a strong pace, with more than 15
million households planting herbs.

— Gardening is becoming less seasonal with an increase in the popularity
of cool season vegetables.