ABC7 On Your Side: Vegetable gardens

ECHO PARK "So it's possible to construct a whole meal out of your backyard," said Erik Knutzen. Erik Knutzen is using his green thumb to save lots of green on his grocery bill. "A typical meal for us might be some eggs, some Napolitos, some greens on the side," said Knutzen.

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Knutzen doesn't live on a farm. He and his wife live in an Echo Park bungalow, two blocks off busy Sunset Boulevard.

"Once you grow your own, you'll never want to buy it ever again," said Knutzen.

Their book, "The Urban Homestead," is a guide to gardening in the heart of the city.

Tomatoes, zucchini, artichokes and avocados: Just a few of the vegetables that go straight from Knutzen's yard to the dinner table.

Even parts of this "no-maintenance" cactus can be consumed.

And quite a deal. It's estimated that for every dime you spend on seeds, you'll get back about a dollar's worth of produce.

The National Gardening Association says Americans spent $1.4 billion on vegetable gardens last year. That's up almost 25 percent from the year before.

And with fears growing over food safety, homegrown food may be more than just a fad.

"We had a salmonella scare," said Knutzen. "These are Roma tomatoes. I know that they're fine, I took care of them, and they're safe to eat."

Of course, growing your own fruit and vegetables isn't free. But it could save you bushels of bucks in the long run.

Homegrown tomatoes cost 25 cents per pound. At the store? The going price is a $1.77 per pound.

Bell peppers will cost you 10 cents per pound to grow. At the store? You'll fork over $2.37 per pound.

And broccoli? Fifty cents per pound to grow at home; $1.37 at the store.

But what if you don't have the backyard for a garden? Try a community lot, like one in El Sereno.

"It's definitely cheaper than buying organic," said Jennifer Sedgwick.

Jennifer Sedgwick and her daughter Anna pay $40 per year for their own small plot of land.

"We're growing several types of tomatoes, and tomatillos, zucchini, yellow squash, some chili peppers," said Sedgwick.

Other families are growing broccoli, cabbage, strawberries, chilis, and even corn.

There are 60 Common Ground Community Gardens scattered across L.A. County. Help is available to novice gardeners, and no one is turned away for financial reasons.

Kids learn to eat healthy at an early age. Their parents don't wind up in the poor house.

"With the money they save, they get to use it on children and put a little money extra in the bank," said Maria Salas.

Food for thought the next time you're faced with a big grocery bill.


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