NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Although retail might be struggling these days to coax even the smallest of green chutes, it appears lawn care and gardening are, appropriately enough, yielding some growth in sector. Granted, major home improvement overhauls are not an option for most consumers, as they look to cut back amid the recession. But that apparently doesn't mean they don't want to keep their homes -- the ones they are most likely stuck with for several more years -- in fine trim. As a result, do-it-yourself improvements, specifically in lawn and gardening, are flourishing. According to the National Gardening Association, seven million more households planned to grow their own gardens in 2009, up 19% from 2008. Whether consumers are letting go of their gardeners, getting in on the organic food fad or look for a cheap hobby, more are opting to care for gardens and lawns themselves. Thus, while home improvement retailers like Lowe's ( LOW) and Home Depot ( HD) are still struggling on the whole, they are seeing an uptick in seeds, fertilizers, soil and gardening tools. Lowe's reported a 19% decline in second-quarter profit on Monday and released a weak full-year forecast, but continued to see strength in its outdoor products. "We had positive
comparable store sales in our nursery category and above average comps in lawn and landscape and outdoor power equipment," CEO Robert Niblock said on a conference call. Out of the 20 product categories Lowe's carries, nursery and paint were the only two that posted positive same-store sales. "More Americans are recognizing the benefits of growing their own produce, including improved quality, taste and cost savings," the NGA said in a release. According to its estimates, on average, a well-maintained food garden yields a $500 return when considering a typical gardener's investment and the market price of produce.
And whether the monetary benefits of growing your own garden are real or perceived, shoppers still feel like they are being thrifty by growing their own produce. Last month Scotts Miracle-Gro ( SMG), the maker of lawn and garden-care products, saw its profit for the quarter that ended June 27 surge to $147.8 million, or $2.23 per share, from $22.6 million, or 35 cents, in the year prior. Sales also jumped 9% to $1.28 billion from $1.17 billion, including a 23% increase in sales of Mircale-Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix. At the time the company reiterated earnings guidance of $2.35 to $2.45 per share for the fiscal year. Rival Central Garden & Pet ( CENT) saw profit in its third-quarter, which ended June 27, nearly double to $31.1 million, or 44 cents a share. While total sales for the quarter slipped 2% to $482.2 million, sales at the Garden Products division grew 5% to $267 million. This interest in gardening isn't expected to wane moving forward. U.S. demand for lawn and garden consumables is expected to grow 4.5% annually through 2012, according to a report by Bharatbook.com, a market research firm. And even the actuarial tables are on the side of the trend: observers expect the aging of the baby boomer generation to bring a huge demographic into peak gardening years, guaranteeing future growth in the sector. -- Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York.