BY DORIAN BLOCK, DONALD BERTRAND and CHRISTINA BOYLE
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS

Forget budget furniture or do-it-yourself interior design – New Yorkers are switching to homegrown dining in an effort to cut costs as the economy flounders.

The number of green-thumbed residents using the city’s vegetable gardens has increased by the bushel in recent months because of soaring prices in the food aisles.

“We have had a huge increase in our participation this year,” said Jennifer Plewka, who manages Drew Gardens in the Bronx, where membership doubled from 25 to 50 in the last year.

“We have one large family from Bangladesh and they have terrace-farmed an area on the hillside.

“They have three generations of the family coming on a daily basis.”

Community gardens in all five boroughs have seen a steady surge as residents look for creative, and healthful, ways to tighten their belts.

Some neighborhoods have a waiting list of urban farmers wanting to get on board. Plewka says staff at her Bronx garden had to clear out extra land to create more plots as demand soars.

“The prices for food are so high,” said Sandra Carter, 68, who now grows her own collard greens, green peppers, tomatoes and lettuce in the Bronx.

“I’m used to buying in bulk but I can’t afford it; I wait for things to come on sale. And the sales are not sales for me.”

The types of vegetables grown in community gardens across New York varies depending on the ethnicity of the gardener.

People with Southern roots like cultivating okra and collard greens, Latinos favor hot peppers and squash, and spinach is most popular among the Asian community, according to Robert Bennaton, New York City Housing Authority’s community coordinator for the Green and Greening Program.

“It can be an expression of people’s cultural identity,” he said. “But I think that families across the board are thinking that it’s a good idea.”

As city dwellers don gardening gloves and pick up shovels, or even try to grow produce in their homes, demand for vegetable seeds, tomato transplants and fruit trees has risen sharply.

The nation’s largest seed company, W.Atlee Burpee & Co., sold twice as many seeds this year compared with last year, with half the increase from new customers, company President George Ball said.

cboyle@nydailynews.com