The Tide is Turning?

Either gardening "green" is just trendy right now or people really have begun to comprehend the ill effects of chemical pesticides and fertilizers or, say, the importance of soil structure and beneficial insects. It could be a bit of both. (Or maybe it just depends on one's temperament -- you know, is the bucket of fresh compost half full or half empty?...)

Well, after taking in the National Garden Writers Association's latest Summer Gardening Trends Research Report, I'm throwing my support in with the half-full people this year. That's because the survey's small but representative sample of respondents suggests there is some good news on the organic gardening front. For instance, one-fourth of households opted to stick with only organic or natural products to knock down insect pests this year, and that number has steadily grown from 12 percent in 2004 to 15 percent in 2005 and 25 percent during '06 and '07.

Turns out another 28 percent of households chose a mix of organic and chemical products to keep bugs at bay this summer, and, as for the numbers of gardeners relying solely on chemical controls, the numbers have been in decline -- mostly. During 2004, 24 percent of gardeners depended on chemical pesticides. By 2005, that number had dropped to 22 percent, and it dropped again to 15 percent last year. That looks like progress -- until you notice that the number ticked up again for 2007. Now 19 percent of the gardeners surveyed trust only chemical pesticides to do the job.

At least gardeners seem to be paying more attention to the quality of the plants they choose. While 39 percent of the households surveyed relied on the usual big box home improvement stores to get their stock, 43 percent chose dedicated garden centers or locally-owned Mom-and-Pop spots instead. 

Still, there is decidedly room for improvement. I was most disappointed when I learned that 39 percent of the Americans surveyed had no plans to try to conserve water this year -- up from 31 percent in 2006. (Never mind that we're looking at some serious water shortages in the coming years...) Hmmm. Maybe that bucket really is half empty after all.