'Green' gardening's gaining ground

"What you need is a little rototiller!" the lady next door called to me over the fence. I'd had my back to her, double-digging my tomato bed by hand, so it took me a bit to realize she was actually speaking to me. I explained that, indeed, I do own a rototiller. I simply prefer not to use it. Puzzled, she narrowed her eyes and cocked her head. "Don't it work?" she asked. "It works," I'd said, and, gesturing with my dirt-encrusted hands, I tried to explain that rototillers really compact the soil. "Digging with an ordinary shovel doesn't do the long-term damage to soil structure that using a rototiller can," I added. Before I could go on, she wandered away, and, frankly, I was grateful. See, trying to explain my gardening habits and methods to the folks who automatically reach for, yes, the rototiller or, say, those Dead-On-Contact! pesticides just wears me out.

If she had stuck around I might've told her that I've got my eye on the long-term, and, while double-digging the garden bed by hand is a pain, it will pay off. Anyway, the results from the Garden Writers Association Foundation's annual Late Spring Gardening Trends Research Report are in, and I have a hunch I know how that neighbor lady would've responded had hers been among the 100 million-plus households polled. Even so, I'm happy to say gardeners, in increasing numbers, are turning to more sustainable growing practices.

For instance, while 31 percent of those surveyed said they would be adding some sort of fertilizer this spring and summer, 28 percent said that they will definitely add organic matter -- manure and compost, specifically -- to their soil during the same period. Furthermore, nearly half of the gardeners surveyed -- 48 percent in all -- said they will be recycling their plastic flats and pots this year, and that same percentage of respondents also plans to mulch or compost their lawn clippings. Hey, if these trends hold, maybe I won't have to explain why I've snubbed that perfectly good rototiller much longer.