Growing Concerns: Summer reveals how Americans garden

As a member of the Garden Writers Association, I receive quite a bit of information about the horticulture industry. Among the most interesting is a report recently released by the GWA Foundation, giving insight into this summer’s consumer gardening attitudes and expectations.

The “2006 Summer Gardening Trends Research Report” was conducted in June and covers consumer expectations and attitudes for activities and purchases planned for the next few months. The survey was conducted by TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, a national consumer polling organization, and statistically represents the attitudes of 110 million households with an accuracy of 95, plus or minus 3.1 percent.

I found it interesting to see what fellow gardeners were thinking and doing, and thought I’d share the report with you. Please note that the term “household” and “consumer” refers to households and consumers with a lawn or garden.

About three quarters of American households (71 percent) have some form of a lawn or garden.

When addressing insect problems, using a combination of organic and chemical products is the most popular method households plan to use this summer (28 percent). One-fourth of American households plan to use only organic or natural products (25 percent), while about one in six consumers plan to use chemical products only (15 percent).

This summer, the popularity of using only organic or natural products has increased among those who have a lawn or garden when compared to the past two years (25 percent in 2006, 15 percent in 2005 and 12 percent in 2004). A reverse result is seen among consumers who plan to only use chemical products (15 percent in 2006, 22 percent in 2005 and 24 percent in 2004). It’s interesting to note than one in three households (30 percent) plan to do nothing about insect problems this season.

More than half of households plan to remove weeds in their lawns or gardens by hand (54 percent). Treating weeds with chemicals comes in second, with more than one in four households (28 percent), followed by using mulch to prevent or reduce weeds, with almost a quarter planning to use this method (24 percent). One in 10 consumers plan to do nothing about weeds in their lawns or gardens this season (11 percent).

When it comes to conserving water, more than a quarter of households (26 percent) plan to refrain from watering their lawns or gardens. Almost a third (31 percent) doesn’t have any plans to conserve water this summer.

Among those who have a lawn or garden, more than one in five consumers plan to conserve water this summer by using mulch (22 percent). This method is followed by using drip irrigation, with almost one in five households (18 percent). Using more drought-tolerant plants comes in third, with almost one in eight households planning to conserve water this way (13 percent).

When it comes to choosing plants, almost half of households consider color to be an important factor (45 percent). About a third consider cost and what’s available at retail stores (34 percent and 33 percent, respectively), followed by plant size, with more than a quarter (28 percent) influenced by this factor.

The most popular reason limiting consumers from gardening more than they already do is not having enough time to do so (44 percent). Physical challenges restrict more than one in 10 consumers (13 percent), while about one in 16 gardeners feel that not having enough money and experience or knowledge (6 percent, both) limits them from gardening more than they already do. About a fifth of gardeners (18 percent) do not want to garden more than they already do.

This summer, more than half of households plan to use their garden or lawn for relaxation or spiritual retreat (52 percent). Growing or maintaining flowers, plants, or shrubs comes in second at 48 percent. Forty per cent plan to use their garden or lawn for social or entertaining space, while more than a quarter will do so for food production, health or physical exercise, and children’s play area (29, 28 and 27 percent, respectively).

Almost half of Americans do some type of container gardening (43 percent). Among those who practice container gardening, more than half of households do so for outdoor decoration (52 percent). Almost a quarter of consumers are container gardeners because of ease of watering (25 percent), while a fifth does so because of portability (20 percent).

This summer, almost half (47 percent) of all households have changed their travel plans due to the high cost of gasoline. A fifth of consumers will travel less and spend more time on non-garden-related home projects (21 percent) and almost a fifth will travel less and spend more time on both home and yard/garden projects (17 percent). About one in 10 will travel less and plan to spend more time on just their yard or garden (9 percent).

Island County-WSU Master Gardener Mariana Graham welcomes your comments. Contact her at

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