The education of a gardener, ultimately about as interesting as watching grass grow, from freelancer DesCamp. Before she moved with her husband into their Portland, Ore., home, the very idea of getting dirt under her nails was appalling to DesCamp. Her family were inveterate gardeners, and DesCamp just didn't get it: Plants were plants, why the obsession? But her yard was a shambles, and slowly, grudgingly, she caught the bug, literally and figuratively. Her husband had sod laid on the back 40; she sowed her own grass in the front. She became versed in the ways of mushroom compost, steer manure, peat moss (""Peat moss. What the hell is peat moss?""). She learned a thing or two about the weather coming off the Pacific, and more than she ever wanted to know about the great gray garden slug, that prolific slimeball, which she plucked from the plants and hurled onto the street fronting her house. Admirably, she stays true to her sense of the organic--""I'm not a granola head with a different Guatemalan string bag for every social occasion . . . but I do think it's important to leave the earth a little better, rather than a little worse, from my gardening efforts."" So she turns ladybugs loose on the aphids rather than a dose of metaldehyde, and composts, much to the appreciation of the local raccoon population. Unfortunately, there's too much tedious everyday detail in this story: too many trips to the garden shop, too many garden books plowed through. Nor does DesCamp ever ruminate on the reasons--philosophical, physical, aesthetic--behind her conversion. What motivated this reluctant tiller of the soil, why are her nails now caked with mud? As her husband said to the pricey arborist, ""We'll get back to you on that.