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Don Kinzler, Published January 03 2014

Growing Together: Hot garden trends for 2014

“Exciting new garden trends” makes a catchy headline, and it’s fun to read what’s happening nationally. But I chuckle as I wonder if these are the same people who tell me whether my neckties are supposed to be wide or skinny, and what color we’re supposed to like this year for our home accessories.

Here in the Upper Midwest, we’re not a bunch of rubes waiting slack-jawed for national marketing teams to advise us of our gardening needs and wants. But let’s play along out of curiosity, and then we’ll decide together.

The Garden Media Group’s Garden Trends for 2014 indicate 12 key points.

1. Composting will rise to new levels, with food scraps being the new recyclable.

Almost 12 percent of landfill waste in the United States consists of food products. Food waste, peelings and organic parts can be added to the compost pile to eventually enrich soil and be kept out of the landfill.

This upsurge is great, but is certainly nothing new. Mom and grandma threw all their potato peels, eggshells and apple cores out on a pile beside the garden. Wasted food was non-existent.

2. Vegetable gardeners have a new interest in super-foods that are tied to wellness and good nutrition.

Unique powerhouse foods listed include kale, dandelion greens, nettle and purslane.

The thought of eating nettle makes me say “ouch.” After battling purslane for years, maybe I should open my garden to the public for a pick-your-own operation if purslane’s a hot new commodity.

Gardening in containers is still popular. Interesting twists such as planting vegetables directly into straw bales on a patio are novel, but most of us city dwellers are fresh out of straw bales, even in North Dakota.

3. Fermentation gardening is the new term given to growing your own grapes, fruit or hops for homemade wine and beer.

4. Landscaping is increasingly considered an outdoor extension of our home’s living space for entertaining, barbecues and relaxing. More homeowners are decorating outdoor living spaces with garden art, fountains, fire pits, lighting and comfortable furniture.

5. Simple elegance is in style. Flowers in single colors bring unity to containers and flower beds. White flowers can be used to contrast other colors and help brighten plantings during the evening hours as sunlight fades.

6. This year’s geometric shapes for the yard and garden are circles and triangles. Flower heads with circular shapes will be in high demand.

Wild and native plants are in. Neat and tidy are out. If wild and unruly are in, my last year’s vegetable garden was ahead of its time.

7. Locally grown is not only encouraged but should be embraced. Your geographic region is to be treasured. This means eating locally from farmers markets and your own garden. This renewed fervor is encouraging.

8. Men in the 18- to 34-year-old group are becoming increasingly more active in the yard and garden. In fact, this demographic now spends almost $100 more per year than the average enthusiast.

9. The world is becoming aware of the necessity of bees and concerned with their demise.

One-third of all honey colonies are gone. This is alarming because 85 percent of the Earth’s plants require bees or other pollinators to visit their flowers, without which the plants will fail to exist. One-third of our food comes from plants that are pollinated by honeybees.

10. The use of indoor plants is on the rise due to increased awareness of their power to inspire, increase productivity and contribute to mental health.

11. Fingertip gardening is skyrocketing. The use of apps, smartphones and the Internet is bringing new enlightenment to the world of horticulture.

Thirty years ago when I wrote weekly articles for North Dakota State University, a literary search for supporting data was an ordeal. Now I have instant access to worldwide research.

Importantly, we need to filter all information to see if it’s suited to our region.

12. Tree planting is definitely in. Not only are we aware of their environmental necessity, but trees increase a home’s property value up to 10 percent.

These hot new trends are actually quite encouraging. Most of them aren’t really new, just as my neckties keep rotating back and forth between narrow and wide as years go by.

Figures show that gardening activity is alive and well. Spending on yard and garden is third behind Christmas buying and weight-loss purchases and ahead of dollars spent on pets. Food gardening participation has increased for the sixth-straight year.

My New Year’s wish includes a 13th trend: the practice of basic gardening “how-to’s.” All the latest trends will be successful if we know basic planting, growing, and propagation techniques. “Growing Together” is all about helping one another learn, especially the fundamentals.

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, worked as an NDSU Extension horticulturist and owned Kinzler’s Greenhouse in Fargo. Readers can reach him at forumgrowingtogether@hotmail.com.