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Growing Together: 2018 lawn and garden year in review

Roses were America's most widely planted flower in 2018. Forum file photo1 / 3
Don Kinzler, Growing Together and Fielding Questions columnist. The Forum2 / 3
Every year's unique weather combination of temperature, rainfall and frost dates greatly affects gardening, such as the ripening dates of muskmelons. Forum file photo3 / 3

FARGO -- This was a gardening year like no other. Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? But every gardening year truly is different than any preceding year, and 2018 was no exception.

The most influential factor in any year’s lawn and garden outcome is the weather. The growth of our flower and vegetable gardens, landscapes and even our lawns varies, depending on the last frost of spring, how quickly soil warms, whether we get timely moisture through the season, whether the growing season is cool or hot and the timing of fall’s first frost.

And no two gardening years in history have experienced the exact same combination of moisture, temperature and length of season. Each gardening year is like no other.

How did this year stack up? Each of us will relate differently, but in general, the flower gardens and landscape plants of my wife, Mary, and me did fine. Our vegetable garden was slow to start, as moisture was sparse early in the season at our home in Fargo. Most notably, the carrots were finicky and required reseeding. Tomatoes were fantastic, melons ripened well, squash produced abundantly and the raccoons ate heavily on our sweet corn.

Most vivid in my memory of our 2018 yard and garden year is the autumn, which I generously describe as crummy. It was too wet to give the lawn its last decent mowing, which provided nice habitat for a heavier population of voles than I’ve seen in a while. We couldn’t dig carrots and potatoes out of the gooey soil until shortly before the ground froze, and they came out coated with clay. The first frost of fall wasn’t delayed into October as in recent years, but was closer to average in September, making the growing season slightly shorter.

Despite my grousing, I’ll declare our own 2018 yard and garden a success. The flowers grew well, and we had plenty of vegetables to eat and store. What more could a gardener ask?

It was a busy gardening year nationally, judging by the results of the National Gardening Survey. Gardeners in the U.S. reported spending a record $47.8 billion on lawn and garden retail sales in 2018, the highest ever recorded. The average American household spent $503 on garden-related items, up nearly $100 from 2017.

Of those who participated in gardening this year, the proportion of older gardeners remained steady at 35 percent. The group that’s becoming increasingly active in gardening is young adults 18 to 34. The younger generation, besides buying typical gardening plants and merchandise, is also actively seeking gardening apps and informational websites.

Container gardening continued strong and landscaping saw increased sales. Raised beds remain popular, along with small but highly productive vegetable gardens. Indoor gardening has made a comeback, with 30 percent of American households buying at least one houseplant during the past year.

On an interesting sidenote, 15 percent of households said they would grow cannabis if it were legalized. Males ages 18-34 expressed the greatest interest in that gardening pursuit.

The most popular flower grown nationally in 2018 remained the rose. A distant second is zinnia, followed by lilac and iris.

The United States Department of Agriculture's Census of Horticultural Specialties compiles data on the most-purchased flowers for every state. Based on sales data, the most popular flower grown in North Dakota is the petunia. Both Minnesota and South Dakota’s favorite flowers are geraniums.

Buy a calendar

Looking for a new wall calendar? Consider the 2019 Growing Together Gardening Calendar, which is graced with local gardening photos by Forum photographers and filled with nearly every "when-to" needed by gardeners tailored specifically for our Upper Midwest gardening region of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Montana. Order calendars online at

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