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Posted on Sat, Nov 5, 2011 : 4:40 p.m.

How well did your 2011 garden grow?

By Jim and Janice Leach


James Leach | Contributor

Rakes, yard bags, compost piles, empty beds... There’s no denying: the end of the garden season is upon us.

One gardening ritual that we make a point of observing is marking and celebrating our triumphs. We are big on lists, so we have one or more noting our gardening successes. We take pictures too, although that practice is a little less regular than we’d like it to be. We talk about our garden a lot, with each other and any friends or neighbors that express interest.

And, obviously, we write it down.

Each gardening season has its triumphs, and it’s good to celebrate and remember them for the cold months ahead. Good gardening memories are also fodder for next year’s garden plans, which start shaping up very soon.


Janice Leach | Contributor

In the 20 Minute Garden, 2010 was the year of tomatoes and eggplant. We set up a poll on last year, and 53 percent of those who voted confirmed that tomatoes were their best crops too, followed by peppers, herbs, and every gardener’s nemesis, the weeds.

Sadly, this year our tomatoes were not the star of the garden. To institute a more regular plan of crop rotation, we moved the tomatoes to a bed where we had less easy access, which meant less efficient staking and more fruit loss. Or, if we’re being honest, maybe we just neglected more than we should have!

2011 garden was dominated by acorn squash. We planted two hills of seedlings and harvested more than 20 acorn squash from vines that grew 12 feet long and hid squash under broccoli and beans. Our cucumber plants were utterly fantastic —for the first time.

The cole crops also did well in our yard. The kale was magnificent, and the broccoli just keeps going. Our peppers were very happy too. I believe that I can stand by my early summer proclamation that it was indeed our best garden ever, which is not to claim perfection. It’s more the standard that the next summer’s garden will have to aim for.

So, again, before the last leaf falls, we invite you to make a moment to take stock of your gardening successes as well as your dreams and plans for improvements next year. Stroll through your garden — physically or mentally — and tally up what you've got to be happy about.

What were you most pleased with in your garden this year? Which crop or plant exceeded your expectations? What can you celebrate? Use the poll below to vote for your most successful plants; you can vote for more than one. Or leave more details about your gardening successes in the comments.

Janice and Jim Leach tend a backyard plot in downtown Ann Arbor, where they try to grow as many vegetables and other plants as possible. For the last four years, they've published gardening tips, photos and stories at their 20 Minute Garden website.


Sarah Rigg

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 1:48 p.m.

Despite other people's comments that they had problems with tomatoes, I had a great year. I got an heirloom variety that seemed to take a while to produce, but when they did, they were huge, acidic tomatoes, great for slicing. This was my first year with broccoli, and it turned out well. My raspberry bush also did great, putting out berries in June and again in October. As per usual, my herbs just about took over, and I've figured out how to keep cilantro going all year- don't let it bloom even a little bit if you don't want it to go to seed and go brown.


Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 4:34 a.m.

It was a great year for pole beans - I had so many I was sick of them. Also, broccoli, surprisingly, all through August and September. And my roses were gorgeous. Mulch makes a big difference!

Marilyn Wilkie

Mon, Nov 7, 2011 : 4 a.m.

Our first garden in many years was a great success. Next year we will plant fewer tomatoes and construct sturdy frames for them. I'll also plant some things earlier and space out the lettuce and radish plantings over time. I wanted a cottage type garden and that is what we ended up with. We are very happy with it. Here is a link to pictures. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Sun, Nov 6, 2011 : 11:54 p.m.

Cucumbers did well and did so did the collard greens. Bad year for my beloved brussell sprouts, and the tomatoes were not that good either. Lettuces were good early one. or is it Leti? ;)


Sun, Nov 6, 2011 : 4:09 p.m.

Our garden was a disaster. Hardly any tomatoes (died from the bottom up) We have deer that visit on a regular basis. They ate the beet greens, then pulled them out. Carrots didn't do well. We did have a lot of eggplant,green peppers, lettuce &amp; potatoes &amp; cukes. Poor green bean &amp; pea pods. It's easier to go to the store without all the Money, work &amp; time you put into it.


Sun, Nov 6, 2011 : 11:55 p.m.

It can be a chore, but I love sharing the expereince with my kids


Sun, Nov 6, 2011 : 1:51 a.m.

best year ever for roses with all the rainfall early on...blooming still. Hardly any special care and they bloomed better than most any other year in memory.


Sat, Nov 5, 2011 : 10:42 p.m.

I'm a rosarian (aka hopeless optimist). I have 100+ rose bushes in my little jewel of a garden. Most of the roses are &quot;antique&quot; in that they were originally cultivated 100+ years ago. The others are more contemporary but bred to withstand harsh winters. This past summer was beastly for roses. They prefer temperate conditions (think Seattle, WA and England) not blazing hot, dry conditions (S.E. Michigan). But the day lilies - filling in the gaps between roses - were extravagant. Those brave plants put on a show for most of the summer. My hydrangea, safely tucked in the shade of tall conifers, were also generous with the bloom. They require supplemental watering (such shallow roots!) but are well worth the effort. Vegetable gardening? I've tried but I'm just not that kind of green thumb.


Sun, Nov 6, 2011 : 12:47 p.m.

I'm from Seattle and there rose gardening is almost a year-round project. I miss the giant happy roses I grew up with, but we get much less black spot here. And Seattle is much, much drier than Michigan in the summer (1-2 inches of rain per month), so it's not the &quot;blazing hot, dry&quot; summer here. In fact, I had never experienced a humid summer before moving here. It's the winters I find limiting for roses.


Sat, Nov 5, 2011 : 1:38 p.m.

2011 seemed to definitely be a bad year for tomatoes.