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Posted on Sat, Nov 17, 2012 : 6:20 a.m.

How did your gardens grow in 2012?

By Jim and Janice Leach

Lavendar in Fall.jpg

Janice Leach | Contributor

The color green has not yet retreated from the Michigan landscape; the lawns remain surprisingly bright, and we have our bounteous evergreen population to provide spots of life. There’s no denying, however, that the gardening season has wrapped up — or will very soon.

Before the snow flies in earnest or the frost dominates the scenery, late November is as good a time as any to remember the triumphs and trials of this year’s gardens. Our annual assessment helps us remember what we learned and plan for future improvements.

The 2012 season brought its own particular challenges. A warm spell followed by a freeze in March effectively removed any chance of apples in our yard and in some local orchards as well. I know some daring early planting gardeners who lost more seedlings than they’d like to admit.

We had an unusually warm spring. Our very dry summer kept gardeners on their toes in keeping plants healthy and hydrated.

Even with all of these variables, our garden produced some great plants and fruits. The herbs were happy and plentiful. Our tomatoes got off to a late start, but they came through in the end and produced for a long season. We are down to the last “fresh” tomatoes that we brought inside when green to finish ripening, and I’m pleased with their longevity.

The cucumbers were just right this year; we planted a more reasonable four plants instead of eight like last year, so we had plenty of cucumbers but not too many. The kale, collards and broccoli continue to thrive. I have no idea why, but our roses did well.

There were also some sad spots in the garden too. We may have lost a red currant bush, and I’m not sure why. The black raspberries were pitiful, and they usually are a dependable standby of our garden. Our asparagus did not do well. The squash were disappointing overall, although the summer squash did okay. It wasn’t a great year for our flowers.

For some of these failures, I blame the squirrels. Perhaps due to the weather affecting their usual food supplies, the squirrels were especially aggressive in the garden this year. Usually we end up sacrificing a squash or two to their curiosity: they nibble and abandon a butternut or acorn squash. This year, they feasted upon nearly every squash in our garden. It may have been hunge, or perhaps they were just more evil than usual.

So, again, before the snow covers our memories, we will take stock of our gardening successes as well as our dreams and plans for improvements next year, and we invite you to do the same.

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 and failures in the comments.

Results for 2011 poll

Results for 2010 poll

Jim and Janice 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 five years, they've published gardening tips, photos and stories at their 20 Minute Garden website.


Rork Kuick

Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 7:14 p.m.

I had a good year thanks to all the extra sun my vegetable garden now gets after the tornado. Gotta learn how to plant less. Now I can have great peppers and even eggplant, previously not really working, and my carrots are much better. I overwintered spinach, and had success with spinach planted one day before the tornado (mar 14 - that's early for me), due to lucky warmth. I had to excavate them from under the fallen trees though. Spinach didn't last as long as usual cause of hot weather. Had good string beans as always, and good success with pole beans and butternut squashes that I planted really late (end of June). Planting late, and letting the squash plants grow right over my potato and cucumber (etc) beds taught me something. Maybe I plant broccoli too early, cause it gets grumpy later. Had lots of cukes. I still have beautiful and giant leeks, and potatoes. Peas and red beets fell victim to small herbivores, chipmunks I think (I imagine small beets stacked up in some underground pantry) - maybe I just can't grow those anymore. I have fence to stop deer now, hideous, but I've got nothing for tiny animals. In the wild, my black raspberry, blackberry, and blueberry years were very bad, and since I want 6 gallons each, that's a big let down. PS: Very few acorns near me. Might explain squirrels wanting other things.

Sarah Rigg

Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 1:47 p.m.

Between the heat and the drought and the animals, our garden did very poorly this year. My herbs and, suprrisingly, my broccoli flourised. I got a nice crop of radishes before it turned very hot. Otherwise, it was pretty miserable. I believe the birds were very stressed by the drought and they ate most of our berries. Other wildlife ate my lettuce. My lesson for next year: a) Snip broccoli early so it will put out more little heads later in the aseson and b) Plant lettuce in pots to make it harder for the moles to eat.


Sat, Nov 17, 2012 : 12:52 p.m.

No apples or cherries. Tomatoes were abundant. Potatoes & squash--eh! Corn was scarce. No strawberries. In all, a poor year for gardens.