woodleywonderworks, Flickr

As the 2011 gardening season winds down, I’m thinking about the high and low points of the year.

It seems like every growing season is a little different.  Temperature patterns at different times of the season and the amount of moisture we get and when it comes are among the factors that seem to dictate which crops do well -- and which ones underperform.

This year was no different.

The spring was fairly wet and cool.  My spinach and lettuce loved that weather, and I got more cuttings from those plants than I do in most years.   Bush beans were slow to get up and running, but once the plants started to yield the beans just kept coming.  And they didn’t seem to get as big and “seedy” later in the season as is so often the case.

I had the best celery I’ve ever grown this year.  Usually I grow that plant just for the aromatic leaves that are great for drying and putting in soups and other dishes.  But this year I got a good number of large, edible stalks, as well.  That reinforces what I’ve heard about how celery loves lots of moisture (we certainly had no lack of that this year!)  The brussel sprouts and parsnips – both mostly still in the ground and headed for fall harvest – are doing extremely well.  We had lots of big, mostly bug-free cabbage.  And we’ve had our second straight year of strong and long-lasting production of both regular and yellow zucchini.

But as good as the year has been for certain crops in our garden, it’s been equally dismal for others.

We had big, vigorous cucumber vines this year with lots of flowers and ABSOLUTE ZERO CUKES! Chanda at Fairview Gardens said it’s possible all the moisture we had led to some sort of fungus on the lower side of the leaves that prevented the flowers from setting fruit.

Our peppers were nearly as bad.  From over a dozen plants including jalapenos, serranos and bells, I’ve harvested a grand total of ONE PEPPER SO FAR, a medium sized banana pepper.  I’m told the soil was too wet most of the year and that the early cool weather also didn’t help.

Most of our broccoli never set heads -- although, as I learned long ago, you can leave the plants go and they’ll continue giving you small shoots that still make for a good nearly season-long harvest.

As good as the bush beans turned out this year, our pole beans were mediocre at best.

Our tomatoes have been decent, though I’ve run into a lot of people who have said just the opposite.

Part of the fun of this hobby is seeing what does well each year and what fails to satisfy.  I’m sure 2012 will hold the same kind of intrigue.

I'm betting on it.

-- WJON.com Contributor and Gentleman Gardener John Schroeder

John Schroeder is no expert on gardening.  He's never taken a class.  And he's not on a first name basis with an extension agent.  But he is a passionate backyard gardener who loves to share his vegetable bounty with his co-workers.  He says, "I’m just somebody who’s had dirt under his fingernails virtually every summer since I was a kid helping my folks tend their amazing tomatoes and carrots in `Nordeast Minneapolis. And through their experience - and later through my own trial and error - I’ve learned just enough to be dangerous!