I don't have a lot of gardening experience. My grandfather and mother had vegetable gardens, and their tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant were plump and plentiful. Growing up, I did only as much gardening as my parents' required in the name of chores. Now I find myself with access to a garden -- both flowers and shrubs (indigenous and ornamental) and vegetables. With respect to the former, I'm doing okay. I'm learning when things needs to be watered, weeded, fertilized, and/or pruned and when they need to be left alone. With respect to the vegetables, I am not having as much luck. Said gardens are in the northeast, on the coastal plain, in a state known for its turnpike, its bully (and not in the Theodore Roosevelt sense) governor, and its tomatoes.
Last year: my basil and parsley (which I put in pots) grew nicely; my tomatoes, not at all; my zucchini bore one flower and no fruit; my beans were plentiful.
This year: the basil (in a pot, again) is up, but the leaves are tiny; the parsley (potted again) didn't come up at all; the tomatoes came up, but they are stunted; and the zucchini has multiple flowers, but no fruit. The beans exist merely at the pleasure of the groundhogs.
Shouldn't I be up to my ears in zucchini right now?
What I did right (I think): not put the stuff in the ground until May 15th. Last year, I started the plants inside on March 15th and put the seedlings in the ground on April 15th. Big mistake. There was a cold snap and freezing temperatures overnight in late April. The quick-thinking and ingenious GC ran outside and upended little jars over the plants (i.e., making little terrariums) and managed to save the crops, but I think the overall too-early planting made growing everything a little harder.
What I did wrong (I think): not turn over the soil thoroughly enough when I did finally put the stuff in the ground. Everything may be a little too tamped down. I also failed to build a fence high (and/or deep) enough to bar the aforementioned visitors. Finally, I forgot -- even though it was sitting right in front of my face -- to mix some compost into the soil I failed to turn over. (Okay, so basically I screwed up everything save the timing this year).
Gardening seems to be a lot about vision and revision and trial and error. Plant A takes hold and does fine, until you discover that runoff from the gutters pools at its base and soaks it a little too often. Plant B works well in the sun, until said sun blazes relentlessly for twenty days straight and the leaves begin to burn. Plant C looked great when I put it in the ground five years ago, but since then, it's been overrun by the neighboring hostas and no one can see it anymore. Moving the hostas is out of the question (there are too many of them), and so Plant C is looking for a home.
This is how obsessions are born.
P.S. With regard to hydrangeas ...Last fall I pruned one all the way (to within 6" of the ground!) because my much-more-experienced pal pronounced it "leggy". This year, it came back like gangbusters -- it's big, full, and the leaves are lush and gorgeous -- but no flowers. Is this typical?