I've learned a great deal from my garden this year. It's the first year I've been able to garden with ground instead of pots, and I love it. While I'm no expert in gardening, (see above: first year in ground), I thought I'd share what I've learned.
You'd better really love what you plant. If you don't, things will die off rather quickly (swiss chard, I'm looking at you,) and the things you care for will overwhelm you with abundance. (Zucchini, anyone?)
I love the smell of tomato plants. I think I'd grow them even if I didn't really like tomatoes, (I didn't use to), because they smell so good.
Finding the perfectly ripe tomato is less about moving the right leaf and more about moving your body like crazy around the plant and peering through the jungle of leaves. Also, picking the tomatoes slightly underripe, so that all the beasties and bugs that like to snack on perfectly ripe produce miss out and you get the perfectly ripe tomato a couple days later.
Expect tomatoes to get bigger than you expect. A lot bigger. Otherwise your tomato plants will tip over the cages they are in so they can sprawl all over the ground and cover up your lettuce that never really had a chance anyway.
Setting up that really cute and fun teepee (tipi?) of green beans and peas from pinterest is a bad idea. Stick with a trellis.
Also, if you put said cute and fun bean teepee near the fence, you'll be sharing part of your harvest with your neighbors. And that's ok, because beans produce like CRAZY.
Also, putting beans and peas on the same support structure is a bad idea, as the beans would have overgrown the peas ridiculously quickly if my mom hadn't accidentally weeded the peas out. :) (Sorry Mom! Had to share…)
You can harvest beans from the same spot five times in five minutes and still come back to find more. They're crazy like that.
I think gardens were made to teach us to share. We work so hard to help things to grow, (we certainly can't MAKE them…) and when there are nine zucchini in the fridge, three freshly harvested, and more growing like crazy, there's only so much you can make before you want to throw them at people saying "Here! Take five! Please! I'll have five more tomorrow anyway…"
Basil gets ridiculously tall, and as long as you keep pulling off those flowers and a few leaves while you're at it, you'll soon have a bush.
Cucumbers beg for water during the day, scrunching up their leaves and looking all pathetic, and then in the evening they say "Just kidding!" and unfurl and look beautiful again.
Pepper plants that have been munched on can and will grow back with the right care, but if you plant them too close to the enormous mound of zucchini plants, the zucchini will eat the pepper plant before you can get any peppers.
Cucumber and zucchini will death hug each other if planted too close. Too close is within any reasonable distance. They should be very, very far apart indeed.
Onions are a pain to grow, and don't like being directly next to the walk path, as they are likely to get stepped on.
Watermelon will grow through anything, but it does not take well to its vines being eaten or weeded out of existence.
The best tasting cucumbers are the weirdest looking little ones. Meet the Little Potato Cucumber. But only if you like seeds, because, DANG. This cuke has them in spades. They're my favorite part!