newbie – first time post loaded w/ questions!

newbie – first time post loaded w/ questions!

Hey everyone! I just joined this community and i'm hoping to gain a lot of knowledge from more experienced gardeners!
gardening has always been a big part of my life. growing up my Father had a huge vegetable garden and many flowers/plants/trees on our property. now that i'm all grown up w/ kids of my own and my own home - i'd like to get more into gardening as well.
we live in Western NY. it's FINALLY getting warm here and i'd really like to kick it into high gear!
so... here is some background info:
-we live in WNY
-city lot sized yard - maybe 1/3 of it devoted to gardening as our toddler still needs room to play
-we compost like crazy
-would like some hearty flowers and ideas for vegetables.

last year i think i just went nuts w/ gardening. i didn't know what i was doing and whoever i asked (employees at the gardening shops) were just like "yeah, you can get that" and weren't much help at all. i read books, but they often seem so out of my league! i sort of bought EVERYTHING i liked (Ie: "oooh i love jalapenos! i'll plant those!") and i ended up w/ a very over run garden that seemed to be choking on itself.
i'd rather stick to a few good things that i know will grow well and will flourish instead of "oh crap, the squash isn't doing anything b/c the cucumber is trying to kill it"

what did well:
-tomatoes
-cucumbers
-hot peppers
what did not do well:
-squash
-bell peppers
-zucchini

can anyone lend me some advice? do certain vegetables do better w/ others? is that even possible?

also - we have a shady area that needs some help. it borders our garage and is in shade almost all the time. we have some ferns there now - is there any other hearty shade loving plant we can plant as well?

in regards to composting - do we lay the compost down NOW before we plant vegs/flowers?

sorry if my questions sound naive - but i'd really like to get it right this time! thanks in advance!

EDIT!
I found pictures of my garden from last year - so you can see the jungle first hand and get an idea of the size i'm working with.
http://mothinflight.livejournal.com/485098.html (link to my personal journal)
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