Category: Gardening

Oct 27, 2020
By Michael Rupured

A Work in Progress

After downsizing in 2012, I decided to figure out what I wanted before doing much to the tiny yard. Changes since then have been obvious and mostly involve removing things to make mowing easier. The garden is still a work in progress, but what I want gets a little clearer every year. The rock edge on the lawn side of the dry streambed makes mowing and edging difficult. Keeping the Bermuda grass from growing between the rocks is impossible. Replacing the rocks with edgers solves the problem and will add several square feet of lawn. I’ve mentioned in previous posts how protected the backyard is. The picture above shows why. The six-foot privacy fence in the background sits atop a …

Oct 11, 2020
By Michael Rupured

Gardening is for Optimists

An unseasonably cool fall prompted a flurry of activity in the garden. I’ve spent a small fortune on dirt, mulch, and plants and followed by hours of manual labor. Visions of a bountiful harvest and beds teeming with colorful flowers keep me going until the work is done. Telling myself the coming season will be the best yet is standard operating procedure. I’m usually right too. Weather can wreak havoc and varieties sometimes fail to meet my expectations, but more often than not, the garden exceeds my expectations. Weather is a perennial wildcard. Temperatures need to climb above freezing every day. I got lucky and experienced no serious cold snaps with my last winter garden. Anything is possible. We had …

Sep 29, 2020
By Michael Rupured
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My Winter Garden

Fall has arrived early in Athens. Summer heat typically persists through September and into October. Not this year. Aside from a few muggy days, September has been wet and unusually mild — perfect planting conditions for a fall/winter garden. High temperatures and dry conditions usually prevent me from planting anything before the middle of November. By then, garden centers have been picked over. Last wee, I popped by just in time for a shipment of fall veggies and picked up Romaine lettuce, Bibb lettuce, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower (which turned out to be cabbage). A six-week head start this time of year is huge. Shorter days slow growth as plants shift energy to developing roots. Bigger, more robust plants …

Aug 15, 2020
By Michael Rupured
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Zingy Zinnias

My father grew lots of zinnias every year. Vases of the colorful blossoms filled the house all summer. Anyone he visited (or who visited him) received one of his arrangements, often in a coffee can covered with aluminum foil. Cut-and-Come-Again is a common nickname for zinnias. The plants sole purpose in life is to make seed. Cutting the flowers before they go to seed (also known as deadheading) makes the plant produce more flowers — typically two for every one you cut. My vase (above) is overly crowded after deadheading my garden. Because they’re plentiful in garden centers, the shrubby, heavy-blooming Profusion variety are typically the only zinnias in my garden. These (above) are orange. They also come in pink …

Jul 25, 2020
By Michael Rupured
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Growing Conditions

Success in the garden involves numerous factors. Some you can control, some you can’t. Rain, wind, and sun exposure are beyond your control. Choosing the right plant for the growing conditions is the difference between failure and success. “Growing conditions” covers a lot of ground. Every plant has different needs related to light, moisture, temperature, and soil. The better the match between conditions and plant needs, the happier the plant will be. Some varieties are very exacting, but most will tolerate some variance. Knowing your USDA Hardiness Zone is the first step, especially for permanent plantings. Tea olives and camellias thrive here in my Georgia (Zone 7b) garden but can’t survive Kentucky (Zone 6) winters. Bluegrass, lilacs, and carnations won’t …

Jul 20, 2020
By Michael Rupured
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Watering the Garden

It’s hot! Highs consistently into the 90s and triple-digit heat indexes are the new normal. The abundant rain we had earlier this summer has ceased. Watering has become an almost daily task. I’ve tried just about every type of watering device ever invented. By and large, the results have been disappointing. They’re flimsy, hard-to-control, wasteful, and/or otherwise less than satisfactory. A slow, steady rain over several hours is ideal. Short-lived summer showers mostly evaporate or run off. Longer showers enable the water to soak deeper into the root zone. The rule of thumb is an inch of water every week, depending on factors such as humidity, type of plant, and soil type — to name a few. Hand-watering with a …

Jul 09, 2020
By Michael Rupured
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This Week in the Garden

Last week was plenty hot with high temperatures into the 90s. As summers go here in the Deep South, this one, so far, has otherwise been relatively mild. I’ve had to water a bit in between nice, soaking rains. Maybe ten percent of the zinnias have bloomed. So far, flowers have mostly been various shades of pink. That should change in the weeks ahead. I planted mixed colors of five different varieties in the same area. I’m harvesting Midnight Snack cherry tomatoes. As you can see, they’re rather eye-catching. The flavor is decent — almost as good as a “real” tomato. In other tomato news, my Cherokee Purple tomato is, in fact, a Beefsteak. I’ll pay more attention next year. …

Jun 24, 2020
By Michael Rupured
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Mystery Tomato Identified

The wild and crazy Cherokee Purple tomato plant featured a couple of posts ago continues to grow much faster than my other tomatoes. The vines are twice as tall and extend beyond the top of the cage. The other three tomato plants don’t even come close. The giant plant is covered with clusters of fruit. Each little tomato is purple on top with a green bottom. Looks like I’m in for a bumper crop. I don’t recall ever seeing so many fruit on one plant. A visitor who works with local farmers thought the robust plant was a chocolate grape tomato. The name refers to the size and color of ripe fruit — not the flavor. I despise cherry tomatoes, …

Jun 19, 2020
By Michael Rupured
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This Week in the Garden

Today is the last full day of spring. Thanks to mild weather and abundant rain, new arrivals to the garden are well-established and off to a good start. So far, so good. Eye-catching color combos fill the back border this year. Whether “eye-catching” is a good or bad thing depends on your point of view. Grouping varieties together for larger color blocks seems to make vibrant clashes work. Above, magenta Wave petunias, electric-orange sun-patiens, and several varieties of coleus are grouped together. The broad-leaved seedlings in the picture above are zinnias. I planted seed for those between the sun-patiens and coleus. The rest are volunteers from last year’s zinnias. Controlling color is next to impossible with annuals. The bottom-most New …

Jun 10, 2020
By Michael Rupured
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This Week in the Garden: Tomatoes

Real estate is limited in my little garden. Location is everything. Demand is high for a limited supply of desirable spots. It doesn’t happen often, but plants that fail to meet expectations get evicted. Plant selection reduces evictions. Different plants have specific needs and tolerances for temperature, water, light, and soil chemistry. Selecting an appropriate plant for the spot often involves some trial and error. Labels help, but don’t always include everything you need to know. Few things taste better than a vine-ripened home-grown tomato. Growing them has been a challenge for me here in Georgia. My mouth waters and my eyes tear up when I think about the grocery bags of surplus tomatoes I gave away every summer back …