Category: Gardening

Jun 27, 2021
By Michael Rupured

Wall o’ Maters

My track record for growing tomatoes is decidedly mixed. Back in Kentucky years ago, a handful of plants routinely yielded tomatoes for me, my family, neighbors and coworkers. Since moving to Georgia, ripe tomatoes have been few and far between. The 2021 crop is shaping up to be an exception. This year’s plants are the healthiest and most robust I’ve ever seen. The cause is hard to determine with any certainty. Too many factors have changed since last year to point to any one in particular. Success this year is likely due to a combination of changes. The spot where the tomatoes are growing was home to a big magnolia last year. The “virgin” soil makes a difference. Growing tomatoes …

Jun 06, 2021
By Michael Rupured

My Plant Babies

Growing flowers and vegetables from seed this year has been largely successful. Nearly everything came up and, along with garden center acquisitions, found a home in the garden. I love them all, but my home-grown babies hold a special place in my heart. Sweet alyssum was the first of my plant babies to bloom and perhaps the easiest to start. They sprout within a few days, start to bloom in a matter of weeks, and keep producing masses of honey-scented flowers for months. Volunteer seedlings are likely next year and, unlike some self-seeders, are easily managed. Marigolds were next to bloom. I started two varieties: ‘Strawberry Blonde’ and ‘Elevate’. The latter is extra-tall at maturity (30 to 40 inches) with …

Apr 27, 2021
By Michael Rupured
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Plant Factory Update

The little seed-starting operation I set up in January has been a success. I’ve grown hundreds of flower and vegetable plants from seed and counting. The exact number or even a good estimate is unknown — I’ll keep better records next year. At least a few plants came up of everything I planted. Varieties include black-eyed Susan, Canterbury bells, foxglove, delphinium, calendula (pot marigold), sweet allysum, petunias, marigolds (2 varieties), zinnias (2 varieties), tithonia (Mexican sunflower), love-lies-bleeding, bell peppers, heirloom tomatoes, and a ton of lettuce (3 varieties). ‘Dragon Wing’ begonias were the exception. The microscopic seed are slow to germinate. Algae covered the seed-starting mix before they had time to sprout. I’ve had the same issue with petunias. A …

Apr 14, 2021
By Michael Rupured
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Just Add Water

When I was young, Dad built a fountain with brick, ceramic tile, a recirculating pump, and a concrete mermaid. He bored a hole in the bottom of the statue for water to flow into the pond below. Unable to make the turn to reach her mouth, water gushed from the seated mermaid’s crotch. Despite the glitch, the fountain provided years of enjoyment. Several goldfish thrived until the above-ground pool froze solid. After it thawed, we were amazed to find them alive and well instead of floating belly-up. Inspired by friends who’d created a beautiful waterfall for next to nothing, my first water feature was made with rocks picked up from the side of Central Kentucky roads and a waterbed mattress. …

Apr 05, 2021
By Michael Rupured
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Evolution of My Backyard

The realtor for my first house said I bought the yard and took whatever house went with it. That’s not entirely true, but garden potential has always been a big factor. An ugly lot with no potential is a deal-breaker. I loved my current home as soon as I walked in the door. The privacy fence around the backyard sealed the deal. Sun all morning and shade all afternoon make the patio pleasant for most of the day. The landscaping when I moved in, however, left a lot to be desired. I’ve mostly tinkered around the edges to make mowing easier. The lawn needs to be mowed once or twice a week for nine months or more here. Replacing hard-to-mow …

Feb 25, 2021
By Michael Rupured
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Late-winter Veggies

My second attempt at a winter vegetable garden has been more successful than the first. I can’t really take credit. Success came down to an unusually wet and cool September followed by months with only light freezes. The bar is admittedly low. Merely surviving the winter is a success. Months of root growth will pay off later for annual flowers. Any harvest is icing on the cake. My approach to growing vegetables is more than a little random. I don’t have room for a full-on vegetable garden and don’t want more than I can eat or easily give away. Mixing produce in with flowers works for me. Spinach is my biggest success so far. Freshly-picked leaves have been turning up …

Feb 11, 2021
By Michael Rupured
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Coming Soon: Drainage!

The company doing my bathroom renovation is more about solving moisture and mold issues than remodeling. I asked the project manager about drainage issues in my yard. His company doesn’t do that kind of work, but he knew someone who did. A downspout from my next door neighbor’s house runs into a plastic pipe buried in the ground. Where it empties is a mystery, but I suspect the dry streambed was put in to channel the water away. During heavy rains, the water flows enough for kayaking. My downspouts empty into the yard. Rather than flowing into the streambed, ponds spring up all over the place. The ground stays sloppy wet for days after a big rain. I figure the …

Feb 04, 2021
By Michael Rupured
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Gardening

Surprise! Gardening made my list of retirement activities. Like nobody saw that coming. Few things make me happier than puttering around in the garden. Starting a flat of seed, turning over ground for a new flower bed, or setting out plants provide instant gratification. The rewards keep coming too — for weeks, months and even years. I’m growing mostly annuals for now. They’re easy, colorful, bloom for months, and I can change things up every year. They’re also high maintenance. I don’t care. I’m retired. Permanent plantings would be more cost effective, but I can’t decide what I want. Even if I could commit, drainage issues need to be resolved first. After a big rain, my lawn resembles a rice …

Feb 01, 2021
By Michael Rupured
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Happy Groundhog Day!

February 2nd has long been my favorite day of the year. Call me skeptical, but I couldn’t care less about some groundhog. Shadow or not, the possibility of spring weather being just six weeks away lifts my spirits. Cold weather and I fell out in college. The rift started in high school. Snow was fun — until I got my driver’s license. Resentment simmered for years, boiling over every time I had to walk to class in sub-zero temperatures, blinding snow, or bone-chilling wind. Gardening pushed me over the edge. Freezing temperatures became the enemy. I wished for the end of winter with more urgency. Even in Kentucky, where cold weather persists into May, I never stopped hoping for an …

Jan 21, 2021
By Michael Rupured
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Mid-January in the Garden

Winter in Athens has been fairly mild so far. We’ve had frost on windshields many mornings, but only one when the mercury dropped below 25. I covered what I could and crossed my fingers. Everything survived — including plants I was not able to cover. Aside from scattered blossoms, annual flowers have hunkered down and are focused on root development. Dense crowns have replaced scraggly stems. We’re not out of the woods yet, but more roots increase the likelihood of surviving a hard freeze. The veggies are doing great. I’ve been cutting spinach leaves for omelets, salads, and stir-fries. Heads have formed on the broccoli, and little beets and turnips are visible beneath the foliage. Peas and Brussels sprouts look …