Category: Gardening

Dec 31, 2020
By Michael Rupured
Comments Off on After the Freeze

After the Freeze

Planting a vegetable garden is a risky venture. Experience helps, but luck always plays a role. A winter garden is especially tricky. Sub-freezing temperatures can be fatal. A two-day cold snap this past week had me holding my breath. When it comes to winter weather in Athens, anything is possible. My first year here, the temperature stayed below zero for several days. That’s rare. More often, the temperature will fall below freezing for maybe an hour or two early in the morning. Even before the freeze, the lettuce was iffy. I suspect the transplants had been in pots too long when I bought them. Except for some butter-crunch in pots, none of the lettuce survived the cold snap. Most of …

Dec 28, 2020
By Michael Rupured
Comments Off on My Little Plant Factory

My Little Plant Factory

Toodles surprised me this year with everything I need for my own seed-starting operation. I’m guessing my sweet little dog thinks her thoughtful gift will keep me at home. She knows me so well. I’ve mostly avoided planting anything permanent. There are many reasons, but the biggest is a deep and abiding affection for annuals. I especially enjoy experimenting with new varieties and changing things up every year. I started off small enough for a few twelve-packs from the garden center to do the trick. My flower beds expand a bit every year and nearly doubled in the past few months. Relying less on garden centers and more on home-grown plants makes sense and (theoretically) saves money. Seed catalogs offer …

Dec 18, 2020
By Michael Rupured
Comments Off on Garden 4.3ish

Garden 4.3ish

My first garden (Garden 1.0) was on someone else’s property — a duplex with a fenced-in yard and a patio. I may have gone overboard a wee bit. Over the next few years, “a little color” along the patio morphed into a flowerbed that covered maybe half the yard. Garden 2.0 was literally an overnight success. The last load from the duplex was a pickup truck filled with shovels-full of plants I wanted. Good thing. The landlord mowed everything the very next day. I planted the truckload of blooming plants late that night. The neighbors were amazed next morning. Garden 2.0 was also my introduction to plant and seed catalogs. Not since the Sears & Roebuck Christmas catalogs of my …

Oct 27, 2020
By Michael Rupured
Comments Off on A Work in Progress

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
Comments Off on Gardening is for Optimists

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
Comments Off on My Winter Garden

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
Comments Off on Growing Conditions

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. …