Category: Southern Living

Jan 21, 2021
By Michael Rupured

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 …

Dec 31, 2020
By Michael Rupured

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

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 …

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 …

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 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 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 …

May 31, 2020
By Michael Rupured
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This Week in the Garden

Staying home for the past few months has meant more time in the garden. Compared to previous years, I got off to a late start. Took a while to work up the nerve to hit garden centers. Fortunately, mild temperatures and plenty of rain extended the planting season. Planting in the root zone of a tree is asking for trouble, but the space begs for something. I tried a few things last year, and was stunned when they returned this spring. A mix of dianthus, petunias and impatiens are doing well so far. I cut several struggling boxwoods to the ground to make room for annuals until I make up my mind about permanent replacements. You can barely make out …

Apr 19, 2020
By Michael Rupured
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Garden Update

Few things tickle may fancy more than impulse-shopping at garden centers every spring and fall. I hit several over spring break this year, but it was too early for the kinds of things I want. Staying at home has me chomping at the bit to fill my empty flower beds. Before the pandemic, I picked up a few things for a flower bed outside my front door. The petunias and dianthus I planted have settled in now and look lovely. Begonias planted in the same spot last year are coming back. The big yard at my old house had plenty of room for new additions. Running out of room in the tiny yard I have now is my greatest fear. …