Category: Southern Living

Mar 08, 2021
By Michael Rupured

Practically Perfect

The home renovation and remodeling projects I’ve been talking about since September are drawing to a close. The bathroom is done, the entire interior has been freshly painted, and the bedrooms have new carpet. I couldn’t be happier with the results. Everything in the house had to be moved — twice. Putting things back was an opportunity to purge and reorganize. Rejects that fit in my car went to the Goodwill store in one of many trips over the past two months. Everything too big for my car vanished soon after being placed by the curb. I’m very proud of the neat and well-organized closet. I hate to brag, but have practically perfect closets is rare. We’ll see how long …

Feb 25, 2021
By Michael Rupured

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 08, 2021
By Michael Rupured
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Antsy

Patience is not among my strengths. Never has been. Waiting for my COVID-19 vaccination, completion of the renovation, and the end of cold weather has me a bit antsy. Throughout my childhood and well into my teens, I didn’t sleep a wink on Christmas Eve. Anticipation built for weeks. By December 24th, sleep was impossible. Christmas is date certain. Come hail or high water, it’s December 25th. Knowing the date made counting down possible, and that made waiting easier. Kind of. I’m waiting for open-ended stuff. Work on the house is on track to finish by the end of the month — probably. I’ve registered for the vaccine, but have no idea when my number will come up. I’m not …

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 …

Dec 31, 2020
By Michael Rupured
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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
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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. …