Category: Southern Living

Jul 25, 2020
By Michael Rupured

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. …

Sep 16, 2019
By Michael Rupured

A Long, Hot Summer

Most years I complain about summer being too short. Not this year. Instead of June 21, my summer started when classes ended in early May. Though only psychological — I didn’t take off any more than usual — the difference was very much appreciated. Long, hot summers are the norm in Athens. Highs have bee mostly in the 90s. Fortunately, we avoided triple digits this year — so far. Record-breaking highs in the past week have come close. Rain has been in short supply too. I quit watering months ago. Survivors include zinnias, Gerber daisies and an astounding variety of weeds. Now is the time to start planting my winter garden, but first it needs to cool down quite a …

Aug 01, 2019
By Michael Rupured
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Climate Change & My Garden

More than thirty days with little rain and highs above 90 degrees have taken a toll on my little garden. After much deliberation, debate, and a water bill three times the usual amount, I decided to withhold life support. Since pulling the plug, we’ve had some rain — not much, but enough to keep things alive a little longer. How long remains to be seen. Hot, dry conditions will likely persist into October. Keeping my summer garden alive is not a new struggle. Heat, drought, and an abundance of deer have long conspired against me. Though I grow tomatoes every year, ripe fruit are nearly as rare as snow in summer. By comparison, my first winter garden was a nearly …

May 30, 2019
By Michael Rupured

Time on My Hands

Teaching has kept me busy since before Andy passed last year. I’ve grieved plenty, but drowning in sorrow wasn’t an option. Between teaching, my regular day job duties, and taking care of myself and Toodles, I’ve had too much to do. I’m grateful, and not just for the distraction. Teaching a basic consumer course, while all-consuming, is incredibly gratifying. Many students say the class should be required. I bring my own flavor, of course, but the feedback is the same, no matter who the instructor is. No more working nights and weekends to stay on top of my class. School’s out until the middle of August. Having taught the class twice, I’m mostly ready — far more so than the …

Mar 18, 2019
By Michael Rupured
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A Sad Anniversary

Hard to believe a year has passed since we lost Andy. My ex, the best friend I ever had, and the love of my life died a year ago today. Adjusting to a world without him has been quite a challenge. To know Andy was to love him. He was kind, generous, thoughtful, and always considerate of others. The students, faculty, and staff he worked with in our college adored him. Being the partner of such a nice guy boosted my image around the college. He was the center of my universe for seventeen years (18 now). Since his death, I’ve thought and thought about our time together — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Could I have done …