All You Need to Know About Starting Seeds Indoors

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If you search the web, you will find a plethora of sites offering many articles, step by step instructions, growing charts, and tips, but will any one link or article give you all the simple answers you need to start seeds indoors? Probably not.

Think about this – there are millions of vegetable plants you may grow from seed in our world. How could anyone sum it all up in one fell swoop?

When I started growing vegetable plants from seeds, the desire to do so was sparked by the love of art packs from a particular seed company. The art sparked my interest and then I started to buy seed packets. I was interested in unique tomato plants and flashy hot pepper plants, rather than the traditional types I ate growing up on a farm. Maybe I got overloaded with the same types of tomatoes from when I was a kid, I don’t know, or maybe it is my love of art and creativity that got me into the different, unique, interesting varieties because they are like a work of art to me. A colorful purple tomato to me is cool. Or a pepper shaped like a UFO – that rocks! Plus you get to eat them and they taste delicious.

Need I say more? This is a photo from last season!!

However, I have spent countless hours reading seed sowing books, reviewing growing charts, looking up frost dates from different sites and all of which seem to give a slightly different answer, and determining what supplies and seeds are best for my area of Connecticut, and then I spent hours putting my own guides together. I guess, in some ways, it is good that I am an organized person and an over-thinker! Maybe I looked at too much, because my head would spin. After all, you could just buy a pack of seeds and plop them into soil, and it would sprout – but would it be successful?

Today, I want to try to share some of my seed sowing considerations in a random casual fashion:

#1) Start small and pick easy to grow plants. So, what veggie plants are easy, what grows like weeds? Hmmm, well, that is a tricky question. One may say, well a pumpkin seed is sure to pop up from the soil or a cucumber seed, but do you like pumpkins, do you have space to grow pumpkins in containers or a garden? They sprawl out for miles (well, for many many feet) and so that may not be the best choice for you. And cucumbers, well, they vine up and down and all around, but they don’t like their roots disturbed, so even though they are easy to grow, they have considerations if you start seeds indoors and then transplant. In my opinion, some herbs are easy to grow, like parsley, or mixed lettuces seem easy, or some basils, but even if they are easy, they all have unique personalities to consider. For example, basils like warmth. If you put them out too early when cool in the early spring, they don’t like that and won’t flourish. Cherry tomatoes are easier than regular tomatoes in my experience. No matter what – you will get tons of cherry tomatoes from one plant – it is amazing! Parsley is easily and it likes a bit of the cooler weather, unlike the basils.

Shown in this photo, Thai Basil (top left), Sacred Basil (top right), Curley Parsley (bottom left) and Genovese Basil (bottom right). Easy to grow herbs, as seen last year!

#2) Get the tools ready. Do you need a grow light? Many people will argue you do. And it does increase your success at sowing vegetable seeds indoors. But what is success? A perfectly straight upright seedling? Maybe. Maybe not. After all, I know many people who grow seedlings in seed trays set on their old fashioned heat radiators in their home, and the seedlings leaned towards the window for more sunlight, but they made it – and make it into their gardens. However, as you learn more, you start to consider the options of getting a lighting system so it increases your success and makes for healthier seedlings. As for myself, I have a greenhouse which provides sufficient lighting when the sun is out. In early spring, on many days, there are cloudy days. So far, I’ve gotten by just fine without grow lights. As I learn more, maybe I will get grow lights to add to my set up, but it is not going to be this season. Anyhow, what I’m getting at, is at a minimum, think about the tools you will need to sow seeds and start to pick up your supplies based on what you think you want to grow. BTW, I do use heat seedling mats to encourage germination of the seeds and to increase the start of healthy roots. This I have found helpful to invest in. That is a tool you may want to consider ordering now.

#3) Soil mix – This IS critical. First, for the ultra beginners, you should know that you can not sow your seeds in dirt from the ground for vegetable plants you need to start indoors in seedling trays ahead of the growing season. Believe it or not, when I offered seed kits last spring, one person thought you could put dirt from the ground into your seedling trays. They said my instruction sheet enlightened them and they had no idea dirt was a no-no. So, when you go out to get your soil for sowing seeds indoors, get bagged seedling mix or sterilized potting mix for patio pots. Either will be fine. The seedling mixes are finer than potting mixes, usually fresher since it is going to be seed sowing time soon, and perfect for tiny seeds to make contact with the seeds, etc. If you don’t want to deal with that, and want to sow seeds in the dirt, pick vegetable plants that you may directly sow into the ground after all chances of our spring frost and when the garden soil is workable. But you need to determine which plants you can sow directly into the ground, things like beets, for example. Some plants prefer to be directly sown into the ground. If you pick this option – remember, you have to prepare your garden area ahead as well.

A tomato seedling that was potted up into a larger pot by Cathy Testa

#4) Timing. This is another critical factor. All plants grow at different rates. Some take longer and some are faster. They need a certain number of days or weeks before they produce fruit. If you start your seeds too soon, they will be outgrowing your starter pots, getting root bound, start to struggle for the moisture it needs, and even start flowering, which leads to fruit (and for ultra beginners, flowers are where the fruits are produced. I don’t mean to sound rude or condescending, but if you are new to the world of gardening and plants, and didn’t know this – don’t feel embarrassed. I didn’t either when I was a kid and I grew up on a farm!). So, say you sow your tomato seeds too soon, then they grow larger and larger indoors, and then you need to put them in a bigger pot, and then they get flowers and then, you want to put the plant outside but it is still too cold out – it may even freeze one night if the temperatures drop down. You could loose the flowers from the cold temps, now you will have no fruit. Potentially, all your seedling work is lost. The same goes for starting seeds too late. If you start too late, your plant will sprout, it will grow, and you will think, awesome, and, now I can put it into my gardens or containers in spring outdoors, fine, but then you wait and wait and wait after its been growing in the garden, and it is almost early fall and you still don’t have any peppers. You started the seeds too late indoors. Peppers take more weeks to produce their peppers for some varieties (as an example), they have a required longer growing season. Timing is a critical thing. Get yourself a seed sowing calendar, look it over, and count back the number of weeks it indicates on the seed packet (or inside the packet) as to when to sow your seeds indoors. You count back from your last frost date in spring which in Connecticut usually falls around mid-May. If you end up buying seeds from me or a seed kit, I already did all this timing homework for you in my charts and calendars based on the seeds I will have available for sale.

#5) Okay, what else is needed? I guess it is Determination + Enthusiasm. Last year, we had the start of the pandemic and lots of things were short in supply (including some foods), AND as we all know, people were home so they had time to start their own gardens. The enthusiasm to start sowing your own seeds for your own amazing vegetable gardens was very high, and many people came to me for advice and for seeds or seed kits. Everyone was so enthusiastic, I just loved it. The pandemic even created a seed shortage by seed companies because so many people were trying to grow their own for the very first time! But, growing plants from seeds is not like making brownies for the first time. You read the directions on the box, set it in the oven after mixing all as directed, and you are successful, and you eat the brownies. Sometimes in the plant world, there are factors out of our control. So, you read the directions, you sow the seeds, but then all of a sudden there is an issue after planting them outdoors and they’ve been growing for a while. Say it is blossom end rot or a tomato horn worm, and ack! You are bummed!! But if you are still determined, you will succeed. So you take on the challenge, fix it if possible, and then you reap the rewards of an amazing tomato harvest or pepper harvest. And it feels good, it tastes good, and it is right there at your finger tips. Oh, again, that makes me remember something, I think cherry tomatoes are easier to grow from seed than regular tomatoes, so that is another tip for beginners. Usually you get lots of cherry tomatoes! Like tons of them! Did I say that already?

Heirloom Tomatoes I grew from Seed!

Will those of you who gave tomato and pepper growing from seed last season give it a go again this season? Yes! I know you will. I know there are some of you that so enjoyed it, you are on board. But maybe not, maybe you thought all these considerations were too much, too many things to think about, and if you don’t like to water plants, talk to them, and treat them like a cherished pet dog that needs care, well, then maybe you won’t. That’s okay too. The choice is yours and if you decide to make that choice again this season, and get seeds and/or seed starting kits from me, I promise to be your cheerleader and encourage you as well as give you as much information as I can about how to start sowing seeds indoors based on my experience.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

For details about my seed offerings, visit http://www.WorkshopsCT.com.

So COVID Confused

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My annual ritual, for as far back as I can remember, is to start planning out my yearly calendar on the first week of January. I will take out my past year’s calendars actually, and look at all the activity I’ve written on each date and transpose the important items to my new calendar.

Last year, I purchased a formal fancy book calendar planner with many pages and sections because I had a great deal of goals to outline and try to balance. Things like setting up workshops, teaching a class to a school, setting dates for my container garden installations at clients, and sowing seeds. The book style calendar was new in addition to the wall style calendars I use to plan other activity. For example, I keep a separate calendar just for seed sowing and noting dates along the way of the plants’ progress, etc.

But this year, I’m feeling very “COVID confused.” I pulled out my new wall 2021 calendar yesterday morning to start this process. I sat there at times just thinking and feeling off balance or not sure what to notate. At times, I don’t even remember not noting some things from last year’s changes because it was a confusing year and because of how much the pandemic changed our calendars and timing in 2020. What I mean is, I would sit there and think, “Didn’t I write that or this down?” But at times, I missed even noting an important date down on my 2020 calendar. I guess calendaring just went out the window as I and we all dealt with unforeseen changes to our daily and weekly routines.

Looking at 2021 – Feeling COVID Confused

In fact, when I looked at my 2020 wall calendars, most of what is written on some key dates are the words, “Cancelled.” We all know what that is about. It started with hearing about the pandemic, then seeing that as hopeful as we were, we would have to eventually cancel in-person or group activities, like my plant related workshops.

My book style 2020 calendar turned into nothing more than a place to collect dust on my home office desk. I remember, I even typed out a separate list of dates to be sure to plan carefully so I would not wear myself out and make priorities on the most important business items of the year. But that typed out list was meaningless. It is like wow, I couldn’t even follow my grand plan last season, although I was busy and had many work related activities continue, it did not follow a “plan or calendar.” It followed the pace of what occurred, versus what was planned.

Then it felt like someone pulled a prank on me. None of that “book style 2020 calendar” was followed. However, I still kept my small business going, and in fact, some of my business actually perked up. That’s another story for another time, but I don’t always buy a “book style calendar” and last year I did – and it was almost like the feeling of “a joke.” I didn’t even use it! Someone pulled a prank on me. That someone, or something, we all know is the pandemic that showed up in our lives.

As I look at my first 2021 new wall calendar, and started to do this annual “ritual” of writing past dates or key dates on the calendar, I started to feel very confused. I call it “COVID confused.” I literally felt like lost.

I didn’t really feel like I had a clear head. I even thought to myself, “Well Self, Just pretend nothing has changed and proceed as normal.” Not sure that is a smart idea though? We all know nothings normal now.

However, fortunately for me, much of what I have done for my small business has been “on my own” anyhow, and much of it can be planned without interaction of others, at least the items I grow and sell. I thank the Nature Gods and whomever blessed me with the notion to build a greenhouse for that. Working solo in a greenhouse saved me last year. And so did the people who supported me with their Zero-Contact Porch-Pick-ups during the pandemic year which started in 2020.

Photo around Thanksgiving Time 2020 and Added Words in 2021!

If I am honest with myself, I made the decision to cancel offering workshops before this pandemic arrived. I was thinking about doing so. Part of that is because I think maybe my age. It is such a huge effort to put on workshops. And I also developed tinnitus (ear ringing) which is 24 x 7 in my ears/head, which started about 3.5 years ago, and it hasn’t improved. It messes up my sleep and stress makes it louder. I started to feel as though I didn’t have the energy required to put on my workshops, and with a pandemic, forget it. There was no way I could take that risk of spreading a virus in my workshops, and my mind was not ready to do online courses, etc.

Another reason I thought to not do those workshops anymore, even if they brought me so much joy at times, is that everyone and their brother (and, sister?) are offering workshops now. When I first offered them over 10 years ago, they were not that commonplace. It was my unique way of reaching the plant lovers in my passionate plant world.

Then I saw “cookie cutter” workshops happening by big companies and hiring non-experts to teach them in SOME CASES, in my opinion. I don’t really care for cookie-cutter. I like personalization, uniqueness, and convenience for my attendees. I worked hard at all of that. Now workshops were being held in bars and filling and they were paying more than what I charged. You can see where I’m going here.

Anyhow, so for my calendaring ritual, I knew, those “cancelled” workshops don’t even need to be on my 2021 calendar this year – so strike that from my list. They say, never say never, so I won’t but I don’t think I’ll be offering my workshops again. Or if I did, it would be some new format or style, but I don’t know what that is at all at this point. As I said, I’m COVID Confused.

I think a lot of us will feel “confused” this year on how to proceed. I know I’m not alone in that aspect.

I’ve been using an app called Calm for about 6 months now. I absolutely love it. It offers “sleep stories, sleep music” and many other meditative benefits. Every morning, before I get up, I do a meditation offered in their daily Calm series. This morning, they discussed “looking within” instead of looking outside of yourself when trying to find yourself or answers. I thought, “Hmmm, let me ponder this.”

I know that within, I absolutely felt joy when offering seeds, seedlings, and installing container gardens for clients. These are definitely going to continue as part of my small business offerings. I also know I absolutely love making custom plant gifts. But this year, things will change in regards to the Planning, Preparing, and Pace. Some will stay the same, but some will change. If the new strain of the virus spreads and things get worse again, the pace will change, the planning may change, but I still will prepare as best as possible.

Have a great first week of January 2021 everyone.

Stay Safe. Happy New Year.

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

My Other Websites:

http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
http://www.ContainerGardensCT.com

Three Days till Christmas

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And what have I learned?

#1) That making fresh holiday wreaths and custom gift orders totally helped me get thru the tough times of the pandemic.
#2) That I still feel lonely when I wrap Christmas presents.
#3) That I am a late shopper but you are able to get good deals at local shops because of that.
#4) That I don’t like to bake holiday cookies, but I sure love eating them.
#5) That I still don’t know how to make this year’s Christmas Day special for just Steve and I due to the pandemic.
#6) That I am going to feel bored on Christmas Day, I think.
#7) That no matter what, I put on Christmas pounds this month.
#8) That I bring smiles to people’s faces with special unique custom creations.
#9) That I love working with holiday greens. And I especially loved packaging holiday greens boxes.
#10) That I am very motivated when into a work related holiday project even in blustery cold outdoor temperatures.
#11) And, that I love holiday decorations in our home even if it is mainly for just the two of us (since we have had no indoor guests here all month, again due to the pandemic.)

Well, some of this list may sound depressing. I hope I don’t get the blues after Christmas day, cause as noted on #1, making wreaths and holiday creations for people, really truly absolutely got me through this month. It allowed my brain to go to a happy place, create, watch holiday movies or listen to holiday music, while I made wreaths and such. Making these holiday items for a month truly kept me sane. Thank you so much for all your orders and enthusiasm.

Cathy T holding a wreath she made (on a nice sunny day!)

In regards to #2 (wrapping presents) and #3 (holiday shopping), I did my first trek out to holiday shop just yesterday. I discovered that I am so busy before Christmas making holiday items for orders, that I usually end up going out for last minute gift shopping for family or friends of my own just before Christmas, but one thing I did this season was stuck to going to local places to shop and it was quiet in the stores, all the holiday items were marked down to 40%, and I got a nice hot cappuccino from a local bakery with cookies to go, which one cookie I snuck out of the package to eat in my truck while driving to my next destination.

But on #2 (lonely wrapping presents), this year I felt especially lonely when I got back home and immediately started wrapping presents. I didn’t even take a rest and got to it immediately. I felt lonely I guess cause I know I won’t be in the room when they open them. Isn’t part of the fun watching people’s expressions as they unwrap the gifts? And being kid-less myself, sometimes holidays feel lonely. I wrap and wrap for so many, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like anyone is wrapping for me. Parents are lucky. They always will get a gift and the joy of watching their kids open presents. For me, that is non-existent. There I said it. I don’t mean to be a sap (sorry). I guess that is probably why I just enjoy the smiles of people’s faces soooo much when they pick up a custom holiday gift I made for someone special in their lives. And it also taught me there are way bigger problems in life than my silly moments of holiday sighs. Gosh, one nurse I met, she has seen some very sad situations. Very sad indeed. And I think, we need a National Holiday for Nurses after the pandemic is over. Truly, I think that is needed.

#4) That I don’t like to bake holiday cookies, but I sure love eating them.

There is no doubt, there is nothing better than biting into a fresh, soft, yummy, fully decorated homemade or bakery made holiday cookie. And folks, my mother in law made the best, hands down. One time, when I just started dating my husband, I hap hazardly made some sugar cookies to bring to their house on Christmas Eve. It was I think the first time I attended her amazing holiday dinner on Christmas eve. She is the type of woman who picked recipes from a fancy cooking magazine, now I can’t recall it, darn it, anyhow, she made food to perfection. So when I arrived at the door and handed her a plate of odd shaped, not too good looking, sugar cookies with a happy attitude, not being any the wiser at that time, she took it and brought it to the kitchen. Later, I discovered them kind of tucked into a corner, which was no surprise when I saw the most magnificent display of the most heavenly cookies you ever seen in her living room. She had a gift, let me tell ya. At her elderly age, she doesn’t bake as much, but I sure do miss her amazing, soft, decadent cookies. Yesterday, I got some at a local bakery to try to make up for that, and I also spend time admiring the photos on Facebook of everyone who bakes amazing cookies at their homes, which you all are posting a lot right now. My mouth waters. Yummy.

#5) That I still don’t know how to make this year’s Christmas Day special for just Steve and I due to the pandemic. #6) That I am going to feel bored on Christmas Day, I think.

I know #5 and #6 sound depressing. It has always been “just the two of us,” but we also attended family gatherings here and there for Christmas too, and this year, well, that is a big no-no due to the pandemic. And it will be pouring rain all day on Christmas Day, they said on the news last night – Ugh! What will we do all day? We already watched quite a few holiday movies. And we can’t even decide right now what we should make for a meal. At first, we thought let’s order from a favorite restaurant, then we decided, well, maybe not. Well, tomorrow will be sunny and gorgeous so we are going to do some gift drop offs and try to make THAT day special. Maybe, since he will have the day off, we will figure out our meal plan for our Christmas Rainy Day, and pick up items on the road tomorrow. Because, today, I have to do some more last minute shopping still.

#7) That no matter what, I put on Christmas pounds this month.

Oh yah, the holiday pounds, let’s not even discuss that. It goes back to #4. You get the idea there. I used to say it was because I become Mrs. KB Claus, but now I guess it is Custom Cathy Claus. LOL. Those of you who know me best, know what I mean! LOL.

My Gnome Globes Made People Smile!

#8) That I can bring smiles to peoples’ faces with special unique custom creations.
#9) That I love working with holiday greens.
And absolutely loved packaging Holiday Greens Boxes for customers this year!

Oh yah, that kind of goes to point #1. I love seeing smiling faces when people pick up my holiday creations. That is really the true meaning of Christmas right? Bringing smiles to people’s face, and I learned I really love working with holiday greens, and LOVED packaging greens for my Holiday Greens Boxes this year (which was a new offering). It felt so good to do that – the fresh aromas, the mix of wonderful greens, where people could create with at their own homes, etc.. That is something which totally gets me into the spirit, at least it did all this month, and it will continue to do so as I look at the greens around my house, like the kissing ball hanging by my door, the pot of holiday greenery, the big wreath I hung outside on the fireplace wall. I just love the smell of the fresh holiday greens and I love the nature of it all. And I am happy for those who got greens, they could create at their own home as well.

Box of Greens for Customers was so fun to package up!

#10) That I am very motivated when into a project even in blustery cold outdoor temperatures.
#11) And, that I love holiday decorations in the home and outside even if it is mainly for just the two of us.

Oh yah, I remember one year working on the barrels which I fill with greens at local package store, the owner came out to say he couldn’t believe I was working in the frigid cold temperatures that day. It was super cold, but there have been days I don’t care that it is cold, well, I care, but I can endure super cold temperatures outdoors when creating with holiday greens to decorate a special place or business. I am not sure why. I would whine like a baby otherwise probably about the freezing cold temperatures, but when I am creating, I usually push through the chills and make sure I bundle up as much as possible, and I do try to go on good sunny days. We did have some mild temp’s earlier this season. However, you have to be careful because your holiday motivation can make you forget the fact you could get frost bite or catch a cold, or whatever, thus it is important to warm up between stuffing greens into holiday planters and pots outdoors at residences, or at home, etc.

And #11, decorating! Oh yah, we did decorate a bit less this year, got a small tree for inside the home, but you know what, we still LOVE decorating for the holidays. It really does bring a warm feeling to your home, gives it a bit of the Christmas or Holiday magic to your surroundings, and there is nothing better than staring at glitter and gold. I didn’t unpack as many boxes or adorn as many rooms in the home as year’s past but it was an absolute must to decorate. I’m sure everyone knows it isn’t just for their guests, it is for them, to be in the moment and spirit.

Happy Holidays Everyone. Only 3 more days to go…

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

A Little Pine around my White Bird House – Even the Little Touches Count!

Here comes the snow

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Our first big snow storm arrives tomorrow, well, technically tonight, so I guess that means we will be dealing with snowplowing our driveways, cleaning up our cars, shoveling, and wearing warmer winter clothes, but it also brings some nice things.

Nice? Yes, nice things.

Like how the snow covers up the ugliness of our brown landscapes of winter and how the snow decorates the outdoor holiday lights with snowy white accents, and even the after thing which happens the day after a snow storm, like how icicles will be dripping and glistening in the sun, or perhaps you will make a snowman or go snow-shoeing. There are some nice activities, that is, if you like snow.

However, preparing for the storm is usually some pre-work for all of us. For example, rushing off to the grocery store to get food so we can at least have some yummy meals while cooped up inside during the storm, or getting the snow plow prepared or scheduled, and moving any last minutes items from the outdoors to inside to protect from the storm, or covering up big planters in my yard I STILL haven’t gotten to. Geesh!

Cathy T’s Ho-Ho-Ho Holiday Globes!

It also will give me the opportunity to continue creating with my fresh, wonderful, beautifully scented holiday greens! I am still creating small holiday planters and a few gift items, and if you are local, and have a last minute holiday gift needs, please look me up. All are custom made and arranged pick-up style. I also create various small hand-held gifts which are great quick pick-ups for gifts. All I need is one day’s notice to make it custom for you.

Planters with Mixed Greens and Decor by Cathy Testa

I will be home all day today (after grocery shopping in the morning) if you wish to pop by for any last minute gifts (all hand made by me and unique as featured in my posts, Instagram feed, and on my Container Crazy CT Facebook business page). My cell is 860-977-9473. Feel free to give me a quick text.

Holiday Globes by Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT

I’m also marking this date, today, 12/16/2020, as the first big snow storm coming to town. Just think, only a couple days ago, we were outside without heavy winter coats or hats. Today my fingers will be freezing within minutes while I gather up supplies to make my next custom order. And I probably will have to be super cautious when walking across my large driveway to get things tomorrow. This Connecticut weather is crazy. But we will endure, like we always do.

I hope where you live, you are not dealing with this big snow storm, unless you enjoy some of those “nice” things noted above.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
Small Business Owner
Container Crazy CT
Broad Brook/East Windsor, Connecticut
860-977-9473 cell

Adorable Moss Ball with Hand Dipped Small Candle and Accents by Cathy T.

Holiday Gift Cards Available

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Just a reminder, my Holiday Gift Cards are available again this season, which are applicable to purchase unique custom plant gifts or for seasonal items such as my Seed Starter Kits, or starter plants (tomatoes/peppers) in the spring time. Or perhaps you would love to have someone pick a special unique seasonal gift using their gift cards such as my Succulent Topped Pumpkins in the fall season, or a fresh wreath, holiday kissing ball, or hanging holiday globe in December. And a custom unique container garden or patio pot in summer. The list goes on!

However, please note, my Gift Cards are no longer applicable to in-person workshops. I am not planning to offer workshops in person going forward, but gift cards are usable towards workshop kits or packages where you may do your own workshop with my supply kits and details. How-To Videos are offered for package purchases.

If interested, please email or text me at 860-977-9473. I am located in the Broad Brook section of East Windsor, CT.

To learn more, visit my WorkshopsCT.site and my galleries on Instagram under the handle of Container Crazy CT.

Thank you,
Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

Making a Simple Wreath

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I tend to make full, lush, and thick wreaths, but sometimes less is nice too. Because I picked up some beautiful shore pine in my mix of greenery this year for my custom orders of wreaths and holiday kissing balls, I started to play with this single type of green and created some simple wreaths.

Shore Pine Branches

Shore pine holds together tight clusters of deep green needles on its branches and many of the branches, about 24-27″ long, have nice tight cones on them. The branches are flexible and bendable, making them useful for making simple and quick wreaths. And the needles run along the whole length of the branches (unlike traditional pine branches).

Small Wreath with Shore Pine

This was the first small wreath I made with it and I used a grapevine base wreath to attach the shore pine branches to it. It was very simple to do. Just lay the branches on top of the grapevine wreath and wrap green florist wire at intervals here and there. As noted, the branches are flexible, so I was able to lay down long pieces at a time and just kind of adjust them into a circle.

Gumball Red Berries

Adding these perfectly round gumball sized red berries was a breeze too. No glue gun required. I simply inserted them thru the shore pine and into the grapevine wreath. Because this wreath was intended to be indoors (or between a door and storm door), I didn’t have to worry about over anchoring the gumball decor.

White Bird House

Then I started to get addicted to this greenery! I added some to the base of a white bird house I have hanging outdoors, and that was easy too. And I added some larger cones. Sometimes less is more. It is so cute. I hope a bird moves in.

Another one made

It was at this point, I decided this shore pine greenery is a theme in my home for the holidays this year. You see, I am busy doing other orders for people, I still haven’t made a wreath or holiday kissing ball for myself. Using this beautiful thick, dark green and pretty holiday shore pine became a solution for me to add fresh holiday greens here and there around my home in a quick fashion, and I’m liking how it looks.

Hanging on a White Vase

I know I’m going to be using more of it, and I already put some around a large green globe I have – more on that later, after I finish it, and I know I’m going to make some garland for around the house with it too.

I don’t know about you, but I am not letting the non-large gatherings stop me from decorating this year. We need, yes, “NEED”, to have a festive surroundings in our lives. It is a way to get through the holidays this year, if you ask me!

If you are interested in obtaining a bundle of the shore pine greenery or a box of mixed greens, look me up – it is easy as 1 call or text, 2 setup a pick up time, 3 drive up and grab and go!

Thank you for your orders!

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT

Boxing Up Happiness!

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This year I am offering Holiday Greens by the Box, which I refer to as, “Holiday Greens by Cathy T.”

The Box is actually two per order!

It has been so much fun for me packing up all the wonderful fresh greenery for my orders. I hand select them from my stock and prepare each order individually right before the customer arrives so all is super fresh.

I bought a big roll of shiny red tape to close the boxes, knowing red is appropriate for Christmas and the holidays, and tie each box off with red string too.

Cathy T Holding one of the boxes

As I close them up, I feel a sense of happiness – like I’m wrapping a Christmas present. It is a type of process that makes me feel as if I am giving someone a treat, a gift, and a package of festive time to come.

Lots of Variety!

Each box contains wonderful varieties of greens. I love having the various textures and shades of greens to make my wreaths and I think it is a special treat to have this material to make holiday decorations at home.

Customer Putting Boxes in her Car

My husband built a wonderful rustic stand of tree branches from fallen trees and it is perfect. In fact, I call it “Driveway Pick-ups” now. If someone wants completely no contact whatsoever due to COVID safety, it is easily achieved.

Driveway Pick Up Stand

However, I have been snapping photos of pick-ups at a safe distance with both our masks on!

Picking up a Large Order for her and a friend

Every time someone shows up, a conversation starts up. Just the two of us in the driveway sharing stories of how we all have new traditions this year, as a result of limited gatherings due to COVID19. I hear of what has been going on in their lives, things they may have experienced, and we all realize the new traditions we are forming this year, which could perhaps stay as a tradition – like these new Holiday Greens by Cathy T I’m offering.

There is still time to get your box (which is actually 2 per order). Imagine sitting home right now making a wreath with a friend or with a child, grandparent, and whomever you are staying safe with right now. I invite purchasers to a page with my how-to videos and wonderful tips on working with holiday greens.

If interested, please reach out and I will provide you with the list of greenery included in the boxes and the price. My cell is 860-977-9473 and I am located in Broad Brook section of East Windsor, CT.

Husband and Wife Team – They decorate together!

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

Buffalo Plaid Ribbon is Popular in 2020

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Every year, a woman orders a Holiday Kissing Ball from me, and this year, when she texted me, she asked if I could use “Buffalo Plaid” ribbon this season?

I texted back, “Sure, but what is Buffalo Plaid?”

LOL, guess I was totally unaware of that term, even though, apparently, it has been around since the 1800’s.

No matter what the trend, a buffalo plaid shirt never goes out of style. With origins dating back to the 1800’s in Scotland, this type of plaid was originally brought to America in the form of warm blankets. Later popularized by Woolrich and traditionally red and black, buffalo plaid consists of two colored yarns woven in stripes to create large intersecting blocks.

From website: Flag&Anthem

Luckily for me, I was looking at ribbons at my supply house at that very moment of my customer’s text. And I was in luck, there was some in stock.

It is interesting how trends come about.

Maybe we are all seeking that special warm comfort feeling of Buffalo Plaid blankets (now during Covid times), and perhaps, this is why it is so popular this holiday season.

Large Holiday Kissing Ball with Buffalo Plaid Ribbon Topper

I made a pretty bow to top off her custom kissing ball, and added some curly ribbon with the same patterns here and there, and it worked really well along with red bright berries, black and red ornaments, and other embellishments.

Buffalo Plaid Ribbon

When I posted a photo of it on various social media, it received many comments and likes. It is apparent people are into this style ribbon right now.

In fact, another order came in, and they said, “I sure do like that Buffalo Plaid ribbon you used on that kissing ball!”

Hand Made Wreath by Cathy T with Buffalo Plaid

Of course, I was happy to accommodate her. Here is her wreath with the Buffalo Plaid ribbon and cones, cheerful red berries, and little red glitter balls.

Ribbon on the wreath

I rather like how the ribbon came out on this wreath too! It is so adorable and the curly ribbon tucked in perfectly below my Buffalo Plaid larger ribbon.

Wreath before decor was added

At this rate, I’ll run out of Buffalo Plaid ribbon before I run out of my fresh greens! Each of my holiday wreaths, kissing balls, and box of greens are filled with a wide mix of greenery. It smells amazing too when I am working on creating items.

Enjoy your day everyone, and Stay Safe.

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
Located in the Broad Brook section of East Windsor, CT
Porch and Driveway Pick-ups Arranged with Zero Contact!

What do you need to make a Fantastic Holiday Wreath?

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Me, of course! LOL.

Okay, I thought about this – What tools do I find are critical to make a wonderful holiday wreath?

Here are my suggestions:

Good florist wire, a whole paddle or roll. As you work to attach the fresh holiday greens to your wreath frame, the florist roll of wire will be invaluable. Make sure it is a green colored wire to hide well beneath the greenery, and 20 gauge is the type I typically use. I also find the florist wire to be handy to have for many other creative projects. A roll of it is never wasted due to this reason.

A heavy duty wreath frame. If you are going big, you might as well invest in a strong wreath frame, and hopefully, if you pick a good one, you will reuse it the following season. Avoid cheaper frames that are easily dented or bent as you work, especially if making a larger wreath.

Gloves. Sap, sap, sticky sap from your fresh holiday greens, like the balsam fir, will start to really dry out your hands while making a wreath. A box of disposable gloves is really helpful, especially because as you continue to work, your hands may sweat or the gloves may get torn, so I like a box of gloves nearby. I will grab a fresh pair as I continue to make wreaths and kissing balls by hand for my orders.

Mask. Not a joke here, but last year, I wore a face mask because the smells of the greens were starting to make me sniff and sniffle. I wear them after a while if the strong greens smells start to get to me, plus moving and cutting greens increases the dust or pollen around me. If I wear a mask, I’m not breathing that in. I make a lot of holiday wreaths and kissing balls, so it is helpful, and this year, during COVID, we have masks handy, and my mask this year has a holiday theme too! Might as well be festive.

Hand moisturizer. While getting a box of gloves, if you can find them today (tricky to do sometimes during this COVID year), get a good type of hand moisturizer. I prefer lotion that is thick and creamy, like body butter. I slather it on at night before bed. My hands get really dry and sometimes scratched while I work with greens.

Hand-pruners, in good shape. Nothing is worse than using non-sharp, old rusty pruners to cut the various holiday greens as you work. Tidy up your pair of garden pruners before starting, or get a new pair if you wish to invest in them. Avoid using junk pruners.

Very sharp scissors. For making the perfect cut in bows and other decorations as you add the decor to your finished wreath. While you’re at it, you may want to invest in small wire cutters, so you don’t damage the scissors which you should reserve for cutting ribbons and other delicate materials.

Plastic Bins or Laundry Baskets. As you cut your pieces from branches of stems of the holiday greens, a big bin with handles, is super helpful to toss all in because you will most likely go to a warm space to make your creation. Carrying the bin to your house or into your basement is handy.

Holiday music or movies. When I make my wreaths and kissing balls, I tend to watch one of those holiday (corny) movies or one of my old favorites while I work, however, don’t pick a movie where you must look at it all the time because you will be looking down most of the time as you make your wreath. One of my favorites to rent while working are, “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” or “Reindeer Games.” If not a movie, go for holiday music, it puts you in the mood for creating your wreath.

Tarp, sheet, or blanket. Lay that down on the floor below where you are working because the needles will fall and make a mess. Wrap up the blanket after you are done to gather the debris and shake it outside to toss out the mess. It helps. A couple towels are handy to protect surfaces.

A glue gun. Another great tool for adding decor to your wreath. Get a bigger glue gun if possible. Those small ones just take too long to heat up, and work slowly plus they tend to get all clogged up after a while. If you are going to make just one wreath, one small glue gun may be fine, but a big glue gun is needed if making bigger or a lot of wreaths.

Florist picks. Little green wooden pick with wires already pre-attached to them are handy for some of the decorations you will add. They are not mandatory but helpful. I usually have a stock of those around.

GREENS!!! And of course, the number one thing you need is abundant, fresh greens from Cathy T. It is better to use fresh and a mix of varieties to achieve an elegant, full, and beautiful look. And I provide you with care tips, instructions, and more information. If you buy from me, you will also learn from me.

You know where I am if you have a need for any of the above items. Visit my site noted below or text me. Hurry, it is time soon to starting making your fantastic wreath.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving Day tomorrow.

Stay safe friends,

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473 (texts welcome!)
containercathy@gmail.com
www.WORKSHOPSCT.com (see for more Holiday Info)

Orders start Friday, November 27, 2020

I made this yesterday…

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All I really wanted to do yesterday was create. I had an idea in my mind to make a small wreath covered in small glass ornaments, bright red and white berries, and a couple succulent plants. I wanted to pack the wreath in a way so it would be colorful, festive and fun.

It really is amazing how long something like this can take to make by hand. In fact, I would start working on it but then had to stop to do an errand or get the other tasks around my property done, but all I really wanted to do was create.

I played holiday music from my Pandora holiday line up of Christmas music which I play every season this time of year. It started with listening to Micheal Buble’s “White Christmas” song and continues on from there to Elvis or Etta – You name it. Every song gets me into that holiday creation vibe, along with the pitter patter of birds or trees moving in the wind outdoors. In fact, a bird landed on the greenhouse roof to visit while I was in there. These moments make me pause while creating.

Yup, I did. I put on the holiday music playing from the tiny new Bluetooth speaker. So let’s see, holiday music on for the first time on Nov. 19th. I think that is my earliest yet. It does set the mood, along with warm sunshine casting upon me in my little heaven of a greenhouse, where I often create, if it is bearable outside for winter temps. Once it gets even colder, my hands get cold in my special greenhouse, kept at a low even temperature during the winter months. Sometimes it gets too cold to create in there, unless I’m bundled up from head to toe. But it is one of my preferred places to be.

After doing errands, I finally got back to making the trio set. One thing that really annoyed me was a sticker was on the bottom of the round hanging globe and it was stubborn. I was like, oh gosh, now I have to go up to the house to remove this sticker, as I don’t have a working “sink” in the greenhouse with hot water. I was thinking, just let me create – no more interruptions, which I found removing a stubborn sticker to be – an interruption. I had to find a spray adhesive removal product and finally was able to completely remove it.

After that, and getting back to my greenhouse and continuing on my creations, my stomach started growling and right then, my husband texted me he was on his way home from work. It was almost dinner time, and yet, I still wasn’t done. The sun would be going down soon, I thought. I need to wrap this up. I left everything there to ponder more for tomorrow, which is now today!

This little mouse, I knew would be adorable in the globe. I thought of the owl found in the Rockefeller tree in NY recently, as I placed my white little mouse ever so carefully in the center, being sure the tip of his red holiday hat with a tiny white pom-pom would point up to the top. I’m not sure why, but I can not get that owl out of my head. I thought, I wish I had an owl to put in here – it would be perfect, but I only had the mouse in the house. Imagine replicating the NY tree owl with that little brown blanket tucked around him and those big bulging adorable owl eyes. OMG! That would be irresistible.

Each of the three pieces have similar color themes and the red dotted ribbon. This would tie them together. Along with the mini brown pinecones with tiny red berries. If I’m not careful, anything could be damaged or not positioned just right, this is why it takes time. I would never rush them as it takes away that Zen of creating.

One thing I have found is in order to create, you need lots of various supplies and embellishments on hand. I just can’t do something totally cookie cutter, it would be like an artist having to limit their various colors of paints, which I think may occur out there, but I don’t want to limit myself when creating.

Because these each have live succulent plants in them, they need to be displayed indoors and near some sunlight or in a brightly lit room, although the succulent plants are very tolerant and may be moved into pots after the season of holiday decor is over. The globes have succulents which are very slow growing and are sturdy, so they won’t outgrow the globes for a very long time.

So that is what I did yesterday. And now I have this feeling I want to make another set. With another color theme. We will see. I will keep you posted!

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
see also: www.WorkshopsCT.com

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