My Mikado

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Sharing some progress of my tomato plants as of June 30, 2020.

This heirloom is one of my favorite tomato plants due to the large fruit size it produces and also the fruits’ wonderful flavor. They make the perfect slicers for sandwiches or when stacked with fresh mozzarella and basil.

This Mikado is located by my garage which faces east. It gets sun up until when the sun passes over the garage, then it is shaded by the garage itself. While it is best to give tomato plants as much sun as possible, all is going well so far for this particular location. They are producing fruit now.

Some good things about growing tomato plants in pots by my garage is for one, the pesky wild animals are leaving them alone. I am not sure if it is because the garage outdoor lights are above each tomato plant and the lights may signal to them that people may be near. Or maybe the cars do.

Animals have been an issue on my home property. Raccoons, or maybe it is a skunk, are digging into the soil of some of my other planters, but so far, they have not touched the tomato plants along the front of the garage. Thankful for that – hope I don’t jink myself!

I recently put pea gravel in some of the other “visited” pots which seems to help. I read that skunks will stick their nose into soil to smell for bugs, so maybe the gravel stops that from happening. Other things I have tried are hot pepper flakes or cayenne pepper sprinkled on the tops of the soil in the planters and pots. They seem to visit the same pots every evening. I even moved one huge pot because they were destroying my tropical plants. I wondered if they thought my canna lily plants are corn, because raccoons like to mess with corn plants apparently.

But back to the Mikado. It is growing very well with no insect issues, and around this time of year, I check it every time I water the plant, which is daily. As I water the soil (not the foliage!), I look around to see if there are any insects or damage to leaves, etc.

I think these plants along my garage will grow slower than those on my deck which are in full sun. I plan to share photos of all my tomato plants as they progress with fruit and I just can’t wait to taste the flavor when the first one is fully ripened on this Mikado.

Some people will ask me what I feed my plants when they see the large sizes of my plants in pots. Honestly, I have fed them a water soluble tomato fertilizer only once or twice so far. That is it. I do not have some secret magic fertilizer as some have accused me of, which I think is funny. Like they think I am not being totally honest, LOL!

If you water correctly, use quality potting mix from the start, and some compost, include some slow release fertilizer upon planting, a fertilizer feed “every 7-14 days” is not absolutely necessary in my book. I feel if the plant has plenty of flowers, is looking healthy, and strong, I don’t “over” fertilize. I also like to use big pots for stronger and larger root systems.

I plan to share photos of all my tomato plants going forward. Hope your’s are doing well also! Especially for those who have purchased seed packets or plants from me earlier this season.

Stay Safe,

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
“I grow everything in pots, planters, containers!”
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

Time for Updates

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On this muggy and cloudy day, I briefly visited this site, my blog, and I realize I am overdue at making many updates. I need to revamp this site, and as my work schedule calms down, I will do so for you.

COVID-19 has disrupted many of our worlds. The timing and planning especially – who can plan with all these uncertainties, right? I had purchased a “calendar book” this past winter due to expecting a very busy season of offering container garden installs and my plant related workshops, but guess what?! That calendar book became useless – everything I had targeted week by week had suddenly changed, but many of what changed ended up being for the better for the gardening world.

I was extremely busy for months as people stayed at home and wanted to enhance their outdoor spaces, create their own C-19 Victory gardens, plant their herb kitchen gardens, and spruce up all at home with living beautiful plants. I am glad I was able to assist so many homeowners with their plant endeavors this season.

However, I realize so much has changed and I need to update this blog site very soon. I also need to update my photos. I have so many to share for inspiration and ideas in the container gardening world.

For one big change, no workshops are being offered by me at least up to the winter season. It remains to be seen if we will experience a 2nd wave of COVID-19 before I decide if any holiday workshops will take place. At this time, I do not plan to offer any fall workshops. So sorry, but please stay tuned or follow this blog for regular updates.

I promise to update you on all. In the meantime, please visit my Instagram feed under Container Crazy CT to see my daily plant related photos.

For my regular customers, please stay tuned to my updates and video on plant care. This week has been a hot one and it looks like it will remain hot for the rest of this week. Be sure to water your tomato plants deeply and regularly. And look out for the insects and plant related diseases which sometimes surface during this muggy, no air movement weather today.

Thank you for visiting.

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

COVID Creations

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I have to find ways to entertain myself during these challenging times and ‘playing with’ my plants is one big time distraction.

Last week, I made a mask with succulents.

I thought I’d share the photos today. I know I’m not the first to think of this idea. After all, succulents may be applied to many scenarios.

I started off with using the traditional white cotton dusk mask. I placed a half styrofoam white ball under it as I assembled it to keep it stable, because the mask is pliable.

 

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From there it was easy peasy, but took some time.

First, I glued live moss to the white mask using green moss I have in stock and a glue gun.

Then I attached some of my baby succulents and added dried flower pods as filler. To be honest, I didn’t want to waste too many of my succulents so I wanted filler around it to take up some of the space on the mask.

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Then it hit me – I had some round red fuzzy craft balls in stock. I realized they resemble the COVID-19 images of the virus outside of a host cell. I’m sure you have seen this image many times, floating on TV screens as backgrounds during broadcasts. In fact, I was getting annoyed by one image a local news station used for weeks because it just reminded me of the darn C-19 nasty virus lurking everywhere!

The little red craft balls used on my succulent mask have little shiny spikes on them. Thus, these red balls were my representation of the C19 virus images, as shown below of an image obtained from the CDC Image Library on the web.

CDC Cell Image

Caption:
This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. A novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Photo Credit: CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS

Here are some photos of my final creation:

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You may wonder, will the succulents survive on this mask? They may. Their fine roots will reach into the moss to grow. Maybe at that point, I will take it all apart and pot them into small pots.

By the way, the succulent plants used were a mix of small echeverias, baby hens and chicks (sempervivums), and some Jade leaves.

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Cathy Testa
Owner of Container Crazy CT
Broad Brook, CT
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

 

 

How to Water Succulents in Pots with No Drain Holes

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My number 1 rule has always been to make sure your patio pots and container gardens for plants have sufficient drainage. There is no doubt plants perform much, much better when they have sufficient drainage holes in the base of their pots. Oxygen is necessary for plant roots to develop and perform better, and without drain holes, they lack it.

But, what about all those good and unique pot finds with no drain holes which you want to plant your succulents in? Vintage tea cups or a cool rock? Or when you are growing plants in hanging glass globes or in glass terrarium bowls? How do you deal with the fact these types of pots have no drain holes. If you cannot drill them, which is tricky with glass in particular, then the answer is to water very carefully.

Because succulents are able to withstand periods of drought, many people use them in pots without drain holes, but they do need watering at some point. In fact, succulents tend to like a good drenching, and then you should allow the soil in the pot to completely dry before you water again. The key is watering carefully when you have no drain holes.

Here is a list of tips I created to help you do this correctly, and again, carefully.

Tip No. 1 – Use Sphagnum Moss

Add some moss in glass hanging votives or glass globes over the soil mix. Fibered sphagnum moss absorbs up to twenty times its weight in water. The moisture will distribute naturally throughout the moss reaching the plants’ roots. The moss will dry over the course of the next few days on its own. By the way, sphagnum moss is not peat moss. And, Spanish moss is also different. Spanish moss is more for decorative uses and will remain soggy longer than sphagnum moss. I prefer the sphagnum moss because it dries between the moisture routines allowing the aeration also needed for the succulents delicate roots.

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Tip No. 2 – Tip the pot

After putting water in the soil mix (or moss), tip the pot to drain out any excess water, especially if you over did it. It may be okay to let the water sit there for a bit to be soaked up awhile, maybe an hour or so, but then be sure to drain out any excess water from the globe, pot, or whatever has no drain hole.

Tip No. 3 – Unplug the weep hole

Some pots, such as this hanging basket, has a reservoir area in the base. If the pot got overfilled with rain water during a heavy rain fall, pull the plug out, and allow the accumulated water to drain completely out. After, let the soil dry out and then re-insert the plug.

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Tip No. 4 – Add horticulture charcoal

Charcoal is very useful in terrarium glass bowls in particular. It improves drainage and absorbs harmful impurities. Add a thin layer in the foundation of the bowl along with soil and gravel in the base. It may be used in pots without drain holes too if desired. It will help the soil environment. Just be sure to follow the guidelines on the bag for the amount to use, and wear gloves since it is a messy dusty like component which will blacken your hands. Layer it appropriately as well for terrariums.

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Tip No. 5  – Less is more

Do not over water especially if your pot is in a dimly lit room inside your home or in the shade outdoors. This is a formula for inviting fungus gnats. The moisture will not dry out as quickly in shady spots, and thus, it invites critters. Critters like moisture. Be aware less is more in these situations, but again, your succulents shouldn’t be in non-lit areas in the first place. Most succulents prefer sun. If possible, if the soil is too wet from this situation, put it outdoors on nice days to give it natural air. Just be sure it is warm enough outside and not in too much sun IF the plants have been inside all winter. Select a partial sunny place and bring it back in later before evening.

Tip No. 6 – Use a porous pot

Terra-cotta and non-glazed clay pots allow air movement through the pot itself, so using a clay pots helps the non-drain holes situation versus using a glazed ceramic pot for example. Also, fabric or fiber pots with the natural ability to allow moisture to seep thru the pot base, are helpful to use. Such as coco fiber liners used in hanging baskets.

Tip No. 7 – Add perlite

Your potting mix may already have perlite, but adding more to the soil mix for pots with no drain holes will enhance the air spaces in the soil. Horticulture perlite is expanded volcanic glass. It increases aeration and drainage which will help the roots develop. This tip is good for plants which enjoy lots of drainage, such as succulents. Perlite is available by the bag in garden type stores.

Tip No. 8 – Create a drainage layer

Add gravel, stone chips, sterilized sea shells, or river pea gravel to the base of the pot before adding the soil and or moss. This is only recommended for pots without drain holes. Otherwise, if the pot does have drain holes, it can be counterproductive, creating blockage to drain holes or moving up the soil moisture above the gravel line. More on that in another blog post. It is a bit of a thing to explain to folks, which I have in my workshops on container gardening in the past.

Tip No. 9 – Allow drying time

Most plant roots need a balance of moisture and air. Be sure to allow your soil to dry between watering, especially important when you have no drain holes and are using succulent plants. Succulent plants should not be sitting in soggy soils for prolonged periods of time. And if the weather is right, put your container outdoors for some fresh air to give some air to the soil or moss, just be careful to not put it in harsh sun right away if they’ve been indoors all winter. And do not put out non-hardy soft succulents outdoors if it is still cold out – usually the right time to transition them outdoors is around Memorial Day, but if there is a suddenly warm day and sunshine, it doesn’t hurt to put them out for a few hours if the soil is really too wet.

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Tip No. 10 – Direct the water

Direct the water carefully to the soil mix (not to the top of the plants). Do not mist succulents. Point the tip of your watering-can spout to the soil, moss, or around the plant. I’ve been using a hair style water bottle lately for succulents in tight pots. The bottle is squeezable and squirts out a stream of water perfectly from a very narrow tip. If your succulents are a hardy type, and outdoors, it is okay if they get wet especially in the sun, but for soft non-hardy succulents, it is best to avoid getting the foliage wet. Also, bear in mind, newly planted succulents may have not expanded their fine roots into the soil much so the amount of water may depend on if you just planted a plug or baby succ, versus one that may be fuller and more mature.

Potting Mix

And finally, I think this goes without saying, use a quality potting mix or container mix for your plants in the pots. No native soil, no dirt please. In a future blog post, I will talk about my favorite potting mixes and how to find them. I have my favorite brands, and I actually listened to a webinar yesterday on new wood substrate type components for peat-based potting mixes. Again, more on that later. There is always more to learn.

Thank you for visiting.

Cathy Testa
Owner of Container Crazy CT
Broad Brook, CT
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

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Why Succulents in Hanging Baskets?

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Succulents continue to be wildly popular with plant enthusiasts and collectors. If you don’t have lots of room on your patio, a hanging basket filled with various succulent plants is a way to capitalize on your space. Succulents don’t require frequent soakings and may stay dry for weeks, making them very low maintenance plants, which is perfect in summer, when we are busy or going on vacation. Many people are surprised to learn that most succulents do produce flowers, at least once during the growing season. Hummingbirds love the flowers on the long arching stalks of Echeverias for example, just one of the many type of succulents out there to enjoy. It is a thrill to witness a hummingbird visit the delicate urn shaped blooms. In summary, succulents have lots to offer and are very long lasting plants, which means you may enjoy them outdoors in the warm season on your patio in a hanging basket, and then later, move them indoors for the winter season to enjoy on your windowsill or any indoor room with decent sunlight.

The Soil Mix

Succulents require good soil drainage to perform their best, and hanging baskets with coco-fiber or sphagnum moss liners are perfect to provide that drainage. The water will seep thru the natural liners and allow the soil to dry between watering or after a strong rainfall. And, as long as you plant them in a gritty potting mix, which is best for succulents, the plants will thrive. Gritty soil refers to adding more components to make the potting mix sufficiently porous (i.e., providing air space) with materials such as white horticulture perlite, which is added to improve drainage and aeration.

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Fresh Mix is Best

The garden industry provides many perfect potting soil or container soil mixes by the bag to use to plant your succulents in containers, hanging baskets, and patio pots. Potting mixes or container mixes are suitable, and cacti mixes or mixes specific for succulents, are even better. The key aspect to keep in mind when selecting your potting media is to purchase it fresh from a reliable source. Never ever use dirt (native soil) from the ground for your succulents in hanging baskets. Dirt is far too compact and will not provide the appropriate air spaces in the soil for the plants’ delicate fine roots, and it may harbor diseases, plus it will be too heavy to support a hanging basket on a hook. Look for brands such as ProMix, Fafard, or Hoffman. There are many mixes on the market to choose from and most of them have the component to achieve success.

Deep Pots Not Required

Hanging baskets are also well suited in regards to depth. Most succulents do not require super deep pots, and hanging baskets with an 8” diameter and about as deep are fine to use for many types of succulents. Even a minimum of 6″ deep is fine for many succulents. If they outgrow the hanging basket by the end of the summer season, they are easily transitioned to interior pots for keeping them indoors for winter, or propagated to make more succulents from a mother plant. They don’t mind being crowded in a basket for the short term of a summer season. Hanging baskets are a perfect choice and have so many benefits for succulents.

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Making Baby Succulents

As the succulent plants in your hanging baskets continue to grow and get bigger, you may create babies from your plants via propagation steps. One propagation method that is becoming practiced quite a bit by beginners is making baby succulents by propagating leaves removed from the succulent mother plant. There are many ways to perform propagation to achieve success but once you learn how, you will become a succulent baby making machine in no time. The endless benefits of succulents are to be enjoyed. Some succulent naturally produce off set side babies as well to keep the plant growing and to expand your succulent family collections.

Each Has Different Needs

Not all succulents are the created equal, however. Each has different needs. Did you know some succulents actually prefer less sun than others? And some succulents may burn in extreme sun situations, especially when moved out from the indoors to the outdoors for the first time. But, in general, they are very tolerant of being housed together in one hanging basket for the summer. Plants like Jades will play well with Echeveria or Sempervivums, for example. Many succulents are spillers or trailers, perfect to soften and hang from the edges of hanging baskets; think donkey or burro tail (two types of Sedums). And for plants with upright appeal, add a Kalanchoe paddle plant or Aloe in the center. The list of succulents is endless and in general, many share similar needs, such as limited watering, full sun to part sun, and minimal fertilizing needs. Succulents do well in full or partial sun outdoors, and when grown indoors, you should do your best to place them by the brightest windows in your home. If you see your succulents stretch, this may be a sign of not enough light, or they could be pushing out a bloom, which hardy succulents often do from their centers. In regards to temperature, it depends on the type of succulent! Hardy succulents tolerate the outdoors in winter but some should be protected. Soft succulents are not able to stay outdoors in winter. This is why the hanging baskets are handy, just bring them inside and set them on top of a pot for winter! Voila!

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Watering Conservatively

Watering is probably one of the most difficult tasks to master when it comes to training plant beginners. Because most succulents conserve water in their leaves, they are tolerant of watering neglect but they will not survive if they are completely ignored forever. They have very delicate roots and if not watered at all, those roots will dry up and die. Watering is based on the climate, location, season, and the type of patio or interior pot. There are different methods of watering, but when they are in a hanging basket, especially one with a natural liner, you can’t really over water them either due to the drainage which will occur in hangers with natural liners. In addition, succulents appreciate a bit of air space below their pots, and hangers provide this function. Misting succulents is not recommended. They should be watered only when the soil is completely dry. You may drench the soil in the hanging basket and allow the excess water to drip out to drain. It is not good to let water sit on succulents leaves, especially in the hot sun, due to a water mark appearing on the center of the plant at times. Shaking the basket after watering helps, it will cause the water droplets to roll off the leaves and its center rosette. The misting routine, often used, is really not best for some succulents.

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Observations

I have found succulents have done very well in hanging baskets ever since I started offering it as a workshop topic a couple years ago. Due to the succulents various sizes, styles, shapes, and tolerance, people have been successful with keeping the plants going in their hangers after the workshops. In fact, many have shown photos of how well the plants grew and they were able to maintain them in their homes during the winter.

Spring is upon us and by early June, it will be time to enjoy your succulent plants outdoors. It is important to transition them carefully in late May, gradually, before putting them in full sun or partial sun. They also require warm temperatures and you should avoid putting them out too early.

Refreshing succulent hanging baskets is easy to do as well. Much of this I will be showing to my attendees via Facebook Live videos soon. For Connecticut, they are safe to go out around the same time you would plant your tomato seedlings/starter plants, around Memorial Day. Now may be a good time to take a look at your succulents and consider refreshing them for the outdoor season.

Workshop Cancellation

My goal was to offer a workshop in May 2020 again on Succulent Hanging Baskets but this was cancelled due to COVID-19. Stay tuned for updates on what is next, which only time will tell (see my Services List below). I have plenty of pretty colorful hangers in stock now however. Guess that means, time for me to get planting. All of the above is explained in detail at my workshops, but alas, I think the workshop scene is on hold for my offerings in the coming months. I will be, however, refreshing my succulent hanging baskets in stock and offering them for sale. Lately, I’ve been offering porch pick-ups for folks in my area during this difficult time (for seeds and houseplants or succulents). It brings me great pleasure to know it has been helpful to cheer up their environment with plants and other things, like seeds for sale or houseplants. I guess succulent baskets may be added to my services list. I will see how the rest of this month goes!

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
Owner of Container Crazy CT
860-977-9473
Container Crazy CT
Broad Brook, CT
containercathy@gmail.com

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Ants on My Agave

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Yesterday, when I was in my happy place sowing seeds in a nice warm sunny greenhouse, I saw some little tiny ants on my Agave plant.

They were traveling from a leaf, up along a spine on the tip of a leaf, onward to a column on my shelving for my seedlings, and traveling up under the seedling heating mat.

I thought, “Oh gosh. Here we go. I have to stop my happy sowing to address this issue.”

For the most part, ants don’t really harm much; meaning they don’t eat plants, thankfully. I suspect they were in search of moisture in the soil.

Sometimes ants will be on plants due to aphids. They like the aphid’s secreted honeydew, but that was not the case here. No aphids in sight, thankfully, and I have never seen aphids on agave plants anyways.

I treasure this agave in particular, because I’ve owned it for years and just re-potted it last summer, thus, I had to deal with it right away. It could not be avoided.

Last Summer’s Repotting

You see, last summer, I had finally moved it out of an urn it grew in for at least 8 years, separated the side baby plants (off-sets), and then re-potted it into a big blue plastic pot.

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In the Urn before Re-potting Last Summer

My husband, Steve, assisted me at breaking the urn (a sacrifice I had to make). I thought banging the urn with a hammer would do the trick but he had to get a chisel and hammer to do break the urn pot.

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After we managed to get it out, separate the side babies, and all of that – I managed to get it into a new blue plastic pot without stabbing myself anywhere (including my arm pits).

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It sat outside all summer and was moved into the greenhouse before fall time.

This has always been my typical routine, actually for many years, I just moved it into my bedroom because the slider doors are right there – and this plant is big and heavy!

But last year, I thought, time for you to join the others for winter in the greenhouse.

Ant time!

Now fast forward to yesterday, early April.

To see the ants trailing on it was disappointing because of all the work we did last summer.

But, I thought, I want to see if these ants have an ant farm in the soil. They did not, by the way, from what I could see when I took it apart.

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Photo in the greenhouse last fall

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Moving it outside when discovering the ants

Because it was a decent day, finally now in spring, I moved it out. Lugging it was not easy.

At first I thought, let me flush it with water. I’ve read also the pot may be inserted into a bucket of water with soapy solution to kill the ants, but you can imagine with the size of this beast, I did not do that.

I figured that flushing it with water from the garden hose may help, but I still saw ants a bit later rushing around confused, as I let it sit it out for a couple hours.

I thought, gosh, I will have to take this darn thing out and re-pot it if I want to avoid having these ants in the greenhouse. I forced myself to do this process.

I also had to clean my seedling heating mat, move all my seedlings aside for the moment, inspect the shelves, and clean that as well, then move the seedlings back.

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Upside down root ball of the Agave

Now here is the good news. I discovered the agave grew roots all the way to the base of that blue pot from the time I had re-potted it last summer (end of summer) to now.

Wow, the roots are healthy and really down to the bottom, as shown in the photo above of the upside down root ball.

The bad news was I had to break some of those roots to get the darn agave out. What a bummer after all that re-potting work accomplished before.

More bad news – and this is really bad, because of how many times I have said to be sure you make sufficient drainage holes in your pots. I discovered my blue pot did not have sufficient drain holes.

In fact, this rule is one of my 5 Must-Do’s of Container Gardening, but what did I see? That I did last summer?

I had only drilled 2 big drain holes in the center and some around the perimeter but those are way too small of a hole size, thus, the water collected at the base of this pot, and there was a lot of moisture held down there in the pot. I think this is why the ants found it.

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I think because I was tired from a busy season on that day of doing the summer work on the plant and pots, I probably got lazy and didn’t drill enough holes. I remember I had to get that plant re-potted and forced myself to get the job done before summer was over.

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New temporary pot for now

Here it is in a new pot – a galvanized bucket with sufficient drain holes in the base, that I had on hand.

The white powdery stuff you see on there is diatomaceous earth. I dusted the top of the soil with it and some fell on the bottom of the leaves.

I am not going to water this plant for a while so there is no issue right now with the dust getting wet. It should kill any remaining ants still trying to locate their trail of buddies.

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Before putting it in the pot – I hosed the plant off really well and allowed it to air dry

It is the first time I’ve used this dust product this way, and I heard through a friend this worked for her when she had issues with ants in her pots.

As far as I know, the dust will not harm the plant. It is not poisonous but caution must be used when handling.

I wore my bandanna scarf over my mouth and had my sunglasses covering my eye glasses, and wore gloves both for the dust and to avoid the spines pricking my hands.

I’ve also read this product is helpful for fungus gnats; which is why I had it on hand. I was in the midst of researching it and grabbed a bag of the dust power of it a few weeks ago, the type made for horticulture use, so I was lucky I had it on hand in my garage.

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Last year – before re-potting – Love this!

By the way, last year, when walking by my agave, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye.

A tree frog! It had been hanging out on it. A good memory, for sure.

I posted lots of photos of my agave on SmugMug recently.

Agave – Other Facts:

I believe this one is Kissho Kan. Actually, I’m 99% it is – I had bought a tray of them one year, many years ago, to sell at a plant and art show. I kept one for myself, of course.

Division is best from spring to summer, which I did, of the offsets, as shown on the urn photos above. The underground stems or stolons are where the off-sets are produced.

Agaves tolerate a minimum temp of 41-50 degrees F, which is why they do just fine in my low-temp greenhouse over the winter.

Most agave species die after flowering. They are monocarpic. If I ever see it push out a flower stalk, I’ll be posting many photos of that. And probably hold a ceremony. LOL.

The common name of agave is century plant. They are slow-growing plants hardy in zones 9-11 but for our zone 6, they must be overwintered inside the home or greehouse before fall arrives.

They prefer full sun and well-drained soils. I added some perlite to the new soil mix after the ant incident to increase the porosity of the soil.

They really don’t need much fertilizer, which I did not provide much to this plant over the course of 8 years, and look at it – it is a monster. But I do follow the other 5 Must Do’s, except as noted, goofed on the last re-potting of the drain holes.

The soil in the pot should be allowed to dry out between waterings. And in the winter, keep it dry, which I did but I happened to be hose happy due to spring arriving and started to give it water recently – thus the soil was moist for the ants.

They do well as houseplants, which I can attest to, since it was in my bedroom over most winters over the years, which the slider door faces south so it received enough light.

Over all, they are easy care plants, minus when you have to re-pot them or they get ants – which I hope doesn’t happen to your’s or happen again here.

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

P.S. If you are in search of seeds during this COVID-19 time, I have seeds in stock for sale. Details are on www.WORKSHOPSCT.com. They are mailed upon ordering. Mostly tomato, hot peppers, parsley, basil, lettuce, and some misc other types.

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Seed Packets Wrapped to Mail

 

 

 

This is a tough one

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This is a tough one.

It is the perfect time to start working on your gardens while you are sheltering at home, but should you go to your local garden center or supply store during this COVID-19 pandemic?

I saw a Facebook post the other day of a person upset someone was going to the store to get mulch. They shouted out on their post about how this is not the time to go to the store, risking contact with others, for mulch.

I thought, I see their point.

But darn it, it IS the time to be outside, to do something meditative, and get fresh air safely at home in your own yard with no one but you and the birds.

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Bird Houses are Garden Art too

People are stuck at home, and I am absolutely sure, people who love plants and gardening want to work on what they may while they have the spare time right now.

Conundrum

We have a conundrum on our hands here. Is it okay to go to the garden center or a supply store for plants or gardening items?

I am not going to answer that question.

I suppose if you are doing your six foot distancing, they have curb side pick-up for individual needed items, and you are not touching bags of soil – maybe.

But, I don’t know.

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Hopefully you have some soil on hand!

It kind of sucks for a gardener to not to take advantage of this free time.

After all, as noted above, gardening is very meditative and relaxes the mind. Something we all need right now.

And it is actually a good time to do some clean-up work outdoors in early spring, especially on sunny days.

Gardening and being outside may also help the kids at home now with breaks from at-home schooling.

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Micro-greens on a window sill

Things you could do possibly, if you don’t have the need for actual items like mulch or plants, are:

Prune your shrubs – those which should be done in early spring before new growth starts.

Remove dead leaves from your landscape or garden beds you didn’t get to in the fall.

Clean your patio pots and containers with water and bleach per the appropriate mixing directions.

Sow your seeds indoors. If no seedling trays on hand, use alternatives – egg cartons, yogurt cups, or toilet paper rolls. (If you don’t have seedling mix, that is a dilemma however.)

Sharpen your garden tools, clean up your garden shelves, and take inventory of your gardening items on hand and make a list of what is missing so when it is safe to go out, you will be ready.

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Clean Your Tools

Plan out a new garden bed you’ve always dreamed of.

Watch the patterns of sun and shade in your yard for a day – see where sun lovers are best suited and look for good places for shade plants, etc.

Dust off and read some of those garden books you have but never had the time to fully read before. You need to clean anyhow.

Get your garden decor items out of storage and place them in your favorite spots.

Grow some micro-greens inside the home (did you go to my sessions on those a couple seasons ago?)

Watch some garden related video’s for inspiration. (I have some on seed sowing on my sites right now). Visit my Container Crazy CT page on Facebook if interested.

Gather some stalks of spring flowering shrubs to force into bloom inside the home (e.g., forsythia).

Order some new container gardens and patio pots online. They may arrive a little later than normal but heck, they may be right on time for May plantings.

Get your tubers and bulbs out of winter storage. Pot them up early to get them started inside the home.

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Stalk of a Red Banana Plant starting to push out growth

Clean your hummingbird feeders and hang them up – empty, if need be. But they will be ready for when the hummingbirds are and you are ready to make your own sugar water.

Get your patio furniture set up. Okay, maybe risking a last season weird snow fall or spring frost incident, but it will melt fast.

Put your big pots out and dream of planting them. I am! Envision the future.

Collect your tomato cages, trellises, and bamboo poles. Put them where you will be using them when the garden green light is set to go.

Put out your peony hoops around the peony plants starting to pop up now from the ground.

Build a scarecrow with your kids to put in the garden with materials you have on hand. You’ve been cleaning your closets out anyhow, right?

Have your kids search for a hollow log in your landscape if you are near woods to create a planter of sorts. It doesn’t have to be live plants – add some dirt and make twig people. Or find some ferns in the wild to plant in the stump.

Paint some rocks. Another great kid activity. They could pick specific locations in your yard to put them out or place them in gardens. Make them herb markers. Don’t have paint, maybe use nail polish?

Enforcing policies if you have to go:

If we get creative, we can avoid the visits to supply stores or open garden centers, but if we truly do need supplies, then at a minimum, store owners need to enforce policies (see the article below).

And please people, don’t rush to judgement.

Some people may need a propane refill or pet food – which are also at some garden like stores.

Article stated above:

An article by AgCenter Research Extension Teacher outlines some tips in an article titled, “Public Health Emergency Response for Retail Store Managers.”

https://www.lsuagcenter.com/profiles/aiverson/articles/page1584563222650

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

P.S. If you are local to me and need seed packets, I still have some in stock for tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, hot peppers, some flowers, herbs, etc for sale. I could mail them to you. The details are on WORKSHOPSCT.com. I will have seedlings for sale in mid-May too.

 

 

Finding the Bright Spots

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I was getting a little depressed the past couple days, I think because I started to worry about my husband still going to work. His company is considered essential, but to be honest, I want him to stay put at home and work remotely. Who wouldn’t want that?

Obviously, my worrisome feelings are because of those lurking fears of COVID-19 risks, but the other part is he is my only family member outside of me in our home! I am used to being at home alone, working here, and staying busy, but the pandemic made me feel a bit too alone. I’m sure many may relate to this feeling.

However, I had quite a few bright spots in the past week or so while I dealt with the emotional ups and downs of this challenge we are all facing. I’m up when I am in my greenhouse, for example, sowing seeds, but I get down real quick when I see the news and start to worry about loved-ones. And although I’m somewhat safe here at home, there are so many who are not safe, who have to face the danger every single day. I can’t imagine what their ups and downs feel like today.

I guess, from what I’ve read, it is important to focus on the bright spots right now when we can. Here are some of mine:

Bright Spot #1 – A thank you letter in the mail

I don’t always pick up our mail myself. My husband does it every day when he arrives at the end of our long driveway from work. He hops out of his car to get the mail and our newspapers, but yesterday, I walked to the mailbox to put an envelope in there to return a prepayment check for a workshop I was hired to do for a prep school in May. Of course, the May session has been cancelled. No worries, that is okay. On the way back from the mailbox, however, as I sifted thru my mail pile, I saw a card in the stack. It was from Garden Media Group. It stopped me in my tracks.

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The Thank You Card

I attended a presentation by the owner and founder of Garden Media Group, Suzi McCoy, many years ago at UCONN. I was just starting my own small plant related business at that time, and her speech made an impact on me. I could write a whole page on why, let’s just say, she knows marketing, especially plant related marketing. Everything she stated during that presentation spoke to me. It had a lot to do about the “new” Facebook world and how to market there, and what not to do on social media as well. Also, she included a whole presentation on TRENDS in the gardening world for that particular year. If you do a google search on Garden Media Group, you may see this about her company:

Today Garden Media is one of the top 10 public relations firms in the Philadelphia region and the top marketing communications and PR firm in the lawn and garden industry. We know this industry inside and out, and people know us, from the top media to garden center owners to horticultural breeders.

I’ve read every single one of Garden Media’s annual gardening trends reports since attending that talk years ago. I find marketing in general fascinating but even more exciting when it is related to plants of course. Sometimes, to be honest, I felt I was a trend-setter because some of the things I offered related to plants would be in that report. Other times, the trends report tuned me in to what is on the rise. It was always on the mark, I’ll say that – in my opinion.

Recently, it was announced Suzi McCoy was retiring and her daughter is taking over the company. Right at that moment, I decided to type Suzi McCoy a letter and tell her how her presentation that day spoke to me and how I followed her advice in her company’s newsletters and trend reports ever since. Me, being a very small solo business, with very little mentors of my own, she was a mentor from afar but she didn’t know it. I let her know this. This letter was sent to her at least a month or more ago.

When I was reading her handwritten thank you card in my driveway at the base of the hill yesterday, half way back up to my house, the sun was shining on me and I thought, wow, one of my garden heroes wrote me back. I stopped in my driveway to read it completely. It was one of those letters you can’t wait to open till you get inside the house. She said she saved my letter to her. She also said that she was flabbergasted, as one never knows how or when they can make a difference in someone’s life. To get her thank you in return for my letter to her, which I didn’t anticipate or expect at all, right now during COVID-19, made it extra special to me. Her letter and the timing was a bright spot.

Bright Spot #2 – My nephew face-timed me

My young nephew is stuck at home now due to school closings, so I’m sure he was searching to play with his new messaging app, which is monitored by his parents, but I was pleased he face-timed me this past weekend. It was a bright spot for sure as it was a surprise as well. While talking to him, I walked myself and my phone to the greenhouse to show him all the seed trays I’ve sown, and he replied with, “Wow!” Then he told me I was breaking up due to a low connection, and I told him, “Oh yes, that happens when I’m in my greenhouse.” Anyhow, after that, I showed him a view of his Uncle Steve chainsawing wood. This got him all excited. That was a bright spot.

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Bagged Seed Sowing Kits 

Bright Spot #3 – Seed Sowing Kits

First of all, I sold seed starting kits to about 15 people when the presentation I was going to do at a market was cancelled (due to COVID-19). I want to say thank you to those who purchased the kits from me. I finally packed up the remaining kits I had pre-assembled for the market because I realize we should not be risking social contact anymore. But a bright spot was hearing how happy people were who got the kits and sowed their seeds at home. They got a bit of “excitement” knowing that they had something to look forward to – seeds germinating and sprouting above the soil!

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Sealed Seed Packets for Mailing

You see, it makes ME happy when others are happy about plants. I even had a friend of a friend ask me to mail him a few seed packets, and I did. Along with sending him my instructional PDFs to show all on how to sow the seeds. As you can see, I’m a wordy girl, so they get lots of PDF details along with their seeds and/or kits. And I gave a seed sowing kit to a friend’s mother who is dealing with throat cancer. She sent me a message to say thank you. That was a bright spot.

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The Tiny Bright Spot making a Big Impact

Bright Spot #4 – Seeds Actually Sprouting

I’ve been doing some Facebook Lives from my private workshops page for my regulars on how to sow seeds, what to do, how to watch over your seedlings, how to transplant them and what have you when it comes to sowing tomato and pepper seeds. And this did and does make me happy – very happy in fact, especially last week on the sunny days. It gave me a focus and people are at home anyways, so how perfect is it to share what I can with them?

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Bumble Bee is on the left, Fox Cherry on the Right

But as noted above, I started to get the blues real fast this week. I felt the blahs. Then I walked into my greenhouse yesterday, and saw my Bumble Bee Mix Cherry Tomato seeds are starting to sprout. And when I say sprout, I mean the tiniest tinniest baby sprout. This thing, this tiny thing, made me smile. Why? It is just a seed, after all. Because it shows renewal, growth, future, success, and I don’t know – I’m a plant freak, is why! Nature has always amazed me. Even from childhood. I often looked at nature and pondered it. Nature and plants are my savior right now. I’m not just saying that. Plants are my bright spot. And eating those yummy cherry tomatoes this summer will be even more appreciated than normal.

Bright Spot #5 – Hubby working from home today

He is working remotely today. He handed me a cup of coffee as I was typing this. He made his typical jokes the way he always does. He is an eternal optimist. But his work is considered essential and not on the stay at home list, so I know he will have to go back in to do some rotating duties at the office. But for now, I will soak up this bright spot and feel a bit of relief. Hopefully the next bright spot on my list will be scoring TP today, because I have to go out and get some. Wish me luck!

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

P.S. I received another bright spot this morning. A text from a client, showing me the new containers I will be planting this spring for her! 🙂

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Me, Cathy T, last spring. Looking forward to more bright spots to come!

 

 

Market cancelled but I’m still here!

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Hi everyone,

The Ellington Farmer’s Market had to cancel tomorrow’s last winter market, where I was scheduled to speak, but hey – I’m still here! If you have a need for seeds, seed kits, fresh houseplants, or succulents, please reach out. I am located in Broad Brook, CT and we could arrange for a meet up if local or near my town.

If interested, lists of what is available are provided to you via email, etc.

In the meantime, please stay healthy and calm. Remember, plants calm the soul! Consider sprucing up your home with some air purifiers, grow some of you own seedlings now, and get your TP!

And also – a big thank you for all who attended last night’s Purse and Plant Party – it was really fun. Enjoy your new plants and purses.

I hope, truly, that everyone stays safe and sound.

Thank you – Cathy Testa
860-977-9473 (texts welcome)
containercathy@gmail.com

 

How will COVID-19 Affect Plant Events?

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How will the virus affect plants, plant products, and plant world remains to be seen. I do have to say, however, this week in Connecticut, there seems to be a ramp up of concerns. I just listened to a voicemail received on my cell by Congressman Larson telling us that there will be a update issued to cell phones at 7:00 pm today about Covid-19. There seems to be a panic in the air. We all have our concerns, fears, and sometimes, we are trying to not go there – meaning trying not to panic and remain calm. Wash hands, don’t touch your face, and stay healthy, in general.

That is what I’ve been trying to do. I try not to watch the news too much, but I have to admit, I want to know the updates. I try not to touch my face, wash the hands, and trying to stay healthy. Thank God I have my plant sanctuary to unwind and stay calm, which is my greenhouse filled with plants and seedlings starting right now. My Happy Place.

We are seeing many events being cancelled, and oh boy, I understand totally, but I also have a little fear of how many will they cancel? As for me, we are proceeding tonight with a Purse and Plant Party, an idea that sparked into my mind one day when chatting with Buxton Sales Rep friend, Maryse Kettle. We decided to collab (collaborate) and we are fully prepared for today’s event which is being held at a restaurant in East Windsor, CT from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm today. The restaurant is called Elizabeth’s Bar and Restaurant at 4 Prospect Hill Road (not drive as someone just pointed out to me).

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Note it is Prospect Hill Road (not drive).

This shopping event is being held in their banquet room and any one wishing to shop today may stop by anytime between 3 pm and 7 pm. I guess we will be listening to Congressman Larson’s phone update there when we close our event. Will this be the last event of my spring season?! I surely hope not. I think we all have to weigh out our situations. But this show must go on. We have lots of plants and purses – we are ready!

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A mix of Healthy House Plants will be available

This event is good timing, however, to get healthy and happy plants, as well as, to enjoy shopping a huge mix of purses, wallets, accessories. As for plants, well – they DO enhance our well being. Plants are able to make us feel more calm – something we need right now with Covid-19 being in our minds. Plants also help you to relax and be mindful. If you create a space as your indoor green oasis, you can meditate there with plants. Did you know that people with plants in their work spaces actually take fewer sick days?! They tend to feel happier and there have been studies by NASA about how plants “clean” indoor air. This is something good to know for buildings, homes, and schools.

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Satin Pothos – Trailing plant, gorgeous in macrame hangers, moderate to bright light. Fast growing, and one of my favorite easy house plants – will be available tonight.

Houseplants in particular are trending now too. I think people really understand the value of plants in general for increasing our well-being whether at home or at work by having nature around us. And also increasing our spaces to enjoy inside the home.

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Zebra Plant – Bold white veins and patterns on the leaves. Very pretty plant. Bright to moderate light. This one likes warmer temps so keep away from drafts of cold windows but what a beauty. I just LOVE this one. Keep soil constantly moist but not overly wet.

Tonight, I am offering 11 varieties of houseplants for sale and they are very healthy right now. I personally think now is the time to get some of these beauties – especially if the impacts of Covid-19 impact the traveling of plants to our regions for our nurseries or plant people, like me! I will also have various succulents in containers, in individual decorative pots, and my Mother’s Day Gift Cards.

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Low modern small dish garden with baby succulents I grew myself. Only 2 of these tonight will be available! It has a nice wooden tray to sit on.

My collab friend, Maryse Kettle, is stocked up with many purses and accessories. She knows her stuff when he comes to fashion and accessories! Her product line, Buxton, is made of fine quality. She is offering one of a kind designer samples and leather hand-bags at 1/2 price. She’s kind of got me hooked on purses now – I love the different varieties she has in very festive bright colors, especially for spring. I guess her sample sale is somewhat similar to my plants – as I have samples of many types of houseplants ready for the garden and plant lovers.

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White TerraCotta Pots, 3″ size, with succulents – Only have 18 available – they are doing really well in these porous pots. Perfect gift or for your shelf at home!

Again, show up anytime between 3 pm – 7 pm at Elizabeth’s. The restaurant is in a plaza off to the side of Rt 5 (Prospect Hill Road). You will see a big banner outside displayed to help you locate us. It is an easy on/off highway 91 too in Connecticut for East Windsor.

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Lots of colors – not just the hot pinks or reds. Black purses and many other styles and colors.

I hope you will join us. And oh yes, by the way, we are offering a FREE raffle. Cash and checks please. We do have a link for any items over $40 available for PayPal, but in general, we would like to use cash and checks for payments at today’s event.

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

2020 UPCOMING EVENTS