Overwintering Plants – Some Tips

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, my personal recommendation, based on years of moving container gardens and patio pots indoors, is to bring your plants inside the home before we get “cold wet” rains in autumn.

What do I mean by that?

Well, this week, here in CT, we had two cold days. It was cold enough for me to put my red winter work jacket on while I was taking apart plants from big containers in my garage. And it rained. It was damp, cold, and raw. It was cold enough for my bones to feel it. I wasn’t up for being cold all day, so I wore that darn old red coat.

But the very next day, Wednesday, it was humid. In fact, so humid my prototype pumpkin, which I’m going to use for a demo tomorrow at the market, was covered in moisture (dew) from sitting in the garage overnight. I took a paper towel and wiped all the moisture off – and within an hour, dew was on it again.

When we start getting “cold temps” combined with “rain” in the fall season, our plants outside get subjected to cold moisture almost like my pumpkin was subjected to it in the garage this week.

The soil in the patio pot gets really wet from these scenarios, and then, it may stay cold over night if our temps tend to drop down a bit, thus, it stays soggy. Maybe more than normal because summer is gone now, even though we may get an occasional humid, or the opposite, warm and a pleasant sunny fall day, autumn is coming and so are those cooler temps.

When our patio pots with plants have wet soil, and you move them in your home, I believe that is a big invitation for two things:  Foliage or stems to rot (if tender especially, meaning if the stems are more soft or tender, like a Begonia’s, for example) and insects to move in. Insects like moisture and if the soil is wet, they like to make it their home (think fungus gnats) before it is too late. They are probably looking for winter homes. Moisture is an open house invitation for those pest like insects.

I always move in my cactus plants before the “cold wet” rain routine starts. Sure, it is warm enough still for the cactus to enjoy the weather of fall, and they will even tolerate a drop in temps at night, BUT, I always have the best luck with overwintering those plants inside my home when I move them in before they get subjected to the cold, wet rains of fall. The soil is on the dry side in the pot, and it hasn’t been “stressed” by elements.

When moved in, before we get cold wet rains, the soil is dry (before the rain is my goal) and the critters are not settled in. I will, however, a few weeks before, hose off the plant, the pot, inspect it for any bugs, remove any dead leaves which started to fall and land on the cactus plant, and just kind of give it a once over.

As far as houseplants, I had a few in mini pots on my deck table. I moved those in already too. Some houseplants can take cool weather, like ferns, for example. I have a few of those in hangers that did amazingly well this year. The rabbit foot ferns are gorgeous in the hangers right now. I moved those to my wood shed (ooops, that is the hubby’s wood shed) but I moved them there for now to keep them outside for a bit under cover. They can still take the cooler temps, but I am protecting them from major elements. This all may sound premature or even somewhat anal but it works for me and leads to success.

As for tender (soft) succulents, which you may have in hangers or in various styled patio pots, they too are affected if subjected to cold and fall rain. They can especially rot once that soil gets too cold and stays wet. This is not the case technically for hardy succulents, like hens and chicks.

In the fall, wet soil in a patio pot takes LONGER to dry out – because some plants are going into a dormant state, so the roots are not taking up the water as actively as in the summer months. That is another reason why I don’t like plants, like succulents, to sit in wet soil too long when temps are cooler. They, too, have tender soft like bases, leaves, and stems. If stays sitting on “wet cold” soil, it can lead to rot, bugs, etc.

Please though, don’t panic if you still have those types of plants outside right now (cacti, succulents, houseplants), but try to consider maybe moving them to coverage outside, like if you still have patio umbrellas or if you have a cover over your steps, so they can enjoy the sun. This will help to start to dry out the soil in the pot – before you move them inside.

As for the tropical plants (elelphant ears, banana plants, canna lily) – well, those can be subjected to frost (early October usually) – if you plan to dig up the tubers, corms, rhizomes, bulbs (not gonna specify the technical names of each type of plant for simplicity sake here) but you know what I mean, if you are planning to store those underground tubers from these types of plants, you can wait till we get frost in October. All the foliage will turn black when hit by frost and flop over usually if they are tall. At that time, you will have to cut that all off, and dig up the tubers to store.

By the way, if you are local, I am offering the service to show you how to do this at your own home by appointment. If interested, reach out.

As for me, I started taking apart some of my tropical plants early – why? Because I have sooooo many to do. The other day, I made the mistake of not wearing gloves, and there must have been a slug in the soil. My hands started to feel itchy, and then my arms, and then I thought, OMG, what if there is a poisonous caterpillar in that soil? I went inside and had to wash my hands repeatedly 5 times to get the itch to go away. I even grabbed some olive oil to rub on my hand cause there was some sticky slime on my hands, and that must have been, what I call, “slug juice.” Never realized I could have a reaction to that.

As for my really big red banana plants, they are swaying in the wind these days, and reaching towards the heavens. They are so tall right now. It will be a big job to take those down, but it is worth it to me. I love love love having those in my landscape in big huge pots. I still have time to get to those, but may wait til later in the month so I can continue to enjoy them.

Well, that is my simple tips for overwintering plants – do it before cold and wet rains, inspect the plants for insects, remove any leaves or debris blown into your pots, rinse or wipe down the pots themselves, make sure they are clean, and then of course, put them in the appropriate place in your home for the condition of the plants.

Look for insects too – if you see any, treat them before moving the plants inside. If the plant is super infested or damaged, and you have other plants in your home, it may not be worth it to keep them over the winter inside, BUT that choice is up to you. I don’t take in plants that are unhealthy.

And last but not least – check for seed pods for mature seeds on your plants to save for next year.

If questions, holler, oh and by the way, here are my October events coming up.

Hope to see you soon!

Cathy T.

Horizontal Collage Flyer 2018 Upcoming Events

New Weeknite Date: Tuesday, Oct 9th, Succulent Topped Pumpkin Centerpieces

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Just a heads-up.

We moved the Wednesday session to Tuesday to accommodate attendees’ requests.

Maybe a Tuesday is better for you too?!

We still have seats available at both workshops coming up in 3 weeks.

Here’s a flyer to share!

flyer succ pump 2018 Updated

We will have a mix of beautiful and fresh succulents for these workshops along with instructions on all. We hope you will join us. See www.WORKSHOPSCT.com for workshop information, registration, and details on what you need to bring with you.

In the meantime, I’ve been potting spring bulbs (daffs and tulips) and putting them in a fridge to force in December, prep’ing materials for talks coming up at autumn fairs and markets, and getting ready for our workshops in Broad Brook, CT – while disassembling my home container gardens to store for the winter.

Thank you,

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

 

How many Fridays until Christmas?

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Do you ever see that question posted on Facebook about how many Fridays until Christmas?

I have recently, and I’ll be honest, I will think, “Ugh. I don’t want to see those types of posts yet.”

However, I am guilty as charged of making my first holiday related social media post yesterday, when I announced the 2018 dates for my Annual Holiday Kissing Ball & Wreath Making workshops.

They are December 1st and December 5th, 2018, which is only 12 Fridays until our 9th Annual Event.

greens by Cathy T_0014

All of the links to register and confirm are on WORKSHOPSCT.com.

And guess what, the minute it was posted, people signed up. This event fills quickly every year, so please, if interested, visit the site and get your name on the list.

And that is ALL I will say on that for Christmas and the holidays for now.

Faux Pumpkins Grouping

On to autumn, as noted in the prior post, is all about making Succulent Topped Pumpkins and other Autumn inspired decor.

We have seats remaining for the first session date on October 6th and many seats available on the weeknight session date, October 10th.

Details on our autumn workshops are here. We make gorgeous tabletop centerpieces using real or faux pumpkins with fresh, live succulents. Come join the creativity of our workshops!

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
Broad Brook, CT 06016

First Cool Fall Day – Get Ready to Craft

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Yesterday, my sniffles and sneezes would not stop. It got to the point my eyes were red from rubbing them. Yes, the cool fall air arrived and it made me go into fall allergy mode.

But today, it is going to be warmer and humid. It seems mother nature and the fact hurricane winds hitting the North and South Carolina coasts are shuffling up the air here in CT, it will be a bit warmer today, but still wet.

Most of us are probably looking forward to fall cool air and are ready to welcome it. But with that comes some gardening chores, like disassembly of our patio pots before frost in October, and putting things away. Alas, it is time to take down my many tomato plants in my pots and grow bags on the driveway, but it was a good season for eating them. I am thankful for a good summer season.

For me, because I have so many plants outside to take care of and put away, I will start slowly and keep working on it every day until October gives us a fall freeze. To try to do it all in one day is too difficult for me – now that I’m in my 50’s. But it is always worth it – my deck was “jungle style” with many tropical plants and my bigger pots in the yard have huge plants in them right now to take down but all is so rewarding – it gives me so much joy and relaxation to watch my plants grow and provide a living environment all around us in the summer, I just love it. I think the animals, birds, and bees love it too.

In between these fall gardening “chores”, I also get crafty and have been showing some prototypes on my Instagram feed of succulent hanging dish plates (a new trend spotted on Instagram), and I made a Spooky Halloween Terrarium prototype (kits are for sale now), and I also been playing around with decoupage to put natural leaves picked from the yard’s plants on white pumpkins, and I even tried out some turkey feathers on another small white pumpkin, which I thought gave that pumpkin a “spooky” feel to it. It has been fun getting crafty as we wait for the full fall weather to be here permanently.

In addition, I want to pot up some bulbs (daffs and tulips) and chill them to have them forced early in the spring for inside the home. They bulbs are stocked in the nurseries now and it is time to pick them up. You may plant them outdoors now anytime until the ground freezes. But I also want to test them out in small pots, put in the fridge for the required weeks, and then take out to grow and bloom in early spring or even in late winter. I will let you know how that goes. If successful, that could be another new workshop to offer next fall season.

Mothers Day Copywrite CCC_0001

Despite the humid heat of this summer, which was brutal and increased the critters on plants (ugh), I did finish up a big project I really wanted to do this season, which was stain the boards inside my greenhouse which support the clear panels of the roof. This was a big job. I would start early in the day like 6 am, and stop by 11 am because of the summer heat being too much. Imagine how much hotter it is on a ladder staining at ceiling level in a greenhouse. I must be crazy – but it is done and now the wood will be preserved for more years to come in my most favorite place in the world.

Succ Pumpkins copywrite Container Crazy CT_0001

So, back to autumn and fall, here are some things coming up:

New Events and Workshops

A demonstration at Ellington’s Farmers Market on Sept 29th – Look for me in the small round gazebo. I am usually in the larger gazebo but a band will be there and of course, all their amazing vendors are at the market, and lots of pumpkins, I am sure. To learn more, visit their website.

Two workshops at my Broad Brook, CT location on Succulent Topped Pumpkins on Oct 6 and 10th – Sign-up now. We have seats still available but the first workshop is starting to fill up. I am SO LOOKING forward to this workshop. We will be making our gorgeous centerpieces again using real and faux pumpkin with live beautiful succulents. Each year, the tips and tricks get better – This is year 3 of offering this seasonal workshop. $15 to register, plants for sale at the workshops, and all details are on my WORKSHOPSCT.com site.

flyer succ pump 2018

A day at the Strong Family Farm Harvest Festival on October 20th – Mark the date. This a historic farm with so many new updates and a beautiful barn. They will have many vendors in their large field, and fun things to do with kids – so mark the date. I love this place. It is located in Vernon, CT.

Faux Pumpkins Grouping

Garden Talk at the East Hartford Garden Club on Oct 22nd with succulent sales. I really enjoyed speaking to this club last year, and they asked me back. You guessed it – we will be talking Succulent Pumpkin Centerpieces. Contact the club if interested in attending.

spooky terrarium copywrite photo C Testa_0003

New Items – Spooky Kits:

I am now offering “Spooky Halloween Terrarium Kits” for sale – see www.WORKSHOPSCT.com. I had so much fun making a prototype with a skull embellishment on the glass and adding cacti. Kits are available now. The glass bowl is embellished with a skull applique which makes it super cool for the Halloween season. The internal components, 2 cacti plants, and instructions are part of the kit.

spooky terrarium copywrite photo C Testa_0001

9th Annual KB Workshops

My 9th Annual Holiday Kissing Ball & Wreath Making Workshops will be opening by end of September for pre-registrations. Stay tuned. We are offering Advanced and Beginner sessions this year. We absolutely love offering this quality workshop with fresh live greens – and this year is year 9. OMG. That means, next year, it will be a decade of a holiday event I truly cherish and love offering. It takes a lot of work and coordination and I’m thankful to have my elf helpers – so stay tuned – it is coming.

BBPOTS Container Crazy CT_0007

Hope to see you soon.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
Broad Brook, CT