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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Hope to see you soon.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
Broad Brook, CT

 

Heat and Humidity Great for Tropicals, but Not So Good for Tomatoes!

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This is a big pot at the front of my home exploding right now with tall Canna lilies.

Who doesn’t like Canna lily plants, right?

They are easy to grow, get big and lush, and may be overwintered by storing their rhizomes (tubers), which must be dug up after the tops of the plants are blacked by frost – or just before frost.

Growing them in big pots makes it easier to pull them out by October, thus, why I am going to show the process in early September so you may learn it if desired. (See dates below on that if interested.)

They also thrive in the heat, humidity, and rain, which we are getting all week. None of these weather conditions are harming their attitudes at all – they love it.

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My tomato plants, however, are a different story right now.

They started off great, but a fat chipmunk has damaged some of the lower specimens, and well, that is the ugly side of gardening.

To see a tomato half eaten on the ground is discouraging, but it forces us to shrug our shoulders, cry, or become determined to try a new technique to combat the critters. Because in the end, it is worth it to bite into a fresh, juicy, flavorful home grown tomato.

On top of the chipmunk problem – the foliage on my tomato plants started to look bad just recently. I should share a photo here, but why depress myself more?

I think it is Septoria leaf spot. The leaves developed small, dark spots and it started from the bottom parts, and eventually got on many of the leaves throughout the plant.

This type of problem, the leaf spots, occurs more commonly, from what I’ve read, during heat and humidity, and lack of air circulation contributes to the issue as well.

Yesterday, I took pruners out and cut all the damaged foliage off. It took some time, but I just couldn’t stand looking at the terrible foliage.

Fortunately, it does not affect the tomato fruit. Thank God!

Next year will be a new strategy. That is the name of the game, keep trying, don’t give up.

Mikado Tomato Plants

By the way, in the photo above, that is a Mikado tomato. It is an heirloom and I grew plants from seed in April.

I transplanted them into 15-gallon fabric grow bags around Memorial day (which was the first time trying grow bags – more on that later).

They mature by August – as in now, and are indeterminate (keeps growing taller).

I should have given the plants more air circulation by spacing them out more – next season, they will be put in different places too.

Yesterday, I took that photo (above) of one Mikado tomato that is nearly perfect.

Then, I begged the gardening Gods to not allow it to get attacked by a critter, crack, or whatever. I’m scared to go look this am – as I decided to not quite pick it yet. Being hopeful.

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Of course, tomatoes like sun, warmth, and as much good air flow as can be provided. I think I did well with the sun, warmth, but my mistake was not spacing them out enough. They grew very large and needed more space – so lesson learned.

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Yesterday, while out pruning the nasty damaged foliage from the leaf spot (noted above), I spotted this cluster of tomatoes on another plant, called Stone Ridge (Solanum lycopersicum).

Stone Ridge Tomato Plants

As stated on the seed packet, they are dense, bottom heavy, and have sweet fruit – so true based on my experience so far.

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What I found with this type is the cracking seemed to happen more on the tops (like they are that heavy and dense enough to weigh them down) but no matter, they are freaking delicious – and they are SWEET tasting.

The Stone Ridge tomato plants have weird various shapes to their fruit.

Some are pear-like (above) and some are just goofy and flatter or fatter. I like viewing the stages of them. When you touch them or hold them, they are heavy.

They must be started earlier from seed, which I did in late March.

As far as the tomato plants go, the Fox Cherry Tomato is my absolute favorite. And apparently is for my fat chipmunk freeloader too.

Fox Cherry Tomato Plants

The shape and size are just perfect for skewers, or cutting in half, because they are more like two bite-sized than one-bite sized. They are plump and perfect. And the plants are vigorous growers. Staking, twining, and supports are needed but worth it.

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Every day, I go out and grab many and put them in little farmers market baskets (used for raspberries or strawberries which I saved) and set them on the kitchen island.

And every morning, my husband takes a bag full to eat as snacks at work. That is the most rewarding part of it – how much he loves them.

Usually the heat and humidity is good for tomato plants, but it can help to introduce some problems, such as leaf blights, like the Septoria leaf spot, I believe was the problem on mine this month.

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I won’t let it stop me though – just keep improving the process next year.

In the photo above, there is the Bumble Bee Mix cherry tomato next to the Fox cherry tomato, to compare.

Bumble Bee Mix Cherry Tomato Plants

These are fun to grow as well. The have a unique striped patterns, are mild sweet, and smaller than the Fox variety.

They turn various colors,  either yellow, purple, or just mixed. Sometimes it is hard to know if they are ready, but I still love them.

Both the Fox and Bumble Bee will be on my growing list again in 2019.

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Another plant I grew this year is called, Matchbox Pepper (Capsicum annuum), and I LOVE these for the ease of growing and plant size.

Matchbox Pepper Plants

Why are they so great?

Because they are absolutely perfect for hanging baskets.

The peppers are tiny (and supposed to be spicy but we haven’t tasted one yet – probably will this weekend as they are reddening now), and they are decorative.

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But the fact this plant stays compact makes them just wonderful in hanging baskets.

They, like some of the tomato plants, had to be started early inside. They mature 75 days from transplant. They just started to turn red last week.

Now, I just have to learn how to dry these hot peppers, or make some chili this weekend.

And another bonus about pepper plants is that critters tend to stay away from the hot ones. And the fact the plant is in a hanging basket keeps them up high and potentially away from critters looking for a tasty treat.

Upcoming Workshops

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If you want to learn my process on how I overwinter my tropical plants by storing root bases, tubers, rhizomes, corms, etc, the dates have been published on WORKSHOPSCT.com for early September.

I am scheduling it early so people may prepare ahead of frosts. Sign up is requested for headcount but it is a simple ‘pay at the door’ setup for this session.

I’m in love with the big foliage of the tropical plants (canna, elephants ears, and red banana plants) which, as I noted, is flourishing in this heat, humidity, and rainfall.

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Another bonus about tropical plants is they remain gorgeous all the way into October, and tomatoes for that matter sometimes continue into early October as well.

Well, that’s all for today – I have to get busy again.

I’ll let you know if that juicy Mikado tomato made it – and if yes, it is my lunch today.

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

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Thrillers and Spillers are needed in Succulent Dish Gardens too!

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Hello Followers!

This will be a quickie post because the sun is FINALLY out and we are expecting 85 degree temps here today in CT, so I have to head out soon, but here are some updates:

NEW SUCCS (Succulents) IN

I want to take a moment to let you know, if you are local, I have some new and “very limited” stock of succulents. Heads-up if you want to get some soon.

Also, if are in need of components and materials to create a Mother’s Day Gift (coming up on May 13th), reach out to me.

I have all the components for bubble bowl terrariums or other patio pot arrangements you may be thinking of making for your Mom or with your Mom.

Just text: 860-977-9473 or email containercathy@gmail. com or do the old fashioned phone call. We can arrange a pick up time by appointment for you, or swing by.

I am here most days (Broad Brook, CT) and on the weekends, Saturday and Sunday (between 7 am to 10:30 – 11 am).

Inspiration Station!

Secondly, OMG, I FOUND SUCCULENT HEAVEN IN FLORIDA LAST WEEK. A huge 4 floor store titled RH (Restoration Hardware) was across the street from our hotel in West Palm. Let me tell you, I saw the building and thought, “What is that place?  A hotel, a private residence? Or what?”

There were crystal chandeliers hanging outdoors above various patio like pergola sitting areas with amazing outdoor furniture out front to view before you even enter the grand doors of the main building. That alone caught my eye. I dared to enter, knowing I’m not high society rich, and looked around outside.

You never saw me whip out my iPhone so fast to take photos of the succulent dish gardens on every patio table. They were absolutely stunning, very healthy, and real – not faux.

Here’s just ONE example below. And it has the thriller, fillers, and spillers happening.

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My first thought is look at how there is a thriller (Kalanchoe paddle plant) among the other amazing succulent fillers. And look how the bowl shape is perfect. It allows you to see all the succulents clearly – and so much texture – right? We don’t always need flowers to achieve success with patio pot designs.

Get this, the ground surface under my feet, below all outdoors featured areas out front of this store, was covered in tiny pea gravel and it was raked into patterns, like a Zen garden. I didn’t know if I could I walk on it – but I figured yes, because it was a showcase store and encouraged. The staff was extremely welcoming upon entering the building after browsing the outdoor decor areas.

More Photos

For more of all the succulent dish gardens seen at RH, please visit my Instagram feed by searching Container Crazy CT on Instagram.

I can’t even get into how amazing the inside was – with 4 stunning floors – it was like entering a gallery or mansion.

Thriller Available – Today – from Cathy T

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A Unique and Cool Looking Thriller – Gasteria species – Thick Texture – Available now from me

These are the type of situations which inspire me, and that place was a great inspiration station. The way it was executed really spoke to me.

You can do this too

And folks – YOU CAN DO THIS TOO – CREATE AN AMAZING COMBINATION TO ADMIRE ON YOUR PATIO THIS YEAR. Just come see me for the tips, instructions, and plants with components. Prices are provided when you contact me.

Succulent Spiller

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String of Pearls – A Succulent Spiller

I have various succulents, fresh and new, right now available. Remember, you don’t want plants which have been subjected to frost outdoors and you don’t want tattered tired plants – so see me soon if you want to get some nice ones.

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Workshops

My next Facebook Live is scheduled on May 16th to give general updates, but if you need info on current workshops, be sure to visit my www.WORKSHOPSCT.com site.

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Great Filler or Thriller based on style of pot – Red Edged Jade Plant (Crassulas) – Available now by me – Reach out before supplies run out

Impromptu Mini Workshops

Recently, I posted a succulent filled birdcage photo I saw on Pinterest, which inspired a few of my regular attendees. We held, what I call an “impromptu mini workshop” and made some of them – see my Instagram for photos. They came out great.

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Burro tall (Sedum burrito) – A spiller succulent – A bluish green makes nice contrast color

If you have a mini group and want to hold an impromptu session, reach out to me. We can talk.

Also, remember, I have Canna lily and green Elephant Ears starting in 5″ pots available – they will take off if this sun and warmth continues. I will be posting more progress photos of those too.

Enjoy your sunny day in the meantime.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
Instagram Link
Zone 6 gardener
Connecticut
www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
This world of mine is all about sharing inspiration, the beauty of plants, and sessions where we may enjoy all of it.

Today’s date: May 2nd, 2018 (Wednesday)

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April is Warming Up Slowly

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Good Morning Friends,

As you know, if you live in Connecticut, it is taking a bit longer for April to warm up this season, but that hasn’t stopped me from potting up my canna rhizomes and getting my precious seeds in seedling trays.

I thought now is a good time to provide some quick updates on happenings with Cathy T as we kick off the spring season and look forward to summer.

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Visit Container Crazy CT’s Page to View

First up, this week is a free Facebook Live on Wednesday, April 11th, 10:30 am Eastern to show my micro-greens growing process in a 20-30 minute demonstration. Following the demo, if you are interested in a starter kit to give this a try, please contact me (form below) or just text my telephone noted below as well.

Note: This will be the only free showing this year – don’t miss it if you like to eat healthy and nutritious micro-greens which are delicious – all year, and very nice in summer too, when we have fresh tomatoes to go with your homegrown and fresh micro-greens.

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Seeds for sale and Starting seeds

I’ve been planting up seeds like crazy this month – cherry tomatoes and big tomatoes (shown above) as well as basil, moon flowers, edamame, peppers, lettuce, etc. Some will be for me for my container gardens at home to enjoy, and others are for friends requesting I grow some for them. If you are in need of some seeds, and are local, hurry up to contact me – I have plenty of wonderful varieties above. And remember, some seeds grow well in patio pots (radish, kale, lettuces, herbs). I have some growing right now – wonderful to have at your finger tips.

Note: Seed packets make amazing gifts – put a mini succulent with it – and voila.

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Canna in a 5″ Square Pot

My winter stored rhizomes, tubers, and corms are starting to wake up from hibernation. I am planting up Canna lily, Elephant Ears, and getting my prized big red banana plants out into pots to give them an early start. I’ve offered to “hold” the canna and elephant ears for anyone interested. They should be ready by end of May or a bit earlier for your container gardens.

Note: Limited supply and based on success – or not – I hope all will go well, and will keep those who have asked to “reserve” one posted on the progress. They will start in the 5″ pots shown above and potted up as needed. Prices are based on pot and plant sizes. Details will be emailed to you if you wish to have one held for you.

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Cacti are Blooming

It is so nice to see this vivid yellow in the greenhouse – my cacti are blooming. This was a cacti garden made last Halloween for fun and I’m enjoying the colors.

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With Succulents

Heads Up — If Interested! I’m holding my first terrariums workshop at the Granby Senior Center on May 9th. It will be with succulents and cacti. It is a daytime session at 1 pm on a Wednesday. Please contact the center to sign up. See their newsletter (last page) to see the complete details and price.

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Note: We need a minimum of 8 attendees to hold the terrariums session at the Granby Senior Center, and the sign-up cut off date is April 20th. Please signup soon if want in.

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Succulent Hanging Basket (Birds Not Included)

This succulent hanging basket is on reserve for a client. I would be happy to make more now and keep them growing so they are ready for you by end of May to put outdoors when it is warm enough. Holler if you want in.

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Canna Cleopatra

This canna rocked my world last year. The foliage is mixed dark tones and green plus the flowers bloom both red and orange blooms on the same flower bud. I am growing some of these too. Again, supplies are limited, so if you think you want me to reserve you one, contact me below.

Note: Must pick up your Canna by May 25th in Broad Brook, CT. Supplies limited.

Lastly, hopefully my regulars saw that I will not be offering a May Container Workshop this season. However, I will have beautiful succulents in stock starting in early May – and I also will be offering Terrarium Kits with 10″ bubble bowls, all the interior components, and the plants. Just ask if you have any interest and hope to see you soon.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
http://www.CONTAINERCRAZYCT.com
Location: Broad Brook, CT

Seeds are Available Today!

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Hi everyone,

Pop on over to www.WORKSHOPSCT.com to see my latest post on the seeds I have available today.

If interested, fill out the contact form there. Remember, mid-March is when we start “some” seeds to prepare for the upcoming spring (if it will EVER get here).

I’ve been dabbling in seeds more these days, did a bunch of research the past couple months, and have a nice stock of new unique seeds available. I hope you will be interested.

In the meantime, stay warm – I hear we may have yet another nor’easter next week, really? Ugh.

But what is nice during these cold spills is that I have some nice salad mix growing right now – from seed, and I even pushed the limits and have some basil and oregano started from seeds as well, along with beats and radishes. All I need is some SUN.

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Also, I’m attending the Boston Flower Show this weekend – it is kind of a date weekend with the hubby. I always discover something new at the show – and we also enjoy the local restaurants (motivation even more because it will be a cold weekend in Boston this year, some years it has been more spring-like).

The info gained at the show will be shared on my Instagram feed.

More to follow!

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
Planting Zone 6a
Broad Brook, CT
A container gardener with a passion for art, plants, and now, seeds!

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Seeds and Such – In Container Gardens

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Good morning friends,

As noted in my prior blog post – I will be offering a Facebook Live on growing edible plants from seeds in container gardens and patio pots.

The date of the Facebook Live broadcast is March 21st, Wednesday, 10:30 am EST. Just check into Container Crazy CT on my Facebook page to locate the feed.

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Edamame Soybeans in Pots – YES!!! You will be amazed at how many you get.

Couple Updates – I will have SEEDS available!

I will have a limited supply of seeds by a company which I find offers excellent quality (will review the seed company at the live session).

By this I mean, they germinate very well, have a very interesting mix of varieties which I find are unique and flavorful (and often you can’t find these varieties in stores), and also, many are selected because they are perfect for container gardens and patio pots.

Some examples are: Kale, Radishes, Spinach, Cherry Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Basil, Oregano, Lettuces, Hot Peppers, Carrots, Edamame Soybeans, Cucumbers, and a few flowers too.

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Tomatoes in Containers – they were amazing last year – can’t wait to taste them again

RESERVING A SEED PACKET

If you think you would like to reserve a pack before or after my Facebook Live, please fill out the contact form below for a list and prices. (Note: For pickup’s only from me in Broad Brook, CT; no mailings).

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All Grown From Seeds – Container Gardens Filled with Edibles

Free Handouts

Also, if you wish to obtain the free handouts prior to view as I talk “Seeds and Such” at the Facebook Live, please fill out the contact form on www.WORKSHOPSCT.com.

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Yummy! Basil in Window Boxes.

Other Quickies – BERT’S BIRD HOUSES

I, once again, have many birdhouses available, made by my father, an old avid farmer (sorry, Dad, you are not old). He is healthier than me – not kidding – he never stops moving.

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Soon, he will be busy in the garden, but in winter, he makes these adorable hand-painted bird houses. They are made with reclaimed wood. He has MANY colors available.

If interested, contact me (see below). (Note: For pickup’s only from me in Broad Brook, CT; no mailings). Prices range from $18-$25.

Remember, the birds are looking right now for their nesting homes.

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
Broad Brook, CT
Zone 6a

CONTACT FORM – SEEDS OR BIRD HOUSES

 

Seeds and Such

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It is mid-February, we are expecting temperatures in the 50’s tomorrow and Friday, and I heard of potential snowfall on Sunday.

Yes, that is Connecticut (or New England) weather for ya! There will be days where it feels like spring is coming, and days where we are reminded winter is still here.

I just saw my first live and crawling woolly bear caterpillar yesterday on the driveway – a sign, I hope that we are all getting ready to receive spring while we wait out winter.

While we contemplate the approaching spring, now in February is a good time to “get organized and started” with planning out what you want to grow from seed (if you plan to do seeds this year).

Last year, I was behind with my tomato seedlings, yet, I still had a very nice harvest of cherry tomatoes, but I remember thinking that I needed to plan ahead for year 2018.

Believe or not, we are at the “13 weeks mark” before our last (spring) frost date – if you use the May 10th date as an estimate (which I am) of when we can expect our last spring frost here in Broad Brook, CT.

Some charts of our average frost dates in the northeast may indicate an earlier “last frost” date – towards the end of April, but I like to play it safe and go with a May date, and work back from there. It is also based on my own records and playing around with seeds which I grow in my hobby greenhouse from time to time.

Various micro-climates, your own gardening experience, where you eventually put your seedlings (for me many are put in container gardens outdoors and indoors), and how much you wish to risk it – all play into what, when, and how you start your own seeds and seedlings.

TRIAL AND ERROR

Trial and error is one way to experiment with seeds. After all, if you place a seed in soil – there is a great chance it will sprout for you. It can be fun to experiment that way, but we don’t want to waste our time or seeds for that matter either.

Sometimes I will put a seed in a starter pot just to see what happens – like I did recently with seeds from a slice of jackfruit, which I tasted for the first time in my life last week. I, did, however, look up the seed online, and didn’t see any special preparation requirements for this type of seed (such as scarification), so I plopped the big seeds in pots with soil mix, watered it and will watch and see (an experiment).

By the way, the fruit of jackfruit was very yummy. I found a big slice of it at Whole Foods and when I told the woman at the register that I was getting it just to see how it tastes, she replied with, “Well, then – it is on the house. I’m not charging you for it.”

Experimenting and playing with seeds is fun but they must be cared for or you will result with unhealthy, stretching, or badly rooted plants.

The more I started to think about seeds and reviewed my various reference books on growing from seeds, the more information piled into my head. So you have to start somewhere, and I think one of the best places to do so is …

FIGURING OUT WHAT YOU LIKE TO EAT

I think probably the best place to start is figuring out what you like to eat. Decide what you want to grow and where. For me, I love herbs like basil, mint, thyme, parsley. I enjoy fresh lettuces, kale, spinach, etc. I love cherry tomatoes and all kinds of peppers. Oops-there goes that long list again. Maybe narrow it down if you are a beginner.

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In my case, I plant vegetables in containers around the house and in the house. Some are started with seeds and others are seedlings I grew in advance. Thus, the timing. Looking at the “days to germination, days to maturity, days to harvest, days to transplant, etc.” on the seed packets come to play as well. That is probably step two in my book, get familiar with the seed packet.

Last year, I obtained seeds from a company I really like called Hudson Valley Seed Co. and sold them at a pop up shop last year, and I gave some as gifts to my attendees at my last workshop of the 2017 season at Holiday time.

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I hope you (if you are an attendee reading this) kept the packet in a safe place since December. And, if you did – NOW IS THE TIME to get familiar with the instructions and timings noted on the seed packet and look at your calendar if you want to sow the seeds in time for the gardening season. And note my next Facebook Live on your calendar too – see below on that.

FEBRUARY IS TIME TO PLAN AND WAIT

February is the time to look up your last frost date, mark it on the calendar, and starting counting back the number of weeks for the seed packet you have on hand.

Also, note — if you start seeds too early (getting anxious–as we all do this time of year), beware, this can lead to problems if you keep the plant (seedling) in a starter pot too long – it may get root bound, stretch for light, etc.

And remember, the more stressed a plant gets, the more likely they can get a problem. Consider the plant type before you begin, as some like cooler temps and others require warmer temps and soil. A good example is tomatoes. I always wait til Memorial Day to plant them outdoors. You don’t want to start them this early in the season.

Although I think much can be accomplished whether you do things exactly or not – it is a good idea to think it over before you begin. Next is where, if you are new, should you get your seed packets?

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Seed Starter Kits I sold at a Pop-up Shop last Season

WHERE TO GET SEEDS

Another good thing to consider, now we are at the mid-February point, is where would you grow your seeds? Do you have the right type of windows at home with light and warmth, do you have a hobby greenhouse, etc. Do you need to get grow lights, a heating mat, or other supplies? Before you begin, consider all of these things before you buy your seed packets.

Many nurseries and stores are offering seeds now. I even saw a seed rack display at Rite Aid last week. And don’t forget garden shows, which Hartford’s starts up next week on Thursday, February 22nd (CT Flower and Garden Show) – there will be seeds there. Every year, Hudson Valley offers them – check them out. I find their seeds are reliable, well packaged, and great instructions both inside the seed envelope and outside. It is a good time to get supplies from them too – or you can go to your favorite online seed sources.

seed sowing kits

Did you happen to save any seeds from your own plants last year? I did, and will be reviewing those to get started too. There is such a nice reward when you grow plants from seeds you collected the year prior. And it saves you a bit of money.

Another item you may want to pick up when you get your seed packets is a small pocket size calendar for your records to track all, count back the weeks required, etc. The small sized calendars are handy cause you can easily file them and refer to them the following season.

You should start to organize your supplies, think about what you need for materials, such as seed starting mix, potting mix, peat pots, seed trays, watering can, etc. during this month. And since we are having warmer temps this week, why not wash some containers. I like using hanging baskets to direct sow seeds (for lettuces) and smaller window boxes (for herbs).

I will be doing some materials preparation myself this week because I want to start some seeds in hanging baskets and pots to show at my next Facebook Live session, which is scheduled on Wednesday, March 21st.

The March Facebook live will show some of the basic seed starting I’ve done (and I haven’t really done tons with seeds because almost all the time I get plants from growers for my workshops), but I will show what I know, and will focus on seed starting inside the home too.

Many seeds may be grown directly in decorative pots and kept in the home if you have the right spot. Each plant has different needs, but you may be surprised at what you can grow inside in a cool room in your home or on a partially sun lit table in a warmer spot.

As I keep reading and researching more about seeds, I feel like the list grows on what to know, but then I think also, it is a seed, just plant it.

I think the bottom line to my message here today is “plan it.” Because if you don’t, you will either be behind or too early.

OTHER SIDE HIGHLIGHTS – WEBINARS

Aside from focusing on seeds in February, I’ve been taking the time to attend plant related webinars. Today, I’m signing into one on Perennial Plantings and it will be held with a Trial Manager (meaning they trial plants as growers). They will be going over cultural requirements, water management, and fertility. I’m sure I’ll learn something new.

I’ve also attended a few other webinars, by calling in and watching the presentations, on new products out by Scotts and one webinar was focused on Neptune Harvest (which is an organic fertilizer) and plant food (which I use in my micro-green’s growing (from seed). I plan to share what I learned with my attendees at FB Lives and this year’s workshops.

I received a review of soil mixes of which some are new coming out in 2018 at another webinar this month. I take notes and plan to share the information at my first spring garden talk on April 23rd at the East Hartford Garden Club. We know there are so many soil choices out there so everything learned is something to share with you.

Keeping up with plant knowledge can be tricky as a solo-entrepreneur but I wanted my followers and attendees to know I work on it by attending these webinars now and by researching, reading, and experimenting. It’s an investment for me and you.

PAST FB LIVES

If you tuned into my last two Facebook live sessions – thank you. This idea just kind of organically started in my mind – I thought why not share now in the middle of winter some topics each month. It is a great way to keep in touch with you all too.

The first session was on how to remove the succulents from the pumpkins we decorated last October in 2017, and the 2nd was on how to make a Moss Mardi Gras mask, which to me, is so much fun. I hope you felt inspired by it and you can see all the photos on my Instagram feed.

2018 WORKSHOPS

Because I am not offering my May Container Gardening workshops this season – I wanted to give something free to my attendees to soften the blow of this news – cause I know many of you enjoy it so much – which is part of the reason why I started the FB Lives. Hopefully you are enjoying them and find them useful.

However, don’t worry, more workshops will be planned in May of 2019, and some are already scheduled for the fall and holiday workshops of 2018. The latest schedule is on the WORKSHOPS tab in my website, www.WORKSHOPSCT.com. I’m sure I will keep adding to it as we get closer to spring.

Well, guess that is all for today.

a heart iiiii

Valentine’s Box Filled with Succulents – Created by me!

Happy Valentine’s Day – Hope you receive something sweet from whomever you share this day with.

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

Offering Workshops, Plant Gifts, and Container Gardens

 

 

 

FB Lives and 2018 Calendar

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Hi everyone,

I just posted the first version of my workshops schedule on www.WORKSHOPSCT.com, so hop on over there if you wish to start jotting key dates on your 2018 calendar.

One new item being offered this year are my Facebook LIVES. Because I am not offering my typical May container gardening workshops this year, I thought a nice bonus to make up for it is to offer you some free mini-talks on various plant and plant decor topics.

The next FB Live from my Container Crazy CT Facebook page is scheduled on Tuesday, Feb 6, 2018 at 10:30 am EST. The topic will be revealed the day before, and the post of the feed will remain for about one month before being deleted. One hint: It is related to an event in the month of February but may be one you wouldn’t guess!

To find the feed, just visit my FB page that day or be sure to “like” my page and then you should see it pop up as it goes live on your Facebook wall. Feel free to add your questions in the comments field as it is live. If I can’t answer right then, I will following the feed.

In July, I am offering a demo day on hobby greenhouse growing based on my experience with my own environment. It will be mid-summer, but this can be a great time to learn about all before you walk down the road of getting your own hobby greenhouse. Maybe we will have a nice lunch after the demonstrations. This session is for beginners, and will be a way to share so much I’ve learned about things you should know about the structures, key elements needed in the structures, and about winter or summer care in a greenhouse which are special in regards to weather, etc. The list goes on. We will talk about plant care, plant problems, and more. This will be a demonstration day, not a workshop.

In the fall and winter, we are offering our usual annual workshop programs, such as Succulent Topped Pumpkins and the Holiday KB workshops. See the link just posted under the WORKSHOPS menu from WorkshopsCT.com for the dates. As we proceed into 2018, more locations and topics will be added, some perhaps new!

If questions, please let me know! Cathy T

2018 FB Live Feb

Do you still want emails?

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Hello world!

How’s everyone doing today?

I was thinking this morning, I wonder if my friends, clients, and attendees still want emails?

My stats on distributed emails shows a lot of un-opens from the past few updates sent out to my distribution list.

Is email out of favor?

My website is always here for updates as well, on what is coming up for workshops and educational sessions on plants, so hopefully, if you prefer no emails, you still like coming to read the blog and website updates.

It seems views continue to occur on my sites per my stats, so I hope if you need information and want to know the latest, you are looking here, and on www.WORKSHOPSCT.com.

And, I find my Instagram account is being viewed.

I’m kind of obsessed with Instagram these days. I may be considered a spammer of plant photos at this point – not sure.

I just can’t help but take pics of my plants. It is an addiction of mine. They are like my kids. You never stop loving or enjoying them – and sharing news about them.

Well, if you are visiting my websites, then you will get my latest updates – I hope!

As you know, I completed my very first try at what I called a pop up shop at a bookstore this year – it was a “fast” seven months with many lessons learned and new friends gained.

I, obviously, keep having that dream of having my own plant shop – but alas, we all know the costs of that scenario – and well, I hope to have another opportunity to do another pop up somewhere – will keep you posted when it and if that happens.

For now, know that:

I continue to offer what I feel are “quality workshops” at a “great value.” Hopefully, as a regular (non-newbie) attendee, you know this! As a newbie, you will know. 😉

I sell plants always, and I coddle my plants – meaning I treat them like a newborns.

If you have a plant need, don’t hesitate to ask.

Right now, I have beautiful bird’s nest ferns, rubber plants, rabbit foot ferns, African mask alocasias, other houseplants, and, of course – amazing succulents in stock. Perfect candidates if you wish to dress up the indoors during the fall and winter.

In fact, my first session for the “Succulent Topped Pumpkin” centerpieces is this Saturday.

Get ready to learn, create, and enjoy. We will be covering a great deal of information. And the succulents are so ready for you!

The second session, at the Stafford Springs Cidery, is sold out. However, I think I may offer a mini session the week of 10/16. Or – if you have a group of 4 or 6 you think you can round up – contact me! We may be able arrange a session.

Other things coming up – my “overwintering demo” which is scheduled on 10/14, Saturday – and right now, we are having warm weather with beautiful sunshine. I hope this weather lasts, cause my plants and I are enjoying it.

But, if you want to learn about how I overwinter plants and propagate some, and deal with the houseplants we used this year, sign up soon. This session is good for those who wish to “see” how I do my process. However, you are always welcome to email any questions on overwintering too.

My schedule is so busy right now, cleaning up my workshop spaces.

You may find it hard to believe, but it can take me a full week just to set up.

AND, also, for the succulent pumpkins there is some pre-work done with the succulents to get them ready – so in all total, it takes me a month!

Yup. I think it is important to know this.

So, if you are an attendee, you know that Cathy T does a great deal behind the scenes – cause, well, I care. About you, and my workshops, and especially my plants (a.k.a., babies).

It won’t be long before I place my order for the holiday workshops in December. That is also another event which requires “pre-planning” and lots of it.

I wanted to you to know also, if you want a one-on-one private session to make any creation you see on my www.WORKSHOPSCT.com site – ask.

Or if you think you want to arrange a small group – ask too. But timing is key. Because of the planning, working with “live” plants, etc.

And in November, the enjoyable and fun Shop Small day, held for our small business customers to say thank you, will take place again.

I will keep you posted, but you probably want to note the date – which is November 25th, Saturday. I’m pretty sure I will be participating at a place with other vendors – stay tuned.

If you have any questions on overwintering, feel free to reach out too – as I know not everyone can make the demo.

Here are some I’ve already been asked about handling plants this time of year:

Can I use the same soil for my container gardens to re-pot my houseplants?

Yes, if you purchased quality soil mix from me – you can. Remember, if you decide to re-pot your houseplants from your combo planters we did in May, to pick a pot size that is “NOT” large. Remember what I told everyone about houseplants and the roots. You shouldn’t pot them up into a pot that is too large, etc.

Should I spray my plants before moving them into the house?

It is “very” important to inspect your plants.

IF your plants had bug issues, that were not bad, yes, spray them if you think critters exist. I have good spray in stock if interested that is organic and attacks the pests in their various stages (eggs, larvae, adults). I can tell you more if interested, but now is a good time to get the spray.

Also, if you had a problem with a plant where it seemed infested, it is not a good idea to bring them inside when you have other healthy houseplants.

As hard as it may be, a badly infected plant should be tossed if they can not be cured. Otherwise, those critters will find their way to you other plants. However, I am hoping if you got plants from me, you were able to keep them healthy and thriving.

Look under the pots too – sometimes critters hide there. Just a tip.

Can I still keep my plants outside right now? The weather is great.

We are having a spectacular week. Sunshine, blue skies, etc. Some of my Canna plants are still blooming – and yes, many plants may be kept outside. It is when those night time temps start to dip into the 40’s – keep your alert up.

Many tropicals (Canna, Elephant Ears, Red Banana Plants) may stay out till frost – IF you are going to dig up the tubers, rhizomes, etc to store those in dry peat in your basement, which I show how, but heads-up on that.

Because our weather has been so great though, it is also a great time to want to work outside to get your overwintering clean up done before it is cold.

It is a GREAT time to wash pots, inspect your plants, pull any weeds out of the containers if they got in there, and get prepared.

So, if you want to do your storing early, I don’t think it would harm anything.

I divided that big Alocasia, which I mentioned in the last post. I re-potted a few and will store the tubers of the others. That plant got so large, I got 13 plants out of it. It sure was easier to do on a sunny day on my driveway rather than a cold day where my hands froze.

Ideally, some division is better done in the “active growing season”, but I still do some now because I can move them into my greenhouse. Better late than never.

Oh, and yes, if you still enjoy getting the emails, let me know your thoughts. I don’t want to bombard people, but also don’t want them to miss out.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
containercathy@gmail.com
860-977-9473 (texts welcome!)

 

Hello Sept One

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It is September 1st … already?

I couldn’t believe how cold it was outside, as I stepped out in my fuzzy slippers and PJ’s, to get my laptop out of my truck, in the dark, with only the sound of traffic going by.

When I returned back inside the house, I checked my weather app on my iPhone.

Wow, it’s 50 degrees at 5:30 am this morning.

Brrr…

Thoughts going thru my mind…

What?! This is chilly.

Are my little plants okay, which I left in my truck last nite too, after dinner last night?

Wow, look over there – one of my moon flowers is open. Cool. That is a sign of fall.

It’s dark out here – I better be careful to look out for skunks.

All I can hear is traffic of vehicles heading to work on Rt 140.

Do any of us ever step outside this early in the dark to look at the stars?

Brr, it’s chilly. This is too soon.

Let’s get back inside to get my coffee, and oh, little plants, looks like you are doing fine in my truck. You will go back to my greenhouse after my usual am routine, hang tight.

I’m not ready to take on fall or winter yet – but I am seeing the signs.

And, these “signs” get us all prepared to transition to a new season, right?

First, it is the chilly evenings, then transition of the evening skies feeling like they are getting darker earlier, especially on the drive home after work.

The crickets going mad outdoors in the late afternoons – another fall sign – which helps to drown out my tinnitus, so I enjoy that more than ever.

The yellowing of some of my canna and alocasia leaves on plants in big container gardens from these chilly evening episodes, which those plants will need tending to, very soon.

All summer, I wanted to divide a huge alocasia – yet, still it sits in a big pot – larger than ever now – hope I can get to that soon, or maybe I will demo that one for my overwintering demo.

The pile of empty starter pots, in the garage, on the driveway – oh gosh, I have to wash all of those before storing them – I better pick a sunny day before the full cold fall season arrives, else it will be torture.

 

The pool to close soon – really? Ugh.

I didn’t even have the pool party I wanted, well, we had some little get together’s with some friends and family – but not a full out pool party – and the yard looks great.

I’m sure the pool water is ice cold right now. How many times did we use it? Not enough. But on those days we did, it was heaven.

This cool air of fall is all too soon!

But, the biggest surprise of the change of seasons coming on is that my Holiday Kissing Ball and Wreath Workshop is almost completely full with advance pre-registrations.

What? That is 30 people signed up so far, and the limit is 35. I think I have 3-4 seats open for my first workshop. Great news – it makes me very happy and proud – but this is the earliest ever for registrations – exciting!

Other signs – besides this morning’s cold, that it is Sept “One” already, is how fast time flies by – I’ve said that before, many times, I know. Just feels like it is always moving so fast.

I’m starting to see posts of fall crafting inspiration on Facebook by friends, and a little bit of the posts on Instagram of Autumn decorating is starting.

I’m making a cuties thing in my greenhouse themed for Halloween right now – but not sharing photos yet.

But, I guess, I will be taking those to my plant shop display soon. Maybe it is not too early, with these cooler nights – and mornings happening.

All of these things get us thinking fall.

But most of all – for me – is the chilly morning I just experienced today.

Thankfully, it will be followed by a glorious full sun fall like warm, but not hot or humid day, and that is the best part of fall.

Let’s enjoy it…

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

P.S.

My “Overwintering Container Plants” workshops are on the schedule, if you are interested. I am holding it early this year so people are ready for October’s frost timing, but geesh, with the early cool temps – maybe this was timed just right. First session is Sept 15, Friday, 6-7 pm at Book Club Bookstore & More in South Windsor, CT. All details are on www.WORKSHOPSCT.com. There will be a demo at my place too in Sept and October.

And – don’t forget – I am offering my “Succulent Topped Pumpkins” workshop again in early October and mid-October – see my site noted above for dates and details. People are starting to sign-up. It will be fun and creative! Join us!