Top Nine

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When watching talk shows the other day, I realized so much was being shown regarding the “Top Nine” app used to generate the top nine photos in a grid format from Instagram feeds and it perked my curiosity.

I caved and did it – and here it is:

Top Nine 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0002

Apparently, this is not an “Instagram” thing but a separate app but using Instagram – and it became popular and a bit of a trend. We may all assume the reason why? Because your curiosity kills the cat – you have to know – Gee, what is my top nine (most liked or most engaged photos of the year) per some app? Well, mine are above.

To be honest, it surprised me which were selected. How do they determine which photos are selected? I guess it is based on likes, shares, and engagement? Not sure, and I don’t have the right mind after the holiday hoop-la to research that aspect right now, but I did find it interesting and a bit of fun to use the app to find out.

My Photo Grid Explanation:

From left to right (starting from the top row), I thought it would be entertaining to say what I think of each of these photos which were generated by the Top Nine app.

The Jade Plant (Crassulas) – Ah, this is one plant I became involved with in 2019. Meaning, I propagated it (made cuttings and grew new plants) from it quite a bit. It is rather easy actually. I also used this plant in some of my install jobs in various containers. And offered them in my succulents workshops. But what would make it a top photo is the fact that I feel I can grow them myself and they are healthy and happy! Maybe people enjoyed the photo due to the Indigo Blue Background which is a popular color right now I heard.

The Beach Shot – That was a vacation my husband and I took last year in Naples, Florida. I wanted to make sure we’d go see the sunset which I had read about being wonderful on this beach, and we joined many other people that day doing the same. I guess that is a good photo, right? And it WAS a great afternoon waiting for the sun to set.

The Yellow Peppers – Grown from seed, hot and tasty. I love these yellow long banana shaped peppers, which I wrote about in my seedlings topics on this blog and for the workshop which I offered on seed starting last year too. So, yes, I agree on this photo. The peppers were easy to grow, abundant, and we ground them up after drying them in the oven to make hot pepper flakes of the yellow variety. They did not go wasted. My husband loves hot peppers and he shook those flakes on his various meals many times. We went thru two jars of the hot pepper flakes. Great for chili recipes too.

The Blue Pots – Ah, yes. I was on the hunt for a client, trying to find pots. I kind of knew these weren’t the right ones. I had put them on the floor and took a photo. You will see my hiking boots there as I looked down in the photo. But for some reason, this photo was popular with people on Instagram. However, it was not quite the right fit and I later found a better style and color for my clients’ needs. But that was a journey on a day of hunting for just the right patio pots. Pinch me – I love that type of work.

The Flyer in the Window – My workshop flyer was posted in a local package store’s window. I always appreciate when they share my flyers about my workshops. I guess that day, it was noticed quite a bit and thus, another top nine. I would say these clients are tops too. They have hired me for years to install their store-front pots. I do think the flyers look great in their store’s windows. Thank you!

The Cacti Cans – I pounded small drain holes in the bottom of soup cans with a hammer and nail last year and inserted a cactus in each. No drill required which I loved. And I even hand-stamped the sides of some of the cans with words and added chains to some to hang the cans. They are adorable. However, in the rain, one thing I forgot about is the cans start to rust. I did’t like the rusty look. That day a flower was blooming on one, as you can see, and it was adorable, so I snapped a photo.

The Burro Tail Sedum – I obtained a stock of these from a grower to provide in my succulent related workshops last year. Everyone loves these plants, which drip down into long tails as they grow over time. They work well in hanging baskets – which was a topic I offered last year too. These plants are great fillers in arrangements and easy to grow, drought tolerant and long living.  I still have some growing in my hanging baskets in the greenhouse now. I can see why a popular photo – and those who got them in my workshops surely loved them. Thanks to my amazing grower, I obtained a nice stock of them last year.

A Photo of Me – From many years ago. What I like about this photo is that my red head planter, the little red table with red chairs, and the red blooms of the Canna Lily plants in the background were all happening. I spray painted that little round table and the chairs red. It was a freebie find on the side of the road one day. My sister was annoyed cause it was on her street when I found it as I was leaving her house. She joked that was supposed to be her free find. 

The Cherry Tomato Leaf – This is all about my obsession with plants. I love taking close up shots of plants and their structures. It was also probably popular cause we all dream of eating fresh tomatoes. The photo was taken in March or early April, and the handwriting on the label is not mine – it is of an attendee’s who came to my workshop on seed starting last year. That will be my first project, setting up the Seed Starting Workshop for 2020. I can’t resist doing it – it was very rewarding. Seats will be limited because the plants are kept in my greenhouse until they are ready to be planted outdoors. Unless, of course, I got a bigger greenhouse.

By the way, this is what CNN has to say about the Top Nine app and trend. You may want to read their article before you try it!

Have a good start to your first week in 2020.

Best regards,

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

Other Cathy T sites:

www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
www.ContainerGardensCT.com

 

 

 

 

8 Days Till Christmas

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Is it 8 days till Christmas? Or…8 days till Christmas Eve?

Guess that depends on how you count the days!

For me, I was on a 15 day of a cold – coughing and feeling quite run down. I remember one day, when having a moment to pause, I felt suddenly exhausted. But, I got through it all: The KB Celebration this month, the KB Workshops, and the Holiday Custom Orders, the client installs, but we still have 8 days, and I’m sure many of you are running around finalizing your holiday plans from gift shopping to food shopping.

Gift Certificates or Hostess Gifts

I still have those 8 days for any last minute requests – Need a Gift Certificate to next year’s workshops? I have them in stock. Just reach out. Need a small plant related holiday gift – ask. I have some cute items I make by order, and I don’t even post any photos of them – they are too unique. Great as hostess gifts or for table decor.

What is KB? You may ask…

KB, as most of you know, is my short-cut name for Kissing Balls. I held all workshops of where everyone makes their KBs, along with wreaths and candle centerpieces, except one session, because I just was too sick AND lost my voice. I didn’t want to spread my germs to the private group either – and I will make it up to them next year somehow. Thankfully, they were very understanding. But the workshops held were super fun and festive. I posted lots of photos on my Facebook and Instagram Pages. Everyone’s creations were well-done.

KB Celebration 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0004

Attendee to our KB Celebration 

2020 Planning

Next year – OMG, I took out my first 2020 calendar and started to jot dates down based on last year’s happenings. The season will most likely start with my “Seed Starting Sessions” and Seed Starting Presentations. That can start up as early as February for me. I will start preparing the game plans, outlines, seed calendars, and handouts in February, probably around the same time of doing taxes (ack!) but then the classes (or sessions) on seed starting will most likely be around March 14, March 21st, and even March 28th – but these dates are all tentative. Will keep you updated in early 2020.

tomatoe 2018_0002

I need to review other activity first – but I think those dates above are my targets. In April, there is a part two to my Seed Starting Sessions – called, Seed Monitoring. I think I will follow the same format at last year. I really enjoyed the whole Seed Starting (for tomatoes and peppers primarily) offerings. It was one of my most rewarding workshops. Why? Because it was continuous. I got to see how everyone’s starter plants did over the summer, see their harvest, and it was really a good feeling to see how happy everyone was. Who doesn’t love their own homegrown fresh tomato, right?

May’s Topic

Then, in May, should I do the Succulent Hanging Baskets again? Should I offer a new topic? I may poll my attendees or maybe I will come up with something new. I’ve been focused on succulents the past few years. Maybe it is time to return to perennials, tropical plants, or even houseplants? TBD on all of that. But, if I did offer a workshop on container gardening or patio pots, it would most likely fall around May 9th and May 16th in 2020. I do have some new ideas brewing. Stay tuned.

Good Photo Kim with Hanger

Summer Months

The summer months are usually quiet in regards to workshops, but my container installs keep me busy during the height of the watering and flowering season, no worries there, but I usually don’t offer any big workshops mid-summer. People are usually on vacation! Even so, the time moves so quickly every summer. In fact, I keep so busy watering my own container gardens at home that I promise myself EVERY year to not plant as many containers and patio pots at my own home, but what do I do? I always plant tons cause the plant passion grabs me. But grabbing that hose was hard on my arms last year. I got tennis elbow in not one, but both arms. I think it was from the hose dragging all summer long. Of course, I usually have various types of plants for sale during this time as well.

Autumn

Fall arrives very quickly after summer, and we move in the Succulent Topped Pumpkins workshops, which I always feel is a keeper. Will I offer it again? I think so. If yes, I’m looking at the dates of Oct 3rd and Oct 10th. All TBD at the moment. Just scanning the 2020 calendar today for the first time. But if you want to pencil them in….

Custom Pumpkins by C Testa Copywrite_0006

Holiday Workshops

OK, so the big question is – will the Holiday Workshops continue in 2020? I think so on those too. I am toying with the idea of more dates and smaller groups – but I don’t know – it is so popular and I feel like everyone relies on me now to kick off the holiday season with this fabulous and festive workshop. I will have to just wait till I get closer to decide. My tentative dates noted are December 5th and December 12th for now.

End of Year

As I reflect on 2019, I am so thankful for the workshops attendees of 2019 and of past years, and thankful for new clients who found me this year. For the garden talks and presentations at garden clubs and local farmers markets too – great groups this year. I’m also thankful for the inspiration, creativity, and fun we had through it all. It was a very busy year, and I think I said that last year, but this year was busier. In fact, they say it takes 5 years for a business to take off – I disagree – for me it was 10 years of practice, trial, and persistence. My 10th year has been the busiest.

I hope the 2020 year will bring lots of the same fun and maybe a little more controlled hectic schedule. When I finally decide on the exact 2020 workshop dates, I will be sure to post it to keep you updated.

Have a good pre-week before Christmas you all.

Stay Healthy. Stay Happy.

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
Container Crazy CT
http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
http://www.ContainerGardensCT.com

KB Celebration 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0003

Cathy T with Hubby Steve 2019

Every Plant Picture Has A Story

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Fall is a time to capture the sun’s beautiful rays on the last days of the gardening year when our plants and gardens are at their final stages before frost.

Last week, I posted about two tall planters at my home that had upright elephant ears and a couple beautiful annuals.

I truly enjoyed looking at them all year, but in the fall, the sun is different. The sun gives the plants a backdrop of bright yellow and shimmering red fall foliage – and it feels special.

Thus, I asked a professional photographer friend to take photos of my planters before they were dissembled for storage.

Here is just one of those photos:

Fall 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0001

Is this not a stunning photo above?!

I love the way this photographer uses color and light. To me a photo like this is heaven. It is eye candy. It makes me say, “Ahhh.”

The wonderful photographer who took this photo of my planters (and many others to be blogged about soon) is Jackie and her site is called JMS Art & Photo.

I met Jackie when my workshops were featured in a magazine called, “Go Local.” I loved the photos she took then as well for that article. Many of them were from inside my greenhouse. I knew at the moment I saw her photos, I liked her style of photography.

Jackie has vibrant red hair, the friendliest smile, and is also a very creative art teacher in Stafford. She is passionate about what she does in all facets of her life from what I can tell. I will say this – I wish I had her as my art teacher when I was a kid. When I see her class related photos, I just love how she uses colors in a very vivid way. She also has that color talent (which I can’t seem to find the right words to describe it) of the photos she takes at musical fests and shows – and of my plants now! Go visit her site, you will see what I mean.

I find that every plant photo has a story and every photographer does as well. I’ve met 4 professional photographers (each women), and hired each of them to come here to take photos of my plants at some point in my gardening life.

One photographer moved away, and I remember being sad because I just loved her style too. Each photographer is different and each definitely has their own unique style and method – all wonderful. I splurge from time to time to have one take pro photos of my plants here. It is fun for me and a treat.

I want to share many of the photos Jackie of JMS Art & Photo took for me here at my home of my plants this fall. This is on my blogging to do list. And, hopefully, by the winter months, I will be able to do so.

In the meantime, I wanted to quickly share just a couple of these photos with you today.

Fall 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0002

I’m lucky to have met special people, such as Jackie, who have a passion for their art  – and other photographers I have mentioned on this blog in prior posts. Thankfully, they never think I’m a cuckoo for my passion of plants! As they clicked away with their cameras here, I feel like my plants are on the red carpet. And I’m happy they are willing to entertain my passion thru their lenses.

Ironically, I’ve met photographers at craft shows as well. And I happen to have one coming up. In the same town that Jackie teaches. It is a Fall Craft Fair, scheduled in a week, on November 2nd, Saturday, 9 am to 2 pm at the Stafford Fire Department house located on 27 Willington Avenue, Stafford Springs, CT.

Fall Craft Fair 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0001

You can find out all the details on their Stafford Fire Department No. 1 Facebook page. Approximately 30 vendors are scheduled to participate. My items will be focused on plant gifts related to Christmas themes as well as some fall themes. I hear they make soup in their onsite kitchen at the fire house – and I think I will be enjoying some of that myself! Swing by if you can. And don’t forget to shop the local businesses nearby in the center of Stafford Springs on Main Street. There is a beautiful artisan shop in town and a local cidery, both worth the drop by before or after.

In the meantime, be sure to capture and take in the last moments of fall whether with your own photos of your plants or when you are out and about attending shows. The leaves were stunning this year in Connecticut but many have fallen now onto the ground. Don’t miss out on the last days of these plant photo opportunities.

Have a great weekend!

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

 

 

Overwintering Plants 2019

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Hi all,

I spent a good deal of this past weekend overwintering my tropical plants from patio pots and container gardens, with the help of my husband, Steve.

First, I walked around our yard with Steve and asked, “If you can move this or that – it would help me a great deal?” He was very happy to do so.

As he worked on “this or that,” which consisted of various pots with Canna lilies and such, I worked on taking apart some plants from a couple large and tall patio pots on my deck and disassembling my large tropical garden filled with a elephant ears, perennials, and a huge red banana plant (Ensete). I posted photos and videos of the process on my Container Crazy CT Facebook page.

The weather was fantastic both Saturday and Sunday, which helped a great deal, but it was cold out – I needed to wear warm gloves. We had two “light frosts” this month so far (one on the 20th and one prior in the month) but we still haven’t had a hard frost which would kill and blacken the foliage of my tropical plants that I was focused upon.

When I say tropical plants, I’m referring to the red banana plants, canna lilies, elephant ears, and mandevillas – plants which will not tolerate the frost here in CT.

I document my storing process every year usually so if you need information on it, use the red search bar on this site (right-hand side of the screen, scroll down to locate) and enter ‘red banana plant,’ or ‘overwintering’, or ‘ensete’, ‘canna’, etc – and you should be able to locate the prior detailed articles I have posted.

Overwintering 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0002

This year, I planted Upright Jumbo Elephant Ears (Alocasia macrorrhiza) in two new pots I acquired. The tall pots are about 5 feet tall or maybe a little less, and are very nice, BUT the spiller plants in the pots grew so well, they actually hid the beautiful pots.

By the way, the spillers were Alternanthera ‘Plum Dandy’ and Plectranthus coleoides ‘White Surf.’ Both were amazing. I especially love the plum color of the Alternanthera, and the Plectranthus (with green leaves serrated with white edges), both of which are always great spiller performers in container gardens. They can take full sun and part sun. And both are vigorous growers as annual plants here in our CT zones.

The tubers of the upright elephant ears were shipped to me in early April and I planted them in nursery starter pots, first in my greenhouse and then moved them out to my new patio pots later after all chances of spring frost, usually around the same time we plant out our tomato and pepper plants (around Memorial Day in late May).

I had visions of these upright elephant ears growing super huge and tall, but they didn’t reach the 6 to 8 feet height described by the producer of the tubers. However, they reached about 3 ft high in the first year – I expect it to be taller next season. And I will probably start them in the nursery pots sooner in the greenhouse to get the growth going earlier, which helps get that big show I was looking for.

Overwintering 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0005

Removed Leaves

The leaves were on average about 20″ long, but what impressed me the most about this variety were the clumps they formed. One tuber shot up about 15 stalks per tuber, or tubers, which reproduce on the side, as they grow in summer. As seen here:

Overwintering 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0007

Original Tuber on Left (new growth on right)

The original tuber is on the left. When it arrived in the mail in April, it had a dry papery brown covering and was big and solid. As you can see on the right, it grew another plant after I planted them in the patio pots outdoors, and this is what I love about tubers from tropical plants – you get more plants at the end of the season to replant next spring. In fact, as seen here, I got LOTS of new plants for next year:

Overwintering 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0006

There are 12 stalks in this photo – all from one original tuber. After I removed them from the big patio pots, I cut the stalks down to about 4-5″ from the base of the tuber area (root end) and I will store these in a cool, dark, dry place (my basement which is unheated but it does not freeze there).

You may cut back all the foliage before or after frost before you dig up and store the tubers. I prefer doing it before frost because it is less messy. After frost, the foliage turns black and mushy.

After I dig out the tubers from the patio pots, I usually lay them out for 2 days in the sun to dry a bit. After that, they get placed in plastic rubber maid type boxes (low height containers) with peat moss covering them and a lid on the box. I sometimes drill small pin holes in the lid to allow some air exchange in the boxes/containers. Again, all of this is documented in detail in prior posts on this site too. Do not store them in too deep of containers or boxes as this increases the chances of rot. And I also recommend you only lightly cover them with the peat.

Overwintering 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0003

Pots empty and ready to cover for winter

When I posted this process with videos last weekend, a few people asked some questions – one of which was, “Do you keep the soil in these pots for next year?”

Traditionally, I do not keep soil in patio pots after a year’s use – UNLESS they are really big pots like these. Potting mixes lose their ability to retain water well in smaller to medium sized pots after a year or two’s use.

I am a big believer in using the best potting mix possible – fresh every year in your containers, and to use reputable sources. I really need to do a long post on potting mixes – one of these days soon.

But for really big pots, I do keep the soil mix in there for a couple years. Sometimes with smaller patio pots, I use the “old” soil as filler only in the base of big pots. Or it goes to compost areas or garden areas as filler at the end of the season. To me it is so worth it to have quality potting mix for your plants because they thrive and put on a wonderful show of growth when you do.

I put these two big heavy patio pots on trays with wheels so we could push them to a more sheltered location on my deck and I will cover each of them with thick tarps. I sometimes put a board over the top of the openings and then cover it. This seems to work well with my bigger pots in my yard – none of them have ever cracked, thankfully.

These upright elephant ears made me happy despite not getting super tall. The sun rose behind them every morning and lit up the leaves. I enjoyed looking at them from my bedroom sliders. These plants could be over-wintered as a houseplant IF you owned a a large home, but alas, I do not, but I would if I could. However, what I love about these is how you may store the tubers in a compact way to reuse them again and again every season. And it may look like lots of work or effort, but it was relatively quick to get it done. It doesn’t take too much muscle strength to get them dug out of pots either, as compared to the ground, where the roots extend further into ground soils.

You may also allow these plants to go dormant and store them in their growing container or pots but that also means having the space to do so. When I started these in the spring, the original tubers were planted about 4″ deep in my nursery starter pots. It was the waiting game that was difficult – waiting to see how they would grow, but when they did, many weeks of viewing was enjoyed in summer till almost the end of October. Tropical plants last well beyond annuals in most cases. Another reason I continue to enjoy them.

Also, these plants very rarely get insect problems. The upright elephant ears’ leaves are slick, shiny, glossy, and dark green. They’d make great candidates for making leaf bird baths the hypertufa style way! But who has time for that? I have to get ready for my holiday workshops now – and speaking of – I have to mention them:

KB 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0010

Holiday Workshops – December 7, 2019 – For Beginners and Advanced Attendees

Registrations ARE happening now for my December 7th, 2019 holiday workshop and if you are interested, I encourage you to sign-up early. The start time is 11 am to whenever you like, we have fun in these workshops making kissing balls, wreaths, or candle centerpieces with beautiful fresh greens. For as long as I can offer them, you should be taking these workshops – cause, I dare say, they are wonderful! Will I ever loose steam to do them, like I do all these pots in fall? Hmm, only time can tell. Hint: Don’t Miss Out! Sign-up now!

Overwintering 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0004

Red Banana Plant Stumps (Ensete)

Lastly, I also took down my two big red banana plants in other big pots in my yard. Here’s a photo of the stumps (technically pseudo stems) that get stored in BIG plastic bins, of course. I posted some time lapse videos of the process on my page noted above as well. Like the tubers of the upright elephant ears, I let them sit out in the sun to dry and drain because these big stumps hold excess water. I also clean the soil off the roots with a soft brush. Today, they will be laid to rest for the winter in the big bins in my basement.

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
www.ContainerGardensCT.com
http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com
Located in Broad Brook, CT (East Windsor)
860-977-9473 (texts welcome)
containercathy@gmail.com

 

 

Persian Shield is Purplelicious

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If you haven’t been introduced or seen the annual, Persian Shield, you are missing out on one of the most amazing purple colored foliage plants to use in container gardens.

Persian Shield by C Testa Copywrite_0003

Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus) enjoys full to part sun and will grow to about 18-36″ tall. It has an upright habit, makes an excellent filler, and is an annual plant except for zones 9-11. In CT, we are zone 6.

Persian Shield by C Testa Copywrite_0007

In a part sun situation, under patio umbrellas, these plants performed beautifully this season for me at home. However, I also have installed them in full sun situations at client sites (photos on those later) this year, and they performed equally well because they are heat tolerant too. I guess you could say, this plant is very versatile.

Persian Shield by C Testa Copywrite_0002

As a container garden installer, sometimes I will have some left over plants and assemble them at home in random fashion. Thus, this year, I put together 3 plants you may not consider would “work well” together for design purposes, but they did. They were a darker variety of rubber plant, Persian Shield, and mint.

Persian Shield by C Testa Copywrite_0006

The mint served as a cascading spiller (and was handy to cut from for summer cocktails), the rubber plant served as the large and tall thrillers, and the Persian Shield was the filler (and is of a perfect height with the rubber plant which grew taller).

Persian Shield by C Testa Copywrite_0005

I tend to enjoy foliage plants over flowering. Foliage lasts a long time (still going strong right now in mid-September) and adds a great deal of texture. In the case of Persian Shield, it has the narrow shaped leaves with pointy ends and the leaf veins and the somewhat ruffle texture on the leaf itself gives it a sense of ambiance.

Persian Shield by C Testa Copywrite_0001

These two patio pots with Persian Shield graced the steps leading to the top level of my deck. When friends came by, they always stopped to not only comment on the Persian Shield’s coloring and beauty, but they also would reach down to touch the leaves with their finger tips. This is a true sign of a plant that is captivating.

The rubber plant’s darker toned and larger sized leaves gave the Persian Shield’s coloring a bit more impact but this plant also pairs well with softer colors, like pinks or softer purples, which is a combination I put together at a client’s full sun patio site this season (and will show photos of that combo later).

I have found the coloring of Persian Shield is best in the part-sun situations, but I would never limit it to only part sun. It tolerates the full sun situations. I watered these two pots regularly and the soil remained moist most times, although one should always be sure to not over water anything to the point of soggy. The nice thing about Persian Shield is it can take low water use as well. Again, easy and versatile.

This plant may be overwintered as a house plant, which I have not done myself, or you may take tip cuttings to root in water and hopefully keep it going to replant next season, or just run to the nursery in the spring time to get some more because Persian Shield is worth it.

In a future post, I will share more photos of how I used this plant and post about the rubber plants used in these combinations soon. They have an interesting story to go with them. 

In the meantime, enjoy the purplelicious nature of this wonderful primarily foliage plant (Note: It does bloom light purple flowers eventually but they are not very showy).

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
860-977-9473
Broad Brook, CT

P.S. The beautiful photos in this post were taken by JMSArtandPhoto

Mini Succulent Pumpkins at the Market

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Banner of Workshops for FB Page Oct 2019

Hi all,

The recent fall weather changes of cool evenings signals Succulent Pumpkin time which is a favorite of mine for autumn decorating. They have been all the rage for a few years now and I very much enjoy creating these and offering workshops and demo’s on them this time of year. Here’s what’s coming up!

EVENTS AND WORKSHOPS

You have several choices to learn the how-to’s or to participate hands-on with Container Crazy CT:

September 28, 2019 – Saturday
Ellington Farmers Market
Mini Succulent Pumpkins
9 am to 12 pm
Arbor Park

Look for me in the big white gazebo where I will be providing tips on how to create gorgeous succulent topped pumpkins. Bring your own mini pumpkin and we will help you get started! Various types of succulents will be available for purchase from me to finish your design at home. (Note: This is not a full “hands-on event.” It is set up to show you each step and help get you started to finish DIY style at home.)

Succ Pumpkins 2019 by C Testa Copywrite_0001

Bring a Mini Pumpkin like this one!

October 5, 2019 – Saturday (10 am to 12 pm)
October 12, 2019 – Saturday (1 pm to 3 pm)
Container Crazy CT’s
Workshops in Broad Brook, CT

These are two full hands-on workshop where you make your own succulent topped pumpkin centerpieces. All the details are outlined on our site: www.WORKSHOPSCT.com. Bring your own pumpkin(s) – real or faux. We supply the class, tools, moss, propagation info, autumn snacks, and more. You purchase the succulents you wish to use at the workshop – and we have varied styles and especially prepared succulent for you. What does this mean? There are advanced steps required for success with preparing succulents which Cathy T does for you before the workshop. This is part of the reason why we offer choices and we also tell you the secrets on the how to’s. An additional bonus is attendees are invited to free Facebook Live sessions after to keep learning about succulents, how to deal with them later in the season, and offer over-wintering care details. These two workshops have registration fees and pre-registration is required. One workshop is offered during the morning hours, and the other is held in the early afternoon. It is a fun day with a friend, mom/daughter, or solo – Come join our autumn fun.

A Succulents Pumpkin C Testa Copywrite_0002

Large Succulent Pumpkin

October 10th, 2019 – Thursday (1 pm – 2 pm)
West Hartford Garden Club
Succulent Topped Pumpkin Demonstration

I will be speaking at the wonderful West Hartford Garden Club on a Thursday – during the day hours. If you are free during the day and wish to learn how to make a Succulent Topped Pumpkin, come on by. The club starts their day with a lunch at 12:00 noon followed by their business meeting, and then my presentation at 1 pm. Take note their location recently moved to St. John’s Episcopal Church at 679 Farmington Avenue in West Hartford, CT. (Note: This is not a hands-on session, but a demonstration. Contact the club for details about attendance.)

A Succulents Pumpkin C Testa Copywrite_0004

A Wooden Faux Pumpkin – The Creations from Mini, Medium, to Large are endless!

OTHER HOLIDAY HAPPENINGS

Stay tuned for the annual Holiday workshops. The registrations will be opening very soon. Visit www.WORKSHOPSCT.com and note the dates: November 30th for the Invite Only KB 10th year Celebration and Workshop and the December 7th Open Workshop for the Beginner and Advanced attendees. We make kissing balls, wreaths, and candle table centerpieces with fresh holiday greens at these workshops – an annual event not to be missed.

HAPPENING NOW – Autumn Cleanup of Containers

As noted above, I am already starting to disassemble some of my own plants to get a head-start. However, many of my container gardens may stay out till the first frost of October (such as the Canna, Elephant Ears, and Banana Plants) and then I store the tubers, corms, rhizomes, etc. Most of this has been previously documented on this blog. Just search by plant name and you should be able to find my overwintering posts.

I also started taking down my Morning Glory vines – they became quite messy – and grew into my garage light fixtures – the leaves were tattered and worn so out they went yesterday. I also took apart most of my tomato plants in containers, which by now, still had some fruit but most of the plants were exhausted. The soil will be tossed for these as some had plant disease issues and thus the soil is not reusable, and the pots will be thoroughly washed in soapy water with a bit of bleach before storing away the pots.

Today, I will tackle more of the tomato pots and some of my deck plants. I already moved in some houseplants to the house – and showed some tips recently on this. It is important to inspect all plants for any insects, removed any damaged leaves, wash the outside of pots if moving in with same pots, and avoid the cold chills of the evenings now for “some” houseplants. And I find it is best to move them in when the soil is dry. Some of my plants were under patio umbrellas so they were not soaked from recent rainfalls.

I always like to move in my succulents before cold wet rains which soak the soil and the soil tends to not dry out much this time of year, so I have been moving my succulent dish gardens into sun on my driveway to dry out any overly wet soil. This week is a good week to do this – we are having some great weather this week. However, I usually do this before we get chilly evenings but fell behind due to a vacation. My biggest tip is move those dish gardens with succulents in before the soaking wet soil happens and it stays cool out in the evening – because this invites insects when you move them in. Cold wet soils are not the best situation for succulents. If possible, move those succulent dish gardens in while the soil is dry. Succulent tend to rot if the soil stays really wet at the base of the plants too. There are other ways and methods to deal with extending your succulents from containers and dish gardens, and part of this is propagation steps which I go over in my October workshops.

As for the hanging basket attendees from this past spring, I showed some steps recently of propagating the succs and you may refer to your handouts too – which is one way to keep the succulent hanging baskets going. You may also just remove them individually from the hanging basket arrangement and pot them into new individual pots with fresh potting mix. Put them by a sunny window in your home.

Thanks for tuning in,

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

We offer plant related workshops, container gardening and balcony garden installs, garden club talks, and occasionally sell plants and offer demo’s at markets. It is fall and winter time – and new workshops are coming up – hope you will join us.

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Sip Wine and Learn About Succulents

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Hello Everyone,

Before I go on and on about how busy I’ve been, I want to let you know to save the date for a Sip and Learn about Succulents evening at a local spirits shops in my hometown called, “Joe’s Fine Wine & Spirits” at 149 North Road in East Windsor, CT. This store has a huge selection and knows their stuff – don’t miss out!

Save the date: August 21st, Wednesday, 4 pm – 6 pm – Free to attend

Joe is not the name of the store’s owner, it is Leslie, and he has supported my container gardening aspirations from day one. I told him one day, while shopping for wine, of course, that I would love to do container gardens outside of his store. Another woman happened to be there, whom I believe was a spirits’ distributor, and she suggested the idea of the using wine barrels. And that was the spark that got us going.

Over the years, I have done all kinds of plant designs in the two barrels out front of Joe’s Fine Wine & Spirits. I remember, on my very first install day, a guy (who was a landscaper) walked by and said, “They will die and never get watered.” I thought to myself, “What a pessimist!” — But, did I speak up? Nope, typical me – maybe I should have.

He was wrong of course. The plants have done very well, in fact, often stunning, all due to the staff’s commitment of their watering routines. Last year, I included some rubber plants (Ficus elastica) in the barrels with other plants. I could not get over how big and lush they grew in one season! I apologize for not showing a photo here of it – it is buried in my laptop files – I will have to locate it, and when I do – update this post.

Update: I found some of the photos from the install referenced above. Check this out – how much the rubber plant grew in one summer! The first two photos are upon installation.

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Rubber plant (Ficus elastica) upon installation 

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Upon planting – I added button ferns on the sides

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Mid Summer – WOW! Look at how much this plant grew. It was perfectly healthy too.

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Rubber plants prefer bright to moderate light. This area has an overhang so it is protected and gets some shade part of the day. These plants can live for 15 years or more.  They grew massive the year I planted them at Joe’s Fine Wine and Spirits.

Of course, during the winter season, I absolutely love installing a mix of winter fresh greens and, from what I’ve heard, everyone loves the change outs each season of the container garden barrels. They enjoy the plants and that makes me happy.

And this year, especially, everyone has commented on the cacti and succulent garden theme I planted in the barrels. I’m so happy everyone is enjoying the various plants in the barrels and I can’t wait to share more about them on August 21st at their Wine Tasting Event.

Well, pause here for a moment – I have to add a photo of the cacti barrels too soon!

Leslie and his staff have graciously invited me to talk about gardening, succulents, and cacti at their wine tasting evening – how fun. The wine tasting will begin at 4 pm and I will be there to answer any questions and then start my talk around 5 pm.

Succulent tip sheets and handouts will be provided, a free raffle of a succulent creation will be offered, and my goal is to discuss how to transition succulents before fall and winter, how to propagate succulents, and how to care for succulents – and we will also do a review of the cacti and succulent gardens in the barrels in front of the store. Bring along any type of gardening questions you may have – I will do my best to answer questions.

Joes Fine Wine Flyer

 

Leslie’s store is a true gem in our town. He works diligently to offer an amazing variety of spirits and they really care about our community. Come support a great local small business (although one would argue Joe’s Fine Wine & Spirits is not small anymore, it is a rather large store).

And the timing is great too for succulent care, as end of August will be a time to consider how you will deal with any outdoor succulents you have before fall arrives – which is something we can’t imagine right now with the heat wave coming this week. Speaking of the heat wave – I want to wrap up this post quickly this morning so I can go water before it gets too hot. I have a lot of containers to take care of here at my property.

We hope you will join us on August 21st – please come visit – I’d love to see you. Note the date now so you won’t forget – and remember, I will be offering a free raffle to enter that evening – what will I make – you have to come see!

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
http://www.ContainerGardensCT.com
http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com

Oh, and yes, I have had a very busy year – more on that later. I can’t believe it is mid-July and I’m still running around installing plants and loving every minute of it. Stay tuned for more upcoming events to be posted after the heat wave!! Stay cool, my friends! Cathy T.

Aug 2019 flyer

Next Workshop: Mom and Me Offer!

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Pop on over to WORKSHOPSCT.com to read about this weekend’s Succulent Hanging Basket Workshop on May 11th, Saturday, 1-3 pm, Broad Brook, CT. We are making a special offer in honor of Mother’s Day! Check it out while seats last. Pre-registration is required.

Mom and Me Flyer

And don’t forget – we still have beautiful Mother’s Day cards as GIFT CERTIFICATES. I will be available all week if you decide to pop by to get one and surprise your Mom! They may be redeemed for the dollar value selected for workshops or for plants or plant gift purchases.

Mday front and envelope

Additionally, I will be making special LARGE hanging globes as Mother’s Day gifts all this week and posting them on my Insta feed and Facebook business page. Stay tuned!

Thank you,

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

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Cathy T’s 5 Must Do’s for Successful Container Gardening and Patio Pots

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Several years ago, I came up with what I called, “The 5 Must Do’s for Successful Container Gardening” to help attendees of my workshops succeed with their patio pots and container gardens in the summer. Most of what was written then still holds true today, but some things have changed. I am going to update my “5 Must Do’s” in a series of articles on this blog. To get started, here’s a review with some 2019 updates:

For Successful Container Gardening

  1. Provide additional drainage holes in the base of your pots Still True! And still a number one rule!

  2. Use soilless potting mix specifically formulated for container gardening – Yes, but there are soooo many more choices today – it is sometimes overwhelming to know which bag of mix to select. How do you know which to pick? I will go over this in an upcoming article here on this blog.

  3. Add slow release fertilizer to the soil upon planting – Still a trusted method for me but there are many other choices today of various fertilizers. This is a topic to be updated with more suggestions.

  4. Water your plants on a routine schedule – There is no doubt – this follows rule no. 1 in regards to importance. However, some plants are more drought tolerant than others – so if you are bad about watering, I am going to make suggestions for you on your plant choices. And a ‘routine schedule’ is probably not the best wording – it is really all about how the soil is looking in regards to a balance of moisture and air – we will go into details!

  5. Use big pots to increase your growing power – Guess what? I’ve changed my mind on some of thisI still adore HUGE tropical plants and mixes of annuals or perennials in big pots – but some plants actually prefer smaller pots and I will be offering a blog update on this number 5 rule as to why. Using big pots is not always a rule, and is optional…

Let’s get started:

It may seem straight forward or common sense to do the five items listed above, but many people skip some of these steps when they assemble their container gardens and patio pots because they are either in a hurry, want to avoid spending extra money, or they don’t understand the negative impacts to the plants’ overall health and appearance when they don’t follow The 5 Must Do’s listed above. But, do these 5 important steps and you will achieve successful container gardening status every time.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Simon Howden/Zirconicusso

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Simon Howden/Zirconicusso

DRAINAGE – Must #1

Most pots on the market today have only one small drain hole in the base (or none at all) – and this is not sufficient.  If the soil in the pot remains too wet, the plants’ roots will not get the oxygen it needs. And oxygen is required, along with carbon and hydrogen, for plants to grow. Having constant wet soil in the base of a pot is similar to walking around in wet sneakers. While it may be tolerated for a short period, if air is not provided soon, rot or death may set in. Everything above the pot is depending on what is going below in the soil, so Must #1, providing additional drainage, will allow for the free movement of water throughout the soil profile which is extremely important because as those spaces filled with water are vacated, air can replace them for the plants’ roots to use oxygen.

Without sufficient drainage, your plants will not perform as well which leads to failure.  It is a step you should not forgo or skip, and must do in order to achieve beautiful plants in your container gardens and patio pots.  Once you see the difference in your plants health, you will find adding drain holes so valuable, you will never skip this step again. And, although specific potting mixes have ingredients to help create pore spaces for air, adding more drain holes to the base of your pots only enhances the soil environment for your plants.  It leads to ultimate success because the roots are thriving in a healthy soil environment which is well-drained and balanced.

So get your power drill out and use a drill bit to create holes about the size of a quarter (coin) in the base of the pots. Be sure to drill at least 5 or 6 holes evenly spaced apart (one in the center and a few around the diameter).  If the pot cannot be drilled (e.g., ceramic or clay), make sure it has at least one drain hole already built into the base by the manufacturer, or reserve that pot for plastic plants or water gardening.  Do not use pots with no drainage capability. This always leads to poor results, trust me (except if you are creating a water pot garden).

2019 Update:

One of my biggest frustrations with the market place is they still continue to offer pots with no drain holes. What are they thinking? Plants require drainage! I have posted this comment on Instagram – “Hey, pot makers – Please make pots with sufficient drain holes please!”

If they did this, we would not have to drill them ourselves and it would help sell their pots because the plants would do better in them. It is not to say I haven’t seen some with drain holes in some stores, but it is progressing slowly and not common. I wish they would offer more with them already pre-drilled for us. (Hint to pottery makers, same for those wonderful pots you make – make some with a drain hole please.)

In my container gardening workshops, I have held up grower pots – the ones you buy your plants in – to my audience. I tell everyone, take a look at the bottom – what do you see? SEVERAL, I mean SEVERAL all around drain holes. Growers know what they are doing. It is a good example to show how important drainage holes are in your pots – this holds true for growing seeds in seedling cell trays as well. Or when you put a succulent in a pot – many times, you will see pots for succulents with no drain holes – succulents can be an exception to the drainage rule due to their ability to go without water for weeks at a time, but you have to monitor your watering carefully with succulents in pots with no drain holes. That is a whole other topic to explain, which I hope to do soon, and will in my Succulent Hanging Baskets Workshops in May, where we will be designing them with an amazing array of succulents of all kinds. But that is for a session/class, and for now, we want to focus on the drainage needs of container gardens and patio pots in general.

Over-watering is a leading cause of plant issues for people who are new to container gardening and plants. When you over water and the soil stays too wet in a pot, well, as mentioned above, the roots will rot. But other issues surface when there is too much moisture.

One, for example, is you may get fungus gnats showing up – they need moisture in the soil to thrive. This is especially common in houseplants where people have them in pots inside their home. And sometimes, you may even see mold on your soil when it is too moist. Moisture (with a lack of air circulation) may cause big problems in your soil. Too much moisture in your seedling pots leads to damping off. Water is a requirement for plants to grow but if over done without proper drainage, it leads to issues at times.

Balancing the air and moisture in your container gardens and patio pots or home pots of any size is critical. And soon, I will write a blog post to expand upon the air and moisture of pots as part of the 5 Must Do’s series updates I plan to post here on this blog, Container Crazy CT over the course of the next few months. In the meantime, be sure to add drain holes to plastic pots or buy pots with holes in them already for the best success with your plants.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Zirconicusso/Criminalatt

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Zirconicusso/Criminalatt

SOILLESS POTTING MIX – Must #2

Soil (dirt) from the ground cannot be used as a substitute for potting mix when planting up your patio pots and container gardens.  Must #2 is you must use soilless mix specifically formulated for container gardening. I know what you are thinking, if plants can grow in the ground, why can I just dig up some dirt and use that in my pots?  Well, for starters, soil from the ground becomes very compact in container gardens.  Plus, with container gardening, you have to water more often resulting in the ground soil (dirt) becoming even more compact and dense in the pot as it compresses down in limited space.  Young new roots cannot grow through this and cannot get the oxygen or water they need.

To prove this point, I put ground soil (dirt) into a mason jar and soil from potting mix into another mason jar.  The weight difference between the two jars was substantial.  The dirt jar weighed about two pounds and was very heavy.  The mason jar containing potting mix was light as a feather.  Imagine roots trying to penetrate the heavy compacted poor soil, plus it won’t contain the balanced nutrients or air spaces for the roots to thrive and survive.  Roots are just as important as the top part of the plant – if not more important. Everything below the soil impacts the results above the soil.

Additionally, soil from the ground (dirt) can harbor soil borne pathogens, insects, and weed seeds – and you don’t want those in your container gardens.  The ground soil may be too hard (clay) or too porous (sand). Soil in container gardens must have good pore structure for root growth, water holding for even distribution, and oxygen for the roots, and of course, nutrients for the plants to grow healthy and strong.  Soil from the ground will not give these must needed elements to plants in container gardens. And trying to find the ideal ground soil that has all of these factors is a big chore, if not impossible.

Bottom line:  Do not use Dirt.  Dirt is a four-letter word in the world of container gardening.

Most potting mixes on the market contain a combination of bark, wood fiber, coir (a by-product of coconut husks) or peat, vermiculite, perlite, and maybe some compost.  The little white non-symmetrical round things you see in the soil is called perlite.  These provide pore (air) spaces in the soil required for roots to grow.  Other ingredients mentioned help with water retention (peat moss, coir), drainage (pine bark, perlite, rice hulls), and nutrients (compost). You want a balanced soil that can hold 25% air, 25% water, and the rest, 50%, is organic matter.  Plants must have the appropriate pore space, water holding capacity, and nutrients to grow.  This is especially critical in container gardens because roots are confined, cannot extend out to find its needs elsewhere, and they depend on their current environment and “you” to grow well.

When planting up your container gardens and patio pots, go out there and invest in a couple bags of potting mix specifically formulated for container gardening.  The good news is there are many types available today, and by the way, none of the potting mixes used for container gardening contain any real soil (dirt) at all.  Now you know why, it is should no longer be a surprise to hear this.  Once you start using potting mix, you will be pleased to see how well your plants are growing and thriving.  There are tricks to extend your potting mix life, but that is another topic to be posted later.

2019 Update:

Now that you know you should NOT use “dirt” in your container gardens or patio pots, the big question is which potting mix should I buy? It is OVERWHELMING because today, the market place has many types to choose from – and you stand there looking at all the bags scratching your head thinking, which is the “right” one? I want to succeed, and I read Cathy T’s 5 Must Do’s, but I’m now afraid to pick the wrong one.

I will be posting about my favorites, but one big tip is inspect the bags. Picking up a bag of soilless potting mix (and by the way, it is not labeled soilless, that is just a term used, it is usually labeled as “potting mix”) is similar to picking out produce in the grocery store. Look at the bag’s condition, especially if you are shopping at a low-end type store. Is the bag torn, heavy, wet and a mess? Hmmm, that is like a banana or avocado about to rot, in my opinion. It could have been an older bag, and the soil in there may be even worn out – unable to take up moisture. Be careful with “deals.”

Check the weight of the potting mix bag. Is it light and airy feeling? GOOD! Is it rock hard, wet and very heavy, hmmm, not so good. That is not to say it is bad because some bags are out in the cold early in the season, and may be thawing out – but I always go for the ones that look fresh and are in good condition. The weight of the bag gives you clues.

Go to a reputable nursery, see where their soil is placed outdoors – businesses who put their bags of potting mix under cover – with a roof top of sorts – are a winner in my book. Or if they are a popular and reputable nursery, they have lots of FRESH soil bags put out there early in spring especially. They also have staff available to answer any questions you may have if you find there are lots of choices. Be observant. You can tell who is on top of their game, if you just pay attention.

As for the big box stores, some of the mixes are good, but some I am weary of. I will be writing more about the products I like and I share all of that in my May container gardening workshops in detail. Heck, we even test soils in some of my sessions, like I did recently with “seedling mixes” in my recent Seed Starting Session. Horticulture and growing plants is a science and an art. You may have a mix you have found to be wonderful, or maybe you have been using a mix causing problems which are not YOUR fault – it is the mix (and you didn’t know it). We go over all of this in my workshops and sessions. Making your own mix is another option which I plan to go over as well, but some mixes are so excellent and it just saves time to get the pre-made mixes.

Lastly, the type of plants matter. Cactus, succulents, and houseplants have different soil needs compared to tropical plants, annuals, and perennials growing in mixed container gardens. For example, succulents and cacti appreciate more drainage and air space in the mix.

And lastly, I saw a new product on the market recently to help refresh older mixes in your pots – which I will be testing this year myself to see what I think. Heck, there are signs of people growing plants in no mix at all now – using special beads or growing in water. The learning never ends. I always test out new processes first before offering my take on them.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Marin

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Marin

SLOW-RELEASE FERTILIZER – Must #3

Once you have your drainage holes and soilless potting mix in your pot, you want to add slow release fertilizer to the soil to obtain optimum growth.  Slow release fertilizer will provide small amounts of nutrients to the plants’ roots over a specific period of time.  While some potting mixes come pre-charged with fertilizer (meaning they add the fertilizer in the mix as an ingredient), it may not be substantial enough to keep your plants fed throughout your container gardening season.  Add some when you get started, and don’t have to think about it again unless you are dealing with a high demanding plant or you didn’t follow the rest of The 5 Must Do’s.

Many slow-release fertilizers on the market are available in a granular form which is easy to apply.  The little round balls you see in the granular fertilizer bottles or bags are called prills.  Each contains a balanced release of NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium – the three macro-nutrients needed most by plants).  Nitrogen promotes leaf, stem, and above ground growth.  Phosphorous promotes rooting, flowering, and fruiting.  And potassium helps with disease prevention and cold tolerance.  If you put too much of any, you can burn the plants or even kill them.  However, the nutrients in the prills of slow-release fertilizers will slowly leak out into the soil as water vapor is absorbed into the prill through its coating.  It dissolves the fertilizer inside to feed your plants during your container gardening growing season – which is typically 3 to 4 months in Connecticut, from May to September. As the soil temperature warms (during the summer months when you want your plants to thrive the most and when they need more nutrients during their most active growth period), the nutrients are released even more when the prills’ coating expands as a reaction to the warmth in the soil.  Think of the slow-release fertilizer feeding as a well-balanced diet for your plants to stay healthy and beautiful.  It will be handled for you in a controlled manner.

Add the slow release fertilizer upon planting your container gardens to ensure a continuous feeding routine.  Do this one simple step, and you will be amazed at the results.  And it also eliminates the needs to add water soluble fertilizer as a supplement later in the season, especially, as I said, if you follow all five of The 5 Must Do’s.

2019 Update:

One of the biggest ongoing trends or change in gardening is the love of organics, and this is a good thing. Some slow release fertilizer are synthetic while others are organic based. I go over these in my workshops and their differences, but I still think slow-release fertilizer of either type work very well and are EASY to apply and you don’t end up burning your plants. I still use the trusted brands of slow-release fertilizers I’ve always loved and always add slow released fertilizer to almost all my container gardens and patio pots. It just works. Again, some mixes come pre-charged with starter fertilizer but adding the slow-release prills gives the plants a balanced diet over the course of 3-4 months and now many last 5-10 months! The coating size of the prills varies and this is what makes it last longer than others – look at the bottle’s instructions and follow accordingly.

However, I’m on several plant related Facebook groups where there are tons of questions asked, and many times, the subject of fertilizers come up. Wow, the brands some people show and have used, I have never seen before (because the members of these groups are from all over the world). Again, almost like the potting mix choices, it is confusing at times, which should I use? Which is safe? How do I use it? When do I use it? We go over specifics in my workshops based on the plant types.

I read once a nursery owner saying, everyone has different methods of gardening – and this is true – some go into it blindly however, and the 5 Must Do’s are here to get you started, but what I’d like to do is dive into the fertilizer topic more as part of my series of the 5 Must Do’s.

Also, I always always tell my attendees, if you follow the 5 Must Do’s – you don’t have to fertilize as often. I believe over-fertilization advice is given at times. If you have a healthy growing environment with the soilless potting mix and drainage, you are off to a good start and may not need much supplemental fertilizing as the season progresses in summer.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Scottchan/Simon Howden

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Scottchan/Simon Howden

WATERING – Must #4

Forget container gardening if you are not willing to water your plants in container gardens and patio pots.  Must #4 is all about giving your plants watering love and it must be done on some kind of routine basis and based on the plant type and your environmental conditions (sun, shade, inside, outside, summer, winter, etc), but it must not be skipped or completely forgotten.  Watering in the morning is helpful because the plants take up the moisture during the day while photosynthesis takes place.  If you can’t do it then, please do it when you get home after work.  A plant will remain strong as long as the movement of water through the soil is in balance.  And you are that balance.  Without watering, your plants are doomed. If they don’t get water, there is no growth, and stomates in the leaves will close up to prevent further water loss to protect themselves.  Then, the plant will wilt and it certainly won’t flourish.  If no watering occurs for an extended period of time, the plant may reach a permanent wilting point and never recover.  And you don’t want that after you invested in buying beautiful plants from the nursery or from Cathy T (me!) to enjoy and show off at your home.

If you are not sure if the plants in your container gardens needs water, look at the plants – Are they wilting? Do they look thirsty?  Or insert your finger into the soil at a two to three inches depth.  Does it feel damp or sufficiently moist? It may be okay.  But you absolutely cannot forgo watering your container gardens.  Even if it rains occasionally, or you used drought tolerant plants, you must pay attention to them and their needs in regards to watering.  Observe the plants’ overall health, get familiar with their watering needs, and pay attention.  Climate in your area, the type of material from which the pot is made, and location will dictate some of the timing of your watering routine, but it is not the only factors you should pay attention to.  Basically YOU need to pay attention to watering.

Some people think they can douse their container garden plants with lots of water all at once, walk away, and forget about it for a week or more.  This does not work.  The soil needs periods where it dries out a bit between watering too. It should drain (Must #1) and have some breathing room (Must #2).  You don’t want to overdo it either, where the soil remains too wet. Wilt can be a result of over-watering as well as under watering.

Watering is one of the more difficult of The 5 Must Do’s to master because every plant and container type is different. And because people’s habits are different.  And the weather and exposure will affect how much or how little water your plants will need. There are some tricks to help reducing your watering routine, but that is another post for another time.  Bottom line, you MUST WATER your plants or they will die.  Plants need water to live.  In fact, every living thing on this earth needs water.  We need water. Without it – we all die. If you will not water, you should not do container gardening. In my opinion, not watering your plants is like committing plant murder.

2019 Update:

As I read my information above on watering (written several years ago), I think, yes, this is all still true in 2019. Watering, I think has been my biggest challenge to convey to attendees – is there a simple rule when it comes to watering? The answer is no. But – there is an observation factor involved in watering. You need to think about the soil. When you last watered, and all of that above. You really should NOT just think, “Hmmm, I’ll water every Friday and put one gallon in that big pot.” It really doesn’t work that way, there is a BALANCING act involved. But then, we don’t want to complicate watering, do we? The key point is that you must accept you need to water your container gardens, especially as we venture into summer, or you will not succeed, and your plants will suffer and look unhappy. I guess you could say, well, watering is like doing your physical exercise, you need to keep it consistent to have the plants and you do their best.

There have been times I wanted to do a watering type demonstration – using a shot glass, coffee cup, beer mug or wine glass, and milk jug to show the amount of water to be used based on the size of the pot and the plant type. Maybe I will get around to demonstrating this – but think of this: shot glass (succ), coffee up or wine glass (houseplant), beer mug (hanging basket), and milk jug or jugs (big veggie pots) – get the idea? But it also has to do with how moist the soil is, and did you let it dry somewhat to give some of that air space between waterings, and the type of plant. And yes of course, where your pot is situated. Outdoors in full sun, inside on a window sill, or in the shade. All are factors.

Ensete Red Banana_0001

BIG POTS – Must #5

People fear buying big pots, probably due to concerns with cost, placement, and moving them.  But big pots and container gardens make a big statement!  They capture your attention, create a focal point worth noticing, elevate the arrangement of your showy healthy plants, and ultimately reduce the compaction problems of small pots – so movement of water in the soil is enhanced. Big pots also provide good anchorage of your large plants, hold more inches of water, don’t drain out as fast which helps to reducing Must #4 (but not eliminating that must), and enables you to grow larger, showier plants – leading to more bang for the buck.  Go for supersized if you can.

However, with that said, big pots is listed last on The 5 Must Do’s list because it is not mandatory for success, but using them will elevate you to a higher level of container gardening.  My recommendation is you should invest in at least one big pot.  Just one. I believe you will never regret it.  It makes a tremendous difference to the plants’ performance when you give the roots a large mass to grow in.  Also, as noted above, using big pots make a big statement in your outdoor environment.  So why not make your container gardening show magnificent for the season?

There are some tricks to helping with the amount of soilless potting mix you have to use to fill up a big pot, but that is for another post. Big pots may be a little challenging to move or fill, but place them in the right spot before you get started, and go back to Must #1 through Must #4 to get them in the best shape ever, and then wow yourself, your family, and your guests as they visit you to see your amazing and stunning container gardens.  You will feel a huge admiration for your efforts, a new appreciation for the world of container gardening because you followed The 5 Must Do’s, and your plants will love you for it too.

2019 Update:

Okay – Okay – I know – maybe not as big as my cement planter shown above in the photo – that is one monster pot! And I love it to this day for showing off my amazing tropical plants grown every year from overwintering tubers, rhizomes, and corms, etc. However, what I meant when I wrote the above is when we did many of my May workshops with a mix of tropical plants (banana, canna lily, elephants ears), and big pots really made the show spectacular. In those days, I would recommend attendees bring a pot about 22″ in diameter and at least as deep for those types of mixed container gardens. Boy, did we ever have fun getting those big pots into their vehicles when they left the day of the workshops.

But, alas, times have changed. Succulents grew in popularity and still are very popular – that trend continues. My joke on that is succulent growers must be dancing in their boots about the passion of succulents these days. They are wildly popular, and guess what – most succulents do not need BIG pots. In fact, they have such shallow root systems, they do just fine in wider and less deep of pots.

And house plants for that matter should not be moved up into a bigger pot too quickly. Their roots tend to grow slower and thus if you move them up into too big of a pot, the roots may rot – because they are not taking up that moisture as quickly, and the soil could remain too damp, so it is recommended to move houseplants into one size up higher pots when they become root bound or over grown, etc.

But when it comes to vegetables, like tomato and pepper plants, well, big pots are recommended and needed, and I talked about this in my seed sessions recently – we went over types and size of plastic pots and fabric grow bags for growing some veggies. Some require the number #5 rule of big pots. But herbs, well, they are fine in smaller pots and in hanging baskets, etc. And radishes or carrot require different size pots too. Lettuces do well in window boxes. You get the idea.

Thus, plant types dictate the pot sizes, so the #5 rule is really optional and based on plant types you are using to make your beautiful container gardens for the season. It is not really a hard rule.

As I provide this Quick Update to my 5 Must Do’s, I remembered, I had a rule no. 6 to add. Now, for the life if me, I’m sitting here thinking, what the heck was the number 6 rule that I wanted to add? I know it will come to me. In the meantime, hopefully, these quick reminders of the 5 Must Do’s are helpful along with my quick 2019 updates as we get closer to the outdoor planting, decorating, and growing season. As noted above, I plan to do a series in detail of several updates on these topics.

The Five Must Do’s are all about achieving successful container gardens and patio pots.  Do all of them, and you will be happy, if not overjoyed, with your amazing results – I guarantee it.

In fact, as a 2019 update, I want to note that I’m amazed by the progress of my attendees’ patio pot creations since they have become fans of my workshops – their results are so good now – they follow the 5 Must Do’s and continue to learn right along with me. I’m very appreciative of the experiences we have had and continue to have learning about the love of container gardening.

Written and Updated by Cathy Testa
Owner of Cathy T’s Landscape Designs and Container Crazy CT
Location: Broad Brook, CT
www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

Best Workshop Yet

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Good morning fellow visitors!

I’m feeling cheerful this morning because the sun has risen and it will be a sunny day – all day today – which I absolutely love because I have seedlings started in my greenhouse and they will burst out with happy growth from the warming of the sun today.

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I have to say, my Seed Starting sessions, which are a new offering this year, have been one of my best workshops yet.

I held a few small group sessions on seed starting where we went over all you need to know to get started on sowing seeds of your tomatoes and pepper plants, and a few other types of plants. And everyone sowed their own trays.

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It was a great session for beginners or those who have attempted sowing seeds, but had some failures and wanted to learn why, etc. Or those who wanted to just enjoy the process of sowing and growing their own vegetable plants.

We gathered in my greenhouse and went over many aspects of starting seeds. And then we got our hands dirty!

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The best part, I think for the attendees, is I offered to oversee their 32 cell seedling trays from germination to now, and for a few more weeks. This really excited the newbies. And, to be honest, I think excited me more.

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I’ve been having so much fun inspecting their seedling trays, watching the germination process, watering them, moving them to brighter sun from heat mats, and handling all aspects of plant growth during these initial (and crucial) stages of seed starting.

The germination process is exciting to anyone, if you love plants, gardening, or botany. I don’t care if you are 5 years old or 50, the moment you see that little green bit expanding from the top of the soil of a seed germinating is inspiring (and sometimes surprising, especially when they germinate quickly).

The soil will sometimes will be pushed up by the shoot’s upward growth, and it is amazing to think that an itty-bitty seed could be so powerful. I should look up what kind of power that takes for a seed to crack open, push down it roots and up its shoots to emerge from the soil – Is it similar to the strength of ants? One has to wonder.

This weekend, I am holding part two of this workshop – a “Monitoring Session” where I will go over many aspects of seedling growth, next steps, and finally the process of moving your starter plants into gardens or container gardens at the right time.

But there is still time to sow more seeds. In fact, now is a good time to consider starting basil and cucumber seeds. Who doesn’t love both? So, if you are interested in scheduling a private seed starting session, feel free to ask me.

Looking forward to seeing my groups on Saturday…

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

Upcoming and Current Activities at Cathy T’s:

May’s Succulent Hanging Basket Workshops
Private Terrariums Sessions at People’s Homes
Custom Made Easter Hostess Gifts
Succulents in Stock for Sale
Bert’s Birdhouse with Reclaimed Wood
Private Seed Starting Sessions

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