Next Workshop – This Sat, Oct 12 – Succulent Pumpkins

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Hello visitors!

We had a great time last Saturday making amazing succulent topped pumpkin centerpieces and we are offering a 2nd workshop this Sat, Oct. 12, 2019, at 1 – 3 pm. Now is your chance to sign-up! Location is Broad Brook, CT.

TIME CHANGE: Please note the time for the 10/12 workshop has been changed to 10:30 am to Noon to better suit current attendees. If interested in attending, please text Cathy T at 860-977-9473. Thank you!

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The creations last week were amazing. I love, love, love how people come up with their own versions and twists of creativity. It is so therapeutic to create, and to take home a centerpiece to showcase in your home is a great feeling.

And we don’t just make pumpkin arrangements. As seen above, attendees may bring their own container if they wish – like this really cool skull pot made by an attendee. I say she gets “first place” in creativity for skulls! Wow.

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And you may make a big or small centerpiece. I tell my attendees, you can pick a pumpkin as small as a baseball or as large as a basketball. It is up to you. The small ones are adorable, nice in groups on a table, or as table setting decor. The large ones are wonderful on large dining tables or on a stand in the home.

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You can pack them with succulents or go with a minimalist look. It is up to you! Everyone received some surprise free decor in the workshop. You will notice the little glitter dots are one of them. I just love how people used them – coming up with their own ideas. Grouping them, some glued them on the fake sparkly spiders, and one attendee used them to dress up a single gourd. I loved that – that gourd is a nice accent piece next to the succulent pumpkin centerpiece.

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Yesterday, I made this little guy below. I picked up the painted pumpkin at Strong Family Farm, a place where I offer workshops from time to time, in Vernon, CT. They are selling “painted pumpkins” and I thought, gosh, how cute would this be dressed up with my succulents?! The thing is – you can get more and more creative with these fall arrangements. I think I’ll bring this one to my presentation this week as a sample.

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We had a large group of attendees last Sat. I only wish I had more time to take more photos but I was busy. We went over propagation steps, the types of succulents to use on pumpkins, and then got right into crafting and making the centerpieces. Again, the pumpkins are NOT cut open – there is no rot issue. These last for months!

Now is the time to come make one this Saturday, October 12, 2019, from 1 to 3 pm! And by the way, I also make custom orders, like this one recently purchased. If interested, contact me anytime. Tis the Pumpkin Season.

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Thank you – Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
860-977-9473

Container Crazy CT offers workshops where we combine plants with art. We also install container gardens, patio gardens and sell plants in spring time for the tomato/pepper season. Soon it will be the holiday season. Be sure to visit our workshops site to sign-up early. Those fill up fast!

Succulent Pumpkins – This Saturday, 10/5

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Flyer Succ Pump This Sat

Last weekend, I held a Mini Succulent Pumpkin session at the Ellington Farmers Market and it was so much fun. Moms and their kids participated and the whole process is rewarding. To see the smiling faces of the kids walking away with their little pumpkin in hand was too adorable.

But, this weekend, it all about making Succulent Pumpkins of any size. Large, small, many mini sizes – it is up to the attendees. I am offering my first workshop of the Autumn season this Saturday, 10/5/19 from 10 am to Noon. Attendees bring their own pumpkins! Why? Because everyone has their own style and color preferences, and there are so many to choose from out there from local farmers and other places. I don’t much believe in offering workshops that are cookie cutter where everyone makes the same exact thing – people are so creative when they get into creating their centerpiece and this makes it all the more exciting. You have choices at my workshops.

By the way, lots of people assume the pumpkins are cut open – and they are not – this would rot the pumpkin – so come learn the how to’s here at my workshop on Saturday. The process is explained in detail, we teach you how to care for the succulents, and even how to continue them on after the pumpkin decorating season is over later in the year.

There is still time to sign up. Just either visit my www.WORKSHOPSCT.com site or text me at 860-977-9473 if interested. We have some seats available. You pay a registration fee which includes the mechanics and instruction, but you must bring your own pumpkin and glue gun with glue sticks. We have some other misc glue available for attendees to use but the glue guns work best.

Also, here at Container Crazy CT’s in Broad Brook, I have the succulents of many styles and sizes waiting for you to pick from. You buy the succulents at the workshop and thus, you can make a huge pumpkin or many smalls – whatever you desire. That is the fun of it – if you ask me. I work hard to provide quality succulents and care for them for especially for my workshop attendees. They are fresh and happy succulents. They are waiting for you.

In addition, we are going to have a Propagation Station where you learn the steps on how to make succulent babies. And complete, detailed handouts are provided. We also will have some light autumn snacks. Hope you will consider attending as there are only 2 offerings of this workshop this month! The first one is only 4 days away.

And after the workshop, a few months later, attendees are invited to a free Facebook live where we show you what to do with your centerpiece after the autumn season is over to keep your succulents growing till spring time.

Thank you, Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT

containercathy@gmail.com
860-977-9473
http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com

 

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.)

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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.

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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.)

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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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Workshop Dates Updated

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To learn about the latest Container Crazy CT’s upcoming workshops, please visit www.WORKSHOPSCT.com.

We have posted our annual “Succulent Topped Pumpkin Workshops” dates in October and also noted the dates of the 10th annual Kissing Ball and Wreath Making Workshops.

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Pre-registrations for the Succulent Topped Pumpkin Workshops are open as of today. Visit the page above to find all details, register and join us! We are offering two Saturday dates in early October.

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Dish Garden for the Raffle next Wed, 8/21, 4-6 pm @ Joe’s!

I also have a few other events coming up, one of which is NEXT week, on August 21st, 2019 at Joe’s Fine Wine and Spirits in East Windsor, CT. Come try some wine at their Wine Tasting and Sip while learning about my succulents from 4-6 pm! A succulent dish garden (above photo) AND bottle of wine will be raffled off that evening – free to attend all. Would love to see you all there – even if you have only a bit of time to swing in.

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The KB & Wreath Making Workshops for 2019 are a special celebration year – it is my 10th year offering this annual workshop. The Celebration Date, which will be by invite only, is scheduled on November 30, 2019. This will be for the regulars who’ve been here every year! The 2nd workshop date is December 7, 2019 for the Advance and Beginner Workshop. Take your pen and calendars out (or your iPhones) and note the dates now. More details will be provided in early September on the KB events – stay tuned. It will be a fun and busy holiday season and it is just a tad bit early to think about winter, but now is the time to note the dates if you are interested.

Thank you,

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

 

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

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.

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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

First Day of Spring is Tomorrow

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And I can feel it!

Yesterday, there was a bird in a tree singing a unique sound I am not accustomed to hearing and I thought, “This is a sign – spring is just about here!”

We all know, in fact, March 20th (tomorrow) is the first day of spring.

I took out brand new pruning tools after hearing that bird sign and began cutting back a large ornamental grass which I did not get to before winter hit. I cut each stem or bundles of stems by hand with hand pruners (but did you know? They can be burned back, haven’t tried that technique yet).

Also, I decided to pull down the dried up moon flower vines from a birdhouse pole. I didn’t get to that either last fall, but it turned out the birds loved using the dried up vines this winter. They used it to hide behind when they would perch on the birdhouse or use the birdhouse as protection during a winter storm.

Then, I even attempted to prune a panicle hydrangea that has grown to a massive size the past few years. It is so large in fact, I didn’t finish and will do that today. As I was cutting individual branches, I recalled seeing a beautiful butterfly visiting its flowers last summer. This variety of hydrangea can be cut back in late winter or early spring, so I figured it was safe enough to start although I usually wait a little bit more – but that sun and the bird – well, it got me motivated.

And, of course, I spent time in the greenhouse (all before this activity). Always a priority on a sunny day when possible. I was reviewing materials for Saturday, I potted up a little pinch pot I made recently with baby succulents and mini rabbit decor – it came out so cute, but most of my time in there was spent rehearsing, reloading water into my big water bin (used in winter months), and watering the canna lily, elephant ear plants and stock of succulents, and more potted up plants.

I will be doing a bit of all of this today and tomorrow while the weather is nice and then in a few days more will be my first seed starting session with the people who have already signed-up.

THIS SATURDAY: Seed Starting Sessions

I’m still reviewing all I want to cover in my Saturday Seed Starting Sessions – THIS SATURDAY, March 23rd at 10 am and 1 pm. (See WORKSHOPSCT.com for details.)

My weather app is showing some yucky weather on Thursday and Friday (either a bit of rain or a bit of snow – or maybe Mother Nature will change her mind). Spring will do that – appear and give us a little taste but we are not “quite” there yet, but I’m very hopeful that Saturday will be a nice day (partly sunny predicted so far) because that will make the greenhouse seed starting sessions comfortable and cozy. There are seats available. Contact me if interested.

So, this post in general is a quickie.

I wanted to update my side bar on this blog with workshops coming up and add the 2019 Gardening Trends list, which I will expand upon in another post later.

For now, I don’t want to waste this beautiful sunny day. I plan to move some chairs into the greenhouse and other supplies needed for Saturday, and oh also, another session has been added on Tuesday at 3 pm (March 26th). I could squeeze in a couple more attendees if you are interested.

Again, all of the details are on WORKSHOPSCT.com.

And as for other upcoming activity, I’m thinking of holding a terrariums workshop in April, then follows the Hanging Basket Workshops in May, and plant sales of starter plants available by appointment towards the end of May.

List of Upcoming Events

Until then, enjoy this sunshine and longer days coming. It is time to pick up the branches, debris, and clean up the beds as much as you can, take your pots out to clean on a nice day, and think about seed starting, which you don’t want to start too early either.

And the birds of course – don’t forget I have birdhouses for sale, made by Bert, my father. All hand made and painted with various images (bunnies, dragonfly, butterflies, and flowers). I noticed last year, the birds started moving into our birdhouses on March 10th.

Thanks,

Cathy Testa
72 Harrington Road
Broad Brook, Connecticut
860-977-9473
http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
containercathy@gmail.com

What are Container Gardens?

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Container gardening is the art of growing plants in pots. When you search the word container gardens or container gardening on the web, you may notice some people define it as growing vegetables in pots, but container gardening is not limited to just vegetables. That is for sure. You may use container gardening for so many situations and types of plants. The options are endless and with the right combination, stunning.

With the appropriate potting soil media, feeding and plant care, container gardens provide instant gratification and focal points. They operate like “functional art” in the right scenarios, bring life and amazing colors to an area, and add movement. For businesses, they are useful as well as welcoming. For homeowners, they create an oasis in your outdoor and indoor surroundings.

I have always preferred growing plants in containers designed to be focal points instead of gardening in the ground. For years, I’ve recommended installing big pots for when you want a big statement. Big pots 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.

However, in today’s world, many people have limited spaces, and small pots or medium sized pots fit the bill. They are easy to care for, add a sense of space and nature to your surroundings, and let’s face it – are fun to assemble in various design formats. From vintage patio pots to hanging baskets, all of these are defined as container gardens in Cathy T’s container gardening world.

Big pots provide good anchorage for your large plants so it won’t topple over in the wind. Also, they hold more inches of water, won’t drain out as fast which helps in reducing watering routines. Big pots helps the plants to grow larger and showier, leading to more bang for the buck. They are great in summer for vegetables like peppers and tomato plants that may grow to 6 feet tall, and big pots are super for large, showy, big leaved tropical plants, such as elephants ears and banana plant. Want to wow your friends and family? A huge pot with showy big plants will stop people in their tracks.

Small pots are wonderful to create a floral like design to enjoy. They are also excellent for displaying a single succulent on your windowsill. Small succulents are great collectibles! Plus they are easy care, drought-tolerant, and resilient. They easily reproduce via cuttings and propagation steps. Let’s face it, smaller pots with adorable plants, such as succulents and cacti, are irresistible.

Sometimes, two or three medium sized pots work well in business or store front scenarios to direct traffic or redirect a walking path. Two large pots gracing a main entrance helps your visitors know where to go if you have two entrances at your business location. Positioned appropriately, containers or pots may assist with parking, blocking sore spots and drawing the eye to key signs. They also say welcome to your customers and visitors – and changed up for the season make your place more alive and in tune with the seasons and holidays.

Homeowners may want to include a big pot in their outdoor setting along with various smaller to medium sized pots, either way, container gardens provide a plethora of design options. Another wonderful benefit of adding container gardens to your home is helping out our pollinators. Bees, birds, and hummingbirds enjoy visiting the plants and it brings life to your world while they visit and bop around your flowers. And small pots on patio tables are rewarding visually. I can not imagine any space outdoors in summer without lots of plants, or a plant or two. Hanging baskets are wonderful as well as they add height and many are adored today with macrame and beads. It is just wonderful!

In the case with homeowners, container gardens serve as your decor, like a pillow or end table would enhance a space indoors. More and more people are expanding their living environment to include outdoor spaces. And even more are creating oasis of plants inside their homes with houseplants to enhance indoor living – especially because so many of us are glued to our iPhones and social media viewing, we need to break away and enjoy a living plant which also helps to clean our air indoors. Plants are living things and if you care for them, they will reward you in so many ways.

Container gardening is also great for those with physical limitations – no bending, weeding, digging. For kitchen container gardening, you have unlimited access to various herbs right from your door step. Incorporating vegetable plants in your home designs not only provides a healthy snack, it adds color and a place for bees, our treasured pollinators, to collect nectar for their survival. Today, we see a lot of desk top herb growing type of container systems, some furnished with lights. The new trends are interesting and just amazing – and useful. More and more people would rather have some plant life in their home and also appreciate nature and want to participate in helping our earth – plants are the key to this. Be a plant care taker, and you are part of the bigger picture – okay, a little deep – but true!

Many plants you may start right on your windowsill, especially in spring with seeds to start plants which will be later placed outdoors as soon as the spring frost passed in well, yes, containers! Grow bags used for vegetables outdoors are another example of container gardening. And in winter, seeds for micro-greens may be grown in small containers suited to your kitchen.

And let’s not forget “raised beds” which sometimes only require an 8″ depth to be successful as a mini garden where you don’t need to weed as often as you would in the ground, and you control the soil you put in it, etc. Raised beds at a higher level are great for people in wheelchairs, or people who have back issues. All of these examples are container gardening. If I could, my entire yard would be filled with raised beds. Easy to reach in and out of and easy to keep critters away if you enclose it with fencing. They are not only functional but pretty visually.

Some may argue container gardening is not sustainable, and I absolutely disagree – because when you use containers in the correct way, which sometimes involves reusing plants which are overwintered (tropical plants), you are not wasting plants. Also, containers reduce the use of heavy fertilizers or herbicides, in my opinion, because I find less insect issues with plants in fresh soil and clean pots, and don’t fertilize often when it is done right.

Container Gardening is a wonderful alternative to in-ground gardening, and doesn’t require high impact conditions which may negatively affect the environment like other options may. Soil in raised beds are enhanced once a year with some fresh compost as needed, where as soil in the ground requires a alteration at times which is difficult to achieve when working against the natural landscape components (clay, sand, etc.). You don’t need a tractor when you do container gardening either. In container gardens, it is relatively simple. I’m not knocking gardening, but to me, containers are just faster, simpler and just as rewarding.

Container gardening, to me at least, includes by definition, any plant that is put into a vessel of any type. Hanging baskets, vintage pots, terrarium bowls, patio pots, grow bags, wood raised bed frames, hypertufa’s, moss, and more. You name it. Yes, you may have to water container gardens more often than gardens in the grounds, but again – this forces you out of the iPhone addiction rut, and into the scents, sounds (bees and hummingbirds). It forces you to look up, down, all around and slow down and breath, smell the air, feel the flower petals, and enjoy outdoors, rather than having your head in a down position staring at a phone. Believe me, I know – I’m addicted to that darn phone too – we have been “conned” somewhat into staring at them – I say, prepare some container gardens this summer to help you break that habit.

Years ago, when I wanted to pick a name for my blog site, all I could think of was “container gardening” – nothing else was coming to mind, so I spontaneously called it “Container Crazy CT.” And, if you know me personally, you know it fits. I have done so many crazy things with plants – some of those on the nutty side, and others which led to amazing pieces of garden art with beautiful plants, if you will. I kind of wished though that I had named it, Container Garden Crazy CT – but that is too long of a name anyways. However, it has worked over the years and I guess I will keep it.

Happy Container Gardening!

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

Hot Peppers Ready for Winter Recipes

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I’ve been so busy this month holding Succulent Topped Pumpkin Workshops and Demonstrations that I was not paying attention to a hot pepper plant in one of my large container gardens outside, but my husband noticed them this weekend, and he told me on Sunday that there were so many ripe yellow peppers on the plant, he was going to go pick them.

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Matchbox Pepper for Hangers

I grew two hot pepper plant varieties this year. One was called “Matchbox Pepper” (Capsicum annuum) and I picked this one because it grows very compact, so it was absolutely perfect for hanging baskets. It produced many tiny red peppers and was very decorative. I was happy with them. As they ripened, I collect them and gave some to friends and used some for cooking. That was earlier in the season.

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Lemon Drop Hot Pepper

Then came the arrival of the other variety I had selected, called, “Lemon Drop Hot Peppers” (Capsicum baccatum) on a plant quite the opposite in size to the matchbox type. It was not compact and grew to 3 ft tall and was almost as wide. I put the lemon drop type in a rather large pot because I didn’t have time to plant that pot with my usual tropical plants,  and I almost most forgot about it this summer as it grew larger.

The lemon drop one was situated in a very hot, full sun location. It gets brutal hot actually in that spot in my yard due to no shade and receives full sun all day, thus, it was good there because peppers like the sun and warmth. And this season, it got plenty of rain falls to help water it. Usually I’m a fanatic about watering, but I must admit, I didn’t drag the garden hose up there as often as I usually do but the pepper plant did just fine.

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The Lemon Drop Hot Pepper was selected because, of course, it has a vivid and bright lemony yellow color, and I like color in my plants and container gardens. Plus I thought they looked interesting and although I can’t chomp on raw hot peppers (like my husband can) because I will choke on it, I wanted to grow them for decor and possibly seasoning recipes. They also have a waxy and shiny appearance and one time, when I went to go look at them mid summer, I was impressed with how perfect they were – not a blemish.

My husband, Steve, adores hot peppers and often he will just toss a raw one in his mouth. He could not do that straight up with the Lemon Drops peppers, however. He told me they are “killer hot.” This reaction made me laugh because he normally can chop them down without choking, like I would if I attempted it.

Okay, back to when he spotted tons of them on the plant this past weekend. He decided to go pick them all on Sunday because frost was coming. He also wanted to dry them in the oven. He loves hot peppers so much, it makes me happy he wanted to preserve them.

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In the Oven at 180

I was feeling rather tired on Sunday, so I said, “Oh, I don’t know; I read they take a long time to dry in an oven,” but he persisted, so I googled it – “180 degrees in the oven for 4-5 hours or more,” I said.

He started to cut the tops off and I told him, “Oh no, don’t cut the tops,” as I looked on Google searches more and then found a U-tube video. This guy says to dry them whole on a cookie sheet in the oven at 180 degrees for several hours.

As the peppers sat in the oven, the smell started to permeate in the house. Steve kept checking them and after 4 hours, he thought, this seems like the oven is not hot enough. He decided to take them out and off the tray, chop them into smaller pieces, and put it back in the over at 200 degrees. By the time we decided to shut the oven off – they still didn’t seem dry enough, so the next morning, I put the tray of the lemon drop peppers back in the oven at 200 degrees for one more hour – and that worked.

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When I took them out, they crushed in my fingers. I got my small chopper grinder device, which I hardly ever use, and started putting the large pieces in there to grind. Sure enough, it worked perfectly, BUT, I could not taste test it. I know I would choke, so I had to wait for Steve to come home. As soon as he did, he asked, “Where are the pepper flakes?”

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Taste Test Time!

My husband, Steve, put a dab of the yellow pepper flakes on his finger to taste them on his tongue, and he was like, “Wow, these are very hot,” and then he immediately grabbed a cup to down some water. That is not a common reaction from him. He usually can take the heat. Thus, they are truly hot. I will have to use them carefully in my autumn and winter recipes.

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I’m super glad I grew some of the Lemon Drop Hot Peppers and Matchbox Peppers from seed this year, using certified organic seed and starting both of them early, as directed. The lemon drops take longer to ripen than the matchbox ones. I definitely plan to grow them both again next year and offer up seedlings for sale.

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Easy to Grow in Pots or Hangers

Hot peppers are super easy to grow in containers. They don’t get attacked much at all by critters, animals, or insects and are very decorative in pots or hanging baskets (like I did with the matchbox type but the lemon type needs bigger pots). They are not demanding for soil, although it must be well-drained, and they need regular watering but can handle some periods of neglect from watering if there is enough rainfall.

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The Lemon Drop hot peppers are harvested later in the season which is perfectly timed for when we get in the mood to start making pots of hot chili, warming soups, and hot sauces for the autumn season.

During the growing season, the pepper plants like warm conditions and need watering regularly especially when it is super hot out, and for these two varieties mentioned, there was no staking required as may be needed for the heavier sweet bell peppers.

I basically removed the ripe hot peppers from the plants when they were the right color, as shown on the seed packets. Both of these varieties formed blemish free fruit. And side bar, I love the way the artists depict the fruit on the seed packets by Hudson Valley Seed Co., which is a company I like for seeds. I offered up seeds for sale last year, and plan to do the same this spring, so stay tuned on that.

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Seed and Plant Details

Lemon Drop Hot Pepper
Capsicum baccatum
Small, crinkled yellow peppers with waxy shine
Hot as in cayenne range hot
Plant grows large – up to 34″ tall
Need big pot or can be transplanted in mixed container gardens
Seeds must be started early (8-10 weeks before last spring frost)
Transplant outdoors after frost passes
Grows fruit 98 days from transplant of seedling
Ripens 2 weeks later than other hot peppers
Plant full sun with well-drained soils

Matchbox Pepper
Capsicum annuum
Tiny, red peppers, decorative
Hot and must start early
Great plant size for hanging baskets
Start early; Sow indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost
Transplant to hangers or ground 3 weeks after spring frost
Pick a sunny spot to keep growing
Fruity and hot flavorful

Couple Other Workshop Updates

Only 6 seats remain open for the first Holiday Kissing Ball & Wreath Making Workshops in early December! See www.WORKSHOPSCT.com site for details. The 2nd session for beginners on a Wednesday evening is starting to fill as well, but has more seats remaining than the first Saturday session. See dates below in photo.

Succulent Pumpkin Workshops and Demo’s

Thank you to all who had me come speak, demonstrate, hold sessions on the fabulous Succulent Topped Pumpkin Centerpieces! What fun we had – and I loved seeing everyone’s unique twists on the pumpkins, from strings of spooky lights added, to swan gourds fixed on the top. Each year, this creative centerpiece topic gets better. There’s still time if interested to hold a session with live succulents – just contact me soon.

As for November, my mind is brewing on new ideas for workshops, and of course, this is when I start to look forward to early December’s holiday workshops and custom wreath orders to follow the month of December. But there’s still plenty of time for that – we have the autumn season to enjoy – or to prepare for – as noted below!

This Weekend’s Weather

Oh, and did you hear? A possible Nor’easter here in Connecticut this weekend, really? Oh gosh, I have to run out and finish putting away all my corms, tubers, rhizomes, and plants which have been all staged in the garage to be inspected, treated, and stored. The work never ends for the garden lover.

Thank you,

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

Banner Poster KB Dates 2018

 

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

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Just a heads-up.

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

Maybe a Tuesday is better for you too?!

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

Here’s a flyer to share!

flyer succ pump 2018 Updated

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

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

Thank you,

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