Overwintering Canna Lily Rhizomes Part II

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In my prior post, I detailed my process for overwintering my canna lily plant rhizomes in my area of Connecticut (Zone 6). I’m continuing it here for those who have asked questions (some asked in person and some via Facebook recently).

Basic Steps:

As noted on my prior post, cut down all the foliage, dig up the root ball, brush or wash away the soil, and let the rhizomes with a stalk attached air dry. After the rhizomes sat in the sun for a day, it was much easier to pull them apart to separate the rhizomes from larger clumps.

These rhizomes with partial stalks were left out on the table for a day in the sun

When I showed a friend how to do this process in person, she freaked out when I pulled the rhizomes by the stalks to separate them and then I started tapping the rhizomes on the ground to knock off more dirt. She was worried I was damaging them, and I said, “Oh, don’t panic, they will be fine.” I thought it was kind of funny but I get it – you don’t want to ruin them.

How to separate the big clumps

Sometimes when you have Canna Lily plants growing in a container for several years, when you pull the root ball out, it is one big clunk of a mass of roots and rhizomes all stuck together. It can be hard work to pull them apart. It is better to separate the rhizomes so when you replant them, they will be individual plants. The big clump over time will just not produce as nice of plants and will reduce the flowers. What I find is I try to separate them as much as I can and if they are really stuck together, let them sit in the sun for a day or two, and after it is dried out, take a stalk in each hand and pull apart and usually they will come apart easily.

Big Clumps “before” they sat in the sun for a day. Above photo this photo is after.

See the larger clump on the top right? That clump was much easier to separate after I let it sit in the sun for a day and overnight. Sometimes you will hear a “snap” like noise as you pull the stalks and the sections cracked away, and that is fine within reason. You basically do your best to separate them cleanly, but if they don’t – one or two cracks in the rhizomes is not going to ruin it all. After I separated them, I also cut the stalks to be about 4″ from the top of the rhizomes and let it all sit in the sun again for another day.

Preparing the Storage Bins

I store my canna lily rhizomes in plastic bins. Narrow bins work better. The deep bins are not necessary and if you stack too many rhizomes in a deep bin, they tend to rot more. So the narrow boxes are just right. You want to lay the rhizomes next to each other versus piling them up on top of each other for best results.

Last fall, I made the big mistake of not drilling some air holes in the new bins I had purchased, and some of my elephant’s ear tubers had rotted (ack!). Never again. So get your drill out and make holes the size of a pencil eraser. Not much bigger than that. You want little holes, not big holes. Also, put the peat moss about 1/3 of the bottom. Do not fill the container with the peat. You only need enough to allow a nice bed for the rhizomes to sit on with some of the peat poured over the top lightly.

Narrow Bins Work Best
Rubber Maid Box Lid

When I asked my husband if the drill was charged, he responded with, “What size drill bit do you need?” My response was, one the size of an eraser of a pencil. He got it. I don’t speak measurements well. Everything is visual for me! I want the holes to be tiny and just enough for some air circulation to occur in the box. It needs to breath just a little while it sits in my unheated basement for the winter months.

Label the box

I can’t stress enough the importance of labeling the box with the date and the items you put in there. I wrote it down in a notebook one year and then couldn’t find the notebook later! It just helps IF you are storing several types of tropical plants underground storage organs (tubers, rhizomes, corms, bulbs, etc.).

Stalks cut shorter, and allowed to dry in the sun again

After I trimmed the stalks to be shorter, I let them air dry again because otherwise that open fleshy wound could invite insects in the bin. It somewhat cures the rhizomes, you may also want to turn them over mid day to let it dry on the other side. Doing this on sunny days is best because if it rains, they get wet all over again.

One of the separations

More plants next season

One of the best motivators for doing all this work is you will end up with many rhizomes to plant when you bring them back to life in the spring time.

About the peat

Peat with some Perlite

About the peat

Does peat confuse you? It used to confuse me – cause peat moss is also used for hanging baskets or other projects in the gardening world. Do not use “Long Fibered Sphagnum Moss” which is used in hanging baskets, it is a more light dull brown color, and it does not work appropriately. It can hold onto moisture too much. The “Long fibered” moss, like shown in this photo below, is useful in craft projects, etc., but I find it does not work well for storing tubers, rhizomes, corms, etc. It stays too wet and doesn’t repel problems.

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Do not use this type for storing the rhizomes

Use the brown spaghnum peat moss that typically comes in bags or square bales. It looks like this:

It looks like this without the white perlite

Last year, I had some extra perlite (white round balls in the photo below) which I tossed into a bin. Perlite is not in peat moss (just thought I’d mention that for observant people! LOL.).

In Bales or Half Bales

Available in compressed bales or half-bales

I’m not recommending any particular “brand” but usually I buy a compressed big bale like the one shown above, put it in a wheelbarrow, and break it apart with a small shovel. This type of peat is used in gardens, as soil amendments, and in potting mixes. It is used dry and I find it maintains well for several years, so the peat in my storage bins is reused over and over again “unless I had some type of bug or rot issue” in the bin which hasn’t occurred too much over the years. Also, I’ve read the peat moss’s acidic nature helps to keep problems out of the bin and away from the rhizomes. But we won’t go into that here, as I am trying to keep it simple. It is a great item to use because it retains a tad bit of any moisture just enough but allows air too.

Air holes along the top edge too

You will notice I drilled a few holes along the top edge of the bin too. If you are stacking these bins in your basement, the airholes on the top may be covered by the box above it so side holes are helpful.

Now, I’ve been told these things by people:

I just put my whole pot with the plant in the basement. (Yes, that works, but over time a big root ball in a pot won’t perform as well so eventually it is time to divide those rhizomes.)

I just put it in newspaper. (I am guessing this works but I trust my process and just keep doing it this way).

I just leave the canna plants in the ground. (Years ago, we could not leave the canna plants in the ground. They would freeze and die BUT I have found some that I planted in the ground next to my fireplace wall where the woodstove is used inside the basement, the canna lily plants have regrown. I believe the soil being a warmer in that area and the fact we have warmer temps from global warming has led to “some” canna lily plants surviving our winter ground temperatures, but I wouldn’t bet on it for any in containers left outdoors as they would certainly freeze. If you want to store the whole pot in the basement and not remove it to divide the plants, that is another option.)

I can’t be bothered with storing the rhizomes and will just get plants from you next year. (Yes! Sounds good to me. I grow many canna lily plants in spring and offer them for sale.)

Waiting on Storing this one!

Timing

All of this work may wait if you want to enjoy your tropical non-hardy plants here in CT, like this one I’m standing next to. I am waiting to do this one till at least early October because I am in love with this Alocasia. I almost lost tubers I had stored of these because of the non-air hole situation described above. The biggest leaf on this plant seems to be just getting bigger and bigger.

Gorgeous Alocasia Leaf 2021

Well, that’s it for today. I am continuing my work today outside here at my home. My husband has a joke that before we know it, it will be Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and then Christmas! I will say, “Stop saying that! Because I love my deck filled with plants and it depresses me to take all this down, but he is correct. Time flies when you are having fun.”

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Cathy Testa
Container Gardening Designer
860-977-9473
Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT
Today’s Weather: 75-79 degrees F. Cloudy till about noon.
Tomorrow Weather thru Wed – looks good, then rain at end of the week. Rain equals wet working outside. I’ll thank myself later that I did this in the sun and not fighting the elements!

What I do for work:

Install Container Gardens
Grow Plants from seeds (and rhizomes, tubers, etc.)
Create and sell Succulent Topped Pumpkins in fall (next month!)
Create and sell handmade greenery wreaths and kissing balls for the holidays (December!)
Write with typo’s – LOL.
Stare at plants as much as possible
Have a good day…

A Bowl of Tomatoes

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One year, many years ago, I went on vacation with my husband and some friends to Cancun, Mexico. We adventured from our hotel via taxis one afternoon and stopped at a mini local market. I was so into the market, looking at all the handmade items, jewelry, knickknacks, and I then saw beautiful hand-made pottery type bowls in super colorful patterns on the inside of the bowl with a wonderful terra color to the outside of the bowls. I bought one immediately, and the man selling them did the sign of the cross with his hands after I paid him cash, and he said a prayer right in front of me. He was so thankful for my purchase. I remember thinking, wow, I wish I could buy at least 5 more of these gorgeous bowls, but they wouldn’t fit in my suitcase!

Here is the bowl filled with various tomatoes and peppers from my container gardens this year. Aren’t the colors of the bowl and fruit just amazing? It is a good way for me to display the fruit as a reference for next year when I grow the starter plants from seed again. That is my main goal usually is to show what the fruit looks like, and comment on how they tasted.

This year, again, I’ve said has been a very humid and very wet summer in Connecticut. My plants didn’t do as well as last year, but alas, I got enough fruit to give my opinion on them. If only they grew better, I would have a lot more to eat, and so would Steve, my husband.

What is this Pepper?

Okay, who out there can help me? I obtained seed packets which are a mix of chili peppers. When I sowed them, I thought, “Wait, how will I know which is which when I go to sell the starter plants?!” Because it is a mix, I won’t know until I try these out and see them grow and produce peppers.

I ended up with 3-4 patio pots of the pepper plants on my deck and had to wait and see. One plant produces the pepper shown above, it turns black from a green color. One day, I tossed one on my grill whole, roasted it, and we tasted it. It was very yummy! Then I did that again a month later with some more of the black ones, and they were a lot hotter than the prior picked black peppers. The heat turned up the longer they stayed on the plant.

The Green Ancho Poblanos Peppers

This one above, is on a different plant (not the same as the ones that turn black). Look at the top – how it kind of indents. I has a different shape than the ones that have been turning black on the other pepper plant on my deck. I was able to find this green one described as:

Ancho Poblano represent the golden mean of the pepper universe. They’ve got some spice, but you can easily chomp right into them. They’ve got some genuine pepper flavor, but it’s muted a bit by the heat. They’re great fresh, cooked, pickled, dried, or blistered in fire when fully ripe. They grow abundantly on bushes that reach nearly three feet tall. Plant early, though, if your goal is to maximize the number of ripe pods you get; they do require a fairly long growing season.

I agree, they have some heat. At first I questioned if they were Habaneros cause the seed packet contained some of those as well, but I thought, that can’t be possible. The Habaneros I purchase in grocery stores are not nearly as large, but these green ones are hot. My husband is the taste tester, and it is always comical to see him take a big bite, chew, and then the expression on his face! At first, he was like, “Oh, they are mild,” then a few chews after, he says…, “OH NO, they are HOT!!”, and he then spit some out. LOL.

Habaneros (green stage – to turn yellow)

This week, I finally spotted a pepper that is the size of the Habaneros on another plant on my deck. I thought, “Ah-ha! Here it is!” Steve hasn’t taste tested it yet. It is supposed to turn yellow so I will let you know. So basically, all the seeds in this packet are a mix. It also includes a red pepper (small oval long shape) that starts green, and I think this is a Serrano pepper.

Serranos Hot Peppers

Well, I am thinking these are Serranos, but I’m not 100% positive. Steve still has yet to taste these. I think I will make some salsa this weekend with tomatoes and some of these peppers to give them a try. These red peppers are abundant on a small plant in a pot on my deck. The plant looks like a Christmas tree with all the green and red peppers right now.

Thus, again, the confusion lies in the fact the seed packet has a mix of Pica Chile various species of hot pepper plants. It has been fun to witness what is produced, but the only downfall is I don’t know what I will get but I will definitely start these mixes again from seed next year for people who enjoy the adventure of seeing what types of hot peppers they will be able to use in their cooking from their plants!

The Bowl from Cancun with a Mix of Tomatoes and Peppers

Starting from my logo on the left, lets go clock wise! At the clock noon position, is a Goldie (obvious from the golden yellow color), Ancho Poblanos (green pepper, mild to hot) 1 pm, Habaneros (green small sitting on-top of some red Matchbox peppers and Tiny Tim tomatoes), a Mandurang Moon tomato at 6 pm, another green Ancho Poblanos, and then the black peppers (name unknown) at the 9-10 pm position of a clock. There are others in there, such as Paul Robeson tomatoe and a StoneRidge, and a Cherokee Purple.

Granted, some of the fruit doesn’t look perfect, some cracking from too much moisture this season (lots and lots of rain storms), and all that – but overall, they still taste amazing.

Hot Matchbox Peppers

This one is definitely a Matchbox hot pepper (pointy tip) in a different pot and not from the “mix of variety seed packet.” It is from a separate packet and I’ve grown them before, they are super compact, perfect in small pots, and product lots of hot red peppers, starting from green color.

Cherokee Purple

I’m pretty sure this is the Cherokee Purple. It looks very similar to the Paul Robeson tomatoes. Paul Robeson are orangey purple green beefsteaks, and I am taste testing both. Both the Cherokee and PR’s are just amazing. My only disappointment is I wish I had more of the plants on my deck or in a garden. I did restrain myself this season, I can only keep up with so much watering, I thought. Then it poured like heck this summer. Things got over watered by nature.

Paul Robeson Tomato

The PR’s are noted to resist cracking and have exceptional flavor. They just look very similar to the Cherokee and sometimes I forget which I took a photo of later when I start to blog and post about them.

Goldie

Speaking of tomatoes which resist cracking, I would say by observation this season, Goldies fit that description as well. They are blemish free and absolutely perfect looking yellow golden tomatoes. I wrote about them in my prior post this month. It is an heirloom and sweet golden flesh. They do melt in your mouth. Oh I hope next year will be better growing season cause I want these again for sure!!!

The Mandurang Moon tomatoes are about the size of cherry tomatoes and a pale yellow. I thought when I cooked with them in a sauce, it intensified the flavor of this tomato. They are also perfect, no blemishes, and firm. The plant stays shorter with stalky center stems and leaves that look like potato plant leaves. I blogged about these earlier as well on this site.

The bowl with a mix

Others in this bowl are some Tiny Tim tomatoes (super compact plant) and some StoneRidge. More on those later.

It is interesting to note that even though I felt like my plants suffered, I still was able to enjoy the fruit – enough for two. We add one to sandwiches, roast a couple to put next to steaks from the grill or corn, and add some to salsa’s, whatever. It was just enough to test the varieties and take notes here so I will remember come spring 2022 when I do this all over again!

Thank you and enjoy your weekend. It is supposed to cool down tomorrow after a very humid day today!

Cathy Testa
Written Aug 27 2021
Container Crazy CT
Located in Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT

860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

I sell starter plants in the spring time, I install container gardens and patio pots for clients, I dabble in holiday items such as succulent topped pumpkins in the fall, and fresh greenery wreaths and kissing balls in the holiday winter season. I ponder what is next, what should I continue but I do know, I really LOVE growing the tomato plants from seed, so that is a keeper on my to-do lists! Thank you for visiting, Sorry about the typo’s or grammar errors, I have to rush out to water before the humidity kicks in! Cathy T.

Time to Talk Tomatoes

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This year (2021) was not the best tomato year for me in regards to my plants. At first, they were massive, perfect, free of blemishes or issues, and then we had many repeat rainstorms with abundant rain falls and winds strong enough to bend a metal patio umbrella pole in half on my deck. Most of the tomatoes ripened slower than usual and stayed green for a long time. But some did start to ripen enough for me to to have a few tomatoes and start taste testing. On my list are the following new types I grew this year from seed.

GOLDIE TOMATO

Goldie Heirloom Tomatoes

When my husband sliced one onto a plate last night before dinner, he shook his head with approval and said, “These are good.” I replied with “Yes, and I sure will grow these again next season, hopefully with better weather.”

Reasons I love these Goldies are: They are blemish free (except they seem to have a bit of a sunken stem center but a friend shared her fruit photo from the plant she got from me and has the same look, so this is normal), they are a wonderful large size (perfect for sandwiches) and I LOVE the bright yellow color. The intense yellow color looks amazing with other colors of red or purple hued tomatoes and dark green basil leaves on a plate. This is an heirloom to keep on my growing list for next year. The fruit is sweet, soft, and has a nice texture. I still have seed packets available and if interested in buying some packets, reach out – at least you will have them in your seed stock pile for next season, or you may purchase the starter plants from me next year. I am definitely growing these again.

Friend’s Photo of a Goldie Tomato
Perfect Complextion! LOL!

The Goldie tomato plants are indeterminate and grow to about 6 feet high. The packets indicate they become “richly orange gold” but we had picked them on the golden yellow side. I noticed a green one I placed on my window sill just yesterday is starting to turn yellow already in one day.

CHEROKEE PURPLE TOMATO

The next amazing heirloom I grew from seed, which is a winner for taste and beauty in my book, is the Cherokee purple. It grows a purple-hued tomato with green shoulders. These started to ripen before the Goldies, and the seed packet indicates they are an early-producer. The fruit turns a blush deep purple and shoulders stayed green which is normal. They are super pretty when sliced and placed on the plate!

Cherokee Purple Tomato

Again, I wish my plants performed better because we would have had a larger harvest, but at least, I am able to “taste test” these for next year’s growing. It is also an indeterminate plant like the Goldie, and grows to about 5 feet tall. You definitely need good supports on the plant for the wonder fruit. If I was a restaurant owner, these would have to be in my kitchen garden. They are gorgeous.

Cherokee Purple Tomato
PAUL ROBESON TOMATO

PAUL ROBESON TOMATO

The Paul Robeson Tomato, named after a famous African-American opera singer, linguist, athlete, and civil rights champion, looks very similar to the Cherokee Purple tomato. It has an orange-green color with purple streaks or patterns. It is a beefsteak size. It resists cracking (which seems to be the case with the Goldie and Cherokee Purple as well) and also is an a tall grower, reaching six feet high. I have one on my counter right now and will taste test it today. The seed packet indicates it has a intense sweet smoky flavor.

Because the season’s growing was impaired, I don’t feel I am getting the true taste of these, because if we had a sunnier warmer summer, I can only imagine how much more intense the flavor would be. I started to ask people who bought plants from me how their plants are doing. Some said amazing, some said, not so good due to weather. However, I also asked, should I grow them again next year? And they all resoundingly replied, “Heck Yah!” This made me happy because I grew a real lot of tomato starts this season and I don’t want folks to be discouraged.

If you love tomatoes home grown, you can’t help but try again and again every season to grow them. It is addicting and you need to be an optimist, or one that can sooth their disappoints with a glass of vino! LOL, JK. But sometimes I think, can I handle another year that wasn’t as expected? Can I do it again? Well, let me tell you, just one tomatoe answered that question to be yes. The flavors can not be beat on these homegrown heirloom tomatoes. Hands-down. Unless you are able to find a big grower locally, you will not find these types of home grown taste in a typical grocery store.

OXHEART TOMATO

I only grew a few of the Oxhearts this season and sold them to friends as starter plants, and I didn’t keep one for me. I kind of regretted that in ways, but then again, I have only so much room on my deck. So, a couple who did grow the plants from me gave me one Oxheart last weekend when we met up for a kayaking day. I was so happy to take it home and saved it for a sandwich.

OXHEART TOMATO

These Oxhearts are heavy, nearly seedless, soft to the touch, and really unique and amazing to eat. I mean they just taste so amazing, and for as long as I live, I will never regret growing and eating some of these. I have an Uncle up north in New Hampshire, and he has the most amazing vegetable gardens you have ever seen. I sent him a packet last year and said, grow these. He has been measuring his fruits from his Oxheart plant raving about the sizes. Wait till he tastes them!

NEXT YEARS VARIETIES

I know I will repeat the tomatoes noted above for next year. I will probably get tempted to order another new heirloom seed stock but for now, I have plenty to get my juices flowing in early spring of 2022. I will post again on the other tomatoes I started and grew and a few hot pepper plants soon. In the meantime, today, we witness rain again – all day, but you know what, it will water my new grass seed in a part of my yard, so that is good!

As I’m typing this – there goes the fire sirens in Broad Brook. This means something is happening. Lightening is flashing by my window and the thunder is booming. I better post this before I loose power at the house!

Cathy Testa
Tomato Grower
Container garden Installer
Holiday Decor and Gifts
Blogger
Kayaker
860-977-9473
containercathy@cathytesta

http://www.WorkshopsCT.com
http://www.ContainerGardensCT.com
http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com (you are here now).

Seed Sowing with Kids

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Yesterday, I hand-delivered my first two Seed Sowing Kits to a friend, Wendy. She has attended my workshops in the past, and always enjoyed being here to make plant related creations and learn about plants. She was a regular attendee for a long time.

Most of the time, Wendy attended my workshops with her 20-something daughter. I always enjoyed watching the comradery between Wendy and her daughter, Ashley, at my plant related workshops.

This is Wendy!

When they attended my annual Holiday workshops, they always dressed very festive with colorful holiday tops and hats. Always fun, fun. They have different personalities but both very much enjoy, what they call, “Crafting.” Wendy has a more care free style of crafting and creating, and Ashley likes symmetry in her designs.

They became my Mom and Daughter Holiday Models! You can see why – I love this photo.
Ashley and Wendy 2019 – The final year I held my Annual Holiday Workshop

But Wendy also has a young son, Nathan. He is seven years old, and it turns out, he really enjoys gardening and planting things. Last summer, she shared photos of him with his seedlings, vegetable plants, and other items related to gardening. He is rather cute and it is fun to see him in their photos with his plants.

So, Wendy, turned out to be my first customer of my Seed Starting Kits this year, and she lives very near me too. I included a Kid’s Seedling Handout where her son may track his sowed seeds week by week. She actually ordered two kits so they can make it an exercise together. And, although it is only February, and the sowing doesn’t begin till March, this gives them both the opportunity to look over everything in the seed sowing kit and make plans to do this activity together. The kits include potting mix, seed sowing trays, seeds, tools, and several instructional sheets as well as a planting calendar specific to the seeds they selected to be in their kits.

Seed Sowing Kit Bags

Because so many kids are home today due to COVID (and perhaps a snow day from school or at home schooling), these kits are great for Moms or Dads with kids who would like an activity to enjoy soon. It is something, frankly, to look forward to. We all know the month of February may feel long, well, maybe not for kids if they are playing outside in the snow! But for me, I get anxious for spring during the month of February.

This month, I am offering FREE delivery of my Seed Sowing Kits to people local to my area in Broad Brook, CT. Or adjacent towns too (Ellington, Windsor Locks, Enfield, for example.) The details about the kits are on my site called WorkshopsCT.com. If anyone is interested, they may send me an email or text to get the list of the seeds I have available and more information if any you have any questions. It is primarily warm season vegetables (tomato, cherry tomato, hot peppers, heirlooms, herbs, flowers, etc.). All certified organic seed source is used. I hand pick the types I like each season – always switching it up to taste new goodies! I also offer videos available from Facebook on the how-to’s as I sow my own seeds so anyone purchasing the kits (or seed packets if they prefer) may view the videos to join along to learn how to sow their seeds with other tips as the plants grow.

The kits come with all needed to start sowing your warm season vegetable plant of choice

I don’t have any kids of my own (except my husband, haha – just kidding!) so I really enjoy when I see kids succeed at gardening via the stories and posts by parents or grand-parents who have reached out to me for plant related items. I guess in a way, it gives me a chance to witness how the kids enjoyed growing their own plants, from afar.

One time my young nephew, Mitchell, came into my greenhouse, and I have to say, he asked some great questions. He also suggested I move my huge spiny tipped Agave to another area because he got pricked by a spine of the plant as he walked by it. He asked or I should say suggested, “Auntie Cathy, why don’t you move this over there?!” LOL, I thought. But he was right, I’ve gotten attacked by that big Agave too at times.

I always treat my nephew, Mitchell, to a freebie plant when he visits, but this past year, there haven’t been many visits because of COVID, but I hope that this spring or summer, some of that will be improved if COVID ever calms down. I am planning to drop off some seedling items to him and his Mom soon. His younger brother seems to enjoy “watering plants” with the garden hose, as I witnessed last summer too – via a post!

Anyhow, Mitchell likes plants, and I love that he shares a passion of his Auntie’s passions. He asked me specific questions on care when I gave him a cacti plant once, and he truly inspects them. I thought, this kid is a plant lover. He asked me if the small succulents I had in 2″ pots were from that big Agave that he suggested I move.

Good question, I thought. I responded with, “No, they are not from that plant, but they do look similar and have similar growing characteristic and needs,” which we discussed further, but then his focus was on another plant as he decided which he would like to take home. Too cute. He also seems to sense when I like a particular plant of the group displayed. He is smart! He knows that I have my favorite plants in the greenhouse. He watches me and then says, “I want that one.”

My sister (his Mom), Rosalie, told me later, you know he yelled at me when I said you should water that plant Cathy gave you. Mitchell responded, “No! Cathy said not to water this cactus too often.” That made me feel like he listened and he learned something new. Again, too cute. If he wasn’t interested in plants, he would have ignored it altogether.

Think Ahead – get your kits now for sowing in March

I hope that anyone who gets the Seed Sowing Kits from me this season will learn new things too, especially if they are sowing with their kids. I hope it adds some fun to their day. I can’t wait to see how Nathan does with his seeds later this season, and see new fun photos.

And, by the way, seed sowing is enjoyed at any age. It is truly a great inspiration to see a seed sprout and grow into a full sized plant to enjoy the harvest from in the summer.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT

Potting Mix for Seed Sowing

So COVID Confused

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My annual ritual, for as far back as I can remember, is to start planning out my yearly calendar on the first week of January. I will take out my past year’s calendars actually, and look at all the activity I’ve written on each date and transpose the important items to my new calendar.

Last year, I purchased a formal fancy book calendar planner with many pages and sections because I had a great deal of goals to outline and try to balance. Things like setting up workshops, teaching a class to a school, setting dates for my container garden installations at clients, and sowing seeds. The book style calendar was new in addition to the wall style calendars I use to plan other activity. For example, I keep a separate calendar just for seed sowing and noting dates along the way of the plants’ progress, etc.

But this year, I’m feeling very “COVID confused.” I pulled out my new wall 2021 calendar yesterday morning to start this process. I sat there at times just thinking and feeling off balance or not sure what to notate. At times, I don’t even remember not noting some things from last year’s changes because it was a confusing year and because of how much the pandemic changed our calendars and timing in 2020. What I mean is, I would sit there and think, “Didn’t I write that or this down?” But at times, I missed even noting an important date down on my 2020 calendar. I guess calendaring just went out the window as I and we all dealt with unforeseen changes to our daily and weekly routines.

Looking at 2021 – Feeling COVID Confused

In fact, when I looked at my 2020 wall calendars, most of what is written on some key dates are the words, “Cancelled.” We all know what that is about. It started with hearing about the pandemic, then seeing that as hopeful as we were, we would have to eventually cancel in-person or group activities, like my plant related workshops.

My book style 2020 calendar turned into nothing more than a place to collect dust on my home office desk. I remember, I even typed out a separate list of dates to be sure to plan carefully so I would not wear myself out and make priorities on the most important business items of the year. But that typed out list was meaningless. It is like wow, I couldn’t even follow my grand plan last season, although I was busy and had many work related activities continue, it did not follow a “plan or calendar.” It followed the pace of what occurred, versus what was planned.

Then it felt like someone pulled a prank on me. None of that “book style 2020 calendar” was followed. However, I still kept my small business going, and in fact, some of my business actually perked up. That’s another story for another time, but I don’t always buy a “book style calendar” and last year I did – and it was almost like the feeling of “a joke.” I didn’t even use it! Someone pulled a prank on me. That someone, or something, we all know is the pandemic that showed up in our lives.

As I look at my first 2021 new wall calendar, and started to do this annual “ritual” of writing past dates or key dates on the calendar, I started to feel very confused. I call it “COVID confused.” I literally felt like lost.

I didn’t really feel like I had a clear head. I even thought to myself, “Well Self, Just pretend nothing has changed and proceed as normal.” Not sure that is a smart idea though? We all know nothings normal now.

However, fortunately for me, much of what I have done for my small business has been “on my own” anyhow, and much of it can be planned without interaction of others, at least the items I grow and sell. I thank the Nature Gods and whomever blessed me with the notion to build a greenhouse for that. Working solo in a greenhouse saved me last year. And so did the people who supported me with their Zero-Contact Porch-Pick-ups during the pandemic year which started in 2020.

Photo around Thanksgiving Time 2020 and Added Words in 2021!

If I am honest with myself, I made the decision to cancel offering workshops before this pandemic arrived. I was thinking about doing so. Part of that is because I think maybe my age. It is such a huge effort to put on workshops. And I also developed tinnitus (ear ringing) which is 24 x 7 in my ears/head, which started about 3.5 years ago, and it hasn’t improved. It messes up my sleep and stress makes it louder. I started to feel as though I didn’t have the energy required to put on my workshops, and with a pandemic, forget it. There was no way I could take that risk of spreading a virus in my workshops, and my mind was not ready to do online courses, etc.

Another reason I thought to not do those workshops anymore, even if they brought me so much joy at times, is that everyone and their brother (and, sister?) are offering workshops now. When I first offered them over 10 years ago, they were not that commonplace. It was my unique way of reaching the plant lovers in my passionate plant world.

Then I saw “cookie cutter” workshops happening by big companies and hiring non-experts to teach them in SOME CASES, in my opinion. I don’t really care for cookie-cutter. I like personalization, uniqueness, and convenience for my attendees. I worked hard at all of that. Now workshops were being held in bars and filling and they were paying more than what I charged. You can see where I’m going here.

Anyhow, so for my calendaring ritual, I knew, those “cancelled” workshops don’t even need to be on my 2021 calendar this year – so strike that from my list. They say, never say never, so I won’t but I don’t think I’ll be offering my workshops again. Or if I did, it would be some new format or style, but I don’t know what that is at all at this point. As I said, I’m COVID Confused.

I think a lot of us will feel “confused” this year on how to proceed. I know I’m not alone in that aspect.

I’ve been using an app called Calm for about 6 months now. I absolutely love it. It offers “sleep stories, sleep music” and many other meditative benefits. Every morning, before I get up, I do a meditation offered in their daily Calm series. This morning, they discussed “looking within” instead of looking outside of yourself when trying to find yourself or answers. I thought, “Hmmm, let me ponder this.”

I know that within, I absolutely felt joy when offering seeds, seedlings, and installing container gardens for clients. These are definitely going to continue as part of my small business offerings. I also know I absolutely love making custom plant gifts. But this year, things will change in regards to the Planning, Preparing, and Pace. Some will stay the same, but some will change. If the new strain of the virus spreads and things get worse again, the pace will change, the planning may change, but I still will prepare as best as possible.

Have a great first week of January 2021 everyone.

Stay Safe. Happy New Year.

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

My Other Websites:

http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
http://www.ContainerGardensCT.com

Making a Simple Wreath

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I tend to make full, lush, and thick wreaths, but sometimes less is nice too. Because I picked up some beautiful shore pine in my mix of greenery this year for my custom orders of wreaths and holiday kissing balls, I started to play with this single type of green and created some simple wreaths.

Shore Pine Branches

Shore pine holds together tight clusters of deep green needles on its branches and many of the branches, about 24-27″ long, have nice tight cones on them. The branches are flexible and bendable, making them useful for making simple and quick wreaths. And the needles run along the whole length of the branches (unlike traditional pine branches).

Small Wreath with Shore Pine

This was the first small wreath I made with it and I used a grapevine base wreath to attach the shore pine branches to it. It was very simple to do. Just lay the branches on top of the grapevine wreath and wrap green florist wire at intervals here and there. As noted, the branches are flexible, so I was able to lay down long pieces at a time and just kind of adjust them into a circle.

Gumball Red Berries

Adding these perfectly round gumball sized red berries was a breeze too. No glue gun required. I simply inserted them thru the shore pine and into the grapevine wreath. Because this wreath was intended to be indoors (or between a door and storm door), I didn’t have to worry about over anchoring the gumball decor.

White Bird House

Then I started to get addicted to this greenery! I added some to the base of a white bird house I have hanging outdoors, and that was easy too. And I added some larger cones. Sometimes less is more. It is so cute. I hope a bird moves in.

Another one made

It was at this point, I decided this shore pine greenery is a theme in my home for the holidays this year. You see, I am busy doing other orders for people, I still haven’t made a wreath or holiday kissing ball for myself. Using this beautiful thick, dark green and pretty holiday shore pine became a solution for me to add fresh holiday greens here and there around my home in a quick fashion, and I’m liking how it looks.

Hanging on a White Vase

I know I’m going to be using more of it, and I already put some around a large green globe I have – more on that later, after I finish it, and I know I’m going to make some garland for around the house with it too.

I don’t know about you, but I am not letting the non-large gatherings stop me from decorating this year. We need, yes, “NEED”, to have a festive surroundings in our lives. It is a way to get through the holidays this year, if you ask me!

If you are interested in obtaining a bundle of the shore pine greenery or a box of mixed greens, look me up – it is easy as 1 call or text, 2 setup a pick up time, 3 drive up and grab and go!

Thank you for your orders!

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT

The Rewards are Coming In

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Summer Sunrise dwarf tomato is a new plant I grew from seed this year. I have been anticipating the ripening of its fruit, and one fruit finally changed to its golden yellow color with a pink blush on the bottom. It is also one of my first dwarf plants I’ve grown. The anticipation was greater than usual because I wanted to see how these taste, but this comes later in the day today. I wait to share the first taste with my hubby, Steve.

dwf tomatoes by C Testa Copywrite_0001

It is funny how a person will get so excited to try new fruits from plants one grows themselves, especially this year, because I had some plants (not the dwarfs though) that experienced problems like blossom-end rot (as noted in a prior blog post). However, my first two dwarf plants are doing fine and the fruits are ripening now. I have another dwarf variety which I will blog about later as well. The other is called Mandurang.

dwf tomatoes by C Testa Copywrite_0002

Good things come to those who wait – and I did wait to see my first Summer Sunrise dwarf tomato fruit ripen. I expected the fruits on the plant to be a bit larger but so far they are small to medium sized. That is fine, the flavor will be just as good I am sure. I am saving this one for a taste test tonight with my tomato-lovin’ husband, Steve, as noted above. It is a fun ritual. He loves tomatoes.

dwf tomatoes by C Testa Copywrite_0003

Also, last night, I made my first batch of fresh pesto. It is ironic. I have eaten fresh pesto before, after all, I married an Italian and they have made it at dinners many times in the summer, so I know how good it tastes, yet, I had never taken the time to make it myself – which is just silly, because it takes so little time. It is easy. And I usually have fresh basil to make it with in the summer months.

Genovese Basil

 

I grew Genovese Basil from seed this year (again, as I did the last couple years), and it is a keeper. I gathered up a bunch from my planter, and used a small batch recipe primarily because I have a small chopper device that only holds about 1.5 cups of ingredients. It worked fine and was just enough pesto for two people.

The Pesto Recipe

The recipe called for the following:

1 cup fresh basil leaves
3 gloves garlic, peeled (I used 4 gloves, and it was very garlic strong, but we love garlic)
3 tablespoons pine nuts (which I picked up at Whole Foods the day before, but friends have since told me they use walnuts as a substitute)
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan (a must have to put in the chopper but also some to top off your pasta)
Salt (I used sea salt) and black pepper to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
Your choice of pasta if you plan to mix it with pasta

Freshly Picked

When I picked the fresh Genovese Basil from my deck planters, I just guessed at the amount and then I removed the leaves from the stems and kind of pushed it into my measuring cup to the 1 cup mark. I’m not sure if you are supposed to push the leaves down into the cup but I just figured, the more basil, the better.

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I was sure to follow the 1/3 cup of the “extra virgin olive oil” measurement, as to not over do it with oil, and I drizzled it in thru the opening in the top cover of the chopper as I pulsed the mixture together in the mini chopper.

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The Genovese Basil is a perfect pesto basil, that is for sure. The leaves are a deep green and leaves are medium sized to large. I started the seeds in my greenhouse early in the year (about 2-4 weeks before frost) and then transplanted them into medium sized terracotta pots. I water them at least once a day if the soil is dry, which it usually is in this heat. I also sold a lot of Genovese Basil seed packets this year to people as well as starter plants I had grown, which I plan to do next season again.

The basil plants grew huge and are healthy. I have topped them off – meaning snipped off the tops, constantly as I harvest for meals for at least a month now, and never let it go to flower. It is still growing strong and staying green. You may sow basil seeds at monthly intervals too, before we get a fall frost, but so far, my two plants are plentiful.

As noted above, I have a mini chopper and not a large food processor, but did you know you can make pesto with a mortar and pestle? I read in the seed packet that the word “pesto” comes from pestle. Interesting.

After mixing it up in the food chopper, it is just a matter of tossing the pesto into warm drained cooked pasta and voila. Of course, topping it with more Parmesan cheese is needed. And the better quality the Parmesan, the better it all tastes.

Pesto by C Testa Copywrite_0001

As they say, we learn something new every day, and I’m glad I learned how to make fresh pesto, as well as try new tomato varieties. Both the Summer Sunrise dwarf tomato plants and the Genovese Basil plants make excellent candidates for kitchen gardens in patio pots and container gardens due to their sizes and uses. In this case, big leaves for pesto from the basil, and controlled plant height of the dwarf tomato plant for snacking tomatoes. The dwarf plant stays to about 4 feet max and is perfect for a big pot. Both are keepers on my list.

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

 

 

More than Just Succulents

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My nephew, Ross, visited me recently and told me, after his first year of growing tomato plants in pots and purchasing tomato starts from me, that he had no idea I was growing tomato plants from seed and selling them before this year. He continued to say, “I thought you only sold succulents!”

Well, it is kind of ironic, isn’t it? That your own family member may not be aware, although I swear I post so much online, that I have been growing tomato starts the past few years.

It is true that I do a lot with succulents. In fact, I really want to start on writing some PDFs or an online book of trusted methods I’ve learned about succulents. But succulents are not my only plant passion or focus, that is for sure.

However, because succulents have been a highlight over the past few years, I thought I’d share a container garden I did this year for a client.

Slide1

The tall blue glazed pot matches other succulent dish gardens on their tables and this was a new addition to their list of beautiful embellishments on their balcony. I searched out a tall heavy pot and succulents are a perfect fit for this full sun location.

You can see in the photo above, the succulents are starting to bloom. The long stems are gracefully rising above the plants and the blooms are on the ends. Hummingbirds will visit the blooms but I’m not sure they go that high! Their balcony is up there!

However, the clients once told me that they heard a loud noise coming from another planter on their balcony, and low and behold, they found a tree frog. Sometimes tree frogs make their way into nursery pots. I can not imagine I planted a plant without seeing it – but it is either that or that darn tree frog made its way up high that is for sure.

Slide2

Here is a photo of the left and right sides of this planter with the succulents. I love mixing the various textures and tones of succulent plants, which are extremely drought tolerant, and love sun (most of them).

These clients take good care of watering their planters, and these plants will grow rapidly as a result of care, sun, and great soil along with a top dress of pea gravel to help with moisture retention plus it looks pretty and finished, in my opinion, and per my recommendations to the clients.

Slide3Every time I install plants for my clients, I also give them instructions, care tips, and plant information. But I do more than “just succulents” (as my nephew noted last weekend). Now he knows, and you know, if you are new to this blog.

I will be sharing more about the individual succulent plants in the blue pot above, but I also wanted to repeat – that I also sell tomato starts in the early spring (all grown from seed, certified organic, and unique varieties), and I also offer workshops (but those are all on hold this year due to COVID-19), and I create unique things with plants. And I install container gardens of many types of plants.

In the fall, I make succulent topped pumpkin centerpieces, and in the winter, I make custom wreaths and kissing balls with gorgeous mixes of fresh evergreens, and I also make custom unique plant gifts (dish gardens, hanging globes, succulents in small containers, or other types of containers, and more).

I work or should say, design, with big tropical plants, various perennials and annuals, succulents, cacti, and vegetables. I guess you could say I have dabbled in a lot of types of plant creations.

Ross discovered that it was more than just succulents this year. He said he had time due to COVID-19, so he started reading, researching, and learning about tomato plants. This could be just the start of his plant passion. Here is he in a photo below.

Ross 2020tomatoe

My nephew with one of his 15 tomato plants!

I am thoroughly pleased that my nephew, Ross, discovered my tomatoes. He told me of the plants he got, mine are performing the best – he said they grew faster than others. Of course, this made me very happy. And to see his excitement of having tomatoes on the plants is very rewarding. I guess he picked up the same gene from my father – the plant obsession gene. I told his Mom, enjoy this – he has a new passion. And now he and I have a huge topic to discuss at family gatherings. 🙂

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
http://www.ContainerGardensCT.com
http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com (this blog)

 

 

My Tomato Journey to Blossom End Rot

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I was going to write that my tomato journey started when I fell in love with the colorful art work depicted on seed packets, but that is not true.

It really started as a result of my father. He grew lots of tomato plants. He was known among our relatives of having the best, juiciest tomatoes in town. If you were invited to have some of his extra tomatoes, you were very lucky indeed.

My mother would have to can them into mason jars using her own method of boiling the jars in super-hot water and sealing them after stewing the tomatoes over the stove in a big pot. She didn’t put them through sieves to separate out seeds. She didn’t use a pressure cooker. She would can tomatoes for hours in a hot kitchen. But dang, were those the best darn canned mason jars of goodness ever.

So my tomato journey started with tasting them and witnessing my father growing them at my family home but it was sparked again in my own home when I saw seed packets at a flower show by Hudson Valley Seed Company. I immediately fell in love with how beautiful the seed packets were and are. They are designed by commissioned artists and each packet represents the goodness inside. It is an artistic depiction about the vegetable plant, seed, and variety. The art tells a story and this is what captivated me.

Basil by C Testa Copywrite_0001

This particular seed company also has cool varieties of tomatoes and other veggie plants, and herbs, etc. Not your typical “big boy” tomatoes as my dad would grow. They have purple tomatoes, tall tomatoes, and gigantic tomatoes, with cool names. It intrigued me. When I saw the Oxheart tomatoes, which grow 3 pound fruit, my eyes bugged out. Or the Mikado heirlooms with broad pink beef-stakes and exceptional flavor, I had to try them. The list goes on. It grew from there.

Blossom end rot by C Testa Copywrite_0002

Mikado heirloom with Thai basil

No one taught me how to ‘sow’ tomato seeds or how to plan them out based on frost dates and timing. Not even my Dad. He was the type of gardening Dad, at least from my perspective of the 6 kids in my family, who did not explain the whole tomato growing thing at all. He just had us tag along or maybe we just visited him to watch while he was gardening. And sometimes he would ask us to do a tiny chore, like carry this basket of tomatoes to the house, etc.

It was all learning by unaware observing back then, when I was a kid at my family home. Unaware because I don’t recall purposely observing, just observing. Just being there, and also of course, remembering the flavors of his amazing tomatoes at my family home when young and until the day I moved out in my 20’s. Now I enjoy my own tomatoes grown in pots.

My Dad had an old rickety greenhouse he built himself. It was on wheels. I don’t remember him pulling it around with a tractor, but I do remember stepping up into it to see what he was doing during the gardening seasons. I remember the smell of dirt in there too. And of course him doing whatever in there, tending to seedlings or whatever it was.

His hand built greenhouse was made with old foundation forms (if my memory is correct), and it had two sides with boxed like tables filled with dirt (or whatever he was using for soil mix) and tomato starts which he started from seed. Some of his own seed and his traditional favorites. There was one space down the middle to walk back and forth which only one person could walk at a time because it was narrow. It was small but sufficient for his seed starting needs. At least by my observation. At least that is how I remembered it.

They say that most people who garden or have a love of plants, it comes from the fact an elder or parent or someone showed gardening during childhood or at home, etc. It comes from example. Or growing up with it. Being surrounded by it. I believe it.

My Mom would complain though, saying in her French accent, “I’m tired of canning tomatoes.” There would always be a wicker lined basket on the entrance back steps filled with fresh tomatoes waiting to be canned, or to be picked up by someone invited by my Dad to come get some. And some were always stacked in baskets in the house, or in various buckets, right by where we hung our coats, near the kitchen entrance.

If you ever had this scenario, you know what that smells like. Fresh tomatoes sitting there just waiting to be devoured or “canned.” Piles and piles of them in baskets. An abundance of tomatoes. All fresh, ripened, and soft ready to eat. Some of them dripping from being at that almost over ripe stage.

At my home today, I grow only a few tomato plants. Maybe 8 plants or so each year in pots or fabric grow bags. At first, I think I bought tomato starts, but then I started sowing my own after having fun selecting seed packets from the Hudson Valley Seed company’s catalog or at the flower show where they have a vendor booth.

This is the funny part. When my Dad comes over, he doesn’t even go LOOK at my giant tomato plants growing on my driveway. Maybe he secretly thinks I’m nuts for even growing them in pots instead of in the ground. Whatever the reason, he doesn’t seem to be the bit curious of what types I have. This does not bother me. It makes me chuckle.

Heirloom Tom C Testa Copywrite_0002

Tomatoes on my Driveway

However, he has shown me his method of suckering the tomato plants, which I asked him about before, but I tend to not prune my plants even after he showed me how. I let them go wild and allow them to spread up and down and all around. This can lead to a messy look, but it is my style, and I like it. And I read somewhere, this method produces more tomatoes actually versus pruned plants, but pruned plants may have better air circulation and are tidy, etc.

Lining up tomato pots along my driveway’s wrought iron railing which runs east to west is one of the first places I grew my tomato plants. And that first year, wow, my tomato plants were absolutely amazing, and perfect. I don’t remember any major bug issues, the chipmunks didn’t take bites out of them, and my husband devoured many every time he got out of his car from work. Beginner’s luck perhaps.

Blossom end rot by C Testa Copywrite_0003

Now, fast forward to this year, after several seasons of growing tomato plants in pots. I guess this is probably several years of doing the driveway method of potting up tomato plants I grew myself from seed. Sometimes, I put them in pots on my side yard, some on the deck, and sometimes on the driveway or in-front of the garage. And each year, I have encountered a wild animal issue or a small bug problem, all easily fixed, but this year, my journey challenged me once more. This year, well, some of my plants got the dreaded blossom-end-rot. Nooooo!

But not all of them got this ailment. No chipmunks though this year (figures!), but they were there last year taking bites of my gorgeous ready to pick tomatoes. It is always something. It is like gardening will never ever cease to challenge you and make you require patience.

Back to the dreaded blossom-end-rot. Ugh. When I pulled those off with this symptom last week, which were green yet rotted at the bottoms, and threw them into my side yard like baseballs, I wanted to scream.

Yet, screaming is something you learn to suppress if you love plants and growing them. Because let me tell you, I could write a book on the, “I should scream moments!”

Suppression was learned through the challenges of gardening. In fact, suppressing your anger and frustration becomes an art form when dealing with plant challenges every year.

But the good part, the part that makes one continue trying, is passion and many, many successes too. There are lots of good stories to counter the bad. However, the bad stories are frustrating because of the time and effort involved, especially when it comes to growing tomatoes.

Of course, starting tomato plants requires starting the seed indoors. And you must plan ahead at least six to eight weeks before they will be placed outdoors to harden them off. Some of the interesting tomato varieties I chose require ten weeks ahead. It takes time. Lots of time before you start reaping the rewards of ripened fruits in the summer months. You sometimes start in March. Now it is July!

Seedlings early in the growing process are moved into larger pots. My typical preferred larger pot size is a 5” square. From then, they are nurtured, inspected, watered, and watched for weeks before they are moved outdoors after all danger of frost has past.

Then you have to eventually plant them appropriately, selecting a full sun location with at least six to eight hours of sun every day, with the correct potting mixes, compost, and large enough pots or fabric grow bags, as is in my case. And most importantly, watering correctly, evenly and adding fertilizer as needed at the right time.

All was growing and going splendidly, until one day recently, looking UP at my jungle of tomato plants on the deck from ground level, I saw a black spot on the bottom of a hanging tomato fruit. I thought, “Are my eyes playing tricks on me? Should I get my binoculars?” It is such a jungle up there so I was not sure I would be able to see it from the other side up above on my deck thru the many full stems of the plants all lined up together. Remember, I did not prune so some of the fruit growing were hidden.

Blossom end rot by C Testa Copywrite_0001

By it was not my poor eye vision! Oh, Please God, No! Not blossom-end-rot, but it was. Ugh. I saw it, I knew it, and now I had to acknowledge it – it happened to me, to the tomatoes I’ve been dying to bite into after all this time from starting seed to this very day.

Others told me within the same week, they had blossom-end-rot on some of their tomatoes too. I thought oh well, maybe they didn’t water evenly, maybe they didn’t use the right soil mix, maybe it was just bad luck, but then I saw it…here, on mine.

The first sign of it was a sunken, brownish hard area starting at the blossom end of the fruit. It was a dry brown area but then turns a bit softer black, and it grows and spreads up, like an ugly zit you remembered from high school, or I hate to say it, a very bad black toe nail fungus. It is THAT ugly. The ones on my plant on the driveway started with a black blotch but the ones on my deck started with a dry brown blotch. Ugh, either way, it is a blotch I didn’t want to see. And like toe fungus, is a challenge to treat.

Insert a “Big Sigh” sound here. And then, I remembered my professor in college talking about it – and I distinctly remember him saying, it is from lack of the ability of the plant to take up calcium due to watering inconsistencies. And that calcium may be in the soil but the water uptake is an issue – it getting to the fruit while it is developing.

Hmm, the condition is caused by “poor calcium uptake” is what I read as well, when I discovered it this year, and started reading various books I have on hand about tomatoe growing (one way I learn). And it read, it has to do with an “UNEVEN supply of water.” It may be from under-watering or over-watering.

Maybe I got too “water happy this year?” I was kind of watering a lot – maybe too much. What was I thinking? Or was it this crazy weather? I want to blame the weather too. We did have some weird spurts of hot weather, and to me it seemed the fruit grew fast, really fast – then the blossom-end-rot showed up. Hmmm??? It is probably all combined factors.

Oh well. Deep breaths: suppress, suppress that anger. Serenity now, I thought. Don’t try to beat yourself up. You are not a gardening God. You are only human. That is how gardening keeps you “grounded.” Tee-hee. And keeps you learning and trying.

They will tell you to mulch plants and to deeply and evenly water in some reference tomato gardening books. Then in another reference book, the next sentence in the solution section was…here it comes…it starts with the words…“NEXT SEASON, ensure the soil is fertile, with adequate calcium levels, and plant blossom-end-rot resistant cultivars.”

NEXT season!? Ack! I want my tomatoes to be perfect THIS season.

Also, recommended is taking off the bad tomatoes and tossing them. However, I also read you could end up with some non-affected fruit later, which did happen on one of my plants on the deck, at least it appears so for now, but the two tomato plants on my driveway – all of the fruit, which are all green and small, have it, the blossom-end-rot. Every single one. My poor heirloom Mikado, all of them have this dreaded issue.

Ho-Hum.

Bum, bum, bum.

Solving tomato problems requires that element of patience in gardening. I have yet to go buy a product to try to solve blossom-end-rot, and part of me doesn’t want to. I am almost at that point of giving up. But a switch in my mood could alter that easily. There are products to help from sprays to fertilizers with extra calcium.

And next time I see my Dad, I will ask him about how he dealt with blossom-end-rot, as I’m sure he had that challenge at some point in his tomato journey too. And maybe I will need to ask him if he has any extra tomatoes this year.

Update since this was posted:

Hi again all,

I decided to buy a product called “Rot-Stop” to help with my tomato blossom end rot issue. It comes in a ready to use spray bottle and helps correct the calcium deficiencies. It is applied to the foliage.

As I read the instructions on the spray bottle, a comment stood out: “This disorder often appears after a period of rapid growth followed by dry conditions, or in periods of heavy rain that caused calcium to leach from the soil.

What did I write in several paragraphs above? I wrote that I wanted to blame the weather. I had a sense of a rapid growth on my plants and then we had heat, and a heat wave. I noticed lots of tomatoes growing and all looked great, then we got hit by extreme heat.

Thus, in the end, this disordered is caused by a few things or a combination of factors: calcium deficiency (maybe in the soil or lack of movement due to inconsistent watering routines), aggravated by maybe too much nitrogen fertilizer (did you apply too much if you had this issue too on your tomatoes?), and dry conditions or even heavy rains leaching calcium.

That is the challenge with gardening, but we don’t want to give up that is for sure. The taste of fresh tomatoes is too worth it. Next year we may not have any of these issues at all and I never had this issue before. I say, don’t ever give up!

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
860-977-9473
CT Zone 6b

Heirloom Tom C Testa Copywrite_0002

This was last year – to prevent chipmunks visiting!

My Mikado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Safe,

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