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

And the Sowing Begins…

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Good Friday Morning Everyone,

I’ve been a busy beaver in the greenhouse lately. I’ve potted up some of my Canna Lily rhizomes (about 30 to be exact) and Elephant Ear corms (bulb-like structures) in starter pots and have sown some seeds to get growing. Some started germinating this week.

And another activity has been cleaning and rearranging the growing spaces in my greenhouse so I can fit the planned attendees for my upcoming Seed Starting Sessions in two weeks.

I decided to add a new date – a weeknight at 3 pm on Tuesday, March 26th, for those who can’t make Saturday’s session. All the details are on WorkshopsCT.com.

Over New Date Added

These seed starting sessions are small groups and it is the first year I’m offering this as a hands-on learning workshop. Each attendee will learn everything I know to date about growing from seeds. There are so many little things to be aware of. You would think it is just as easy as plopping a seed into soil but there are at least 5 important things you need to know to succeed. We will go over these at the workshops and you will plant your own tray of 32 seeds!

I also enjoy very much picking out unique varieties to grow. There is something amazing about the odd shape of an heirloom tomato and the interesting shapes of crinkly hot peppers, in addition to the plethora of amazing flavors of both.  These are the goals of the types of plants we will sow at my seed starting sessions. The focus being on warm season vegetable, specifically tomato and pepper plants.

It is important, if you are new to sowing seeds on your own, to start with a limited palate of choices – narrow down your plant types and practice growing them. It is very easy to get carried away and next thing you know, you have more starter plants than you know what to do with! Although giving some away to family and friends is truly rewarding.

In my seed starting sessions, I plan to go over how to plan your sowing dates on the calendar and why it is important, to review why I select the types of seeds I do – and how you should go about selecting your own seeds. We will discuss what the various terms mean and why they are important (e.g., open pollinated, hybrids, and heirlooms ). And of course, we will go over soil types, how to water, and potential mistakes people make when sowing seeds. Then the best part is they will germinate in my greenhouse or you may take your tray home to oversee. When ready to be planted outdoors, you will be ready with a nice variety of plants you grew yourself.

Over Photo Seed Starting

In addition, we will go over how to store seed and what mixes to use and why. And then of course, review what causes things to fail. If you have tried to grow seeds and had issues, this is a place to learn more, and these sessions are for beginners. Practice makes perfect in the seed sowing world. It is not always full proof but know what and how to sow really increases your chances of success.

Dates of the Sessions

The dates are March 23rd, Saturday (2 sessions available, 10 am or 1 pm) and March 26th, Tuesday (1 session available at 3 pm). In April, we have a monitoring session and you will be required to pick up your trays in late April or sooner if you wish. Registration and payment required in advance. See WorkshopsCT.com for details and links.

What interests you in growing your
own plants from seed?

  • I want a variety (more choices) and know that buying transplants won’t offer special unique types of plants available by seed sources.
  • I want to feel reassured it is grown organically and is free of GMO issues.
  • I want to save some money (buying transplants is more expensive and I can get many plants from seed sowing instead).
  • Because I know the seedling will be monitored in the greenhouse and I don’t have the space at home.
  • I have a hobby greenhouse or wish to get one, and want to learn what may be needed.
  • Because I attempted growing them before and failed, and I’m not sure why.
  • Because growing from seeds is satisfying and the rewards of fresh food are great.
  • Other:

Maybe you want to grow plants from seeds because you want to teach the value of fresh food to your children or future generations. Perhaps you are a new homeowner and want to start a small garden. There are countless reasons why.

Or perhaps you are a plant addict like me, and you just can’t stop yourself from having more plants in your surroundings. Just the act of sowing seeds is therapeutic and takes you away from the technology induced anxiety of social media.

Whatever the reason, I hope you sign up soon.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.om
Location is Broad Brook (East Windsor), Connecticut
Planting Zone: 6a

Open Seed Session Poster

Planning Ahead is required if you Want to Start Plants from Seeds

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Before going into why growing plants from seed is extremely rewarding, fun, and even spiritual, let’s discuss why planning ahead is so important.

Planning Steps

First – You need to consider our climate and planting zone because you can’t move new, tender seedlings outdoors until it is safe for them to grow. In order to plan for this appropriately, you really need to prepare a plan of when to start your seeds. Your very first step is finding out what your last spring frost date is for your planting area and then work (count) backwards on your calendar. How many weeks you need to count back from the last frost date depends on the type of seeds you are planning to sow.

Second – You need to make a calendar or chart to plan out each variety of seed you plan to sow. Making a calendar is important because if you start seeds too early, the seedlings or starter plants will be ready before it is safe to move and grow them outdoors. Starter plants (seedlings) waiting inside will start to grow too large and this will cause growing issues which may result in unsuccessful plants when planted outdoors. And the opposite will happen if you start seeds too late, you will end up not having them ready in time for the outdoor growing phase and the plant’s fruits will mature too late to harvest them.

Third – Seeds sown need to be transitioned from cell trays to larger pots, and then transitioned during a hardening off stage – all before they are transplanted into your gardens or container gardens outdoors. If all three of these steps above are not thought out in regards to timing, you could waste some valuable and enjoyable growing time of your treasured starter plants, and not to mention waste soil, water, and other resources.

While it is not as complicated as it may seem, it is a bit of a process to plan these steps out if you want to increase your chances of success. It requires some pre-planning and organizing.

The good news is, after some seasons of practice, trial and error, and success, you start to master the process and develop some of your own successful methods and routines which you acquire along the way. Truly rewarding, and a bit addicting.

So where do you begin if you are a beginner?

There are many seed planning charts out there, websites, planting apps, and helpful resources to determine all of this planning and calendaring information, but in my opinion, it is not as easy as a “click” and marking the date on your calendars.

You want to plan ahead AND make a schedule. And now (late-Feb) is about the time to do this planning effort, if not sooner. It takes a bit of thinking, organizing, and considerations.

Even thinking about how many plants you are able to grow based on your layout of containers or patio pots and/or garden space at your home is necessary. And thinking about what types of vegetables you want to grow and why – do you enjoy them for cooking, slicing, snacking, sauteing, or even grinding for flakes to use in recipes? All of these aspects should at least be pondered upon during your planning process in order to avoid some pitfalls or disappointments.

Thankfully, my upcoming “Seed Starting Sessions” are here to guide you.

I have already done much of the “planning and calendaring” legwork for my upcoming seed starting sessions in March and April. In these sessions, we will go over how to do the planning so you will be prepared when you go do this on your own next season, and we will plant various tomato and pepper seeds in large trays to grow in my greenhouse.

You will learn about the how to’s of sowing, about various soil mixes, appropriate tools and how to maintain them, and potential problems you may encounter. You will learn all of this while attending these sessions in my greenhouse, so we will go over some information on what to consider in a hobby greenhouse growing environment as well – which is a bonus.

In April, you will revisit your seedlings, see your progress, and make any necessary adjustments. Or if you wish, you may take your trays home to watch the germination and growing process while you maintain all steps there. It is up to you!

Seed selection is always key in regards to timing.

Even before the planning and calendar phases, the fun phase of selecting seeds is another important step. Starting plants from seed gives you the wonderful option of growing unique and favorable varieties based on your style and tastes. Often these unique varieties are not found in local garden centers.

If you want to sow something out of the ordinary, selecting seed ahead is important and should be planned ahead, which I have done for my upcoming seed starting sessions.

I use a trusted, reputable, and well-orchestrated seed company. We will be sowing cherry tomato seeds as well as seeds of various large tomato varieties. We have hot peppers and sweet peppers on the list. Each I hand-picked due to various traits – such as, they are reliable, easy, produce a large harvest, and yummy.

Some varieties chosen are ideal for snacking and others perfect for enhancing flavors of sauces. Some are large slicers for sandwiches and others are decorative in pots when they flower too – after all – container gardening is always key on my list.

Other varieties selected grow well in hanging baskets and some in large pots. One really special seed variety I have chosen produces 3 lb. fruit – imagine that?! And most importantly, all the seeds are certified organic, heirlooms, and/or open pollinated.

Lastly, there will be other seed types to mix into the planting trays for herbs, salads, or flowers. You will have some flexibility of choices in your large seed tray to sow and grow.

Dates of the Seed Sessions are March 23 (Part I) and April 13 (Part II):

In regards to planning ahead, now is also the time to sign up and get on the sessions list. Seeds are so fun to grow – you learn the process and are able to grow many varieties and many plants.

Some of your new seedlings you could pass along to your children or grandchildren to grow in their kid’s garden, and some you may want to give away as gifts, but I bet your bottom dollar, many you won’t be able to part with after you learn about the great aspects of growing plants from seed and value that you grew them yourself, not to mention the taste! Fresh is best – we all know homegrown tomatoes are out of this world compared to store bought – you would be nuts not to agree!

Growing plants from seeds takes some time and considerations on where you will grow them, and as started above, proper planning – but it also saves you money because you can grow so many more for the price of one transplant from a garden center. And because most of the legwork, materials, and tools are being prepared right now for my upcoming seed starting sessions, it will save you time and the need to go get materials, seeds, and tools on your own. And the materials are reusable.

And not to mention, by attending, you are gaining valuable space to put out your seed trays with heating mats to warm the soils, and natural sunlight of a greenhouse for their growing environment. If you rather take your trays home to keep them going, that is an option. We hope you will consider joining us and plan ahead.

To learn more, visit www.WORKSHOPSCT.com, and feel free to ask any questions in advance.

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
https://www.instagram.com/containercrazyct/
Location: Broad Brook, CT

When I play white noise in the house, what is my cat thinking?

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I suffer from tinnitus.

If you don’t know what that is, you are lucky.

It is an annoying and constant hissing and ringing sound in my ears (well, apparently in my head, per the experts).

It is a sound or (sounds) that could make anyone go mad. But you have to learn to cope.

So, every once in a while, to combat the tinnitus noise when I’m trying to concentrate on my office work, I will play white noise on the speakers in my house.

The sounds of rushing waterfalls, babbling brooks, or ocean waves splashing on a beach helps to deter the awful noises of tinnitus in my head. It is a distraction, basically.

I often wonder, “What is my cat thinking?” when I start playing the various water sounds which broadcasts from speakers throughout my house.

My cat, Mini, is looking a little depressed right now. She is bored to tears because she just hates the cold weather and hasn’t had much play time outdoors lately.

In fact, when she begs me for fresh air, she comes back from the outdoors screaming at me (meowwww!!!), as if this cold and boring weather is all my fault.

I just tell her, “I know. I know. It is NOT nice out. But it will get better.”

Before we know it, the signs of winter will fade away, but we also all know, it will be a while still. In fact, I’m sure we are in for some snow storms soon.

The only good thing about January (at least in my book, as of this moment) is that it is the best time to plan ahead for the season, which is what I was doing all morning – creating schedules of my workshop dates and outlining workshop details – while tinnitus danced in my head.

The proposed schedule is on my workshops site, http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com, under the DATES tab. You may pop by there if you want to start penciling in the dates, which I surely hope you will.

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Removing Succulents from Pumpkins – FB Live on January 18, 2019

First up will be a Facebook Live (for registered attendees of my workshops) and then follows with Seed Starting sessions in March and April, followed by my Container Gardening Workshops in May. Then, of course, the fall and winter workshops arrive, etc.

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Seed Starting Workshops on March 23 and April 13, 2019

Just thinking about them reminds me how busy I will be when they start up, so I guess instead of dreading the blah times of January when it is cold and dreary, I should probably embrace them as I work in my home office listening to white noise while I finalize the pre-plans for all to come ahead this season. There is still much to do.

Whether Mini, my cat, will embrace January as well, (or the white noise she is forced to listen to), I will never know. I guess she has to tolerate it, just like I have to tolerate tinnitus.

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
Broad Brook, CT

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Want tomatoes like this in 2019? Check out my Seed Starting sessions – Seats will be limited!

Upcoming Events and Holiday Fun

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Happy Last Day of November Everyone!

12/1 and 12/5 Holiday Workshops

Tomorrow kicks off my holiday fun – starting with the 9th Annual Kissing Ball and Wreath Making Workshop on 12/1/18 – Can’t wait to see all my creative elves yet again.

Then the following Wed, 12/5, is the 2nd Beginner Workshop and we have a large group forming – but still could squeeze in a few more elves if interested.

Location is Broad Brook, CT.
Fee is $45 pp.

Custom Orders

Additionally, I will be taking custom orders for wreaths, kissing balls, and hostess gifts starting next week. All with fresh greens, made by hand, and with lots of love! Pick up by appointment is required.

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WinterFest MarketPlace Stafford

And finally, I will be participating in a great Winterfest MarketPlace in Stafford Spring, CT on December 15th – a great day for families. There will be many activities plus the vendors at the town hall. Fun day to shop and enjoy the many small businesses in the town on Main Street.

Gift Cards and Box of Greens

Don’t forget we also offer Holiday Gift Cards during the month, and Box of Greens – All details are on my workshop’s site, called www.WORKSHOPSCT.com.

winter fest_0001

Short Holiday Story

After one amazing day with friends and family at an annual Holiday Workshop, Cathy T found a black winter coat by the outdoor fire pit – left behind by an attendee.

She searched and asked, but for a solid year, no one claimed that beautiful black winter coat. There were no clues. Nothing in the pockets. Just an XL tag and that was it.

She didn’t remember anyone wearing that black coat. Who’s was it?

So – ever since, cause you see, if fit her perfectly, Cathy T (Mrs. KB) decided to start wearing it.

It wasn’t snug like her other black (similar) coat she usually wears this time of year, and she was thankful because every year, around the holiday workshop prep, something magical happens.

A Christmas vibe enters, music starts to be played daily of holiday tunes and the tv comes on for those corny but inspirational holiday movies, and the extra pounds get put on from all the holiday snacking while making wreaths and such for customers.

After all, much energy is needed with all the prep for Mrs. KB’s holiday workshops and custom orders.

Thus, that mysterious well-fitting black winter coat, well, it was a God-send because it fits just right during holiday time. 

Gee, was it is an attendee who left it behind? Or was it some mysterious Christmas spirit who recognized Mrs. KB needed a better, warmer coat?!

Just one of the many stories from the many years of offering these holiday workshops here at Container Crazy CT’s – and we will create more this year too.

Ho, Ho, Ho. Cathy T.

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

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Just a heads-up.

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

Maybe a Tuesday is better for you too?!

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

Here’s a flyer to share!

flyer succ pump 2018 Updated

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

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

Thank you,

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

 

How many Fridays until Christmas?

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

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

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

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

greens by Cathy T_0014

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

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

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

Faux Pumpkins Grouping

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

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

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

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

First Cool Fall Day – Get Ready to Craft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Events and Workshops

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

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

flyer succ pump 2018

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

Faux Pumpkins Grouping

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

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New Items – Spooky Kits:

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

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9th Annual KB Workshops

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

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Hope to see you soon.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
Broad Brook, CT

 

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

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Tropical Cont Gardens Cathy T_0003

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

Who doesn’t like Canna lily plants, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mikado Tomato Plants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stone Ridge Tomato Plants

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fox Cherry Tomato Plants

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bumble Bee Mix Cherry Tomato Plants

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

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

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

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

Matchbox Pepper Plants

Why are they so great?

Because they are absolutely perfect for hanging baskets.

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Workshops

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Succulent Pumpkins or Succulent Skulls

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Hi Everyone,

Just another heads-up!

We posted our second autumn workshop of the season and it has a groovy and spooky option in addition to the traditional succulent pumpkins centerpieces we have made in the past fall workshops.

We will be offering two options at our October workshops!

Succulent Pumpkins with Words

Swing on by to www.WORKSHOPSCT.com to learn more and get signed up early.

Here’s photos of what you may elect to make at our October workshops.

Skull with words

Skull Upfront Container Crazy CT

New this year – SUCCULENT SKULLS

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Succulent Topped Pumpkin

Pre-registration is required. See www.WORKSHOPSCT.com for the details of what is included, what you need to bring, and dates. We setup our workshops for flexibility on how many you want to make and how elaborate you want to make your creations. Contact me anytime for questions.

Thank you – Cathy T.

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