My last post, before today’s post, was titled, March is a big sow month – well, to follow on from that, April is a BIG GROW Month.
I have many tomato seedlings started from seeds and growing now, and the more warmth, sun, and good days of April we get will increase their sizes over the next 3-4 or 5 weeks of indoor growing in the greenhouse before they are transitioned outdoors for a few hours to harden off and then ready by end of May.
End of May is my target date for planting the tomato starts in containers, because to me, it is the safest and warmest time. Memorial Day is the key date. And I truly can’t wait. I’m overly anxious this year, it was a long winter. I hated February, Ugh. Now it is April – yahooooo. That means weather will improve, we can be outdoors more, I’m cleaning up my perennials and shrubs outdoors, and I am checking on my starter plants daily, potting some up, all that jazz.
I spend time cleaning the greenhouse floors of debris, taking tables down to the greenhouse outdoor areas to prepare for when seedling will go outside for some real sunshine, and inspecting everything, but it is also still a waiting month. I so want to put all my nice tropical plants outdoors, but we can still get cold snaps. It requires patience. Sometimes I can’t take it – LOL.
This Connecticut weather is nutso sometimes. As we know, it snowed just last week. Yup on Friday. It melted fast – thank God. And tomorrow will be 70’s degrees, which will mean my greenhouse temps will rise fast tomorrow and I’ll be opening the side manual vent, and putting on small fans, etc. But then overnight, it can get cold just a couple days later. It is nutso! I know I said that already. LOL.
I still have not removed the bubble-wrap, which covers my auto-fan in the greenhouse up at the top on one wall, because I don’t want cold air to blow in on the cold snaps. I have to say, taking care of plants in a greenhouse, is a daily, if not minute by hour operation! Why they call it a “nursery.” And April is a big month of getting things growing more – as the warmer temps and more sunny and longer sun days improve.
April this month thru mid-May is a big grow month. I will little by little have more patience as I watch the seedlings grow larger and I pot them up. I can smell the tomato plants now when I’m in the greenhouse and brush against them. That familiar scent that says summer is coming.
In fact, the sun is out right now as I type this – so I have to keep this short cause I have a bunch of heirloom tomatoes I need to pot up today. They are ready for step two.
I was starting to worry that my seeds may be delivered late because I keep reading on various gardening websites about people experiencing shipping delays. One lady, in fact, made a joke that she has been stalking her mailman waiting for her seed delivery, which made me chuckle!
Well, my seed order arrived yesterday, and I’m thrilled. When my husband walked in from work, he said, “Your seeds are here.” He had grabbed the box from the mailbox for me.
I immediately opened the box and scanned the many seed packets. All there except one type which hopefully will show up or the charge will be removed from my invoice. So, I thought this early morning, I would just write a bit of what I do the minute I get my seed order in.
Of course, open the box and review the order. Count the packets and make sure all are in the box and in good condition. Enjoy the moment – I do!
Now, this am, I will take out one set of each type of packet I ordered (BTW, these are primarily tomato, hot peppers, herb seeds, and a couple of flowers). Because some of the sowing and growing instructions are “inside the seed packets” and not on the back of the seed packet envelope, I will keep one set of the packets for me and read all the instructions carefully (now, don’t wait). I think key is learn about the growing habits or needs of that plant a bit – don’t over look it, especially if you are totally new to trying sowing of seeds indoors before the growing season.
Take out my Planning and Growing Calendars and verify I counted back the number of weeks correctly for each type of plant. Remember, one type of tomato plant maybe slightly different than another variety. So one may say 6-4 weeks before your last frost date in spring to start sowing the seeds indoors, or it may indicate 8-10 weeks before. For example, for a few years now, I’ve grown Upstate Oxheart tomatoes. They are a type that indicate 10 weeks before, but another tomato, like my Bumble Bee cherry tomatoes, are indicated at 6-8 weeks before our last frost date. Thus, I will review Planning Charts I created to verify all, such as one chart I created which indicates “when to sow your seeds indoors based on the last frost date expected in mid-May in Connecticut.” If you have general charts from various sites, compare those with the instructions on your specific seed packets. And be aware, do not use “days from transplant” if this is noted on your packet – this is not the same “as days or weeks before frost.” The days to transplant is the number of days once the seedling is transplanted into your gardens or outdoor container gardens, fabric grow bags, or whatever place you want to grow them outside. It indicates when the plants will produce fruit or mature.
I also will day dream about how amazing these plants will be and remind myself that spring is only a few months away. Hang in there, January can be a tough month. I focus on the upcoming weeks to prepare. Some things to do now are get your growing pots and seedling trays ready (I prefer 3-3.5″ deep cell trays for proper root development and plastic because the stay clean, pathogen free, keep the soil consistently moist, and are long lasting and reusable), take out your seed heating mats and clean them up, and think about getting seedling soils before March. I usually pick up soils mid-February but I am going to get them early this year. I want to be ahead of the game. As noted in my prior post, get “seedling mixes” or “sterilized potting mix for container gardens or patio pots” to start you seeds. Avoid heavy soils which may be amended with compost as you don’t need that at the seed sowing stages. The lighter the soil, usually the better, and no dirt from the ground. Look for fresh bags, avoid cheap mixes that may be too old to take up water (meaning from dollar type stores if they look old – they may be new and just fine – just be aware). You want potting mixes made with peat, sphagnum peat moss, vermiculite and perlite if not using seedling mix. Seedling mix is finer (not as dense as container or potting mix) but both will work. Do not use mix labeled as “garden soil” or for the garden. Keep the bags in a safe dry place till use.
Store my seed packets after I have all reviewed and organized. Then wait till early March to start sowing in general (again, these are warm season vegetables (tomatoes and hot peppers) that need to be started indoors in seedling trays/cells and then transitioned to the outdoors after frost to harden off.) Hardening off is all about acclimating the seedlings you have started indoors to the outdoor exposures and temperatures gradually on the right days (shady area then gradually to sun, not too windy, not cold, and watch for shade which may not exist if trees are not leafed out yet, and only for a few hours each day, etc.). This is usually the week or two weeks before Memorial Day for me.
Key dates: Jan (get ready and order seeds early), Feb (get organized), March (start sowing), April (monitor all your seedlings), May (start potting up-moving the seedlings from your cell trays into larger one size up pots), Mid-May (start hardening off outdoors gradually), May at Memorial Day (all safe to plant outdoors).
Storing the seeds. They must stay dry and cool. No humidity, don’t put in freezing temperatures or in a hot place, like a sunny greenhouse. Keep them in a cool spot away from moisture. I put mine in metal lunch boxes! They are the perfect container. I also just happened to go to a vintage market last weekend, and found these really old lockable long boxes (steel bank safe deposit boxes) and thought, these are perfect for storing my seed packets. The metal lunch boxes or tin boxes also tend to stay cold. I put them in a room in my home that doesn’t heat well under a table away from any heat sources. In general, if you store the seeds appropriately, based on the types of seeds, they may last 3-5 years, however, some seeds are short lived and should be used the first year (i.e., parsley). The ideal conditions for storing seeds are cold (but not freezing), dark, dry places. Be aware of storing them in basements (humidity), garage (too cold or hot), greenhouse (can get too hot), and anywhere where moisture could be an issue. I have read you may store seeds in refrigerators but I have not tried that out yet.
Okay, so I don’t have much time this morning to focus on writing a post so I apologize if a bit sloppy writing and any typo’s I’ve missed! I want to get to my seeds and this is also a time where I start preparing my tax paperwork (yes, in January) so that I don’t have to focus on taxes when I want to be playing in my greenhouse in a month or so.
I will be posting things like this for those interested in my seed sowing steps. Perhaps if you are new to seed sowing indoors before the planting season, you find some of my experience here useful.
If you search the web, you will find a plethora of sites offering many articles, step by step instructions, growing charts, and tips, but will any one link or article give you all the simple answers you need to start seeds indoors? Probably not.
Think about this – there are millions of vegetable plants you may grow from seed in our world. How could anyone sum it all up in one fell swoop?
When I started growing vegetable plants from seeds, the desire to do so was sparked by the love of art packs from a particular seed company. The art sparked my interest and then I started to buy seed packets. I was interested in unique tomato plants and flashy hot pepper plants, rather than the traditional types I ate growing up on a farm. Maybe I got overloaded with the same types of tomatoes from when I was a kid, I don’t know, or maybe it is my love of art and creativity that got me into the different, unique, interesting varieties because they are like a work of art to me. A colorful purple tomato to me is cool. Or a pepper shaped like a UFO – that rocks! Plus you get to eat them and they taste delicious.
However, I have spent countless hours reading seed sowing books, reviewing growing charts, looking up frost dates from different sites and all of which seem to give a slightly different answer, and determining what supplies and seeds are best for my area of Connecticut, and then I spent hours putting my own guides together. I guess, in some ways, it is good that I am an organized person and an over-thinker! Maybe I looked at too much, because my head would spin. After all, you could just buy a pack of seeds and plop them into soil, and it would sprout – but would it be successful?
Today, I want to try to share some of my seed sowing considerations in a random casual fashion:
#1) Start small and pick easy to grow plants. So, what veggie plants are easy, what grows like weeds? Hmmm, well, that is a tricky question. One may say, well a pumpkin seed is sure to pop up from the soil or a cucumber seed, but do you like pumpkins, do you have space to grow pumpkins in containers or a garden? They sprawl out for miles (well, for many many feet) and so that may not be the best choice for you. And cucumbers, well, they vine up and down and all around, but they don’t like their roots disturbed, so even though they are easy to grow, they have considerations if you start seeds indoors and then transplant. In my opinion, some herbs are easy to grow, like parsley, or mixed lettuces seem easy, or some basils, but even if they are easy, they all have unique personalities to consider. For example, basils like warmth. If you put them out too early when cool in the early spring, they don’t like that and won’t flourish. Cherry tomatoes are easier than regular tomatoes in my experience. No matter what – you will get tons of cherry tomatoes from one plant – it is amazing! Parsley is easily and it likes a bit of the cooler weather, unlike the basils.
#2) Get the tools ready. Do you need a grow light? Many people will argue you do. And it does increase your success at sowing vegetable seeds indoors. But what is success? A perfectly straight upright seedling? Maybe. Maybe not. After all, I know many people who grow seedlings in seed trays set on their old fashioned heat radiators in their home, and the seedlings leaned towards the window for more sunlight, but they made it – and make it into their gardens. However, as you learn more, you start to consider the options of getting a lighting system so it increases your success and makes for healthier seedlings. As for myself, I have a greenhouse which provides sufficient lighting when the sun is out. In early spring, on many days, there are cloudy days. So far, I’ve gotten by just fine without grow lights. As I learn more, maybe I will get grow lights to add to my set up, but it is not going to be this season. Anyhow, what I’m getting at, is at a minimum, think about the tools you will need to sow seeds and start to pick up your supplies based on what you think you want to grow. BTW, I do use heat seedling mats to encourage germination of the seeds and to increase the start of healthy roots. This I have found helpful to invest in. That is a tool you may want to consider ordering now.
#3) Soil mix – This IS critical. First, for the ultra beginners, you should know that you can not sow your seeds in dirt from the ground for vegetable plants you need to start indoors in seedling trays ahead of the growing season. Believe it or not, when I offered seed kits last spring, one person thought you could put dirt from the ground into your seedling trays. They said my instruction sheet enlightened them and they had no idea dirt was a no-no. So, when you go out to get your soil for sowing seeds indoors, get bagged seedling mix or sterilized potting mix for patio pots. Either will be fine. The seedling mixes are finer than potting mixes, usually fresher since it is going to be seed sowing time soon, and perfect for tiny seeds to make contact with the seeds, etc. If you don’t want to deal with that, and want to sow seeds in the dirt, pick vegetable plants that you may directly sow into the ground after all chances of our spring frost and when the garden soil is workable. But you need to determine which plants you can sow directly into the ground, things like beets, for example. Some plants prefer to be directly sown into the ground. If you pick this option – remember, you have to prepare your garden area ahead as well.
#4) Timing. This is another critical factor. All plants grow at different rates. Some take longer and some are faster. They need a certain number of days or weeks before they produce fruit. If you start your seeds too soon, they will be outgrowing your starter pots, getting root bound, start to struggle for the moisture it needs, and even start flowering, which leads to fruit (and for ultra beginners, flowers are where the fruits are produced. I don’t mean to sound rude or condescending, but if you are new to the world of gardening and plants, and didn’t know this – don’t feel embarrassed. I didn’t either when I was a kid and I grew up on a farm!). So, say you sow your tomato seeds too soon, then they grow larger and larger indoors, and then you need to put them in a bigger pot, and then they get flowers and then, you want to put the plant outside but it is still too cold out – it may even freeze one night if the temperatures drop down. You could loose the flowers from the cold temps, now you will have no fruit. Potentially, all your seedling work is lost. The same goes for starting seeds too late. If you start too late, your plant will sprout, it will grow, and you will think, awesome, and, now I can put it into my gardens or containers in spring outdoors, fine, but then you wait and wait and wait after its been growing in the garden, and it is almost early fall and you still don’t have any peppers. You started the seeds too late indoors. Peppers take more weeks to produce their peppers for some varieties (as an example), they have a required longer growing season. Timing is a critical thing. Get yourself a seed sowing calendar, look it over, and count back the number of weeks it indicates on the seed packet (or inside the packet) as to when to sow your seeds indoors. You count back from your last frost date in spring which in Connecticut usually falls around mid-May. If you end up buying seeds from me or a seed kit, I already did all this timing homework for you in my charts and calendars based on the seeds I will have available for sale.
#5) Okay, what else is needed? I guess it is Determination + Enthusiasm. Last year, we had the start of the pandemic and lots of things were short in supply (including some foods), AND as we all know, people were home so they had time to start their own gardens. The enthusiasm to start sowing your own seeds for your own amazing vegetable gardens was very high, and many people came to me for advice and for seeds or seed kits. Everyone was so enthusiastic, I just loved it. The pandemic even created a seed shortage by seed companies because so many people were trying to grow their own for the very first time! But, growing plants from seeds is not like making brownies for the first time. You read the directions on the box, set it in the oven after mixing all as directed, and you are successful, and you eat the brownies. Sometimes in the plant world, there are factors out of our control. So, you read the directions, you sow the seeds, but then all of a sudden there is an issue after planting them outdoors and they’ve been growing for a while. Say it is blossom end rot or a tomato horn worm, and ack! You are bummed!! But if you are still determined, you will succeed. So you take on the challenge, fix it if possible, and then you reap the rewards of an amazing tomato harvest or pepper harvest. And it feels good, it tastes good, and it is right there at your finger tips. Oh, again, that makes me remember something, I think cherry tomatoes are easier to grow from seed than regular tomatoes, so that is another tip for beginners. Usually you get lots of cherry tomatoes! Like tons of them! Did I say that already?
Will those of you who gave tomato and pepper growing from seed last season give it a go again this season? Yes! I know you will. I know there are some of you that so enjoyed it, you are on board. But maybe not, maybe you thought all these considerations were too much, too many things to think about, and if you don’t like to water plants, talk to them, and treat them like a cherished pet dog that needs care, well, then maybe you won’t. That’s okay too. The choice is yours and if you decide to make that choice again this season, and get seeds and/or seed starting kits from me, I promise to be your cheerleader and encourage you as well as give you as much information as I can about how to start sowing seeds indoors based on my experience.
I shared this photo yesterday, on a whim, on my personal Facebook page and received lots of comments. Most people wrote things like, “You look so happy!” or “This is a great photo.”
I have to say, I am THE most happy at the moment right then, right before I would be completely ready for my holiday workshops to begin for my annual wreaths and kissing balls attendees.
This photo, taken two years ago, was on a sparkling, yet brisk cold, December morning. I got up early before all the wonderful attendees arrive, working diligently with my helpful and happy husband to get all the beautiful fresh mixed greens on tables. All this work always took place right before the workshop was to start on the day off.
From fresh Balsam Firs, so traditional for the Christmas scents we are familiar with, to elegant florals such as Berried Eucalyptus. All would be carefully placed on rustic tables and shelves. Some bundles were placed in red plastic bins or galvanized rustic buckets in wheel barrels. Whatever we had on hand to make all the taking easy for everyone.
It would be so pretty when we were done setting all the greens up. I would be freezing cold at times with the tips of my fingers being numb even while wearing gloves, and feel like my eyes were tired (why the big sunglasses over my eye glasses in that photo), yet, I always took the time for photos to capture these moments just before guests would begin to arrive. Every minute, from our first sip of coffee that day till the start time of my holiday workshop was consumed with work for both me and my husband.
There have been many years where I was completely exhausted from all the organizing type stresses. Will my greens by okay? Will there be enough greens? Will I be able to handle a group of 35-40 very excited women ready to make wreaths?! Will the weather cooperate? Will it be windy? Usually all my anticipation would start to fill my mind, of course, as I laid my head on the pillow the evenings before the big workshop days.
The days or even weeks before the event, I would start to decorate here and there, adding holiday touches in my home, on my property, and in the staging area for the greens. I always wanted to make everything perfect, or as best as possible. It needed to be a cozy, organized, and a welcoming event.
We would stage all the fresh holiday greens, many varieties, in a beautiful wood shed, which my husband built for his wood. For many years, he sacrificed the space on one side for us, for this workshop event, for the ladies. What a man, Mr. KB Claus. He never once complained about that. This year, of course, it is all filled with his stacked wood. And he just happily stacked his wood this year without ever a mention of how he gave up the space all those years prior for my workshops.
It almost looked like a manger on my holiday workshop days, as one attendee stated one year. It wouldn’t be long before I learned, I need elf helpers because the large group took a lot of coordinated effort, and fortunately for me, I am blessed with three close friends who offered to help me and my hubby.
But this year is different, very different. My holiday offerings are different, our upcoming family and friend gatherings are different, and our holiday anticipation, in many ways, will be different. All due to COVID entering our worlds. Who would EVER imagine COVID would be here still in the month of November. Into, what eight months, since this all started in March? My goodness!
So this year, as I’ve noted, I am taking custom orders for wreaths and kissing balls, as well as offering fresh greens by the box. All the details are outlined on my site, http://www.WorkshopsCT.com. I have my holiday face mask ready to greet anyone coming by for orders, and my helpful and festive hubby already built a stand for safe zero contact porch-pick-ups. Well, it will be driveway pick-ups this year. The stand he built is from wood limbs of trees around our property, which make it rustic looking. I can’t wait to hang my custom wreaths and kissing balls on it for orders. I think it will look pretty. And this starts next week, immediately after Thanksgiving Day.
So who am I? Well, I guess this holiday season, I am still Mrs. KB Claus but in a different format. Not sure what my title will be but I do know, I thoroughly enjoy working with the beautiful fresh holiday greens creating and it will certainly help ease our COVID situations. Creating with greens is an amazing escape from any concerns we may have as we stay safe at home. And I’m sure my husband will tolerate all my antics along the way!
This photo caught people’s attention yesterday when I posted it on Instagram and on my business Facebook page.
One commented (a friend and attendee of my workshops) with, and I quote, “That would be dried up, shriveled and dead at my house!” Another comment, on the Instagram feed, was, “Love the color!” And the photo post was doing better than 95% of my recent posts per Instagram’s notices on my feed.
Well, the darker color was the reason I brought a full tray of them to my greenhouse last spring to offer in my workshops, specifically the hanging baskets workshop with succulents. I wanted to make sure we had some to offer contrast in color.
I had asked my grower prior, can you make sure to include some Echeverias with darker tones if possible? When I saw the tray of them at the grower’s later as I arrived, my eye’s did that heart pounding thing which you see on emoji faces grinning with two hearts for eyes. Wow, those are beautiful and I knew I had to have them, and they made me very happy indeed then and since.
The full tray of consisted of 40 perfect darker toned Echeverias, and they all were sold except for 12 last season, which here they are in the orange trays, showcasing their dark tones in my greenhouse in the beginning of winter. Aren’t they amazing? Really!
These Echeverias have kept their form, have not shriveled up, and liked being rather neglected in regards to no water for a long time, which is fine for many succulents in the winter. However, if you don’t water some succulents, they will start to show signs of neglect by shriveling up, but these did not do this and seem a bit more resilient.
Inspecting your succulents during the winter months is important. I don’t have to visit my greenhouse ‘every day’ right now but I do have to go there to look around within a few weeks cause if you see a critter, you want to act on it right away.
As I poked around and sighed at the messy parts of the greenhouse yesterday, I did a quick inspection of everything as best as I could. Picking up trays and looking closely. I decided to move these plants into orange trays, and that is when I grabbed my iPhone to take a photo. The orange with the dark colored succulents was striking.
Watering and Inspecting
First, I looked to see if anything needed a drink, then I looked closely to make sure no aphids were present on any of my plants or cuttings, and then I tossed some things. Yup, that is the MOST difficult thing to do but sometimes you know there won’t be a use, as least right now, of some of the cuttings I have waiting to be taken care of and I decided to toss some. Ack! I hate doing that but I did.
But when I laid my eyes upon those darker toned Echeverias, still in stock – a nice grouping of 12, I thought to myself, wow, am I glad I got those. And look at them now. Plump, full, and a nice color in the middle of winter. I wish all succulents would stay this beautiful for this long. Look Ma, No Stretching!
When I asked the name last spring of this succulent, my grower said, they are Echeveriapurpusorum Berger. If you Google it, you may find this description by one site. It was the first to appear on the top of my Google page:
Echeveria Purpusorum Rose A. Berger is a striking echeveria with deep olive green leaves embellished by small brownish red spots. The leaves are pointy and don’t have the white powdery coat like other Echeverias, making this species have a firmer and less fragile look.
I wholeheartedly agree – these are “firmer” and not fragile. The main reason I wanted them though, last year was because I enjoy adding the contrast in color with a darker toned succulent in arrangements and the hanging baskets, etc. It has a kind of plum-purple color, brown color, or even an olive green color in the right light. It is a darker tone which makes the other succulents stand out in the design or arrangement.
Speaking of light, it gets plenty of sunlight in my greenhouse on days like today when the sun is shining. They are sitting on a shelf facing the south side and it gets very warm on sunny days in the greenhouse, it can reach to 90 degrees F sometimes, but most days are cloudy and it stays more on the cooler side, about 55 to 60 degrees F in winter. On sunny days, I try to take a break from my office work to visit, water, inspect and get some Vitamin D.
If you google this Echeveria, I’m amazed at the range of prices it goes for from various sites from Etsy to whatever’s. In fact, someone was trying to sell a damaged one for a lot! I think that is funny. But heck, if they are able to make a business that way, what am I missing?
I tend to keep a good eye on my plants and I want them to be perfect but that is not always easy. Yes, succulents may be neglected for a long time, but they will look like total crap if you neglect them too long. Believe me, I’ve seen succulents at places (won’t say where) and think, OMG, they haven’t watered in forever. They are low water plants but not no water. Even in the winter, a little bit is good for them from time to time. But for the most part, they are drought tolerant and need lots less water this time of year. I won’t go into how to water them here right now but there are good methods to keep them happy. That is for another blog post or for a future workshop.
If you do a bit of research on Echeverias, you will learn they are native to Texas, Mexico, and Central and South America. There are so many colors and many are on the softer side of coloring from soft blues to light pinks. Some are green and others are trimmed in red edges. Finding a nice dark rich color is not always easy, but I did last season, thanks to a wonderful grower. They know who they are (Thank you).
One seller’s site online listed them as a “collector’s” succulent. Hmm, was I giving them away last summer? LOL! Anyhow, regardless of the prices, descriptions, and if they are in vogue or not, I do find this variety to be a keeper, and if you are interested in one of the healthy 12 I have in my greenhouse right now, just shoot me a text. You know where to find me.
When watching talk shows the other day, I realized so much was being shown regarding the “Top Nine” app used to generate the top nine photos in a grid format from Instagram feeds and it perked my curiosity.
I caved and did it – and here it is:
Apparently, this is not an “Instagram” thing but a separate app but using Instagram – and it became popular and a bit of a trend. We may all assume the reason why? Because your curiosity kills the cat – you have to know – Gee, what is my top nine (most liked or most engaged photos of the year) per some app? Well, mine are above.
To be honest, it surprised me which were selected. How do they determine which photos are selected? I guess it is based on likes, shares, and engagement? Not sure, and I don’t have the right mind after the holiday hoop-la to research that aspect right now, but I did find it interesting and a bit of fun to use the app to find out.
My Photo Grid Explanation:
From left to right (starting from the top row), I thought it would be entertaining to say what I think of each of these photos which were generated by the Top Nine app.
The Jade Plant (Crassulas) – Ah, this is one plant I became involved with in 2019. Meaning, I propagated it (made cuttings and grew new plants) from it quite a bit. It is rather easy actually. I also used this plant in some of my install jobs in various containers. And offered them in my succulents workshops. But what would make it a top photo is the fact that I feel I can grow them myself and they are healthy and happy! Maybe people enjoyed the photo due to the Indigo Blue Background which is a popular color right now I heard.
The Beach Shot – That was a vacation my husband and I took last year in Naples, Florida. I wanted to make sure we’d go see the sunset which I had read about being wonderful on this beach, and we joined many other people that day doing the same. I guess that is a good photo, right? And it WAS a great afternoon waiting for the sun to set.
The Yellow Peppers – Grown from seed, hot and tasty. I love these yellow long banana shaped peppers, which I wrote about in my seedlings topics on this blog and for the workshop which I offered on seed starting last year too. So, yes, I agree on this photo. The peppers were easy to grow, abundant, and we ground them up after drying them in the oven to make hot pepper flakes of the yellow variety. They did not go wasted. My husband loves hot peppers and he shook those flakes on his various meals many times. We went thru two jars of the hot pepper flakes. Great for chili recipes too.
The Blue Pots – Ah, yes. I was on the hunt for a client, trying to find pots. I kind of knew these weren’t the right ones. I had put them on the floor and took a photo. You will see my hiking boots there as I looked down in the photo. But for some reason, this photo was popular with people on Instagram. However, it was not quite the right fit and I later found a better style and color for my clients’ needs. But that was a journey on a day of hunting for just the right patio pots. Pinch me – I love that type of work.
The Flyer in the Window – My workshop flyer was posted in a local package store’s window. I always appreciate when they share my flyers about my workshops. I guess that day, it was noticed quite a bit and thus, another top nine. I would say these clients are tops too. They have hired me for years to install their store-front pots. I do think the flyers look great in their store’s windows. Thank you!
The Cacti Cans – I pounded small drain holes in the bottom of soup cans with a hammer and nail last year and inserted a cactus in each. No drill required which I loved. And I even hand-stamped the sides of some of the cans with words and added chains to some to hang the cans. They are adorable. However, in the rain, one thing I forgot about is the cans start to rust. I did’t like the rusty look. That day a flower was blooming on one, as you can see, and it was adorable, so I snapped a photo.
The Burro Tail Sedum – I obtained a stock of these from a grower to provide in my succulent related workshops last year. Everyone loves these plants, which drip down into long tails as they grow over time. They work well in hanging baskets – which was a topic I offered last year too. These plants are great fillers in arrangements and easy to grow, drought tolerant and long living. I still have some growing in my hanging baskets in the greenhouse now. I can see why a popular photo – and those who got them in my workshops surely loved them. Thanks to my amazing grower, I obtained a nice stock of them last year.
A Photo of Me – From many years ago. What I like about this photo is that my red head planter, the little red table with red chairs, and the red blooms of the Canna Lily plants in the background were all happening. I spray painted that little round table and the chairs red. It was a freebie find on the side of the road one day. My sister was annoyed cause it was on her street when I found it as I was leaving her house. She joked that was supposed to be her free find.
The Cherry Tomato Leaf – This is all about my obsession with plants. I love taking close up shots of plants and their structures. It was also probably popular cause we all dream of eating fresh tomatoes. The photo was taken in March or early April, and the handwriting on the label is not mine – it is of an attendee’s who came to my workshop on seed starting last year. That will be my first project, setting up the Seed Starting Workshop for 2020. I can’t resist doing it – it was very rewarding. Seats will be limited because the plants are kept in my greenhouse until they are ready to be planted outdoors. Unless, of course, I got a bigger greenhouse.
By the way, this is what CNN has to say about the Top Nine app and trend. You may want to read their article before you try it!
The recent fall weather changes of cool evenings signals Succulent Pumpkin time which is a favorite of mine for autumn decorating. They have been all the rage for a few years now and I very much enjoy creating these and offering workshops and demo’s on them this time of year. Here’s what’s coming up!
EVENTS AND WORKSHOPS
You have several choices to learn the how-to’s or to participate hands-on with Container Crazy CT:
September 28, 2019 – Saturday
Ellington Farmers Market
Mini Succulent Pumpkins
9 am to 12 pm
Look for me in the big white gazebo where I will be providing tips on how to create gorgeous succulent topped pumpkins. Bring your own mini pumpkin and we will help you get started! Various types of succulents will be available for purchase from me to finish your design at home. (Note: This is not a full “hands-on event.” It is set up to show you each step and help get you started to finish DIY style at home.)
Bring a Mini Pumpkin like this one!
October 5, 2019 – Saturday (10 am to 12 pm) October 12, 2019 – Saturday (1 pm to 3 pm)
Container Crazy CT’s
Workshops in Broad Brook, CT
These are two full hands-on workshop where you make your own succulent topped pumpkin centerpieces. All the details are outlined on our site: www.WORKSHOPSCT.com. Bring your own pumpkin(s) – real or faux. We supply the class, tools, moss, propagation info, autumn snacks, and more. You purchase the succulents you wish to use at the workshop – and we have varied styles and especially prepared succulent for you. What does this mean? There are advanced steps required for success with preparing succulents which Cathy T does for you before the workshop. This is part of the reason why we offer choices and we also tell you the secrets on the how to’s. An additional bonus is attendees are invited to free Facebook Live sessions after to keep learning about succulents, how to deal with them later in the season, and offer over-wintering care details. These two workshops have registration fees and pre-registration is required. One workshop is offered during the morning hours, and the other is held in the early afternoon. It is a fun day with a friend, mom/daughter, or solo – Come join our autumn fun.
Large Succulent Pumpkin
October 10th, 2019 – Thursday (1 pm – 2 pm)
West Hartford Garden Club
Succulent Topped Pumpkin Demonstration
I will be speaking at the wonderful West Hartford Garden Club on a Thursday – during the day hours. If you are free during the day and wish to learn how to make a Succulent Topped Pumpkin, come on by. The club starts their day with a lunch at 12:00 noon followed by their business meeting, and then my presentation at 1 pm. Take note their location recently moved to St. John’s Episcopal Church at 679 Farmington Avenue in West Hartford, CT. (Note: This is not a hands-on session, but a demonstration. Contact the club for details about attendance.)
A Wooden Faux Pumpkin – The Creations from Mini, Medium, to Large are endless!
OTHER HOLIDAY HAPPENINGS
Stay tuned for the annual Holiday workshops. The registrations will be opening very soon. Visit www.WORKSHOPSCT.com and note the dates: November 30th for the Invite Only KB 10th year Celebration and Workshop and the December 7th Open Workshop for the Beginner and Advanced attendees. We make kissing balls, wreaths, and candle table centerpieces with fresh holiday greens at these workshops – an annual event not to be missed.
HAPPENING NOW – Autumn Cleanup of Containers
As noted above, I am already starting to disassemble some of my own plants to get a head-start. However, many of my container gardens may stay out till the first frost of October (such as the Canna, Elephant Ears, and Banana Plants) and then I store the tubers, corms, rhizomes, etc. Most of this has been previously documented on this blog. Just search by plant name and you should be able to find my overwintering posts.
I also started taking down my Morning Glory vines – they became quite messy – and grew into my garage light fixtures – the leaves were tattered and worn so out they went yesterday. I also took apart most of my tomato plants in containers, which by now, still had some fruit but most of the plants were exhausted. The soil will be tossed for these as some had plant disease issues and thus the soil is not reusable, and the pots will be thoroughly washed in soapy water with a bit of bleach before storing away the pots.
Today, I will tackle more of the tomato pots and some of my deck plants. I already moved in some houseplants to the house – and showed some tips recently on this. It is important to inspect all plants for any insects, removed any damaged leaves, wash the outside of pots if moving in with same pots, and avoid the cold chills of the evenings now for “some” houseplants. And I find it is best to move them in when the soil is dry. Some of my plants were under patio umbrellas so they were not soaked from recent rainfalls.
I always like to move in my succulents before cold wet rains which soak the soil and the soil tends to not dry out much this time of year, so I have been moving my succulent dish gardens into sun on my driveway to dry out any overly wet soil. This week is a good week to do this – we are having some great weather this week. However, I usually do this before we get chilly evenings but fell behind due to a vacation. My biggest tip is move those dish gardens with succulents in before the soaking wet soil happens and it stays cool out in the evening – because this invites insects when you move them in. Cold wet soils are not the best situation for succulents. If possible, move those succulent dish gardens in while the soil is dry. Succulent tend to rot if the soil stays really wet at the base of the plants too. There are other ways and methods to deal with extending your succulents from containers and dish gardens, and part of this is propagation steps which I go over in my October workshops.
As for the hanging basket attendees from this past spring, I showed some steps recently of propagating the succs and you may refer to your handouts too – which is one way to keep the succulent hanging baskets going. You may also just remove them individually from the hanging basket arrangement and pot them into new individual pots with fresh potting mix. Put them by a sunny window in your home.
We offer plant related workshops, container gardening and balcony garden installs, garden club talks, and occasionally sell plants and offer demo’s at markets. It is fall and winter time – and new workshops are coming up – hope you will join us.
To learn about the latest Container Crazy CT’s upcoming workshops, please visit www.WORKSHOPSCT.com.
We have posted our annual “Succulent Topped Pumpkin Workshops” dates in October and also noted the dates of the 10th annual Kissing Ball and Wreath Making Workshops.
Pre-registrations for the Succulent Topped Pumpkin Workshops are open as of today. Visit the page above to find all details, register and join us! We are offering two Saturday dates in early October.
Dish Garden for the Raffle next Wed, 8/21, 4-6 pm @ Joe’s!
I also have a few other events coming up, one of which is NEXT week, on August 21st, 2019 at Joe’s Fine Wine and Spirits in East Windsor, CT. Come try some wine at their Wine Tasting and Sip while learning about my succulents from 4-6 pm! A succulent dish garden (above photo) AND bottle of wine will be raffled off that evening – free to attend all. Would love to see you all there – even if you have only a bit of time to swing in.
The KB & Wreath Making Workshops for 2019 are a special celebration year – it is my 10th year offering this annual workshop. The Celebration Date, which will be by invite only, is scheduled on November 30, 2019. This will be for the regulars who’ve been here every year! The 2nd workshop date is December 7, 2019 for the Advance and Beginner Workshop. Take your pen and calendars out (or your iPhones) and note the dates now. More details will be provided in early September on the KB events – stay tuned. It will be a fun and busy holiday season and it is just a tad bit early to think about winter, but now is the time to note the dates if you are interested.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We had a great time at my workshop last Saturday – and we didn’t get rained on, thankfully! But, if you missed our session, there is another opportunity to join us on Saturday, May 20th, 10 am at Strong Family Farm in Vernon, CT on West Street.
As noted on www.WORKSHOPSCT.com, where you may read all the details, our plant theme this year is indoor air purifiers and flashy fancy foliage houseplant style! Don’t let that word “houseplant” fool you – the design arrangements you may create at this workshop are GORGEOUS and at a great value. Get them while they are hot!
My workshops are set-up so you have everything needed at your finger tips – you show up and have all the fun. You only need to bring your pots – and, this year’s pots are smaller to medium sizes because of the type of plants which we are using in this year’s theme (10″-12″-15″ in diameter and depth not deeper than width). Get creative – someone brought a soup tureen last weekend, which made a wonderful centerpiece with these plants. The pots should have drain holes or we will drill them for you.
There are many types of pots you may use. Just take a look at my Instagram feed or Container Crazy CT page for inspiration.
Saturday – May 20th – Strong Family Farm – 10:00 am
And, the weather is predicted to be gorgeous on Saturday. We most likely will be holding this session outdoors by the farm’s big historic barns on Strong Family Farm’s property (BTW, they have chickens to see, and also a nice farm stand which opens in the summer.)
This is one of the few historic farms standing in the Vernon area. You can feel the history’s energy when there. A portion of your registration fee ($20) is donated to the farm to help support their renovations and events.
The morning will be a great creative day where you learn a lot about soil types on the market (I know they can be confusing!), various fertilizers, tips for success at growing and maintaining plants in your patio pots and container gardens, and more. I hope you will join us. Handouts for reference are provided for all attendees.
Again, these are low-light, bright-light, (shade or dappled sun outdoors) type of plants, and we have some flowering candidates too, along with started elephant ears – and all are foliage fantastical in my book. Lots of texture in these designs. Plus many of these tropical style houseplants do wonderfully in our summers outdoor here.
We also have a stock of mixed succulents if you prefer to create a sun loving design with these perfect drought tolerant candidates.
$20 to register plus cost of plants you select at the workshop. You may purchase professional soil mix at the workshop or bring your own bag. We will have other amendments available for purchase as well. CT Sales Tax applicable.
You may text me at 860-977-9473 if you want in. If you prefer to prepay by credit card, please visit www.WORKSHOPSCT.com site to pay online via EventBrite. Or email me if preferred to indicate your interest in joining us. We’d love to have you do so.
Thank you – Cathy Testa