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

There’s some cool historic stuff at the Farmers Market in East Windsor, CT

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The East Windsor Farmers’ Market is fairly new but its being held in a place which is not. Located at the Connecticut Trolley Museum, the market tents circle around the front lawn area of the museum grounds. The CT Trolley Museum is a showcase of historical exhibits showing how electric trolleys evolved and visitors enjoy a display of various trolleys in their main building.

Father’s Day is Opening Day

This weekend, Fathers get a free ride on the trolleys in honor of Father’s Day on June 21st. The old trolleys travel down a wooded street starting from the main parking lot area of the grounds for a few miles distance, and many of the trolleys are open-aired which makes for a fun breezy ride while you hear about the trolley museum’s history.

BackTrax Band at the Market

BackTrax Band at the Market

Opening Day Features BackTrax Band

On the opening market day which is this Sunday, June 21st, the BackTrax Band will be playing. Most of the band members are from the East Windsor area and they started playing together in late 1990’s.  They practice in a local family owned barn on a farm in town and move into the bars or venues like the markets to play for anyone interested in enjoying classic rock, country, and oldies.  So while you shop the market and browse the trolley museums features, you will hear some great music.

Great Seats to Eat, Listen, Relax

Great Seats to Eat, Listen, Relax

There are plenty of picnic tables at the market as well, so why not pack a lunch – or better yet – get lunch right there. This year’s market will feature many new foods – homemade pies, veggie samplings, and even some great hot dogs or Thai food. It is a nice place to enjoy some quality time with family and support your local enthusiasts.

Cathy T last year at the market featured succulent plants

Cathy T last year at the market featured succulent plants

Free Container Gardening Talk on June 28th

Another bonus, on the second weekend of the market, which is June 28th, I will be offering a free container gardening talk at noon. Look for me near the picnic tables.

My talk will cover a quick explanation of perennials and tropical plants, along with edibles, which all work in container gardens and why you should use them – These plants offer many benefits. Plus, we will go over the steps for success with container gardening and other tidbits you may not realize which will help or harm your patio pot and container gardens’ overall appearance and health, along with some design techniques and the right soil mix to use to control the growth of your creations.

A great place to walk your dog is at the market!

A great place to walk your dog is at the market!

Lately, I’ve been getting various bug questions about container gardens – there are reasons why some insects maybe showing up in your patio pots from time to time – and ways you can manage them or prevent them from happening again. I will share insight on this as well.

Usually by this time of year, many people have finished potting up their deck pots but this season’s weather has resulted in a somewhat slow start up – Our nights have been cooler and days not as hot for the start of summer – some container plants are slow to get going, thus, this visit is a great chance to get any last minute plants you may want to assemble in time for the July 4th celebrations. I will have various plants available or you may attend just to hear my talk, which I hope you do.

Address of the Trolley Museum is 58 North Road (Rt. 140).

Address of the Trolley Museum is 58 North Road (Rt. 140).

Whatever the reason for your visit to the market – to hear music, gets some fresh locally grown food, take a trolley ride, or hear some tips on container gardening – we hope you, especially those of you local to our town, will come support the market by attending and purchasing locally grown produce from the East Windsor market vendors.

Note: The market hours are 11 am to 2 pm.

Looking forward to see you there.

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

 

We Put Lights in Our Holiday Kissing Balls and Wreaths

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The lovely lady in the below photo, attending Container Crazy CT’s annual Kissing Ball & Holiday Creations Class, brought a string of holiday lights to put in her kissing ball one year – and that was the moment a trend began at this annual class!

The Official Light Queen at Cathy T's Annual Class

The Official Light Queen at Cathy T’s Annual Class – Photo by HomePlaceBlogger

Magic like this sometimes happens in class – and is one of the best part of holding a session where creativity kicks in by all the attendees. Thus, this light originator has been crowned our “Official Light Queen” at our class.  Love it Eilene!  Thank you for inspiring us.

Lights in our Holiday Kissing Balls

Lights in our Holiday Kissing Balls

In fact, this season, so many of the repeat attendees, which I refer to as the “Advanced Kissing Ball Makers,” are perfecting their techniques as they create their kissing balls, wreaths, and candle centerpieces with fresh evergreens.

Square Wreath with Lights - New This Season in Cathy T's Class!

Square Wreath with Lights – New This Season in Cathy T’s Class!

Here is an attendee also bringing lights, inspired by our “Official Light Queen” above, which she added to the square wreath she made with a mix of beautiful fresh evergreens.

Cathy T shows the class the new square wreath frame (Funny Expressions! LOL.)

Cathy T shows the class the new square wreath frame (Funny Expressions! LOL.)  Photos by HomePlaceBlogger

The square wreath is a new option available at Cathy T’s class this year.  It is created using a 14″ double-heavy duty metal frame – the frame is so strong, it will not bend and lasts for years to be reused. And the lights, which this attendee attached to her square wreath shown above, are battery operated – Great Job Dianne!

Light Queen Demonstrating

Light Queen Demonstrating – Photo by HomePlaceBlogger

I asked our Light Queen, Eileen, to demonstrate her technique for adding the holiday string of lights to the kissing balls, and you can see Renee is watching carefully – as she had plans to do the same in her two kissing balls.

Renee works the blues - adding blue ribbons and blue lights

Renee works the blues – adding blue ribbons and blue lights to her kissing balls

Renee and I attended the same high school (many moons ago). In fact, we sat next to each other in art class back in those days – and I always loved her drawings and clay art, and later in life – well, she ended up in my life even more – because I married her cousin!  So we are in-laws, and to have her here again this year is a treat.  She did an amazing job with her two kissing balls this season.  Way to go Renee!

Two finished with Blue Ribbon and Blue Lights!

Two finished with Blue Ribbon and Blue Lights!

I just love her bubbly personality which comes through in these photos.  More will be posted soon of our attendees amazing creations, and see below – a mini session is underway this weekend on Saturday.

Finished with Lights; Photo by HomePlaceBlogger

Finished with Lights; Photo by HomePlaceBlogger

Tips for Using Lights in Your Kissing Ball:

Evergreens remain fresher if kept outdoors in the cold where they will also receive some moisture from occassional snowfall or rainy days.  So, I always recommend kissing balls be hung outdoors, this way, they will last a long time – even up to February.

And please note: DRY greens are a huge fire hazard.  Never EVER leave a kissing ball with lights on unattended – and the same goes for any candle centerpieces created – do not leave candles unattended in centerpieces with greens if you decide to light the candle – even if it is a non-drip type as provided in class.

In fact, my recommendation is to not light the candle at all – or to use the non-drip type with a catch tray inserted for any potential drippings and if you light the candle, ONLY when you are sitting right in front of it.

Why so cautious?

Ever see a dry Christmas tree catch on fire?  It can be very dangerous and the flames move quickly.  So while lights are gorgeous in all evergreen creations – and many are available now as battery operated – just remember the safety rules – only when attended and better if the creation is displayed outdoors.

Have a Good Day Everyone,

Cathy Testa

Note:  A mini-class is underway for this Saturday, 12/13/14 at 12:30-3:00 pm.  If interested, contact me soon!

Container Gardens with Evergreens – Spice Up Your Space for the Holidays

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I’ve worked on cold and windy days to install festive holiday container gardens with evergreens and decor this time of the year – but I have to say, yesterday was probably the coldest day ever experienced outdoors while doing so.

Checking the weather beforehand wasn’t on my list – I knew it was going to rain today, so I thought, I need to get this done first thing on Monday.

The truck was loaded up with evergreens and decor supplies by sun up. Sometimes, having an early start is nice because all is quiet before shops open up for the day.

So off I went.  Within the first 45 minutes tho – my hands were frozen.  It was much colder than I expected. It was like 22 degrees out!

But because I enjoy the process of installing container gardens for the holidays, ignoring the tips of my finger tips getting cold in my not-warm-enough gloves was somewhat easy – at first.

As the owner of a business showed up to unlock his store, he said, “You picked a terrible day to do this. It’s freezing out.”

So, I responded with, “It is suppose to rain tomorrow, and it is time for the seasonal change up, so here I am!”

He agreed, indicating this is his favorite container of the seasonal change outs, and how he is looking forward to the holidays.

After completing his two big barrels at his store front, I went for a coffee and returned to the house for warmer socks, gloves, a neck warmer, and warmer ski like hat – it was THAT cold out.

Back out I went and finished two other jobs, taking a lunch break in between to – yes, warm up again.

Luckily – these are local clients – for which I am very thankful for their business.

Check them out – The Sweet Spot Bakery in Broad Brook, CT offers freshly baked cupcakes, cakes, and more – and they are yummy. In fact, I had them make a kissing ball cake for my latest class – it was much fun as everyone didn’t realize it was a cake at first.

KB Cake by The Sweet Spot Baker (Photo by HomePlaceBlogger)

KB Cake by The Sweet Spot Bakery of Broad Brook, CT (Photo by HomePlaceBlogger)

Then there’s the huge and popular package store, Joe’s Fine Wine & Spirits, on Rt 140 in East Windsor, CT.  When I looked around at the supply of wine and beer, during my warm up breaks in the store yesterday, I thought – “Gosh, what Leslie and his staff has done for this place is amazing.”  They offer a huge selection of wine and beer — and they hold holiday festivities during the year, like wine tastings, and several important fundraising benefits to help raise funds for community efforts.

Barrels in-front of Joe's Fine Wine & Spirits by Cathy T

Barrels in-front of Joe’s Fine Wine & Spirits by Cathy T

After finishing the decor at Joe’s Fine Wine & Spirits, it was off to a local hairdresser’s shop, next to the new TRX exercise studio, which is another small local business to support. The salon is called Carol Jean’s Hair Salon at 144 North Road, East Windsor, CT. Michelle is a great person and offers local salon services.

Container Garden Dressed Up by Cathy T at Carol Jean's Hair Salon

Container Garden Dressed Up by Cathy T at Carol Jean’s Hair Salon

All of these business owners tell me the festive container gardens outside their businesses adds a welcoming environment – and their customers really enjoy seeing them each season, and talking about them with the business owners.

Container Gardens outside of storefronts and businesses lets everyone know – customers are important to their small businesses, and they want to share the holiday happiness too!

If you are interested in an install job for container gardens, call me this week while supplies last.  This is the best time of year to dress up your outdoor store front environment, whether it be a container garden stuffed with greens and decor or a holiday kissing ball or wreath hung on your front door. Tis’ the Season!!

His and Her's Elves Grace the Steps of THE SWEET SPOT Bakery in Broad Brook, CT.

His and Her’s Elves Grace the Steps of THE SWEET SPOT Bakery in Broad Brook, CT.

And, by the way, I’m super glad I went out yesterday, despite the freezing cold, instead of today. I hear the ice is slick out there today – black ice, my husband warned. He already e-mailed me from his office to say be careful stepping out on to the driveway today. It is slick.

I think I’ll wait for the sun to come out and warm up everything – this time!

Cathy Testa

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