Sip Wine and Learn About Succulents

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Hello Everyone,

Before I go on and on about how busy I’ve been, I want to let you know to save the date for a Sip and Learn about Succulents evening at a local spirits shops in my hometown called, “Joe’s Fine Wine & Spirits” at 149 North Road in East Windsor, CT. This store has a huge selection and knows their stuff – don’t miss out!

Save the date: August 21st, Wednesday, 4 pm – 6 pm – Free to attend

Joe is not the name of the store’s owner, it is Leslie, and he has supported my container gardening aspirations from day one. I told him one day, while shopping for wine, of course, that I would love to do container gardens outside of his store. Another woman happened to be there, whom I believe was a spirits’ distributor, and she suggested the idea of the using wine barrels. And that was the spark that got us going.

Over the years, I have done all kinds of plant designs in the two barrels out front of Joe’s Fine Wine & Spirits. I remember, on my very first install day, a guy (who was a landscaper) walked by and said, “They will die and never get watered.” I thought to myself, “What a pessimist!” — But, did I speak up? Nope, typical me – maybe I should have.

He was wrong of course. The plants have done very well, in fact, often stunning, all due to the staff’s commitment of their watering routines. Last year, I included some rubber plants (Ficus elastica) in the barrels with other plants. I could not get over how big and lush they grew in one season! I apologize for not showing a photo here of it – it is buried in my laptop files – I will have to locate it, and when I do – update this post.

Of course, during the winter season, I absolutely love installing a mix of winter fresh greens and, from what I’ve heard, everyone loves the change outs each season of the container garden barrels. They enjoy the plants and that makes me happy.

And this year, especially, everyone has commented on the cacti and succulent garden theme I planted in the barrels. I’m so happy everyone is enjoying the various plants in the barrels and I can’t wait to share more about them on August 21st at their Wine Tasting Event.

Leslie and his staff have graciously invited me to talk about gardening, succulents, and cacti at their wine tasting evening – how fun. The wine tasting will begin at 4 pm and I will be there to answer any questions and then start my talk around 5 pm.

Succulent tip sheets and handouts will be provided, a free raffle of a succulent creation will be offered, and my goal is to discuss how to transition succulents before fall and winter, how to propagate succulents, and how to care for succulents – and we will also do a review of the cacti and succulent gardens in the barrels in front of the store. Bring along any type of gardening questions you may have – I will do my best to answer questions.

Joes Fine Wine Flyer

 

Leslie’s store is a true gem in our town. He works diligently to offer an amazing variety of spirits and they really care about our community. Come support a great local small business (although one would argue Joe’s Fine Wine & Spirits is not small anymore, it is a rather large store).

And the timing is great too for succulent care, as end of August will be a time to consider how you will deal with any outdoor succulents you have before fall arrives – which is something we can’t imagine right now with the heat wave coming this week. Speaking of the heat wave – I want to wrap up this post quickly this morning so I can go water before it gets too hot. I have a lot of containers to take care of here at my property.

We hope you will join us on August 21st – please come visit – I’d love to see you. Note the date now so you won’t forget – and remember, I will be offering a free raffle to enter that evening – what will I make – you have to come see!

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
http://www.ContainerGardensCT.com
http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com

Oh, and yes, I have had a very busy year – more on that later. I can’t believe it is mid-July and I’m still running around installing plants and loving every minute of it. Stay tuned for more upcoming events to be posted after the heat wave!! Stay cool, my friends! Cathy T.

Aug 2019 flyer

Next Workshop: Mom and Me Offer!

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Pop on over to WORKSHOPSCT.com to read about this weekend’s Succulent Hanging Basket Workshop on May 11th, Saturday, 1-3 pm, Broad Brook, CT. We are making a special offer in honor of Mother’s Day! Check it out while seats last. Pre-registration is required.

Mom and Me Flyer

And don’t forget – we still have beautiful Mother’s Day cards as GIFT CERTIFICATES. I will be available all week if you decide to pop by to get one and surprise your Mom! They may be redeemed for the dollar value selected for workshops or for plants or plant gift purchases.

Mday front and envelope

Additionally, I will be making special LARGE hanging globes as Mother’s Day gifts all this week and posting them on my Insta feed and Facebook business page. Stay tuned!

Thank you,

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

SUCC HANGERS C Testa Copywrite_0004

Cathy T’s 5 Must Do’s for Successful Container Gardening and Patio Pots

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Several years ago, I came up with what I called, “The 5 Must Do’s for Successful Container Gardening” to help attendees of my workshops succeed with their patio pots and container gardens in the summer. Most of what was written then still holds true today, but some things have changed. I am going to update my “5 Must Do’s” in a series of articles on this blog. To get started, here’s a review with some 2019 updates:

For Successful Container Gardening

  1. Provide additional drainage holes in the base of your pots Still True! And still a number one rule!

  2. Use soilless potting mix specifically formulated for container gardening – Yes, but there are soooo many more choices today – it is sometimes overwhelming to know which bag of mix to select. How do you know which to pick? I will go over this in an upcoming article here on this blog.

  3. Add slow release fertilizer to the soil upon planting – Still a trusted method for me but there are many other choices today of various fertilizers. This is a topic to be updated with more suggestions.

  4. Water your plants on a routine schedule – There is no doubt – this follows rule no. 1 in regards to importance. However, some plants are more drought tolerant than others – so if you are bad about watering, I am going to make suggestions for you on your plant choices. And a ‘routine schedule’ is probably not the best wording – it is really all about how the soil is looking in regards to a balance of moisture and air – we will go into details!

  5. Use big pots to increase your growing power – Guess what? I’ve changed my mind on some of thisI still adore HUGE tropical plants and mixes of annuals or perennials in big pots – but some plants actually prefer smaller pots and I will be offering a blog update on this number 5 rule as to why. Using big pots is not always a rule, and is optional…

Let’s get started:

It may seem straight forward or common sense to do the five items listed above, but many people skip some of these steps when they assemble their container gardens and patio pots because they are either in a hurry, want to avoid spending extra money, or they don’t understand the negative impacts to the plants’ overall health and appearance when they don’t follow The 5 Must Do’s listed above. But, do these 5 important steps and you will achieve successful container gardening status every time.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Simon Howden/Zirconicusso

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Simon Howden/Zirconicusso

DRAINAGE – Must #1

Most pots on the market today have only one small drain hole in the base (or none at all) – and this is not sufficient.  If the soil in the pot remains too wet, the plants’ roots will not get the oxygen it needs. And oxygen is required, along with carbon and hydrogen, for plants to grow. Having constant wet soil in the base of a pot is similar to walking around in wet sneakers. While it may be tolerated for a short period, if air is not provided soon, rot or death may set in. Everything above the pot is depending on what is going below in the soil, so Must #1, providing additional drainage, will allow for the free movement of water throughout the soil profile which is extremely important because as those spaces filled with water are vacated, air can replace them for the plants’ roots to use oxygen.

Without sufficient drainage, your plants will not perform as well which leads to failure.  It is a step you should not forgo or skip, and must do in order to achieve beautiful plants in your container gardens and patio pots.  Once you see the difference in your plants health, you will find adding drain holes so valuable, you will never skip this step again. And, although specific potting mixes have ingredients to help create pore spaces for air, adding more drain holes to the base of your pots only enhances the soil environment for your plants.  It leads to ultimate success because the roots are thriving in a healthy soil environment which is well-drained and balanced.

So get your power drill out and use a drill bit to create holes about the size of a quarter (coin) in the base of the pots. Be sure to drill at least 5 or 6 holes evenly spaced apart (one in the center and a few around the diameter).  If the pot cannot be drilled (e.g., ceramic or clay), make sure it has at least one drain hole already built into the base by the manufacturer, or reserve that pot for plastic plants or water gardening.  Do not use pots with no drainage capability. This always leads to poor results, trust me (except if you are creating a water pot garden).

2019 Update:

One of my biggest frustrations with the market place is they still continue to offer pots with no drain holes. What are they thinking? Plants require drainage! I have posted this comment on Instagram – “Hey, pot makers – Please make pots with sufficient drain holes please!”

If they did this, we would not have to drill them ourselves and it would help sell their pots because the plants would do better in them. It is not to say I haven’t seen some with drain holes in some stores, but it is progressing slowly and not common. I wish they would offer more with them already pre-drilled for us. (Hint to pottery makers, same for those wonderful pots you make – make some with a drain hole please.)

In my container gardening workshops, I have held up grower pots – the ones you buy your plants in – to my audience. I tell everyone, take a look at the bottom – what do you see? SEVERAL, I mean SEVERAL all around drain holes. Growers know what they are doing. It is a good example to show how important drainage holes are in your pots – this holds true for growing seeds in seedling cell trays as well. Or when you put a succulent in a pot – many times, you will see pots for succulents with no drain holes – succulents can be an exception to the drainage rule due to their ability to go without water for weeks at a time, but you have to monitor your watering carefully with succulents in pots with no drain holes. That is a whole other topic to explain, which I hope to do soon, and will in my Succulent Hanging Baskets Workshops in May, where we will be designing them with an amazing array of succulents of all kinds. But that is for a session/class, and for now, we want to focus on the drainage needs of container gardens and patio pots in general.

Over-watering is a leading cause of plant issues for people who are new to container gardening and plants. When you over water and the soil stays too wet in a pot, well, as mentioned above, the roots will rot. But other issues surface when there is too much moisture.

One, for example, is you may get fungus gnats showing up – they need moisture in the soil to thrive. This is especially common in houseplants where people have them in pots inside their home. And sometimes, you may even see mold on your soil when it is too moist. Moisture (with a lack of air circulation) may cause big problems in your soil. Too much moisture in your seedling pots leads to damping off. Water is a requirement for plants to grow but if over done without proper drainage, it leads to issues at times.

Balancing the air and moisture in your container gardens and patio pots or home pots of any size is critical. And soon, I will write a blog post to expand upon the air and moisture of pots as part of the 5 Must Do’s series updates I plan to post here on this blog, Container Crazy CT over the course of the next few months. In the meantime, be sure to add drain holes to plastic pots or buy pots with holes in them already for the best success with your plants.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Zirconicusso/Criminalatt

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Zirconicusso/Criminalatt

SOILLESS POTTING MIX – Must #2

Soil (dirt) from the ground cannot be used as a substitute for potting mix when planting up your patio pots and container gardens.  Must #2 is you must use soilless mix specifically formulated for container gardening. I know what you are thinking, if plants can grow in the ground, why can I just dig up some dirt and use that in my pots?  Well, for starters, soil from the ground becomes very compact in container gardens.  Plus, with container gardening, you have to water more often resulting in the ground soil (dirt) becoming even more compact and dense in the pot as it compresses down in limited space.  Young new roots cannot grow through this and cannot get the oxygen or water they need.

To prove this point, I put ground soil (dirt) into a mason jar and soil from potting mix into another mason jar.  The weight difference between the two jars was substantial.  The dirt jar weighed about two pounds and was very heavy.  The mason jar containing potting mix was light as a feather.  Imagine roots trying to penetrate the heavy compacted poor soil, plus it won’t contain the balanced nutrients or air spaces for the roots to thrive and survive.  Roots are just as important as the top part of the plant – if not more important. Everything below the soil impacts the results above the soil.

Additionally, soil from the ground (dirt) can harbor soil borne pathogens, insects, and weed seeds – and you don’t want those in your container gardens.  The ground soil may be too hard (clay) or too porous (sand). Soil in container gardens must have good pore structure for root growth, water holding for even distribution, and oxygen for the roots, and of course, nutrients for the plants to grow healthy and strong.  Soil from the ground will not give these must needed elements to plants in container gardens. And trying to find the ideal ground soil that has all of these factors is a big chore, if not impossible.

Bottom line:  Do not use Dirt.  Dirt is a four-letter word in the world of container gardening.

Most potting mixes on the market contain a combination of bark, wood fiber, coir (a by-product of coconut husks) or peat, vermiculite, perlite, and maybe some compost.  The little white non-symmetrical round things you see in the soil is called perlite.  These provide pore (air) spaces in the soil required for roots to grow.  Other ingredients mentioned help with water retention (peat moss, coir), drainage (pine bark, perlite, rice hulls), and nutrients (compost). You want a balanced soil that can hold 25% air, 25% water, and the rest, 50%, is organic matter.  Plants must have the appropriate pore space, water holding capacity, and nutrients to grow.  This is especially critical in container gardens because roots are confined, cannot extend out to find its needs elsewhere, and they depend on their current environment and “you” to grow well.

When planting up your container gardens and patio pots, go out there and invest in a couple bags of potting mix specifically formulated for container gardening.  The good news is there are many types available today, and by the way, none of the potting mixes used for container gardening contain any real soil (dirt) at all.  Now you know why, it is should no longer be a surprise to hear this.  Once you start using potting mix, you will be pleased to see how well your plants are growing and thriving.  There are tricks to extend your potting mix life, but that is another topic to be posted later.

2019 Update:

Now that you know you should NOT use “dirt” in your container gardens or patio pots, the big question is which potting mix should I buy? It is OVERWHELMING because today, the market place has many types to choose from – and you stand there looking at all the bags scratching your head thinking, which is the “right” one? I want to succeed, and I read Cathy T’s 5 Must Do’s, but I’m now afraid to pick the wrong one.

I will be posting about my favorites, but one big tip is inspect the bags. Picking up a bag of soilless potting mix (and by the way, it is not labeled soilless, that is just a term used, it is usually labeled as “potting mix”) is similar to picking out produce in the grocery store. Look at the bag’s condition, especially if you are shopping at a low-end type store. Is the bag torn, heavy, wet and a mess? Hmmm, that is like a banana or avocado about to rot, in my opinion. It could have been an older bag, and the soil in there may be even worn out – unable to take up moisture. Be careful with “deals.”

Check the weight of the potting mix bag. Is it light and airy feeling? GOOD! Is it rock hard, wet and very heavy, hmmm, not so good. That is not to say it is bad because some bags are out in the cold early in the season, and may be thawing out – but I always go for the ones that look fresh and are in good condition. The weight of the bag gives you clues.

Go to a reputable nursery, see where their soil is placed outdoors – businesses who put their bags of potting mix under cover – with a roof top of sorts – are a winner in my book. Or if they are a popular and reputable nursery, they have lots of FRESH soil bags put out there early in spring especially. They also have staff available to answer any questions you may have if you find there are lots of choices. Be observant. You can tell who is on top of their game, if you just pay attention.

As for the big box stores, some of the mixes are good, but some I am weary of. I will be writing more about the products I like and I share all of that in my May container gardening workshops in detail. Heck, we even test soils in some of my sessions, like I did recently with “seedling mixes” in my recent Seed Starting Session. Horticulture and growing plants is a science and an art. You may have a mix you have found to be wonderful, or maybe you have been using a mix causing problems which are not YOUR fault – it is the mix (and you didn’t know it). We go over all of this in my workshops and sessions. Making your own mix is another option which I plan to go over as well, but some mixes are so excellent and it just saves time to get the pre-made mixes.

Lastly, the type of plants matter. Cactus, succulents, and houseplants have different soil needs compared to tropical plants, annuals, and perennials growing in mixed container gardens. For example, succulents and cacti appreciate more drainage and air space in the mix.

And lastly, I saw a new product on the market recently to help refresh older mixes in your pots – which I will be testing this year myself to see what I think. Heck, there are signs of people growing plants in no mix at all now – using special beads or growing in water. The learning never ends. I always test out new processes first before offering my take on them.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Marin

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Marin

SLOW-RELEASE FERTILIZER – Must #3

Once you have your drainage holes and soilless potting mix in your pot, you want to add slow release fertilizer to the soil to obtain optimum growth.  Slow release fertilizer will provide small amounts of nutrients to the plants’ roots over a specific period of time.  While some potting mixes come pre-charged with fertilizer (meaning they add the fertilizer in the mix as an ingredient), it may not be substantial enough to keep your plants fed throughout your container gardening season.  Add some when you get started, and don’t have to think about it again unless you are dealing with a high demanding plant or you didn’t follow the rest of The 5 Must Do’s.

Many slow-release fertilizers on the market are available in a granular form which is easy to apply.  The little round balls you see in the granular fertilizer bottles or bags are called prills.  Each contains a balanced release of NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium – the three macro-nutrients needed most by plants).  Nitrogen promotes leaf, stem, and above ground growth.  Phosphorous promotes rooting, flowering, and fruiting.  And potassium helps with disease prevention and cold tolerance.  If you put too much of any, you can burn the plants or even kill them.  However, the nutrients in the prills of slow-release fertilizers will slowly leak out into the soil as water vapor is absorbed into the prill through its coating.  It dissolves the fertilizer inside to feed your plants during your container gardening growing season – which is typically 3 to 4 months in Connecticut, from May to September. As the soil temperature warms (during the summer months when you want your plants to thrive the most and when they need more nutrients during their most active growth period), the nutrients are released even more when the prills’ coating expands as a reaction to the warmth in the soil.  Think of the slow-release fertilizer feeding as a well-balanced diet for your plants to stay healthy and beautiful.  It will be handled for you in a controlled manner.

Add the slow release fertilizer upon planting your container gardens to ensure a continuous feeding routine.  Do this one simple step, and you will be amazed at the results.  And it also eliminates the needs to add water soluble fertilizer as a supplement later in the season, especially, as I said, if you follow all five of The 5 Must Do’s.

2019 Update:

One of the biggest ongoing trends or change in gardening is the love of organics, and this is a good thing. Some slow release fertilizer are synthetic while others are organic based. I go over these in my workshops and their differences, but I still think slow-release fertilizer of either type work very well and are EASY to apply and you don’t end up burning your plants. I still use the trusted brands of slow-release fertilizers I’ve always loved and always add slow released fertilizer to almost all my container gardens and patio pots. It just works. Again, some mixes come pre-charged with starter fertilizer but adding the slow-release prills gives the plants a balanced diet over the course of 3-4 months and now many last 5-10 months! The coating size of the prills varies and this is what makes it last longer than others – look at the bottle’s instructions and follow accordingly.

However, I’m on several plant related Facebook groups where there are tons of questions asked, and many times, the subject of fertilizers come up. Wow, the brands some people show and have used, I have never seen before (because the members of these groups are from all over the world). Again, almost like the potting mix choices, it is confusing at times, which should I use? Which is safe? How do I use it? When do I use it? We go over specifics in my workshops based on the plant types.

I read once a nursery owner saying, everyone has different methods of gardening – and this is true – some go into it blindly however, and the 5 Must Do’s are here to get you started, but what I’d like to do is dive into the fertilizer topic more as part of my series of the 5 Must Do’s.

Also, I always always tell my attendees, if you follow the 5 Must Do’s – you don’t have to fertilize as often. I believe over-fertilization advice is given at times. If you have a healthy growing environment with the soilless potting mix and drainage, you are off to a good start and may not need much supplemental fertilizing as the season progresses in summer.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Scottchan/Simon Howden

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalImages.net/Scottchan/Simon Howden

WATERING – Must #4

Forget container gardening if you are not willing to water your plants in container gardens and patio pots.  Must #4 is all about giving your plants watering love and it must be done on some kind of routine basis and based on the plant type and your environmental conditions (sun, shade, inside, outside, summer, winter, etc), but it must not be skipped or completely forgotten.  Watering in the morning is helpful because the plants take up the moisture during the day while photosynthesis takes place.  If you can’t do it then, please do it when you get home after work.  A plant will remain strong as long as the movement of water through the soil is in balance.  And you are that balance.  Without watering, your plants are doomed. If they don’t get water, there is no growth, and stomates in the leaves will close up to prevent further water loss to protect themselves.  Then, the plant will wilt and it certainly won’t flourish.  If no watering occurs for an extended period of time, the plant may reach a permanent wilting point and never recover.  And you don’t want that after you invested in buying beautiful plants from the nursery or from Cathy T (me!) to enjoy and show off at your home.

If you are not sure if the plants in your container gardens needs water, look at the plants – Are they wilting? Do they look thirsty?  Or insert your finger into the soil at a two to three inches depth.  Does it feel damp or sufficiently moist? It may be okay.  But you absolutely cannot forgo watering your container gardens.  Even if it rains occasionally, or you used drought tolerant plants, you must pay attention to them and their needs in regards to watering.  Observe the plants’ overall health, get familiar with their watering needs, and pay attention.  Climate in your area, the type of material from which the pot is made, and location will dictate some of the timing of your watering routine, but it is not the only factors you should pay attention to.  Basically YOU need to pay attention to watering.

Some people think they can douse their container garden plants with lots of water all at once, walk away, and forget about it for a week or more.  This does not work.  The soil needs periods where it dries out a bit between watering too. It should drain (Must #1) and have some breathing room (Must #2).  You don’t want to overdo it either, where the soil remains too wet. Wilt can be a result of over-watering as well as under watering.

Watering is one of the more difficult of The 5 Must Do’s to master because every plant and container type is different. And because people’s habits are different.  And the weather and exposure will affect how much or how little water your plants will need. There are some tricks to help reducing your watering routine, but that is another post for another time.  Bottom line, you MUST WATER your plants or they will die.  Plants need water to live.  In fact, every living thing on this earth needs water.  We need water. Without it – we all die. If you will not water, you should not do container gardening. In my opinion, not watering your plants is like committing plant murder.

2019 Update:

As I read my information above on watering (written several years ago), I think, yes, this is all still true in 2019. Watering, I think has been my biggest challenge to convey to attendees – is there a simple rule when it comes to watering? The answer is no. But – there is an observation factor involved in watering. You need to think about the soil. When you last watered, and all of that above. You really should NOT just think, “Hmmm, I’ll water every Friday and put one gallon in that big pot.” It really doesn’t work that way, there is a BALANCING act involved. But then, we don’t want to complicate watering, do we? The key point is that you must accept you need to water your container gardens, especially as we venture into summer, or you will not succeed, and your plants will suffer and look unhappy. I guess you could say, well, watering is like doing your physical exercise, you need to keep it consistent to have the plants and you do their best.

There have been times I wanted to do a watering type demonstration – using a shot glass, coffee cup, beer mug or wine glass, and milk jug to show the amount of water to be used based on the size of the pot and the plant type. Maybe I will get around to demonstrating this – but think of this: shot glass (succ), coffee up or wine glass (houseplant), beer mug (hanging basket), and milk jug or jugs (big veggie pots) – get the idea? But it also has to do with how moist the soil is, and did you let it dry somewhat to give some of that air space between waterings, and the type of plant. And yes of course, where your pot is situated. Outdoors in full sun, inside on a window sill, or in the shade. All are factors.

Ensete Red Banana_0001

BIG POTS – Must #5

People fear buying big pots, probably due to concerns with cost, placement, and moving them.  But big pots and container gardens make a big statement!  They capture your attention, create a focal point worth noticing, elevate the arrangement of your showy healthy plants, and ultimately reduce the compaction problems of small pots – so movement of water in the soil is enhanced. Big pots also provide good anchorage of your large plants, hold more inches of water, don’t drain out as fast which helps to reducing Must #4 (but not eliminating that must), and enables you to grow larger, showier plants – leading to more bang for the buck.  Go for supersized if you can.

However, with that said, big pots is listed last on The 5 Must Do’s list because it is not mandatory for success, but using them will elevate you to a higher level of container gardening.  My recommendation is you should invest in at least one big pot.  Just one. I believe you will never regret it.  It makes a tremendous difference to the plants’ performance when you give the roots a large mass to grow in.  Also, as noted above, using big pots make a big statement in your outdoor environment.  So why not make your container gardening show magnificent for the season?

There are some tricks to helping with the amount of soilless potting mix you have to use to fill up a big pot, but that is for another post. Big pots may be a little challenging to move or fill, but place them in the right spot before you get started, and go back to Must #1 through Must #4 to get them in the best shape ever, and then wow yourself, your family, and your guests as they visit you to see your amazing and stunning container gardens.  You will feel a huge admiration for your efforts, a new appreciation for the world of container gardening because you followed The 5 Must Do’s, and your plants will love you for it too.

2019 Update:

Okay – Okay – I know – maybe not as big as my cement planter shown above in the photo – that is one monster pot! And I love it to this day for showing off my amazing tropical plants grown every year from overwintering tubers, rhizomes, and corms, etc. However, what I meant when I wrote the above is when we did many of my May workshops with a mix of tropical plants (banana, canna lily, elephants ears), and big pots really made the show spectacular. In those days, I would recommend attendees bring a pot about 22″ in diameter and at least as deep for those types of mixed container gardens. Boy, did we ever have fun getting those big pots into their vehicles when they left the day of the workshops.

But, alas, times have changed. Succulents grew in popularity and still are very popular – that trend continues. My joke on that is succulent growers must be dancing in their boots about the passion of succulents these days. They are wildly popular, and guess what – most succulents do not need BIG pots. In fact, they have such shallow root systems, they do just fine in wider and less deep of pots.

And house plants for that matter should not be moved up into a bigger pot too quickly. Their roots tend to grow slower and thus if you move them up into too big of a pot, the roots may rot – because they are not taking up that moisture as quickly, and the soil could remain too damp, so it is recommended to move houseplants into one size up higher pots when they become root bound or over grown, etc.

But when it comes to vegetables, like tomato and pepper plants, well, big pots are recommended and needed, and I talked about this in my seed sessions recently – we went over types and size of plastic pots and fabric grow bags for growing some veggies. Some require the number #5 rule of big pots. But herbs, well, they are fine in smaller pots and in hanging baskets, etc. And radishes or carrot require different size pots too. Lettuces do well in window boxes. You get the idea.

Thus, plant types dictate the pot sizes, so the #5 rule is really optional and based on plant types you are using to make your beautiful container gardens for the season. It is not really a hard rule.

As I provide this Quick Update to my 5 Must Do’s, I remembered, I had a rule no. 6 to add. Now, for the life if me, I’m sitting here thinking, what the heck was the number 6 rule that I wanted to add? I know it will come to me. In the meantime, hopefully, these quick reminders of the 5 Must Do’s are helpful along with my quick 2019 updates as we get closer to the outdoor planting, decorating, and growing season. As noted above, I plan to do a series in detail of several updates on these topics.

The Five Must Do’s are all about achieving successful container gardens and patio pots.  Do all of them, and you will be happy, if not overjoyed, with your amazing results – I guarantee it.

In fact, as a 2019 update, I want to note that I’m amazed by the progress of my attendees’ patio pot creations since they have become fans of my workshops – their results are so good now – they follow the 5 Must Do’s and continue to learn right along with me. I’m very appreciative of the experiences we have had and continue to have learning about the love of container gardening.

Written and Updated by Cathy Testa
Owner of Cathy T’s Landscape Designs and Container Crazy CT
Location: Broad Brook, CT
www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

What are Container Gardens?

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

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

I have always preferred growing plants in containers designed to be focal points instead of gardening in the ground. For years, I’ve recommended installing big pots for when you want a big statement. Big pots capture your attention, create a focal point worth noticing, elevate the arrangement of your showy healthy plants, and ultimately reduce the compaction problems of small pots – so movement of water in the soil is enhanced.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Container Gardening!

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

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!

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.

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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

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

 

Thrillers and Spillers are needed in Succulent Dish Gardens too!

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Hello Followers!

This will be a quickie post because the sun is FINALLY out and we are expecting 85 degree temps here today in CT, so I have to head out soon, but here are some updates:

NEW SUCCS (Succulents) IN

I want to take a moment to let you know, if you are local, I have some new and “very limited” stock of succulents. Heads-up if you want to get some soon.

Also, if are in need of components and materials to create a Mother’s Day Gift (coming up on May 13th), reach out to me.

I have all the components for bubble bowl terrariums or other patio pot arrangements you may be thinking of making for your Mom or with your Mom.

Just text: 860-977-9473 or email containercathy@gmail. com or do the old fashioned phone call. We can arrange a pick up time by appointment for you, or swing by.

I am here most days (Broad Brook, CT) and on the weekends, Saturday and Sunday (between 7 am to 10:30 – 11 am).

Inspiration Station!

Secondly, OMG, I FOUND SUCCULENT HEAVEN IN FLORIDA LAST WEEK. A huge 4 floor store titled RH (Restoration Hardware) was across the street from our hotel in West Palm. Let me tell you, I saw the building and thought, “What is that place?  A hotel, a private residence? Or what?”

There were crystal chandeliers hanging outdoors above various patio like pergola sitting areas with amazing outdoor furniture out front to view before you even enter the grand doors of the main building. That alone caught my eye. I dared to enter, knowing I’m not high society rich, and looked around outside.

You never saw me whip out my iPhone so fast to take photos of the succulent dish gardens on every patio table. They were absolutely stunning, very healthy, and real – not faux.

Here’s just ONE example below. And it has the thriller, fillers, and spillers happening.

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My first thought is look at how there is a thriller (Kalanchoe paddle plant) among the other amazing succulent fillers. And look how the bowl shape is perfect. It allows you to see all the succulents clearly – and so much texture – right? We don’t always need flowers to achieve success with patio pot designs.

Get this, the ground surface under my feet, below all outdoors featured areas out front of this store, was covered in tiny pea gravel and it was raked into patterns, like a Zen garden. I didn’t know if I could I walk on it – but I figured yes, because it was a showcase store and encouraged. The staff was extremely welcoming upon entering the building after browsing the outdoor decor areas.

More Photos

For more of all the succulent dish gardens seen at RH, please visit my Instagram feed by searching Container Crazy CT on Instagram.

I can’t even get into how amazing the inside was – with 4 stunning floors – it was like entering a gallery or mansion.

Thriller Available – Today – from Cathy T

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A Unique and Cool Looking Thriller – Gasteria species – Thick Texture – Available now from me

These are the type of situations which inspire me, and that place was a great inspiration station. The way it was executed really spoke to me.

You can do this too

And folks – YOU CAN DO THIS TOO – CREATE AN AMAZING COMBINATION TO ADMIRE ON YOUR PATIO THIS YEAR. Just come see me for the tips, instructions, and plants with components. Prices are provided when you contact me.

Succulent Spiller

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String of Pearls – A Succulent Spiller

I have various succulents, fresh and new, right now available. Remember, you don’t want plants which have been subjected to frost outdoors and you don’t want tattered tired plants – so see me soon if you want to get some nice ones.

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Workshops

My next Facebook Live is scheduled on May 16th to give general updates, but if you need info on current workshops, be sure to visit my www.WORKSHOPSCT.com site.

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Great Filler or Thriller based on style of pot – Red Edged Jade Plant (Crassulas) – Available now by me – Reach out before supplies run out

Impromptu Mini Workshops

Recently, I posted a succulent filled birdcage photo I saw on Pinterest, which inspired a few of my regular attendees. We held, what I call an “impromptu mini workshop” and made some of them – see my Instagram for photos. They came out great.

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Burro tall (Sedum burrito) – A spiller succulent – A bluish green makes nice contrast color

If you have a mini group and want to hold an impromptu session, reach out to me. We can talk.

Also, remember, I have Canna lily and green Elephant Ears starting in 5″ pots available – they will take off if this sun and warmth continues. I will be posting more progress photos of those too.

Enjoy your sunny day in the meantime.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
Instagram Link
Zone 6 gardener
Connecticut
www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
This world of mine is all about sharing inspiration, the beauty of plants, and sessions where we may enjoy all of it.

Today’s date: May 2nd, 2018 (Wednesday)

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April is Warming Up Slowly

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Good Morning Friends,

As you know, if you live in Connecticut, it is taking a bit longer for April to warm up this season, but that hasn’t stopped me from potting up my canna rhizomes and getting my precious seeds in seedling trays.

I thought now is a good time to provide some quick updates on happenings with Cathy T as we kick off the spring season and look forward to summer.

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Visit Container Crazy CT’s Page to View

First up, this week is a free Facebook Live on Wednesday, April 11th, 10:30 am Eastern to show my micro-greens growing process in a 20-30 minute demonstration. Following the demo, if you are interested in a starter kit to give this a try, please contact me (form below) or just text my telephone noted below as well.

Note: This will be the only free showing this year – don’t miss it if you like to eat healthy and nutritious micro-greens which are delicious – all year, and very nice in summer too, when we have fresh tomatoes to go with your homegrown and fresh micro-greens.

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Seeds for sale and Starting seeds

I’ve been planting up seeds like crazy this month – cherry tomatoes and big tomatoes (shown above) as well as basil, moon flowers, edamame, peppers, lettuce, etc. Some will be for me for my container gardens at home to enjoy, and others are for friends requesting I grow some for them. If you are in need of some seeds, and are local, hurry up to contact me – I have plenty of wonderful varieties above. And remember, some seeds grow well in patio pots (radish, kale, lettuces, herbs). I have some growing right now – wonderful to have at your finger tips.

Note: Seed packets make amazing gifts – put a mini succulent with it – and voila.

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Canna in a 5″ Square Pot

My winter stored rhizomes, tubers, and corms are starting to wake up from hibernation. I am planting up Canna lily, Elephant Ears, and getting my prized big red banana plants out into pots to give them an early start. I’ve offered to “hold” the canna and elephant ears for anyone interested. They should be ready by end of May or a bit earlier for your container gardens.

Note: Limited supply and based on success – or not – I hope all will go well, and will keep those who have asked to “reserve” one posted on the progress. They will start in the 5″ pots shown above and potted up as needed. Prices are based on pot and plant sizes. Details will be emailed to you if you wish to have one held for you.

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Cacti are Blooming

It is so nice to see this vivid yellow in the greenhouse – my cacti are blooming. This was a cacti garden made last Halloween for fun and I’m enjoying the colors.

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With Succulents

Heads Up — If Interested! I’m holding my first terrariums workshop at the Granby Senior Center on May 9th. It will be with succulents and cacti. It is a daytime session at 1 pm on a Wednesday. Please contact the center to sign up. See their newsletter (last page) to see the complete details and price.

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Note: We need a minimum of 8 attendees to hold the terrariums session at the Granby Senior Center, and the sign-up cut off date is April 20th. Please signup soon if want in.

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Succulent Hanging Basket (Birds Not Included)

This succulent hanging basket is on reserve for a client. I would be happy to make more now and keep them growing so they are ready for you by end of May to put outdoors when it is warm enough. Holler if you want in.

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Canna Cleopatra

This canna rocked my world last year. The foliage is mixed dark tones and green plus the flowers bloom both red and orange blooms on the same flower bud. I am growing some of these too. Again, supplies are limited, so if you think you want me to reserve you one, contact me below.

Note: Must pick up your Canna by May 25th in Broad Brook, CT. Supplies limited.

Lastly, hopefully my regulars saw that I will not be offering a May Container Workshop this season. However, I will have beautiful succulents in stock starting in early May – and I also will be offering Terrarium Kits with 10″ bubble bowls, all the interior components, and the plants. Just ask if you have any interest and hope to see you soon.

Thank you,

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

FB Lives and 2018 Calendar

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Hi everyone,

I just posted the first version of my workshops schedule on www.WORKSHOPSCT.com, so hop on over there if you wish to start jotting key dates on your 2018 calendar.

One new item being offered this year are my Facebook LIVES. Because I am not offering my typical May container gardening workshops this year, I thought a nice bonus to make up for it is to offer you some free mini-talks on various plant and plant decor topics.

The next FB Live from my Container Crazy CT Facebook page is scheduled on Tuesday, Feb 6, 2018 at 10:30 am EST. The topic will be revealed the day before, and the post of the feed will remain for about one month before being deleted. One hint: It is related to an event in the month of February but may be one you wouldn’t guess!

To find the feed, just visit my FB page that day or be sure to “like” my page and then you should see it pop up as it goes live on your Facebook wall. Feel free to add your questions in the comments field as it is live. If I can’t answer right then, I will following the feed.

In July, I am offering a demo day on hobby greenhouse growing based on my experience with my own environment. It will be mid-summer, but this can be a great time to learn about all before you walk down the road of getting your own hobby greenhouse. Maybe we will have a nice lunch after the demonstrations. This session is for beginners, and will be a way to share so much I’ve learned about things you should know about the structures, key elements needed in the structures, and about winter or summer care in a greenhouse which are special in regards to weather, etc. The list goes on. We will talk about plant care, plant problems, and more. This will be a demonstration day, not a workshop.

In the fall and winter, we are offering our usual annual workshop programs, such as Succulent Topped Pumpkins and the Holiday KB workshops. See the link just posted under the WORKSHOPS menu from WorkshopsCT.com for the dates. As we proceed into 2018, more locations and topics will be added, some perhaps new!

If questions, please let me know! Cathy T

2018 FB Live Feb