Thursday, August 29, 2013

Progress toni

Tonight I rode 2.4 miles just around town. Two cool things happened today:
I decided that I want to try doing a mini triathlon. I think that setting goals for myself, something more concrete than wanting to lose weight, will help my motivation to ride/swim/run.
I don't have to stay this way, overweight and uncomfortable, if I don't want to. I won't say "I can't run." anymore. I will say, "Running can be painful and possibly injurious right now, but I will run safely soon."
I also decided that I can overcome small obstacles, like ill-fitting pants, by doing the uncomfortable anyway. Becoming fit again isn't likely to be comfortable, and sitting on the couch wishing I could be fit certainly isn't comfortable.
Simple things to many of you out there, lightbulb moment for me. I win.

'via Blog this'

Friday, February 17, 2012

Yup, still in Zone 5

Out of curiosity, I checked the new hardiness zone map ( to see if southeast Wisconsin had moved up in world of warmth. It did not. Click on the link to check your area.

However, I cannot complain even the slightest bit about the winter we have had, or not had actually. January gave us temps in the 50's, and this morning it's sunny and relatively warm. Last week we had freezing drizzle and temps in the 20's, but it didn't last long.
I'm seeing advantages and disadvantages with this, not that we can do much about the weather mind you. My mood has been significantly better this winter, definitely feeling less like hibernating. Sunshine has been irrefutably proven to be good for the soul, at least in my book. Less salt on the roads means less runoff into the soil, and less diesel exhaust in the air from plow trucks. Less shoveling and snow-blowing. Fewer wet socks and cold feet.
However, here in the upper Midwest, snow is an integral part of not just the lifecycle, but the economy. Snow and cold affect farming as strongly as sunshine and rain. We've had less snow this year, and snow is a form of precipitation, vital to starting the year with enough water to see seeds through germination. Snow contributes to water reserves for both consumers and farmers. Snow removal provides a livelihood for many people in this area. Snow tourism, in the form of snow mobile enthusiasts and skiers, definitely took a hit this year. That means that the ski slope employees,  power sports manufacturers and every bar and eatery along the snow mobile trails suffered losses in income this winter. I'm sure they, and our farm families, are looking at this past winter in a different perspective than cold feet and wet socks.
Cold weather functions as a natural pest control. Some species of insect pests become very prolific following a mild winter, because more individuals survived to breed early. Cold helps some plants stay on track in their annual cycle of die-off and reemergence. .I've noted growth starts in my daffodil patches twice in the last two months--they are truly confused about timing. We just put in a new patch of daffs this past autumn, so I'm hoping that they manage okay. I'm looking forward to the blast of gold that will show up on our lawn here soon.
Farmers Almanac says we're going to have a cooler than average summer as well. Because of that, I'm paying extra attention to what I select to plant this year, and will be choosing varieties that thrive in cooler weather. I'm planting fewer tomatoes, probably just one or two varieties--Giant Belgium and possibly Mortgage Lifter. Giant Belgium is a low-acid pink tomato that has delicious tomato flavor--my absolute favorite tomato. They are huge, meaty, prolific, and an heirloom variety. We're going to try snow peas, because we love them. I want to try some popcorn too, and maybe plant a Three Sisters patch with the corn, some beans and some winter squash. I will probably try onions yet again, though I've not been able to grow large onions in the past, and didn't dig them up soon enough last year. They started growing again after a rain, and they were mushy. I left most in the ground, and will collect seeds if they bloom this year. I think I prefer the green seedlings to start them, because the onions I got were the largest, but that's not saying much.
I don't know why onions are such a challenge for me, but I suspect it has to do with the condition of our soil, which is improving and still has a ways to go before I would call it fluffy or loamy.
I saved seeds from a Blue Hubbard squash we ate this winter, purchased at Brennan's Market in Madison, my very favorite produce store. I have saved seeds before, but didn't have much luck with germination. When I got my Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog ( this winter, I think I read it cover to cover, and found directions on how to save seeds that germinate well later.
Basically, the natural cycle of a plant reseeding itself involves some form of ensuring the plant reproduces itself. Sometimes, like the dandelion, the seeds blow away to ensure wide dispersal and increase the odds of another plant growing. Some plants have really hard seed coats or shells to make it harder for animals to eat them. Other plants have a very fleshy seed package that hides, protects the seeds, and rots around the seed if left out in the elements, like squash, melons and tomatoes. The fleshy-packaged seeds that I was concerned with need the process of tissue breakdown (rot or fermentation) to prompt them to make ready to germinate. I'm sure there are enzymes and chemical signals and nourishment from the fleshy seed package that do this, but I haven't researched what they are specifically yet. The Baker Creek Heirloom seed catalog said that leaving the pulp with the seeds rather than washing them, and then putting them aside to ferment, would do this for my saved seeds. To be honest, I put them in the back corner of the cabinet and forgot about them for a couple of days, until I saw my cat Windy investigating them. They had formed white fuzz, which the instructions said they would, and it was time to wash and dry them. Once they were rinsed very clean, I spread them out on paper towels to dry, and Windy was no longer interested. The seeds are slightly green tinged from the contents inside, and very plump, much more so than before they were fermented. I'll let you know how they do with germination.
I have ordered seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and I was very pleased with their selection and germination rate. I absolutely love their catalog, and it's the only one I kept this year, because of the information about each seed and how to grow the various types of seeds they stock. I was astounded by their variety of seeds for sale, and that they have seed contributors from all over the world. They use these contributed seeds to grow more seed stock and evaluate the growth habits and needs of the plants, then share this information in their catalog. If you are looking specifically for a plant your grandmother grew, or a vegetable that you remember eating as a child but can't find for sale, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds ( may have it.
We inherited Brian's father's Cub Cadet lawn tractor last fall, complete with a bagger, and it is contributing handsomely to our garden. In the past, our wonderful neighbors mowed our lawn with their John Deere. Leo is retired, and his tractor is his pride and joy, but it has no bagger. He suffered a mild stroke last year, and has almost fully recovered, but gets tired more easily. Anyway, we now return the favor that they have given us over the last several years, and we mow their lawn with the bagging attachment as well as ours. The clippings mulch our garden nicely, keeping the weeds down and building the soil  with minimal work. Our neighbor's garden is next to ours, but I haven't been able to convert them to mulching yet.  Leo admired how neat our herb garden in the front yard looked last year, so maybe this summer will do the trick.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Natural Rhythm of Life...

It's mid-April, and here in Wisconsin that means we could have 80 degrees with light winds one day, 45 degrees or so the next, and snow or a downpour the next week. Snow here yesterday, some thunder and lightning on Friday...but this is part of the natural rhythm of life here at this time of year. I'm finding my natural rhythm of posting on my blog too, kind of excited about things in the spring, so I share. Then I'm excited again when things pop up out of the ground that I planted, so I share. And then when the canning and pickling rush comes about, I share again. I don't share all the time, about every little detail of my garden. I'm sharing when I get excited about gardening and growing our food.
Anyway, about the garden.
When I went to the garden with our 100 red onion sets and 100 yellow onion sets, and 8 shallot sets, I found two leeks I missed when I was cleaning up the garden last fall, very much alive and growing, a very nice surprise. I'm making beer can chicken for dinner tonight, then chicken broth from the carcass, and probably some cockaleeky soup with that and the leeks. But I digress...
So, I planted our onion sets. Lots of earthworms this year, and nice loose fluffy soil this year. I was then very inspired to hunt for seeds online.
I checked out the seeds in the garden center at Lowe's and Farm and Fleet, and didn't see much variety. This year I'm really interested in planting heirlooms, so I went to two heirloom seed stores: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (, and Reimer Seeds ( Both had great selections, excellent descriptions, and as it turns out, quick shipping, even in what I would call peak season. I ordered tomatoes (Bloody Butcher, Black Krim, First Pik, and Silvery Fir Tree), peppers (Giant Marconi, Sheepnose Pimiento, and Sunbright), cucumbers (Parisian Picklers, and Double Yield), and Melons (Green Nutmeg, and Honey Rock). Baker Creek sent a packet of carrot seed free with my order, a very nice surprise!
I picked up my usual Jiffy Pot tray, with 72 peat swelling discs and green house lid. Yesterday morning after coffee, I poured water over the discs and put them aside to swell, then turned my attention to sauerkraut.
Yes, sauerkraut, right after coffee on a Saturday morning. This would be my first shot at stuffing the crock (from my old crockpot) with cabbage and salt. I've only had homemade sauerkraut once and found it to be delicious. Since that experience, I also learned how nutritious fermented foods can be, so I decided to give it a try. While I was waiting for the peat discs to swell like sponge dinasaurs, I shredded the cabbage. One head turned out to be just about right for the 4 quart crock. I read about how to salt and layer the cabbage at, and I plan to get a book by Sandor Ellix Katz, (aka Sandorkraut), Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods. More about the sauerkraut in another post...
With the kraut in the crock, I began to lay out the seed tray on paper. If I don't do this, and also mark the orientation of the tray (TOP), then I forget what I've planted where. I have 12 plants each of tomato, and 24 pepper plants. I selected varieties that are reputed to have a LOT of tomato flavor, some determinate, some not. I want to can tomatoes and tomato sauce this year.

Another aside: Last year I said I wasn't going to plant tomatoes because of the blight the year before, but somebody gave me tomato plants. Not planting them would have been like not eating when invited to dinner. So I found a spot away from the other tomato plot, and they grew tomatoes. We got a few red ones, then had a frost a little early, and I picked the green ones before nightfall. They ripened nicely, and when enough were red, I made tomato sauce and let it cook very slowly. It tasted wonderful when it was done. I covered it and took it off the heat so it could cool awhile before I put it in bags to freeze. Next time I'll just hot pack it into canning jars right away. I forgot about it (yeah, I did that alot last summer, so I use sticky notes...), and we went to bed. Sometime during the night, our faithful Labrador Retriever felt it shouldn't have been there and probably tried to make a little noise to remind me to put it away, but apparently when she was (I'm sure of this) tapping lightly on the pot, it fell to the floor. She did her best to clean up the mess (read: conceal the evidence of counter surfing), but 2 gallons of tomato sauce goes a long way...
I'm planting more tomatoes this year so I can make more sauce.
My bags of chopped and frozen peppers held up well over the winter, and may even last until the first peppers are big enough to use this summer, if I don't use more than I really need. I'm hoping the varieties I planted this year will be more meaty. We had good flavor last year, but not very thick pepper walls.
While I'm waiting for my seeds to grow and onions to sprout, I'll be buying a few bags of composted manure and peat moss to further amend the soil in the garden. I'm also going to expand the garden along the side of the house closer to the property line. I don't have a truck anymore, so loading up dirt all at once isn't really an option. We'll find a way around that...
The melons and cucumbers will get planted closer to Memorial Day indoors, then transplanted on Memorial Day weekend. I've always just directly seeded these in the past, and apparently the critters think I'm leaving them a treat, so I decided to plant indoors this year and maybe get a little better start. We want to make garlic dill pickles this year, as well as sweets, which is why I got the Parisian Picklers--they are tiny.
I have extra seed of all the varieties mentioned above, and I would love to trade for hardy lavender plants or seed.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Squash. And more Squash. And Squash pickles.

I'm very behind here on the blog, so sorry.
To update: We ate all the asparagus we could stomach and froze the rest. The bed is all fronds now, but as we let it go, I noticed some tiny seedlings from the Martha Washington plants reseeding themselves. This is good.
We found out we still don't like swiss chard. It took awhile to get going, and in all honesty, I planted it because my mom used to love the stuff and I thought I might too, since my taste buds are not as finicky as when I was a kid. There's nothing wrong with the plants, I just don't find them really very exciting.
Radishes. French breakfast radishes make a tasty addition to salad or for a snack. But I really didn't need to plant two whole packets. I tried those, and a mixed packet. I will definitely plant daikon again, it was in the mixed packet and it was delicious and crunchy. Red globes grew very hot, not so tasty. The French breakfast radishes were the best for our taste--mild, crunchy with absolutely no woodiness ever. Our friends ate them. Our neighbors ate them. We ate them. I planted too many.
Turnips. I'm still picking turnips, a few now and then. I liked them better when I was a kid (ya, I was a strange kid, liked brussels sprouts too, but wouldn't eat potatoes unless they were fried). I never developed a taste for the greens, and don't know anyone who likes them. Probably won't plant again.
Peppers. We eventually planted 44 pepper plants in 9 varieties. The number of each was dependent on how many survived the planting delay. We've just started picking peppers, which was good timing, as we needed them to pickle squash. More on that in a minute. We've had Cubanelles, which are very good large, light green fruits, about 7 inches long or so. The NuMex Big Jims are tasty too, with more "green" flavor, and sorta mild on the heat scale. We found out Cascabellas are NOT mild on the heat scale when Brian munched on one without expecting heat. They are prolific producers of small, yellow, jalapeno shaped fruits, so we will be making some salsa. I would like to find other uses for them as well though. Banana peppers are always sweet, I've never gone wrong with them. We also planted Godfathers, Chinese Giants, and I think another kind which I haven't seen fruit from yet.
Onions. Walla Walla sweets are fantastic onions flavor-wise, but we've found them hard to peel, and ours didn't get very big. Maybe they don't. This was our first year growing onions, and I'm quite pleased that we have had enough so far to use in our squash pickles. We didn't plant very deep, but mounded the mulch up as they grew. They were very easy to pick this way.
Garlic. The next batch of pickles will be garlic dills. I've used a few cloves and braided the majority, only saving the biggest for reseeding this fall. We planted Susanville garlic, and I like it. Garlic must be one of the easiest things to grow--stick it in the ground, one clove at a time, in the fall. Cover it up. Wait. Uncover in the spring when the shoots poke through the leaf mulch. Wait. When it begins to brown, dig it up. I think we planted 2 pounds and easily have 6 pounds of dry bulbs. Maybe thats good? I dunno, first year for garlic too.
Ya, I ended up planting tomatoes. A friend gave me some plantlets, and I stuck them in the ground when I pulled the garlic up. No tomatoes yet, but no signs of blight either. I have no idea what kind they are.
Squash. A friend of a friend gave me 9 squash plants, and she is therefore now my friend as well, having shared food with us. I haven't been able to keep up with picking the squash, and we frequently find 2 or 3 foot zucchinis under the biggest squash leaves I have ever seen. They are monstrous and healthy, and I am pleased. Squash is one of my favorite vegetables, and we have eaten much of it, and pickled the rest. Pickling is another first for me this year, and it's easier than I thought it would be. We have crookneck, butterstick, and yellow zucchini, all good.
We planted one hill of cucumbers, expecting to be overrun with those. I even put a tomato cage over them and trained them up. 6 plants, 3 cukes so far. They were sweet, as we've had rain appropriately spaced to water.
So, what did we do different this year?
I got about 20 bags of manure and 2 bales of peat moss to upgrade the "dirt" in our garden. It's pretty compacted. I just spread the manure over the "dirt" and then the peat moss over the manure as a mulch. We will definitely put all the leaves through the shredder again this year; they made nice mulch. We've not spent more than an hour or maybe two all year with weeding. That's why we mulch. I love that kind of gardening. Mulch. Plant. Mulch. Jump up and down when sprouts come. Mulch. Pick stuff. Mulch. Repeat. Seriously, hardly any weeds.
I also used epsom salts to water. We spread a bit of Milorganite around too, according to package directions. Seems to work.
Anybody had any stellar successes or dismal disappointments? I'd love to hear...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Best and Worst of 2009 Gardening

Once again I have neglected my blog. Sweetie and I make natural soap (think I mentioned this once before), and we got a spot at a local farm market. Between making soap, selling soap, and working our regular day jobs, the gardens (and my blog) didn't get as much attention as they should have. At this time of year, when the deep freeze really has descended for the duration of winter, I think of two things: good things to eat, and fun things to grow. I have begun a 1400 calorie diet, because my BFF and I have agreed: we want to look hot, like when we were younger. So this year, when my thoughts turn to food, I will be looking not only at good to eat, but more notably good for my body and peace of mind.
The topic of my come-back blog (lol) revolves around what went well, what didn't, and what's worth doing again. We'll start with the bad news first...

Things that flopped
1. Timing, as in, my timing. I got my plants started on time this year indoors. But I didn't get the garden bed ready in time. My next door neighbor said he would till for me, then we noticed just how badly the back side of the garage was really peeling. So, we power-washed and painted it. By the time that was done and my neighbor had tilled other gardens, a part on his tractor broke and he was waiting quite a while for it to come in. But we finally got it done, and by that time my plants had been hardened off on the front porch, but I lost most of them when I forgot to water.
2. I had never experienced an episode of tomato late blight before. Because I didn't pay attention to my own plants and keep them watered, and because I wasn't ready to plant until the first week of July, I felt I should get larger, hardier plants from the store. Between peppers and tomatoes, I spent about $75 on big, robust-looking plants from Lowe's home improvement store, who got their plants from Bonnie Nursery. I read something about the late blight and Bonnie Nursery, but they had assurances that the plants in the stores by the time I purchased were free of disease. And besides, mine looked great! And they got even bigger! I planted some of my own seedlings when I transplanted the Bonny plants and mine really looked puny. A month later, I couldn't tell which I had bought and which I had grown. But all of the plants were then showing signs of of some sort of leaf spotting disease, not really that noticeable (this is in hindsight). It wasn't until they started to set fruit, which took forever in the cool weather we were having, and the fruit rotted before it ripened. All of it. And I pulled all of the plants and took them to the burn pile. No other way to state it: That sucked. I don't believe I will plant tomatoes next year at all, since the blight can live on in the soil.
3. The boring yellow tomatoes that came up as volunteers in the bed where I planted cilantro really pissed me off. Their texture is watery, their flavor is flat, and they don't get much bigger than a golf ball. But not even the blight could kill them or even slow them down. Nobody likes them, so I couldn't get rid of them, and they were hard to pull out once they got more than a few inches tall. I was especially careful when I cleaned that bed out this year, which is separate and isolated from my other tomato bed.
4. I mulched the squash heavily with old hay, and it was puny. I got two patty pan squash out of the garden.
5. Not enough time and not enough mulch to make up for it. Mulching cuts down on weeds and watering, and therefore on work and time spent.

The things that were successful
1. Asparagus. I'm very happy with the investment I made in putting in an asparagus bed. We both like it a lot, and it did quite well this year.
2. Kohlrabi grew very nicely even in it's crowded bed. We ate some fresh and have cooked itwith boiled dinner and chopped in soup. But it's not as spectacular as I thought it would be to eat, so I don't know if I will do much with it again.
3. Spinach was delicious, but short-lived.
4. Peppers were also good, but I think they needed more mulch, more water, and more nutrients to really thrive and produce. We had a miserably cool summer this year, and that may have had a lot to do with their late production. I will grow giant Marconi and Fajita Bell peppers again, they have great flavor! I may put all peppers in where I had tomatoes last year, but I need to read about this first.
5. I tried something new this year. I ordered and planted garlic sets, and having eaten some locally grown garlic from one of the other vendors at the farm market, I'm really looking forward to ours.

For Spring, how am I going to do things differently?
1. I'm going to use only my own plants this year, and start them around the beginning of April.
2. I'm going to get the garden in by the end of May. I mulched the beds heavily with leaves and grass and hedge clippings, so they should be easy to plant in.
3. Some of the beds are getting peat moss, manure, and perhaps some sand mixed in. Our soil is kind of sticky here.
4. Some sort of herbiverous animal poop never hurt a garden, and mine could certainly benefit.

For now, there's about 97 days left until the vernal equinox, so I have time to plan and plot...
If you live in the upper half of the United States, try to stay warm. See you again soon.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Free plants, the best kind!

Occassionally, a wild hare goes hopping through the garden of my mind, and I just have to chase it. It's days like those that I go shopping on while drinking my first cup of coffee, before my brain is fully engaged or I have figured out my hafta-do's for the day. I usually look at the free stuff first and of course the farm and garden stuff, in particular the free garden stuff, like mulch hay and free plants. If it's something within reasonable driving distance, I'll drop an email or call if there's a number. I also read the daily freecycle digest, to which I also contribute when we have something to move along down the line.
I have been slowly building my flower beds since I moved in with Sweetie. My clump of irises came from my old house, as did my three clumps of golden raspberries, which have now filled their space to overflowing and need to be moved to a larger area. Since then we've added two more iris circles (pink and sort of black, with coordinating flamingo yard ornaments 8-D ). Two years ago I purchased 200 daffodil bulbs and made a swath of daffodils in the corner of the yard. Then I found someone thinning their daffodil beds on freecycle last year and added more to the swath.
Last weekend, I found free purple irises on Craigslist not far from the house, as many as I wanted. I didnt' want to be greedy, as other people were also answering the ad, so I only took what I could carry in one trip with my recycle bin, which was all that was going to fit in my Geo anyway. It was also all that I could think of a place to put for the moment anyway. Some were budded and ready to bloom, but the clump was so tightly tangled that all the plants picked up as one without falling apart. I had my work cut out for me here, but what a great find! So nice of people to share rather than chuck them in the trash.

I put the plants in the shade with a little water poured over the roots to moisten the dirt ball clinging to them until I could get to them. Finally, I had time tonight and had figured out how I wanted to lay out the bed around the daffodil swath. I pictured a narrow bed that curved around the daffs, kind of ending in a point, with a space for a mulched walkway in between so I could take care of both beds. Mama dog supervised while I dug the sod up and moved it to a more useful spot in the yard. The dirt underneath was very nice and crumbly and dark. That was the easy part.
Getting all those plants separated into individual rhizomes and fans took about 2 and a half hours of teasing and wiggling and dusting the dirt away from the roots. The one large clump and one smaller clump disassembled into enough individual fans to neatly fill the curved bed I made, all of the fans facing the same way. There's room for them to multiply as irises do, but I don't think I'll have to thin the bed for a few years. It's supposed to rain for the next few days, which will work out just right for getting the plants started off well.
I have some tiger lillies all along the back of the garage, and while they look nice there, they don't really get seen much, and I'd love to move some of them to the other side of the daffodils. If the village doesn't do something with the drainage ditch they stripped the sod off of and recontoured, some tiger lilies just might start growing in it...they don't call them ditch lilies for nothing. Something has to keep the dirt from washing into the new storm sewer system and clogging it all up...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Gardening in the Dark

I haven't been here in forever. I have no really good excuse, but I will tell you what I have been doing.
I've been making soap, working late (yay, working, money is good!), spending time with friends, labeling soap, trying to design a banner for my soap booth for farm market and making slow progress (wanting to spend only a little money here) and of course riding my motorcycle. Like I said, I have no good excuse for not writing. Mea culpa.
We have eaten asparagus twice now from our little patch and it was exquisite, so tender and fresh tasting. We only get just a little at a time, but it's worth waiting for. The purple seems to be the fastest growing, and is very sweet.
I have planted a tiny spinach patch and a tinier kohlrabi patch in the spot next to the house. We decided to also till a long patch behind the end of the garage for tomatoes, peppers, beans and spinach. The squash, melons, and pumpkins will go behind the long side of the garage, which won't get tilled, but is now mulched heavily.
Speaking of mulch, have you ever heard of freecycle? It's a yahoo group that is local to your county if there is a willing moderator in your area. People offer things they have that they can't use to keep them out of the landfill, and other people take them off their hands. No money changes hands, courtesy and respect are the rules, and everybody wins.
I mention freecycle because I landed a great pile of haybales perfect for mulching the longside garage garden. They were wet and heavy, and had previously been the winter home of an unspecified domesticated animal. They are now laid out section by section in a carpet over the sprouted weeds where soon the pumpkins and squash will be. I've done this before, and it works wonderfully, but usually I've had to pay for the hay or straw, even moldy stuff set aside as useless by the stable. Free is good. I get my freecycle listing every morning, and like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to find in there. Last week I gave away a bunch of fishing rods that I've stored since the ex-boyfriend moved out that he left behind. They were still useful, needed cleaning and reel grease, and the gentleman that took them was going to teach a friend to fish.
Anyhoo, we decided to till a larger patch in a prime sunny area for tomatoes and peppers mainly. We asked the next door neighbor and they said they would be happy to till for us, since they have a tractor. They are waiting on a part for it. I have three maple saplings that have decided to grow there and are about 8 feet tall, just sticks mind you, but tall sticks. If I don't move them now, they will be a problem for the foundation of the garage. One is a bronze maple, and would cost easily $50 if we wanted to purchase it at a nursery, but I have nowhere else to put it. I will have to ask around or offer it on freecycle.
We purchased wire tomato cages in preparation for planting the tomatoes. I like to stick the cages on the plants right away, so that I can guide the plants right up through the cone of wire. It never fails if I wait to put the cages on, the plants have a growth spurt and then I can't get the cages on at all. They used to have the small end of the cone at the bottom, with the wires to stick in the ground at the small end, but these have the wires to stick in the ground at the large end. I think that would be more stable as the plant gets heavy with fruit anyway.
My seedlings have behaved beautifully, no legginess yet. I will probably start taking them outside on the front porch during the day to come in at night for a week here, then leave them outside under a window pane at night for another week before transplanting. I might make cone covers for the new style of tomato cages as well. I have heavy clear vinyl that will work really well for that. The target date for transplanting is May 24th or 30th, depending on the weather. Things have been warming up nicely here in Zone 5. I would have planted the squash and melons tonight, but it was getting too dark to see what I was doing, so I just spread the soggy hay out and turned the compost pile. It's supposed to rain on and off all week, so maybe I'll get some time Sunday after the farm market. We're supposed to have nice weather Sunday.