Tuesday, April 30, 2013


A few weeks ago, I started the project of planting my seeds indoors.
At first there is nothing to do but water, cover, and wait, until...

... they poke their tiny little heads up. 
What an exciting moment to see those first little ones pop up!!

In the past,  I have only had pots, and started things in pots, (which I still do for flowers and a few varieties of leafy, spring time veggies and tomatoes.) 
Starting things indoors was a little new, but not hard. They need seedling mix, good light, lots of water, and humidity.

First, I plotted on paper what veggies I wanted in my raised beds. (Please see my previous post if you want to learn how to build raised beds or how to plan your garden.)

Then, I laid out all my seeds... Yes, all of them!

When I started to organize what I had, I found that I had collected three packages of carrots, several varieties of lettuce and basil, and discovered some unexpected treasures I had stored away and promptly forgot about.

 I must confess, I was surprised by just how many seeds I have collected over my few years of gardening. I started with a few flowers in pots in college, containing a mini rose bush from Valentine's Day, (which still LIVES, thank you very much!), irises given to me by a lady at church, some annual flowers, and a few poor veggies that never really had enough room.
 I won't even show you the picture.

 Every summer I take pictures of the summer garden in full bloom to remember that season and those lovely plants. Those first few gardening years were rough!
However, taking pictures of it is a great way to document what you grew that year, what worked and what didn't (like a little zucchini in a 10" diameter pot, and carrots in a coffee tin? It was what I had, and worth a try!) It's fun to remember which plants you absolutely loved and would like to try again someday.

So, this is the year the carrots will have enough room, and the squash get their very own bed! And back to my kitchen table, which I covered with what I've been stashing away, to prepare for this planting season. 

With all my planning done and my seeds organized, I put each group of seeds for each raised bed in its own envelope. 

I covered my kitchen table with an old party table cloth that's seen better days, (to waterproof it from misting the seedlings,) and set off outside to fill up egg cartons I had been saving just for planting.

Easter is a fantastic time to stock up on egg cartons, and it's right before planting time... go figure! I don't think I will use the purple ones next year, and just the natural ones. 
I didn't even think about the dye before hand. Oh well!

Make sure you start seeds using a seedling mix. It's light enough for the little seeds to push through and have a chance! I also found that for more tough seeds, like sunflowers, or ones I was starting outside in pots, mixing it half and half with potting soil worked well to hold the moisture needed for outside. Again, make sure it's light enough. You don't want compacted soil!

 Hahaha! I just realized the bag is upside-down. (Maybe you didn't even notice.)
That's because there's a handy-dandy handle at the top.  :)

I always make sure to label! Get as specific as possible if you have more than one variety. I have several types of lettuce, and each kind I plant, I mark which one it is.

Mist seeds often and check the dirt, as a germinating seed needs moist soil.
  Seeds need to be wet, warm, and humid for the best conditions to sprout.
 I found that the best way to get the kind of humidity you need is to cover it with some kind of plastic. I know they sell these plastic cover things, but maybe you have a salad box, or the clear plastic top of some packaging. Get creative!! 
On mine, I made tents! 


Each planted carton got its own tent, which also gives it extra protection from my veg loving cat. (She now has her very own grass, she likes plants so much! Now, instead of eating the plants, though, she's taken to stepping on these tents.) 

Now that some of the squash plants are getting tall, a salad box lid may be in order, unless I can get them outside soon. I'm considering tomorrow or the next day for transplanting because, after tonight's frost, we have some mild evenings coming so they can get adjusted. I also bought some frost covers to protect them from anything under 30 degrees (moderate frost).

Zucchini squash growing taller...

 And taller...

It's starting to look like a zucchini plant now!

For the covers, initially you can lay plastic right on top while the seeds are germinating. Once the plants really got going, it's time to make some covers.
For some of them, like this one, I cut the sides off of a gallon size zip lock bag to make a cover. I also cut some shish-kabob sticks in half, and stuck them in the high part of the cartons to provide the tent's structure. So far, this is working quite well. They are happy with a little extra moisture, and some protection from the cat, 
... unless she decides to play Godzilla again.

When they are just started or are still very small, another idea is to put a small carton right inside a gallon size zip lock bag.

Trapping moisture like a boss!

Over time, I realized I needed something underneath it, because when egg cartons are wet, they are flimsy. I put a very old baking pan underneath (which is rusting on the bottom with all the moisture. That's okay with me.) I wanted something underneath so I can take the plants outside during the day to start hardening them off before I put them in the ground.

These are so close to being ready to go in the ground... 
... especially that little acorn squash guy sticking out the side!
That's one of the ones I thought wasn't going to do anything!!

Right now, I have seedlings starting inside for...

~ 'Black Beauty' & 'Italian Striped' Zucchini  

~ 'Little Marvel' Bush Peas

~ 'Tyee' Spinach

~ 'Sweetie' Cherry Tomato
Note: If you would like a cherry tomato start, please just let me know. These just went crazy!

~ JalapeƱos!
From a pepper I got from the Latin Market! :D

~ Acorn Squash
Some seeds are from a store bought squash I saved the seeds from last fall, and some I bought through the seed exchange at Central Oregon Locavore when I thought the store bought ones weren't going to come up, SO....
 Note: If you'd like an acorn squash start, please let me know!! I'm sure I have WAY too many!
 If you want to learn about Central Oregon Locavore, go to 
If you'd like to learn more about Central Oregon Seed Exchange, go to 

I'm very sad to say my green pepper seeds are just not happening. I will keep watering them and keep hoping. I planted a second bunch, just in case, and still nothing. Maybe my seed is too old. That can happen.

Now we turn to outside seedlings!
Just the other day, I looked in my raised beds, and saw some cute little 'sparkler' radish guys poking their heads up! Now they are all up in a line!

They are just tall enough that I can now see them from my kitchen window!
I also have 'candy striped blend' beets coming up...

and 'purple top white globe' turnips! 

Yes, they look just like the radishes. That's because they are in the same root veggie family. And they taste similar too! Turnips eaten raw taste like a mild radish, and are great in salads. Yum!

 In pots outside, I also have a mix of sunflowers coming up, 'Tyee Hybrid' Spinach, and 'Grand Rapids' Leaf Lettuce. I have several other things in the raised beds that haven't come up yet, and every day I go out there, I find a new little plant!

Me, excited about my seedlings! Haha!

As you can tell, I am super excited!!
I hope to start putting these little indoor starts in the ground soon, 
as the weather warms and they get bigger.

Thanks for visiting my blog!
I hope you are inspired to start up your own green spaces.
If you've already started, what little plants are you excited about this year?
Anything already poking its little head up?

You should know that next time, I hope to do a Part II on the raised beds as 
I just figured out the hoops and caging over top to keep the neighborhood 
cats and deer out. Yay!

And sometime soon, I promise to write a post about other home-living endeavors, different than gardening... but I'm so excited about plants!
(If you need proof, look at the picture of my eyes again! Haha!)

Again, Happy Planting!

(Tiny Spinach Plants)

Monday, April 22, 2013

How to Build a Raised Bed 
(for those who have no idea what they are doing)

So you want to have a garden?
What do you do if your yard is full of weeds, soil dried up years ago, and has a ridiculous amount of glass... because you rent.

And what do you do if you move? You don't want to leave the 'plant babies' behind!

My solution to all of the above: Portable Raised Beds

My husband and I have been looking to buy a home for the past year or so.
At any time, we could find a home of our own, and leave. I needed to figure out a way I could do a real garden without leaving all the wonderful things I planted.

So this year, gardening got serious. We've been building raised beds.
Don't be fooled - if you are going to do this, it's a real project.
For us, it turned into a big project, thanks to some late spring hail and snow. 
(We live in Central Oregon, after all, so no real surprise there.)

These beds are useful for other issues too. If you have back problems, and can't stoop as low, they're fantastic. If you have acidic soil, (like us here in Bend,) it's a great way to start with some fresh, PH balanced soil. With the lining in the bottom, they are a great way to keep the garden weed free.
Also, the boxes look so nice and organized out there! :)

Here is a step by step tutorial for making these wonderful gardening problem solvers...

Building Raised Beds

Step 1: Decide What Type of Gardener You Are

What do you want to grow?
What does your family like to eat?
How much time do you want to spend on gardening all summer?

Answer these questions first before you start your plans. 
If you're already a gardener, you probably know the answers, but if you are what my hubby calls a "N00b," (a beginner,) you might want to start small, or only choose a few types of veggies, and do just 1 or 2 beds, or make them even smaller.

Step 2: Plan, Plan, Plan!!!

Seriously, do your research! I spent a few days doing research on Companion Planting. It's one of the best natural gardening techniques. Some veggies do not like to be near others, and some benefit from being next to another. For example, lettuce and the cabbage family loves radishes, because radishes fend off those wormy bugs that like to eat them before we get to. Also, squashes are very picky about who their neighbor is, and won't grow as well. The same is true for tomatoes, (picky little boogers!) 

Good ol'wikipedia has a fantastic graph showing which plants can be 'friends.'

 There are many other resources out there as well.

This planning step also involves planning what type of beds you want to do, determining size, and supports. Draw up your plans, with measurements. Keep in mind how much of each plant you would like to plant, and where they would go in these beds.

I decided I would do four 2ft X 6ft beds, with two 2ft supports. Big enough for planting a bit, small enough to be moved (if necessary, by several big, strong men.)

Since I wanted it to be portable, I planned to have two supports beams on the bottom, and hardware cloth underneath to make the bed portable.

I drew up my plans based on which plants would be neighbors and how much of each plant I wanted to do. Keep in mind that some plants are spring plants, and some are summer, so once the spring lettuce is gone, you could do another row or two of carrots for continual planting.

(Note: This was my rough draft. I revised this plan later. I was told my a gardening friend do not plant pumpkins near other things. He said they can take over, and need their own space!

Step 3: Shopping for Materials

Bring your plans to the store, and price EVERYTHING!
I am always thankful that my husband Ben is 'the numbers guy.'
He helped me price everything down to the screws to figure out what each bed would cost. This included the lumber, the hardware cloth for the bottom.

We decided on:

~ 2 X 8 X 8  Douglas Fir lumber (no chemical pressure treatment! Yuck!) 
~ A big roll of hardware cloth to nail to the bottom and sides, 
~ fabric liner inside so weeds won't go through, and will hold the soil in
 ~ 4 bags of organic soil, per bed, and mixed in 1 bag of organic compost, per bed,
(made from veggie scraps, not poop!) 
~ Don't forget all the screws and U shaped nails.

You could just to do that, but if you are like us, you have little animals that want to get into what you've just planted. Even though my yard is fenced, we've had deer. 
Also, if you know me well, you've heard about my neighbor's cat problem. He has 10 cats. Yes, seriously! And they are all in my yard, trying to poop everywhere!
So, we got some wire to shape and netting to cover it.
(Honestly, I need to reevaluate my cover plans. The wire I got was too flimsy. I'm going back today after writing this to look at other wire or different ideas.)
I have to keep the cats out!

Yes, this is one of them... one of ten!

Step 4: Measure Twice, Cut Once

Just so you know, an 2 X 8 X 8 are not always 8 ft, but can be a little longer. And 2x4 are not exactly 2inches by 4 inches! That's a rookie mistake!
Don't assume because a board is call that, that it's the exactly length. Sometimes, they are that long, sometimes, they are longer. 

Again, the good old saying, "Measure twice, cut once" applies.
You'd hate to have to go back and buy MORE wood and not be able to use what you have.

Step 5: Lay it out

Wood has print on it from the lumber mill, and an occasional black mark from the processing. Give them a good look over, and plan so those are on the inside.
Measure and mark where every screws will go.

This is the part I'm having trouble explaining!
Make sure every spot screwed in in in the middle of the middle board's thickness, and is not too close to the edge, (an inch in from the edge should be fine.)

You're just going to have to do your own measuring!

(Oh, and that's when it started to hail on us, and then snow! That's just Central Oregon spring for you.)

 Two inches of snow, in April!

Step 6:  Screw it together!

Now that you have measured every last screw mark, drill a very small hole on each. We found that helps the screw to go in better.

I realize I have a lot of pictures of Ben doing every part of this, 
but I worked on them too. Promise! :)

Step 7: Hardware Cloth Bottom

This is hardware cloth: a metal wire fencing, like chicken wire, 
but thicker gauge and more sturdy.

We flipped it over, and hammered it in on the bottom supports and on the sides (we tried one nailed outside, and one inside. It was MUCH easier to nail it outside, and probably sturdier too.)

Nailed in and ready to go! 
This is the one where we nailed it inside, which was much harder.

Step 8: Add the Liner and Dirt!

Well, that's pretty self explanatory!
Just remember that when you are adding dirt, keep the side of the liner 
up so you don't loose your gardening soil down. 
When it's full, you may have to tuck in the corners.

Step 9: Plant Your Veggies!!!
Remember to check for your last frosts before planting. Also, you may want to check out the Old Farmer's Almanac for best planting times.


Now, I'm off to Lowe's to get more soil and compost.
These took more soil bags than we had originally thought.
I'm so glad we did just one first before starting on all the rest.

I will post pictures when things start coming up.
 In a little bit, I hope to post another blog about seedings!
They are all starting to come up too! They will be ready to plant soon, after the last frost, and being hardened off.... but more about that later.

For now, a picture of the little "plant babies" (as a friend and I like to call them.)

Happy Building & Planting!
And Happy Earth Day!

A Soft Landing...

This is a new blog dedicated to my adventures in peaceful homemaking and living.

I hope to share with you my ideas on:
 ~ vegetarian cooking and baking 
~ awesome natural cleaning ideas
~ gardening and GYO (grow your own) food
~ time and space saving tricks
~ easy, inexpensive decorating ideas
~ and many more helpful home tips

And, most importantly, giving yourself grace along the way.
This is what A Soft Landing is all about.

It's a place of peaceful, comfortable living, where our family lands at the end of the day - our home.
It's about going easy on yourself, and realizing that, some days, there are more important things to do than housework.
It's about balance, in a world that's forgotten what that is.
It's all about doing your best for your family, but giving yourself grace to enjoy your beautiful life.

I invite you to share in my peaceful homemaking and living journey.

~ Christina I. Niccum ~