Tag Archives: plants

Sowing our First Seeds in the Ground & Making Raised Beds

4 Jan

SOWING SEEDS

Just before we left for NY for the holidays, Renzo and I decided to plant some of the more “easy to germinate” seeds directly in the ground.  We carved out a small space at the land that had been cleared before our experiment.  During the process, Christian (one of the neighborhood kids who lives nearby) showed up and wanted to help.  The three of us found a nice rhythm; Renzo would break up the soil with the shovel, Christian would make a small hole for the seeds, and I would place the seeds in the hole and lightly cover them back up with the soil.  We worked like this for about an hour, and used stones, string, and plant labels to demarcate the areas where we’d planted different herbs.

Planting seeds.

Renzo & Christian.

Burning mounds of dry leaves.

We used stones, string, and plant markers to partition the areas where we planted our herbs.

Taty showed up later to give us a ride home and we all pitched in to pick guandules to bring home.  Guandules, also known as “pigeon peas” in English, are a staple of the Dominican diet.  I will have to post a guandule recipe up soon!

Taty picking guandules.

Guandules! Mmmmmm!

MAKING RAISED BEDS

One of the first tasks we set out to tackle after the holidays was to begin making raised beds on the land.  Raised beds are created by mounding up soil thereby creating small walkways from which to garden.  This is helpful from a few practical perspectives.  It helps to organize the garden, avoids people stepping on plants by giving them a marked place to walk, and aerates the soil while diminishing the chances the soil will become too compacted for plants to thrive.

Though I had come down with something and wasn’t feeling too hot, we decided the seize the opportunity afforded by a streak of nice weather here and decided  Renzo would forge ahead without me, but with the help of Nelson and his friend Jose.  Our little friend Christian showed up again wanting to help, and despite repeated attempts by the guys to “shoo” him away so they could get back to work, he didn’t take the hint, LOL, so finally the guys gave up, handed him a machete and put him to work.  Ultimately I think they were glad to have two extra hands.  This kind of work definitely requires lots of energy, muscle, and gusto!

Here are a couple of pics:

nelson, christian, & jose digging the raised beds

Nelson, Christian, & Jose digging the raised beds.

Two finished beds! (We chose not to use frames.)

The guys worked really hard digging the beds…now we are waiting for the next sunny day to head over and start transplanting some of the herbs there!  While Renzo was there digging he also had a chance to check up on the seedlings we had planted with Christian.  Some of them were sprouting…so exciting!

One of our seedlings sprouting!

Renzo in action, pulling up lechosa! (Not easy, those roots are strong.)

So, or shall I say “sow”, you can see there is lots of activity at the moment.  We are still germinating more seeds and waiting for the plants that have sprouted to grow large enough to be transplanted.  We are also figuring out which seeds we feel confident can be grown directly from seed into the ground.  We are learning just how much of a waiting game it is…in the meantime the germinating seedlings need lots of TLC every day.

I’ll be posting again soon, after our next art class…this week we are planning to make puppets!  After 2 weeks off for the holidays I am hoping the children are excited to work on a new project!

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Soil Tests & More Germinating Seeds

1 Dec

After a week back in NY for the Thanksgiving holiday, we returned to find some of our seedlings had become strong enough for transplantation.  This was great because we’d been having some concerns over whether our site for the medicinal garden had viable soil, so yesterday we decided to head out and do some soil testing.  We chose four different sites, all located within walking distance of each other- our friend Robert’s house, the backyard of Renzo’s grandfather’s house, Renzo’s grandfather’s larger plot of land (the site we’d originally planned for our garden), and Renzo’s mom’s land (which is known to have good soil).  The three herbs we transplanted at the sites were milk thistle, licorice, and burdock.

We planted at Robert’s house first:

As you can see the soil at Robert's land is dark and rich. It is the same soil we used to germinate our seeds. We planted licorice there.

Next we experimented with the soil in the yard adjacent to Renzo’s grandfather’s house.  We planted one of each the herbs there.

The soil in the backyard adjacent to Papa's house was not as rich, dark, and well aerated as the soil at Robert's house. The soil here was more clay-like. We planted all three herbs here.

Our third site was Papa’s large plot of land.  This is the site where we had originally intended to do our cultivation project.  More recently we had been told that the soil may not be very good, and that there are some diseased trees on the property.  This was our first trip there to take a closer look at the soil and the current condition of the land.

The soil here was a yellowish-brown color and was thick and muddy. It didn't appear to be as nutrient dense as the other soil sites. We were told by Renzo's Tio Rafael that some time ago outside soil was purchased for use on this land and subsequently had a negative impact on the health of the original soil make up. We have also been told there are drainage problems. We are very curious to see what happens to the milk thistle seedling we planted there.

Our fourth and last test site was Renzo’s mom Taty’s plot of land.  This land is known to have great soil.  In fact Robert’s wife Luz gave us a calabaza squash and a piece of yucca that had been grown there by Nelson, the farmer who tends the land for Taty.  She told us that everything he grows does well there.

Luz’s son John came along to help us navigate to the site. Here’s a picture of John and Renzo transplanting the seeds:

The soil on Taty's land is rich, dark, and clay-like. There were lots of earthworms in her soil. We planted licorice and burdock there. We know the health of the soil is good because Nelson grows many vegetables and some fruits there already. The only problem with Taty's land is that is is quite crowded. There is not much space available for new plantings.

It was threatening to rain all day today which we were happy about as our little seedlings could use some water.  If it doesn’t rain tomorrow we will most likely head back out to the sites and water them ourselves.  We are in the rainy season so you never know, we may get lucky.  In any case we will be checking the sites again in a few days, or possibly next week depending on the rainfall.

We also planted 216 new seeds today comprising 24 different species of medicinal herbs and plants.

We planted 24 new types of medicinal seeds today. They are: alfalfa, echinacea, mad dog skullcap, ephedra, chaste tree, stinging nettles, st. john's wort, marshmallow, valerian, eleuthero, chickweed, blue seed poppy, white sage, wormwood, mullein, lemon balm, mugwort, ribgrass plantain, eucalyptus, chaparral, aloe, thyme, uva ursi (bearberry), and tulsi (holy basil).

Here is a list of just a few of the many medicinal uses for these plants:

Blue Seed Poppy– sedative for insomnia, anxiety, and nervous tension, reduces fever, analgesic, antispasmodic

Eleuthero– superior adaptogen, prevents harmful changes in human biochemistry due to stress, increases oxygenation of blood and red-blood cell count, softens cancerous tumors, inhibits metastasis and growth of new cancers, protects against radiation and chemotherapy.

Eucalyptus– antiseptic (esp. for upper lungs/bronchials), stimulates immunity, repels cockroaches and other insects

Echinacea– strong antiseptic, king of blood & lymphatic cleansers, good for blood poisoning (inc. snake bites), strong antiviral/antibacterial, immune system stimulant and strengthener, tumor inhibiting for carcinosarcoma & lymphatic leukemia

Mugwort– promotes lucid dreaming, good for chronic gastritis, helps inhibit fat cravings, good for nervousness, shaking, and insomnia, topical anesthetic, traditionally used in shamanism to aid in shifting into another time-space dimension

Marshmallow– anti-inflammatory (esp. for mucus membranes of the respiratory and urinary tract),  helps tonify the kidneys and soothes pain of passing kidney stones, relieves allergic food reactions in children

Mullein– tonic for ears, cleansing/soothing/building, swimmer’s ear, ear mites/infections in animals, useful for hyperthyroidism, soothing tonic to lungs/bronchials

Ma Huang/Ephedra– treats colds, flu, asthma, and allergies, dilates the bronchial passages while drying the mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract (especially the sinuses)

Mad Dog Skullcap– you can read about skull cap in a previous post here.

Valerian– lowers blood pressure, sedates central nervous system (induces sleep), alleviates insomnia, lessens pain throughout the body

Aloe– internally strengthens cell walls, protects mucus membranes and stimulates healthy cell renewal, cancer/general disorders of the GI tract, anti-fungal/anti-viral, enhances immune system, great carrier for helping other substances/herbs pass through the skin, anti-aging/decreases wrinkles, increases collagen, has anti-tumor activity, helps lesions/skin cancers, cancer of the bone and connective tissue

Tulsi (Holy Basil)– reduces blood/sugar levels, reduces cholesterol, antioxidant, protects from radiation poisoning and cataracts, promotes immune system function, adaptogen (helps the body adapt to stress)

Alfalfa– Good for thickening blood, full of B vitamins, chlorophyll/mineral-rich, strengthens connective tissue, useful for arthritis, strengthens fingernails/hair

Chickweed– brings tissue into proper structural balance,  helps tonify lungs and nasal tissue, psoraisis

St John’s Wort– antidepressant, helps restore damaged nerve tissue, lessens nerve pain, strengthens urinary organs, very useful for treating athletic injuries w/nerve damage and/or pulled muscles and ligaments, useful for chronic disease such as: arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and AIDS

Ribgrass Plantain– astringent, anitfungal, repairs internal organs and tissues, soothing internally and externally, anti-inflammatory, useful in salves for itching/skin irritations, psoriasis, eczema, impetigo, anti-inflammatory (soothes skin), classic first aid for the skin (helps stop bleeding, helps heal cuts & wounds)

Chaste Tree (Vitex)– balances pituitary gland/regulates progesterone, improves symptoms of pms and menopause, calming for emotional distress associated with menopausal depression, helpful with heavy menstrual bleeding, cramps and painful periods, and amenorrhea

Lemon Balm– aids digestion, alleviates nausea, gas, and diarrhea, relieves physical and mental tension related to PMS or menopause

Uva Ursi (Bearberry)– helps with bladder, kidney, and urinary tract infections

Chaparral– strong antioxidant,blood purifier, strong anti-cancer, can use topically for skin cancer

White Sage– decreases appetite, calming to stomach, expectorant, for sore irritated/inflamed throat

Thyme– warming/drying anti-fungal, immune stimulant, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, aids respiratory infections/colds, contains anti-cancer compounds, helps alleviate symptoms of Epstein-Barr

Stinging Nettles– helps with high blood pressure, nutritive, rich in nitrogen and other minerals, useful for anemia, enhances absorption of calcium, strengthens bones and connective tissue, classic herb for arthritis

Some of the seeds are so very tiny!  Check out St. John’s Wort:

With all of our new plantings we were very excited to bring back with us a special purchase we made while we were back in NY.  Check out our new mini-greenhouse:

This small greenhouse allows us more control over the environmental factors that affect the seeds. We can keep it closed if it's too cool, open when it's warm, and it protects the delicate seedlings from too much rain (which we have been having a lot of). It's also very useful protection from our favorite four-legged friend!

Well that’s the latest news from around here.  More updates soon once we check on our transplanted seeds!