Tag Archives: soil

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!

Germinating Seeds!

20 Nov

If you’ve been wondering where the “roots” are in our dominicanroots blog, they are finally here…in their infancy at least.  Just tiny little sprouts with a whole lot of promise!  While I’ve been working on editing videos for the blog and brushing up on my Spanish, Renzo has begun germinating seeds for the medicinal plants we intend to cultivate.  The advantage of growing herbs from seed is that:  a) you know exactly how (and with what) the soil & plant has been treated,  b) it’s cheaper, and c) you gain a whole lot of skills in the process.

THE PROCESS

First, your dog eats your homework.

samba, now heavily supervised around our seeds, lol!

We weren’t able to get quality soil right away. It’s not something you can readily buy in a store here (we tried several), and it’s not advisable to dig up soil from just any place without knowing it’s health and composition.  We had been waiting for some soil friends of ours had offered to purchase for us from a local farmer they usually buy from.  After two weeks of waiting, we got a bit impatient to get started and decided on a Plan B. We happened to bring some bags of perlite, peat moss, and vermiculite from the States with us so we decided to experiment by creating an equal parts potting mix medium of these in the interim.  We began by setting up germination for the seeds which had soon approaching expiration dates: neem, goldenseal, gentian, and passionflower.  Using a variety of containers (plastic pots, cups, and aluminum trays) we filled them with the potting mix medium, added the seeds, watered them and then left them outside.  Unbeknownst to us,  Samba found his way outside and must have thought our pots of germinating seeds were the greatest doggie playground ever because the next morning we found him happy as a clam, wiggling his bottom & wagging his tail with a trail of torn up styrofoam, plastic, and soil strewn everywhere behind him.  Wish I snapped a pic, but Renzo and I were busy sifting through all the soil trying to recover some of the larger seeds.  We salvaged what we could and of the lot ended up keeping the gentian and the passionflower.  We decided to opt out of the neem and goldenseal for the moment; it turns out that although neem is tropical it requires dry conditions not conducive to our current rainy season or the soil we have to work with, and we realized the goldenseal requires winter dormancy (so they wouldn’t germinate for months- until the spring).

A few days after “samba”dy got into our soil and seeds, our friend Robert finally came by with the soil we’d been waiting for.

    nutrient dense soil

The soil Robert brought us is a black, clay-like soil, very nutrient dense and absorbs and retains much water.  It’s not easily drained so you must be gentle when working with it so it doesn’t become compacted.  We started again from scratch, this time with a more appropriate growing medium, and set about deciding which seeds to start with.Although we have many, many seeds to work with, we decided to start with some of the medicinal herbs that have multiple uses for healing and are most widely researched.

germinating seeds

Below is a list of the herbs we decided to start with, along with some of their medicinal uses.  If the seeds have started to germinate I’ve added a picture as well.

ASHWAGANDA– helps with focus, strengthens the adrenals, enhances immunity, provides energy during the day/relaxation at night, useful for nerve pain, useful for infertility,  strengthens the kidneys, improves weakness in back/knees, useful for joints/arthritis

ASTRAGALUS– wards off fatigue, useful for degenerative diseases, anti-inflammatory (esp. kidneys), strengthens the heart, improves blood circulation, increases metabolism, helps with loose stools, increases appetite, neutralizes liver toxins/helps with hepatitis, strengthens digestion, stimulates the immune system, useful for autoimmune disorders, improves function of spleen, restores immunity after using antibiotics, reduces physical & emotional stress, excessive sweating

BURDOCK ROOT– excellent blood/lymph cleanser, stimulates stomach and & liver function, stimulates lymphatic flow/drainage, vaginal douche (has antiseptic properties), used for herpes simplex II, acne/skin diseases such as psoriasis, dermatitis, & boils, used as a cancer treatment (specifically hodgkins diseases), removes toxins from fat tissue

CALENDULA– emollient, anti-inflammatory, relieves uterine & cervical inflammation, aids in eliminating cough, soothes a wide range of skin irritations, heals ulcers anywhere in the body, useful for hemorrhaging conditions

COMFREY stimulates rapid growth of healthy cells, helps repair internal tissues, astringent, heals internal ulcers,  accelerates healing of broken bones/torn ligaments/cartilage, useful for endometriosis, heals torn tissue after childbirth, strengthens and soothes the lungs, styptic/stops the bleeding of cuts and wounds, heals external ulcers, heals & prevents urinary tract infections

DANDELION- cooling/brings down body heat, helps with fat digestion, mild diuretic, reduces,fever, decreases blood pressure, strengthens liver function, increases iron levels and iron absorption, blood cleanser, laxative, helps the nervous system, alleviates morning sickness, stimulates breast milk flow, reduces fever, treats eczema/psoraisis


ECHINACEA- anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, blood/lymphatic cleanser, anti-viral/anti-bacterial, stimulates & strengthens immune system, stimulates t-cells, good for yeast infections/PID/herpes II, shortens duration of colds/flu, helps heal bronchitis, coughs, & tonsil/throat infections, useful for a variety of skin conditions (boils, burns, abscesses, impetigo, wounds/bites/stings, UTIs, cold/canker sores, food poisoning, snake bites, internal burns, tumor inhibitor

GINGKO BILOBA- anti-oxident, circulatory disorders, varicose veins, improves blood viscosity/circulatin, improves uptake of oxygen by brain cells, good for tinnitus/inner ear disturbances, loss of hearing, macular degeneration, slows down formation of cataracts, improves vision, improves memory, concentration & alertness, treats anxiety & depression, senility, alzheimer’s, protects blood/brain barrier from free radicals, edema, improves circulation to the reproductive system.

GOTU KOLA- improves circulation, useful in vein related disorders, adrenal strengthener, improves mental alertness & clarity, stops age related deterioration of memory

LAVENDER-anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxant, aids in relieving headaches, calming/soothing/uplifting, helps with mild depression, helps to fall asleep


LICORICE– detoxifier, mild astringent, tonifies stomach, helps strengthen digestion, relieves spastic colon & abdominal pain, treats ulcers & liver damage, strengthens adrenals, hypoglycemia, strengthens immune system, tonifies spleen, rheumatoid arthritis, mild relaxant, helps with stress, menopause/hot flashes, uterine & urinary inflammation, soothing for throat irritations, strengthens & tonifies the kidneys, detoxifies chemical pollutants, caffeine, nictotine, etc.


MILK THISTLE- powerful antioxidant for the liver, intestine, brain and central nervous system,good for athletes (prevents free radicals), helps prevent aging, supports  & protects the liver


PLANTAIN- astringent, anti-fungal, repairs organs and tissues, soothes internally & externally, anti-inflammatory, repairs internal organs & tissues, all-purpose for dermatalogical uses, useful for salves , aides itching, irritation, psoraisis, eczema, impetigo

ROSEMARY- systemic anti-oxidant, improves digestion & absorption of food (specifically carbohydrates), astringent, antiseptic, possible use with alzheimer’s and parkinson’s, blocks conversion of normal cells into cancer cells, slows hair loss, prevents infection in minor cuts, slows down fermentation/preserves food, insect repellent

SKULLCAP– nervous system sedative, treats almost any mild nervous system malfunction,  excellent for insomnia, helps break addictions, promotes stress relief & meditation

(skullcap seeds are tiny tiny!!!!)

In germinating this batch of herbs we used slightly different containers than with our first attempt.  At the store we found perfectly sized styrofoam sancocho bowls, (click here to see our video on how to make sancocho) which proved to be much better than the original cups we were using.  Renzo also decided to experiment with using ziplock bags for the milk thistle,  gingko biloba, and skullcap, two of which required somewhat more challenging environments.  Gingko Biloba and skullcap are known to be more difficult seeds to germinate.  Skullcap requires cold stratification for up to two months.  Since we don’t have cold weather here, Renzo put the ziplock bag of seeds and soil in the refrigerator.  By the 4th day, most of the seeds had germinated.  Gingko Biloba has a 40% germination rate.  Germination begins slowly, only beginning 33 days after planting.  It needs plenty of time for the shells to crack and germinate.  Renzo did some research to see if there was a quicker method and found out that putting the seeds in a ziplock with just peat moss in a room temperature setting with sunlight can speed up the process.  One of the seeds has already germinated, but it may take up to 3 weeks for all of them to follow suit.  You can see a picture of the first little guy sprouting under the heading “gingko biloba” above.

So we’re off to a pretty good start.  We’re flying back home for Thanksgiving so we’re hoping our delicate little seedlings will be okay on their own for a few days.  When we return, we’ll be doing some soil testing at Renzo’s grandfather’s land.  We’ve been told the soil there may have drainage issues and that there’s evidence of a rotting tree due to the moisture.  We made need a Plan B again, but we’ll see.  Almost nothing here unfolds as expected, and it sure is a great lesson in flexibility.  All we can do is plant the seeds of our ideas, tend and nurture them as best we can, and hope they bear fruit.

Giving thanks for my many blessings this week…to all my friends & family, wishing you a wonderful holiday.  More posts when we get back.

xoxo A