Raíces Eco-Culture Seedling Sale Fundraiser 2013


SeedlingsRaíces Eco-Culture is holding its annual seedling sale so our community members and neighbors can grow their own food while supporting Raíces Eco-Culture programs. From tomatoes and cucumbers to broccoli and greens to culinary and medicinal herbs, Raíces has planted and been growing over 60 varieties of seedlings from organic, non-GMO seed this year.

Many of the seedlings will be transplanted into our Raíces micro-farm plots in New Brunswick, East Brunswick, Piscataway and Bound Brook, but there are more than enough to go around for YOU to plant in your gardens and yards.  All seedling sales will support our Eco-Culture programs.  Please pre-order, as a limited number of each variety will be available.  Frost-hardy, cool weather crops will be available by April 20 and tender, warm weather crops will be available May 15.

planting seedlingsSeedlings for sale in the fundraiser will be first come first serve.  We will do our best to keep the plant list up-to-date, but if something is unavailable when you send your order, we will let you know.  Please send your orders (plant list and desired quantity) early by email to raices@raicesculturalcenter.org.  We will arrange a date and time for pickup of your seedlings at one of our community garden plots or at one of our monthly eco-meetings in Highland Park.  The Raíces crew may also be available to help plan, prepare and plant your chemical-free garden plots as a fundraiser for our eco-culture programs. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

sproutsDonation breakdown
Vegetables, Flowers and all types of Basil (mix and match)
Single plant – $1
6 plants – $5
20 plants – $15
Mix and match flats of 40 or more plants – 50 cents per plant

All other herbs
Single plant – $2
3 plants – $5
7 plants – $10



Kale – Vates
Kale – Dino
Kale – Rugged Jack
Lettuce – Mixed varieties (green leaf, red leaf, green towers romaine, nevada)
Pepper – Jupiter Red Bell
Pepper – Golden California Wonder (green/yellow bell)
Pepper – Iko Iko (rainbow bell – purple, yellow, red, green, orange surprise mix)
Pepper – Ancho Poblano
Hot Pepper – Early Jalapeño
Hot Pepper – Maya Orange Habanero (only 1 or 2 left)
Yellow Summer Squash – Succes PM Straightneck (HEIRLOOM)
Yellow Summer Squash – Golden Crookneck
Winter Squash – Burgess Buttercup
Tomato – Brandywine (average 1 lb or more) (HEIRLOOM)
Tomato – Stone Ridge
Tomato – Matt’s Wild (small red cherry, resistant to early blight, continues to produce)
Tomato – Gold Nugget Yellow Cherry (1” average, early producing)
Tomato – Sweetie Cherry Tomato
Tomato – Gilbertie Amish Paste Tomato (green shoulders, average 6 oz.) (HEIRLOOM)

Sweet Basil
Genovese Basil
Lime Basil
Holy Basil

Other Herbs
Common Sage
Melissa/Lemon Balm
Sweet Marjoram

Happy Spring!


Mata Siguaraya

Siguarayaby Francisco G. Gómez

In Cuba the Yoruba of West Africa are known as Lucumí. The Yoruba were brought as slaves to the island of Cuba in the nineteenth century during the Middle Passage. They are the descendants of diviners and herbalists who understand the mysteries intrinsic in nature. For them, herbs and plants are not mere sources of food and medicine. The Lucumí revere and respect their flora from a spiritual perspective as well. Certain plants and trees, like the Siguaraya (trichilia havanenses), which they believe is an Oricha, a force of nature and the Ceiba tree (ceiba pentandra), have powers for healing the body but more so, for healing the spirit and soul as well.

For tree huggers and people who talk to their plants, this isn’t difficult to understand at all!

In the spiritual folklore and mythology of Cuba, as in other nature based cultures like that of the Lucumí, permission is asked of sacred plants and trees before they are cut or felled. The great Cuban singer and band leader of the 1940s,50s and 60s, Beny Moré, sang a beautiful song  written by the outstanding pianist and composer Lino Frías, dedicated to the Siguaraya, a plant considered medicinal and magical by the Lucumí. Lino made this evident when he wrote Mata Siguaraya; he says:

En mi cuba nace una mata, que sin permiso no se
puede tumba eh. No se puede tumba eh, porque son
Orisa. Esa mata nace en el monte, esa mata tiene
poder. Esa mata es Siguaraya!

In my Cuba grows a plant, without permission you may
not cut it down. You may not cut it down because it is an Oricha.
That plant grows in the forest, that plant has powers, that plant is Siguaraya!

You can hear a clip of the song here:

Mata Siguaraya

Some characteristics of the Siguaraya:

Cuba is just one of a few places where Siguaraya can be found. It grows freely in the forest and on the banks of brooks. The plant or tree can extend up to 12 feet in height, and its trunk can grow to about 40 centimeters in diameter. It blooms from January to April and is recognizable by the fullness of its greenish flowers and foliage, unlike the other plants that inhabit its surroundings. The plant produces a tasty dark honey nectar that is very beneficial because it enhances health.

The world has lost its connection with nature by using industrial methods of deforestation, such as those used in Brazil, or the complete felling of the forests in Haiti and certain parts of Indonesia, for example. The resulting climate change, devastating mud slides and drying out of lakes and rivers, amongst other things, show us the negative consequences of our environmental irresponsibility and its impact on Mother Earth and her inhabitants.

I recently saw a documentary that is totally silent, however, quite moving and compassion stirring when you see what has become of primates in Indonesia because of the wanton disregard for the forests and their eco-systems. The film is 47 minutes long, check it out below:


Seeing this film has made me reflect deeply about Siguaraya being a magical plant, and the possibility that the magic could be lost if the forests were no longer there for the Yerberos (herbalists) and Paleros (tree workers) to practice their alchemy.

Although the use of plants by modern day society may seem alien or even superstitious outside the realms of food, the spiritual aspects of leaves, herbs, bark and trees should not be disavowed. It’s more than some New Agers or some men of the cloth burning incense or concocting spells and potions by using leaves and roots in their ritual practices. It’s being blessed by nature and having the opportunity to touch and thereby understand the mysteries of life all around us.

So you may use a sacred plant, such as Siguaraya, to purge tangible bad elements from the body, but also understand that using it for a sense of well being in its other mediums is just as valid, thus enhancing the total experience.



Help Raíces EcoCulture Spread our Roots – Nominate us for a Seed Donation

Rainbow Harvest

Rainbow Harvest – Summer 2013

Raíces EcoCulture recently became coordinators of the Livingston Community Gardens in collaboration with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County, in addition to the seven organic micro farm plots we will be planting for our second year. We are looking forward to sowing our seeds and extending our branches even further, but we need a helping hand!

We just found out that the Hudson Valley Seed Library is accepting nominations for seed donations to community gardening projects. The DEADLINE is FRIDAY, but the more nominations an organization receives by then, the more seeds will be donated. If you have few extra minutes, please check out their site and send a nomination here:


    Here’s the basic info to help you along

Organization Name: Raíces Cultural Center
Organization Contact: Nicole Wines or Francisco G. Gómez
Organization Email: raices@raicesculturalcenter.org
Our Address: PO Box 5701, New Brunswick, NJ 08901

What we would do with a seed donation:

Nicole and Francisco with Chef Leslie at A Better World Cafe in the summer of 2012.

Nicole and Francisco with Chef Leslie at A Better World Cafe in the summer of 2012.

  • Use them in educational programs on seed starting and seed saving in schools and throughout our community
  • Add variety to the plants in our seven garden plots, and hopefully expand the plots
  • Donate part of the produce grown from the seeds to Elijah’s Promise and A Better World Cafe
  • Create pollinator-friendly plots with flowers and herbs at our community garden sites
  • Expand our school garden run in collaboration with Middle Earth in Bound Brook
  • Support beginner gardeners in community plots at the Livingston Community Gardens and the East Brunswick Community Gardens
  • Establish a community seed library, set to launch in 2014

Please tell them in your own words why you think they should donate to us. Thank you for your time and support!

D.I.Y. Fridays – Homemade, All-Natural Shampoo

Supplies and materials: water, liquid castile soap, olive or grape seed oil, a glass bottle.

Supplies and materials: water, liquid castile soap, olive or grape seed oil, a glass bottle.

First soap, now shampoo. For the Raíces Crew, nothing can compare to homemade body, skin and hair care products. The more we make for ourselves, D.I.Y. style, the more we want to learn how to make, continuing to eliminate the need to go out and buy chemical and preservative saturated products from the commercial stores.

This homemade, all-natural (organic, in our case!) shampoo is simple and quick to make. Our one-minute video tutorial gives you the basics. Raíces Crew testers have reported that this D.I.Y. shampoo lathers well and leaves their hair soft, light and fluffy. To adapt the recipe for an herbal shampoo, simply add essential oils or use herbal infused water (tea!) instead of plain water when you are mixing your batch.

If you like the shampoo or the idea of making your own as much as we do, share this article with your friends and help spread the D.I.Y. love!

March EcoCulture Update: Community Collaborations and Spring Planting

Spring is almost here and it’s a busy time for Raíces EcoCulture.  For weeks we have been thinking about, sorting, ordering, separating and sending out seeds.  The soil is already workable and we are getting our micro farm plots ready for planting.  And since Spring is a time for new growth, it is the perfect time for Raíces EcoCulture to put down our roots and reach our branches further out into our community.

Spring Seed Bed

Experimental cold crop seed bed planted on the Full Snow Moon in our cold frame/mini-greenhouse.

We just received the wonderful news that this season Raíces EcoCulture will be joining in collaboration with the Agriculture Department of the Rutgers Cooperative Extension to coordinate the Livingston Community Garden in Piscataway.  Two of our micro farm plots are already located at this community garden site, and we look forward to helping this garden and the community who plants there flourish and grow.  Anyone who would like more information about this garden, please contact us.

Raíces Red Beans growing in the Livingston Community Garden in the summer of 2012.

Raíces Red Beans growing in the Livingston Community Garden in the summer of 2012.

This week, we also held our monthly EcoCulture Sustainability meeting on the topic of spring gardening and seed starting.  It was refreshing to see many new faces and old friends come out to swap seeds, learn about seed starting and winter sowing, make DIY mini-seed packet envelopes, dialogue about spring gardening and get their hands dirty planting spring seedlings.  Special thanks to our friends and supporters Ellen Rosner and Gabby “VeggieSoul” Aron for sharing their experiences and knowledge about winter sowing, permaculture and gardening in general.  Some of the community members who attended were first time gardeners looking for advice to get started, while others were seasoned gardeners and veggie heads who came to help us get some Raíces seedlings started and network with other local gardeners.  Check out photos from the meeting below and join us in Highland Park the first Monday of every month to dialogue and learn about topics in sustainability and EcoCulture.


Starting Seeds

The Medicinal and Spiritual Properties of Passion Fruit

by Francisco G. Gómez

Passiflora edulis L.

Passiflora edulis L.

Passiflora edulis, better known as Passion Fruit, is one of the most beautiful plants I have ever had the pleasure of caring for and using medicinally.  People who grew/grow up in the Caribbean use this plant to make a refreshing drink, also to treat a number of diseases naturally and spiritually. There are two types of this fruit; one is dark purple (Passiflora edulis L.). It’s about the size of a lemon and it grows in cool weather. The other is bright yellow      (Passiflora.edulis f. flavicarpa) and it is much bigger in size. It can grow to the size of a grapefruit and fairs best in warm climates.

Passiflora. edulis f. flavicarpa

Passiflora. edulis f. flavicarpa

From a scientific perspective, Passion fruit contains phytochemicals such as, harmine, passaflorine, harman, harmalin, harmol, vitexin, carotenoids, chrysin, isovitexin, scopoletin and theobromine. Phytochemicals are non-nutritive plant chemicalsthat have protective or disease preventive properties. They are nonessential nutrients, meaning that they are not required by the human body for sustaining life; however, it is well-known that plants produce these chemicals to protect themselves.

The leaves, flowers, peels and stems are all used as medicine in different ways. The leaves mainly contain the alkaloids. Harman, mentioned above, lowers blood pressure naturally. The flower can be made into a sedative and antispasmodic. Passion flower is also used to treat nervous disorders, bronchial conditions, arthritis, asthma, insomnia, gastrointestinal disorders and menopausal symptoms. Carotenoids and polyphenols in the yellow fruit extract can also kill cancer cells in vitro.



So you may be asking, what’s the whole religious thing about Passion Fruit? I first heard the following story from my grandmother when I was a child. Grandma would always make me a drink of some natural herb or fruit and tell me how they were connected to nature from a religious point of view; it was just her way. According to her, catholic missionaries who accompanied the Spanish Conquistadores in their conquest of the “New World” believed that there was a religious connection between the flower and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, hence the name “Passion.”  They associated the three stigmas of the fruit to the three nails used to pierce the hands and feet of Christ. They also saw the threads of the flower as representing the crown of thorns on Jesus’ head; the tendrils found on the vines as the whips that were used to lash him and the five anthers represented the five wounds, including the one made by the Spear of Destiny.

Now that I retell the stories that I learned as a young boy, I can say that I’ve left the religious part all behind! It’s a good thing that Granny is not around to see my spiritual evolution! The lessons my Grand Mother taught me about nature stuck with me throughout my long life, and they continue to reinforce me when I lose track of the spirit. In the on going age of the quick fix pill and the forgotten spiritual aspects of life, it is a relief to know that Passion is much more than a fruit that heals the body, but rather a fruit that is healing for the spirit and soul as well…

Happy Full Snow Moon – A Picture Post to Welcome Spring

by Nicole Wines

Today’s full moon started the last full moon cycle of winter. For Raíces EcoCulture, it marked the beginning of the time for welcoming spring. We have been busy preparing our seeds for planting, planning our gardens and looking forward to long days outside.  By the next full moon, the Spring Equinox will have already passed and we will be a full week into spring.

Full Moon

Instead of New Year’s Resolutions, this year, I’m opting for full moon pledges, as a way to get back to using the cycles of nature to mark time and get twelve chances to start or try something new, creative and positive in my world.  Since for us, today’s full moon signifies the coming of spring, and the sunlight has been longer while the days are getting warmer, it’s time to be outside more, to reconnect to nature as it wakes up and come out of hibernation.  This month’s pledge will force me to spend time outside by cutting my driving and reliance on fossil fuels for transportation by at least half.  Starting today, I am traveling by bike or foot whenever possible, reducing my time spent in a car, exercising my body, taking time to observe the environment and how it transforms with the change of the season.


I took my pledge seriously and started right away.  On my first bike trip, I came across my first sign of Spring.  If I had been in my car, I probably never would have noticed these Snow Drops, much less taken the time to stop and photograph them.  I certainly wouldn’t have smelled the earth fresh from days of rain, warming up, shifting, getting ready to sprout new spring life or noticed the speed of the Raritan River as I rolled along in the open air.  Clocking over 20 miles of travel on bike and 2 miles on foot the first day, without getting in the car once, I realized that if I keep it up and the weather works with me on the days I need to travel, I could cut out 500-600 miles of driving each month.  Less driving, less gas, less reliance on fossil fuel, less emissions.  One person alone altering their mode of transportation won’t save the world.  It won’t clean up the atmosphere or reverse global climate change, but if we are going to talk about EcoCulture, going green and living naturally, reducing my own dependencies on fossil fuels is the right thing to do.  And perhaps sharing it will inspire others to be more mindful of how they get around too.

Sowing SeedsThis full moon didn’t just call for a full moon pledge though, it called for a spring celebration.  We welcomed the season of spring preparations by visiting one of the Raíces Micro Farm plots to plant our first seeds of the year.  Yes, in February.

Prepping Soil

Under the cover of our homemade recycled cold-frame, the soil was rich, moist and warmer than the ground soil.  We loosened the soil, added some compost and prepped it as a seed bed for cold-weather crops.

Planting LettuceThanks to a group seed order, a recent seed swap in our community and a generous donation of seed packets from High Mowing Organic Seeds, we have about 15 varieties of lettuce, 5 of spinach, a few varieties of kale and lots of radish seed, all organic and all non-GMO.  We had to pick just a few varieties of the many seeds we have to start in our covered seed bed.  Hopefully, many of them will sprout, and we can transplant them according to the biodynamic moon cycle planting we will be using this year.

Seed Bed

It will probably get very cold again, but we aren’t worried about our seeds.  Even with a few deep freezes this year, some of the plots, including one of ours, at our MicroFarm site still had spinach, lettuce, beets, kale and carrots growing uncovered throughout the winter and they are still looking good.  And the seeds we planted today have their cold-frame/mini-greenhouse to keep them warm.

On the Raíces Micro Farm

I’m glad the Full Snow Moon was this far into February.  It was the perfect day for planting to celebrate the coming of Spring.

If you’ve been looking forward to spring planting too, join us in Highland Park next Monday, March 4 at 7 for our Eco Culture Sustainability Meeting.  The meeting topic is Seed Starting and Spring Garden Planning.  We will have introductions to seed starting, winter sowing and permaculture, a question and answer session with local gardeners, hands-on seed starting, DIY seed packet making and seed swapping.  We will also hold a seed swap at the meeting, so bring seeds if you have them to share and swap.  You will get to take home some started seeds from the hands on workshop, whether or not you are participating in the seed swap!  The meeting will be held at the Reformed Church of Highland Park in the Parlor (19-21 S. 2nd Ave., Highland Park, NJ).  For more info on our Sustainability meetings, see our EcoCulture homepage.

New Brunswick Community Garden Coalition Seed Swap

By Francisco G. Gómez

Raíces Seed Swap

Liz and Nicole talking veggie stuff

Seeds, seed sowing workshop, bluegrass music, children’s garden painting and lots of veggie minded citizens came out today for the seed swap at the Sacred Heart Church in New Brunswick. We set up our table right next to R.I.P.E. a Rutgers University student group that is dedicated to Permaculture, amongst other sustainable practices, and began to lay out our seeds, T-shirts, flyers and started up our Raíces garden pics slideshow on the Mac.

Gardener Ellen Rosner teaching winter seed sowing.

Gardener and community member Ellen Rosner teaching winter seed sowing.

The place was packed and it was truly a pleasure to see so much of the Mexican community present, as well as, many of our veggie growing friends like Gabby, Joe, Ellen, Theresa, Paul, Nathan and a few others. There were seeds everywhere and the place was bustling with questions and commentaries about all things that grow.

This is the third year that the seed swap has taken place and it seems that every year it grows more and more. In a time when issues of food, sustainability, conservation and the overall global environment seems to be on the minds of so many ecologically minded people, it is wonderful to share with community that is a part of this movement. If you didn’t make it out to this event, come out to the Raíces Eco-Culture Seed Swap on March 4th in Highland Park (flyer and more info here). Make sure you put these two events on your calendar every spring, and we hope to seed you there…happy growing!

Growing Community

Gabby Aron and children from the community painting garden mural “Growing Community”

Home » New Brunswick Community Garden Coalition Seed Swap

La Cosecha 2012

Just a sampling of this year's colorful harvest from the Raíces Eco-Culture Micro Farm Plots. We undertook the endeavor to grow as much food as we could without land of our own and at the end of August/beginning of September we are now harvesting an average of over 50 pounds per week from seven small plots spread throughout Middlesex County. We are seeking land of our own which we want to use to grow good food for people in our community. Check out some of the beautiful colors of this summer's harvest.
La cosecha

Collecting Spring Water From The Mountains

Road Trippin' with a few friends and a dozen empty jugs to visit and collect water from a natural spring in the northern New Jersey mountains!

D.I.Y. Cold Process Soapmaking

Thanks to our friend and wonderful teacher, Raíces co-directors Nicole and Francisco now know how to make their own soap!

EcoCulture: Spring Gardening Meeting

Raíces EcoCulture's March meeting was dedicated to spring gardening and seed starting. Participants learned about starting seeds, winter sowing and permaculture, made mini seed packet envelopes, planted seedlings and swapped seeds.

Early Spring Greens in a Raised Bed Cold Frame

This spring we experimented with a cold frame we constructed in the fall. We planted a few varieties of early lettuce and greens on the Full Snow Moon, February 25, just to see if it would grow. About a month and a half later and it's ready to eat! Lettuce is cold hardy, so we suspect it would have survived without the cold frame, but the warmth of being covered helped to keep it growing quickly.

Spring Seedlings 2013

Many hands have been involved in getting the Raíces seedlings started this year. From eco-culture meetings to family gatherings to school gardening days, we have planted over 40 trays of seeds so far, and we are still going!

EcoCulture: Deep Ecology

The Raíces EcoCulture Sustainability Meeting for April was about Deep Ecology, presented by Ellen Rosner. Attendees also participated in a group discussion after the presentation, examining and dialoguing about their relationship to nature, earth and ecology.

Raícitas Planting Seeds at Cubs in the Cave

Raíces EcoCulture seedling planting days at Cubs in the Cave. The seedlings we planted will be transplanted into the children's garden at the Reformed Church of Highland Park. Special thanks to High Mowing Organic Seeds and the Hudson Valley Seed Library who donated the seeds we planted.
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D.I.Y. Fridays – Building a Raised Garden Bed

by Nicole Wines

Raised garden beds in New Brunswick, NJ (Fall 2012)

Raised garden beds in New Brunswick, NJ (Fall 2012)

One option for gardening and small-scale intensive farming is building raised garden beds. It’s not a difficult process, it’s fun to build and you can get creative with the size and shape of the beds.

Some benefits of raised bed gardens

    • Raised beds are an easy solution to poor soil. Once built, you can add new soil, integrating organic matter and compost. It is easier to monitor and work with soil conditions in a contained area.
    • They have much better drainage for those who have poor drainage on their land.
Hoop house covering on raised garden bed in New Brunswick, NJ (Fall 2012)

Hoop house covering on raised garden bed in New Brunswick, NJ (Fall 2012)

  • Raised beds can extend the growing season. Soils in a raised bed warm earlier in the spring, allowing you to work the soil and plant cool weather crops sooner. You can also cover them in the fall with hoophouses or build coldframe/mini-greenhouse covers to fit the dimensions of your raised beds.
  • They are more accessible than traditional gardens. Raised beds can be custom designed for any height and even raised on a stand above the ground, to be accessible to people with disabilities, arthritis, knee problems and any other physical limitation that keeps them from bending or kneeling easily.
  • Once you complete the initial construction, maintaining a raised bed is easier than traditional garden space.
  • They are portable. If the site you select for your raised bed doesn’t work out, you can always move it!
Garden designed entirely from raised beds in Bridgewater, NJ (Winter 2011, Middle Earth Offices)

Garden designed entirely from raised beds in Bridgewater, NJ (Winter 2011, Middle Earth Offices)

When you custom design and build your own raised beds instead of purchasing pre-fabricated ones, you can adjust the dimensions to fit your space and gardening needs. You can even get creative with the design. It’s also much cheaper. Some prefabricated raised beds advertised online  cost over $200 for a single 4×8’ bed. It’s possible to get materials for a much lower cost (or even free if you join and post a wanted ad on Freecycle).

Tools and Materials

  • Lumber – we have used both new and recycled lumber to build beds. The important thing is that you use wood that is not chemical or pressure treated. The last thing you want is toxins leaching into your soil, plants and food! Untreated cedar resists rotting because it is naturally high in oil content. You can also use untreated pine, douglas fir or other untreated lumber. If you want you can protect it with linseed oil applications. Other alternatives include recycled composite plastic lumber, haybales, woven bamboo, bricks, steel and concrete blocks.
  • 1×1 inch posts for corner bracing
  • Wood Screws
  • Saw
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Level
  • Soil and compost

Constructing your raised garden bed

Raíces co-director Francisco G. Gómez constructing raised beds.

Raíces co-director Francisco G. Gómez constructing raised beds.

  1. Chose a spot, clear and level it off.Design your raised bed with your custom dimensions.
  2. Cut wood (if you’re purchasing lumber and you know the dimensions ahead of time, usually the store or lumber yard will cut it for you).
  3. Assemble frame with wood screws.
  4. Place on selected site to test level, continue to level off as needed.
  5. Screw 1×1 inch wooden posts to sides in all four corners to add stability.
  6. Additional posts can be driven into the ground and screwed to the sides in the center of the raised bed to help prevent buckling. This is especially helpful for beds that are over 6’ long.
  7. If you are placing your raised bed on a spot with a lot of vegetation, grass or weeds, you can line the bottom of the bed with a few layers of newspaper before filling with soil.
  8. Filling the raised beds with a mixture of garden soil and compost. (Summer 2012)

    Filling the raised beds with a mixture of garden soil and compost. (Summer 2012)

  9. Fill with soil. You can use soil from your own yard, you can buy soil or your can use a little of both. Townships often provide residents with compost, which can also be added to the raised bed. Some may even provide topsoil, so check with your town or county public works before buying any soil.
  10. Plant your seeds and seedlings and enjoy your new garden!
Raised garden beds in backyard garden. (Summer 2012)

Ready for planting! (Summer 2012)

Further links and resources

D.I.Y. Fridays – Helping the Bees with our Plants and Gardens

Bumble Bee

Bumble Bee

There has been a lot of buzz about saving the bees lately. Beekeepers, environmental groups, farmers (who rely on the bees to pollinate up to 80% of their flowering crops), and even mainstream media outlets are all reporting a shocking decline in the bee population, especially honeybees, in North America and many regions of Europe.

Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, occurs when whole hives suddenly disappear. This especially affects the agricultural industry and our industrial food supply system, as honeybees pollinate over $15 billion pounds of fruits and vegetables per year in America alone, about 30% of all the food we eat.  CCD has been attributed to pesticides acting as neurotoxins, veroa mites and insect diseases, malnutrition, genetically modified crops with pest control characteristics, increased use of systemic pesticides (pesticides that are absorbed into the plant material), environmental stressors including those due to being shipped across the country as agriculture work insects and even cell phone radiation.

It’s not limited to honeybees. Some native bees, including some species of bumble bees, and other pollinators are also experiencing population declines. However, many species of native bees have proven to be more resilient and have not experienced population declines at the same level as non-native honeybees. Gardeners, small farmers, supporters of strong local food systems and many eco-conscious people have voiced a concern over the issue of saving the bees and helping to promote the health of the native bee population.

Beehives near one of the Raíces plots at the Rutgers Student Organic Gardens

Beehives near one of the Raíces plots at the Rutgers Student Organic Gardens

There is a wealth of information available online about the importance of bees, the emergence of Colony Collapse Disorder, petitions for legislation against toxic pesticides, sustainable farming and homesteading practices that can help support the health of bees and their ecosystems. In fact, the quick spread of information about the danger that some species of bees are in has spawned a movement of urban and suburban small-scale, local, holistic beekeepers. But the simplest, easiest way that anyone and everyone can help to save and support the bees is by feeding them wholesome, chemical free food, in the form of plants!

Since bees travel over five miles to forage for food, you don’t have to live near or know a beekeeper or have a nest or hive on your property to help them.  If you plant them some food, they will travel and find it!   You don’t need to have a full garden, even just a few plants placed outside in pots in the summertime can help.

For all of our friends interested in helping the bees, D.I.Y. style, we compiled a list of some plants that are attractive and beneficial to bees, but also have a second use for you. All of these flowers and veggies must be single varieties, so check your seed packs. Happy planting!

PLANTS FOR THE BEES (with second uses for us)


Sunflowers feed bees and people!

  • Sunflowers feed bees and people
  • Hollyhocks-black hollyhocks make dark gray dye
  • Roses-rosehips can be collected and used for tea and syrup, high in Vitamin C
  • Sunflowers-seeds can be edible and made into oil, make sure the variety you plant has pollen
  • Honeysuckle-decorative, aromatic, sweet snack when blooming
  • Wildflowers-decorative, cut flowers
  • Dandelion-all parts are edible and medicinal, coffee substitute, dandelion wine

TREES-produce oxygen

  • Nut Trees-edible, repopulate native nut trees
  • Redbud-edible bud, flowering tree
Strawberries from the Raíces Micro Farm, pollinated by our bee friends!

Strawberries from the Raíces Micro Farm, pollinated by our bee friends!


  • Fruit trees-apple, prunes, plums, peaches, nectarines, cherries
  • Strawberries-besides eating the berries, you can make tea from the leaves
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries-like strawberries, you can also make tea from the leaves. This tea is especially good for women’s health.

VEGETABLES-let a few plants go to flower for feeding the bees and saving seeds, especially brassicas like radishes, kale, broccoli and mustards.

MEDICINAL AND CULINARY HERBS-let some flower for feeding bees and saving seed

Flowering Chives and Sage

Flowering Chives and Sage

  • oregano
  • mint
  • lavender
  • yarrow
  • sage
  • bergamot
  • borage
  • thai basil
  • parsley
  • cilantro
  • chives
  • dill
  • hyssop
  • lemongrass
  • st. john’s wort


  • clover-green compost to help build soil

Have more suggestions for helping the bees by providing food and habitat? Leave them as a comment here and we will share them as resources!