Wednesday, 3 December 2014

List of my endangered plants

Let's hope the world's endangered plants.
These are some of them I have been growing and seeking to propagate.

I have a few of these:
  • Cabbage tree - Dendroseris litoralis, critically endangered, due to very small habitat and destruction by goats, quite rarely cultivated, sensitive to aphids, monocarpic growth makes it hard to propagate (a single stem which flowers only after decades then dies), but very easy from seed, likes mild temperature and air moisture, well-drained rich soil, strong indirect light, could be grown in oceanic climates with frost-free mild climates (Robinson Crusoe island)
  • Deppea splendens, extinct in the wild, rarely cultivated and usually only in California, can be propagated by cuttings or seeds, seedlings need careful handling, especially moisture, then it is rather easy to grow, strong indirect light, could be grown in mild to warm frost-free climates, and slightly moist (Mexico cloud forest)
Deppea splendens, an astonishing plant, and yet extremely rare

I have perhaps a couple of these:
  • Kakabeak Clianthus puniceus, critically endangered, ocasionally cultivated locally, easy from seed after scarification, can be propagated by cuttings, dry tolerant, a bit prone to thrips, perhaps could be grown in frost-free Mediterranean climates or semi-moist climates (New Zealand)
  • Bauhinia bowkeri, endangered, possibly rarely cultivated, seed is easy to germinate after scarification (seedlings are prone to fungi), easy to growth, have tried cuttings but failed, perhaps could be grown in nearly frost-free Mediterranean climates or similar (South Africa)
  • Pinus torreyana, critically endangered, but somewhat cultivated locally, well-drained soil, germination improved after cold stratification (California), could be grow in Mediterranean climates
  • Pinus maximartenzii, endangered (Mexico), perhaps could be grown in Mediterranean climates
  • Aloe peglerae, critically endangered, but somewhat cultivated, easy to germinate
  • Aloe flexifolia, critically endangered, but somewhat cultivated, easy to germinate
  • Aloe dichotoma, vulnerable, but rarely cultivated
I have only one exemplar of these, and somewhat struggling growing:
  • Moringa hildebrandtii, extinct in the wild, kept from extinction by the local people, very sensitive to spider mites and thrips, seed germinate at hot temperatures, keep it rather dry, have tried cuttings but failed (Madagascar), a semi-dry tropical climate
  • Matelea orthoneura, critically endangered, non cultivated, very sensitive to spider mites and thrips, seed easy to germinate at hot temperatures, a tropical climate (Ecuator)
  • Lavatera  phoenica, endangered, very rarely cultivated, sensitive to spider mites, short-lived, seed somewhat easy to germinate after scarification, possibly propagated by cuttings, polination is apparent difficult which makes it hard to propagate (Canary Islands, on rock crevises, at altitude), perhaps could be grown in frost-free Mediterranean climates or nearby semi-dry oceanic islands
  • Impatiens paucidentata, possibly endangered, rarely cultivated, needs a mild and moist tropical climate, possibly can be propagated by cuttings (central Africa rainforest, Gabon and Uganda)
  • Parajubaea torayii, endangered, but somewhat rarely cultivated, could be grown in Mediterraenan climates in rather dry and sunny climates, can be grown in California, tolerates mild frost but prefers mild winters, one of the few edible coconut for temperate climates (Bolivia altiplano steep rock slopes)
  • Boswellia sacra, vulnerable, ocasionally cultivated but very rarely outdoors, seed expensive and difficult to germinate, needs gravel and limestone mix, light and hot temperatures, can be propagated by cuttings but slow growth, keep it rather dry, needs hot desert climate (Yemen, Somalia)
  • Jubaea chilensis, vulnerable, ocasionally cultivated, slow growing, could be grown in Mediterranean climates in semi-dry mild to warm climate, can be grown in large parts of southwest US, can stand hard frosts but needs mild winters, and dislikes hot moist summers, edible fruit (central Chile, in steep ravines)
I have seedlings of this:
  • Dendroseris micrantha, critically endangered, non cultivated, germination is delicate, needs critical control of moisture, then it has monocarpic growth which makes propagation difficult (Juan Fernandez islands, off coast Chile)
  • Coccothrynax borhidiana, critically endangered, rarely cultivated, difficult to germinate but in limestone and gravel at mild temperatures and irregular watering, keep it dry, very slow growing, could be grown in semi-dry frost-free climates, possibly oceanic (Cuba)
  • Nesocodon mauritianus, endangered, very rarely cultivated, seed needs careful moisture, fine soil and mild temperatures to germinate, as well as growth, temperate moist tropical climate (Mauritius islands, on cliffs)
  • Cedrus atlantica, Atlas Cedarwood, endangered, but widely cultivated, could be introduced to Mediterranean climates (Morroco)
Got seed (several of them critically endangered), but need to germinate:
- Robinsonia gayana (a seedling died, they need careful moisture control), Paulownia kawakamii (from China, adapted to temperate climates, yet critically endangered, sometimes cultivated), Gladiolus griseus, Ixia viridiflora, Araucaria angustifolia, Herrania umbratica, Franklia (extinct in the wild, somewhat cultivated), Metasequoia,  Abies pinsapo (Spain), Agathosma gonadensis (a seedling died), Aloe ramosissima, Baobab suarenzensis, Leucadendron chamalea, Leucadendron argenteum (beautiful endangered shrub from South Africa), Leucadendron discolor (seedling died), Sandalwood (vulnerable, highly prized from its scented wood)

Tried germination often, without success:
- Odontocarya perforata (critically endangered and very rare), Quercus acerifolia (Maple Oak, endangered oak native to US), Betula Tianschanica (endangered birch native to central Asia), Dracaena draco (from Canary Islands, can be grown in Mediterranean climates), Lebanese cedarwood, Athrotaxis latifolia

Seeking to find the following species:
- Wollemia pine (Australia New South Wales, critically endangered became somewhat cultivated in recent years), Kokia cookei (critically endangered from Hawaii, very rare to find), Salvia herbanica, Gomorteca keule, Key tree cactus (critically endangered from Florida, very rarely cultivated), Puyas, Araucarias, Rosewood

You can buy seed from me, on our shop at:

I have information on companies, in where to buy seed for some of these plants

Please contact us!

Also if you are open to collaborate in our project, please contact us! We want people living in climates, committed to plant growing and with land, which can be adequate for some of these species, so that they can be grown outdoors and propagate on their own. 

If you live in places like California, Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands, Spain, Australia and New Zealand, South America, or other tropical climates, please get in touch.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Barley harvest 2014


Our grain experiment in Iceland, in its second year, proved a few conclusions.

First it is much better to go for already established Icelandic varieties, which seem to produce significantly earlier. I noticed this in a nearby barley farmer, which had its grain ready one month earlier than me. I also had two varieties of oats, and the icelandic one was the only harvested.

This week, I had a harvest of Himalayan BarleyIn a small 0.5m2 bed, I harvested 50g of grain. It's about 1 ton/ha yield, or one fifth of the 5ton/ha yield of commercial barley. This grain was harvested mid September, so right on time, before the start of the Icelandic winter.

Some of the harvested barley, before threshing and winnowing.

I grew only 1 square meter bed of it. So at most it's only enough for a loaf of bread, with 10 slices.

I also have another variety of barley, which was harvested by early October, called Schrene Barley. I harvested 150g of grain per 0.5 m2 (3 ton/ha yield) which is near the organic yield for barley.

We also had a small harvest of rye (a grain which never produces well in Iceland), a small harvest of Triticale ´Shade´, a small harvest of Tim Peters Wheat (all by early October) and Maris Widgeon Wheat and Durum Wheat by mid October. It remains to be see whether these grain seeds are viable. 

I failed to harvest other several varieties of wheat (April Awned Wheat, Spelt Wheat, Kamut Wheat) and Perennial Wheat, but I will bring those plants indoors, to see if I can get seed from them. I had harvested a few seeds of Perennial Rye, from Tim Peters. That's a rare perennial type of rye, which multitillers and comes back again, every year, after harvest.

At least I found out that barley is the easiest grain to grow in Iceland. And that growing wheat is possible in Iceland, provived the right variety!

However it is rather challenging to get a nice ripe harvest of grain in Iceland. Except perhaps for some selected varieties of oats, barley or wheat. Better to invest the space with starchy roots like potatoes, swedes and parsnips. Unless you have a nice size of land, and luck with the summer.

Growing grain in Iceland. I tried many types, but the only harvested was barley, a local variety of oats, and a bit of wheat.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Potato harvest 2014

Today I harvest potatoes. In a part-shade bed of 3m2, I harvested 5.3 Kg. This is about 17 ton/ha.

I got less number of potato tubers than I expected (maybe because they were in part-shade) but also much larger potatoes than usual.  Overall, it is just as fine. We still get a yield on par with the average organic producer!
About 6 kg of potatoes, our homegrown, for the next few months...

Compared to last year, we got slightly more potatoes for the same area. Last year we harvested 4.5 Kg from 3m2 (yield 15 ton/ha). The increase was because this summer was considerably better than last year, nevertheless this year I was growing the potatoes in a bed with much less sunshine.

If last year we had potatoes lasting for 3 months, between mid September until December. This year they might last probably until January.

Yes, we don't eat that many potatoes. Just around 1.5 kg of potatoes per month, about 3 meals for a couple; less than once per week.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

June 2014. The summer has arrived in Iceland, after 2 years!!!

I am much more happy now. The weather has been great and I returned back to my gardening projects.

Warm loving crops

Recently, I transplanted outside tomatoes, corn and beans.

I transplanted the pots during the last week of May and the first week of June. I adapted plants to cold conditions by middle of May, and they survived some minor frost. The April was rather mild, but May brought one last frost around the middle of the month, down to -4ºC. As June came, quickly the weather warmed: the night temperature increased from around 0ºC to 6ºC, and the day temperatures from 8ºC to 17ºC.

I transplanted plants into the sheltered spot against the house walls, and also against a new plastic windbreak protecting the frontyard beds from northern winds, facing southwards. In both spots, the day temperatures are increased by a couple degrees.

Varieties. These were 3 varieties of corn (earlivee, blue miniature, painted mountain), 2 varieties of beans (hestia bush and provider), several varieties of tomatoes, a couple of zucchini, and quinoa.

Corn. The corn plants were in milk packages, sown in mid March, and transplanted out 2 months old, in mid to late May, with 35 cm, two plants per pot, 6 pots per variety, and they survived well a minor frost (under a fleece). Stalking is critical, to prevent them of being broken with the wind. They are well in advanced compared to last summer, and took about 2 weeks to recover from the transplant shock and the cold conditions. The earlivee variety is even beginning to tassel. It looks like the painted mountain corn will be the next one. Some plants were planted against the windbreak but most were planted in the sheltered spot. Overall, corn seems to be set to be the happy surprise for this summer. In total, I have about 1m2 of corn.

Tomatoes. The tomatoes were in trays but already up to 25 cm high (mostly sown in mid March, transplanted out 2.5 months old, in late May to early June). The plants survived well the minor frosts, protected by a fleece, but some were damaged. The plants were and are rather leggy, since they were in a tray, so this experiment is in disadvantage compared to last summer, when a transplanted flowering siberian tomato produced a small crop. Currently, the plants recovered from the cold shock, and two varieties seem to be heading for flower buds: Early Chatah, Latah and Coldset. In addition, some varieties seem adapting better to cold conditions, like Glacier, Vodar and Sub Arctic Plenty. . The varieties Polar Circle, Polar Beauty, Earlinorth, Siberian and Beaverlodge are smaller. The varieties Skorospelyi Sibiriski and Siberia, although rather frost hardy, do not seem to be in the best shape, as they became rather leggy plants.

I also got from the community's greenhouse, some plants already fruiting, which I now transplanted into the garden as well (variety is tiny tim). I have no idea if my non-flowering seedlings will set fruit or not (I should have given more proper care to the tomato seedlings, I was overwhelmed with too many varieties to test), but I am sure I will get a clear idea of which variety is the quickest to flower and set fruit, under the Icelandic summer.

Beans. The beans were in small pots, 2-3 plants per pot, 3 pots per variety, some already cropping (XX cm), some were seedlings (20-30 cm), and several extra seedlings of the provider variety (10 cm). All sown around late March to April, and when they were transplanted out (late May), up to 2 months old, they suffered leaf burns caused by minor frost (even under a fleece), and haven´t recovered yet (it has been about 3 weeks); some show minor signs of recovery (the smaller provider seedlings). It looks like beans take a longer time to harden, but overall I guess some transplant will flower and set pods on themselves, if the summer is rather good. I am preparing new seedlings now.

Quinoa. While I lost most quinoa to spider mites, some 10 cm seedlings (sown in mid March) were planted out (2 months old) in late March, between the lines of corn in the sheltered spot. It is not good looking due to wet weather. I sown seeds earlier in the spring but lost all of them to frosts and mostly due to wet weather. Compared to last summer, when quinoa set seed in a container outdoors, this summer I had a complete failure with my quinoa plants. I should have given more attention to the quinoa project.

Winter rye (sown in August last year) is now flowering (since first days of June). Both in frontyard beds and in backyard beds, where there are only 3 hours of direct sunlight. This is 2 weeks in advance compared to 2013. The perennial rye is also starting to flower (plants that survived the winter). Newer seedlings are just 10cm just like year, and will be planted this week. This is very promising and it seems I finally might had some rippen rye. I have about 3m2 of rye.

The barley and wheat varieties, sown in early March, vernalized outdoors in April (when 1 month old), transplanted out around early May (when 2 months old), are now around 20 cm. Some varieties are faster than others (Peters Wheat, Kamut wheat, April Awned). Slower is Winter Red Wheat, Spelt, Stone Age, Durum. The Himalayan barley grow a bit faster than the Schrene variety. Triticale Shade is also growing very fast. The wheat and barley are around 2 weeks in advance compared to last year, and while this is not much of an advantage, it means that at least I might have some barley and wheat, if the summer is good. I have 1m2 of barley, and about a total of 3m2 of wheat.

The oats are similar to last summer, and I hope to produce a better crop than last year, with more viable seeds. I have about 1m2 of oats. They were planted out around mid May.

Potatoes. The potatoes were planted out in mid May (survived undamaged frost -5°C under several layers of fleece) and late May. They are now 40cm tall, and a couple weeks in advance to last summer. Self-seedling and sown turnips and kale are comparable to last summer (between 1 and 10cm). I have no swedes, no pack choy, no carrots, no spring onions. I have about 6m2 of potatoes.

Other crops. In the rest of the garden, I have transplanted some broccoli, celery and salads (after mid May, when frost was nearly over). They are around 5 to 10cm tall. I have broad beans and peas, growing since May (they tolerated down to -5ºC), with 30cm and 10cm respectively. We have a lot of spontaneously grown (self-seeding) pak choy, cumen, turnip and kale. Couldn't find seedlings of rocket or valerian salad.

Perennials. In terms of perennials, the chives and good king henry are producing a mass of crop; I am still hoping to establish the groundnut, the siberian pea shrub, the walking onions, the multiplier onions, ramps, earthnut pea, miner's lettuce, turkish rocket, skirret, chinese artichokes, comfrey and borage. I lost the crambe, the indian ricegrass, most multiplier onions, and almost all perennial rye. A new perennial is japanese wineberry. The scorzonera and sunchokes are growing fast, but I do not know whether they will make sizable roots. The lovage and the mints are now established and large plants. Nice established flowers include the daisies, the aquilegia, pansies, poppies and the clematis climbing vines. The cherry tree was a big disapointment because it didn't flower (the likely causes were the fact I haven't pruned it, the harsh winter, and the last summer was too weak).

Photos will come soon!

Saturday, 24 May 2014

May 2014. The crises of gardening. And the impermanence of Permaculture

This spring has been a crazy spring. If last spring and summer were exceedingly cold, this year I had been going through a sort of depression and major life crises, my motivation for the plants has lowered, and so has my attention to them. In result many plants died, and I have been struggling with the issue, that alone, the projects cannot be sustainable. Thus, this is a serious blow to my dreams.

I might leave the current community of Sólheimar I live in; the community has also been going through a severe crises, with many people leaving, a dense environment, leadership has been at best confusing and uninspiring, and negativity has been spreading like wildfire amongst its members. All constructive energy I try to apply, seems to fail, and this is a set of reasonable signs pointing to the need for a larger change in my life.

If I leave, I must develop a sort of emotional deattachment from my personal plant projects that I cannot take with me, in the airplane. And I will indeed take a long time away, because I can't stand more of the community problems. I need a peaceful and thriving place, where people really support each other in community actions. This is a painful process.

Now it's end of May and the frost is hopefully over. We had a warm April, but May brought cold and dry north winds, with frost, and as a result, transplanted plants died (except for peas, broad beans, cereals, and plants that were located in sheltered spots.

The most sheltered spot is against the walls of the house, in a corner, surrounded also by a plastic windbreak. It's a successful sheltered spot.

I layed some plastic windbreaks in the beds in front of the house, but although they raise the temperature in the southern side, in calm sunny days by 4ºC extra, in windy days, the ground is still very dry and frost develops during night. It's not enough protection. A house, or trees are necessary.

In the backyard, where the house faces a forest, a potato bed, survived the frost, because it has the protection of both and also plastic. I have a cherry tree there, which I surrounded by a guild of herbs and flowers, but it seems the tree will not flower this summer, maybe because the tree failed to gather enough energy from last year's terrible summer.

I left many plants dying, when one day, I forgot to water the plants, and the sun heated the conservatory to 35ºC and baked young seedlings. Without extra help, and losing motivation, and harsh environment factors, its very easy to lose plants. Beds seem empty outdoors, without that much to plant in there. I still have some perennials, but several were lost, and indoors, I have quite a lot of containers growing plants, but barely nothing to eat from.

Nevertheless, the growing 1 month of food project still goes ahead, with fields of potatoes, cereals and beans, and I am trying some corn outdoors too. But with the exception of the potatoes, I am unsure whether I will succeed in this experiment. I am just going to throw perennials and flowers and everything in the beds outside, and let nature decide what perishes and what survives.

Judging from my efforts, nature is leaving my beds nearly bare, with only a few weeds returning. Perhaps, the entire Permaculture orFukuoka approach need to be reapproached.

It's very idealistic to be on the permaculture or community bandwagon, but then reality is sometimes very painful and cruel, and doesn't match our dreams and expectations. And lately it seems everything seems to be rather chaotic around me.

Many of the endangered species are still alive (I lost the torrey pine), but I have no idea of what to do with them if I change my home. Again, it's one of those thorny heartbreaking questions. Do I leave them behind to abandonment? If I move somewhere else, I don't have a house or sense of roots, so no new home for them.

I also learnt that experimenting with too much, as I have been doing is really not sustainable, I would had need more people to help (which I haven't) and so I must be small and focus in much less ambitious ideas. Much less diversity of plants. Complexity has spontaneously reduced itself to simplicity, amidst this life crise within and around me.

It takes plenty of energy to start these projects, but very little to destroy them. This makes me wonder whether these projects are really sustainable and the best approach. I must deeply rethink this.

If we can still see hope and inspiration in this post, then it's really really great - that means that even in the bleakest gardening moments, one can still think positive and be inspired.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Growing precious plants that are near extinction...

After a long time without normal weather, spring has finally arrived to Iceland. 
I will make another post of it, but before please let me share with you my latest achievement in plant conservation.

I was busy buying seeds of species in danger of extinction and sowing them. Many endangered species are obviously very rare and impossible to find for sale, but since there are many thousands in risk of extinction, some of them can eventually have seed for sale online (like in

Over these last days, I managed to germinate seeds of two endangered species and one critically endangered species:
Abies pinsapo, Spanish fir
  • One is Abies pinsapo, a conifer species, a fir, only growing in moutains of the south of Spain and parts of Morroco. Despite conservation efforts, its population is still decreasing, mostly because of forest fires and the warming of the climate, which has increased mortality of the trees. Twenty years ago, the tree was more abundant. In Morroco, the tree is threatened by both deforestation (to grow cannabis) and forest fires. Overall, the fir is only present in 5 locations, so it's not a very good situation. I germinated one seed by placing it in a container with moist gravel in the fridge, after one month. Since this tree is from a Mediterranean mountain climate, I think it could be eventually be grown in a few spots in Portugal, where climate is still more temperate. I 
Aloe peglerae
  • A second species is Aloe peglerae. It is native to only 3 locations in South Africa, and although some part of them are protected areas, the population of this aloe is decreasing in number mostly due to illegal collection and also urbanization. This aloe germinated in a gravel mix containing a bit of soil, only barely moisted, placed in partial sunlight at 19-23ºC

  • The last species is Matelea orthoneura, this vine is native to Ecuador coastal forests. From the family of the milkweeds and is pollinated by flies in a similar fashion to orchids. It is critically endangered, since it is only known to be present in two small locations. And it's habitat has been destroyed at a fast speed and it continues. The two locations are near farms and villages, so this is no surprise. Thus this species can become extinct in soon, and as far as I know there is no cultivation or conservation efforts of it. I germinated two seeds by placing them on the surface of a mix of equal parts of soil and gravel covered by a bag, at 29ºC over a week, and then 20ºC for another week. If I end up sucessfully growing it, I must find ways of propagation to distribute this vine to other people interested in ensuring this species does not become extinct.

  • A few weeks ago I germinated Bauhinia bowkeri. This is a beautiful legume species only native to South Africa. The seed germinated in a tray containing moist gravel and soil, at 29ºC, after 2 weeks. I am now growing it near a light. The species is classified as vulnerable, but it hasn't been throughly accessed. Some decades ago the species was growing in several locations but presently it's only known at a single location and only 20 mature trees. Therefore this species could be well critically endangered. And I must protect my seedling at all costs! Guess now there are 21 known plants in the world!
The other threatened species I am already growing for a couple of months are:

The biblical gift to Jesus, the frankincense tree. Now it could also become extinct in the near future

  • Boswellia sacra, frankincense (highly difficult to germinate and grow past seedling stage; currently the tree are overexploited and in bad health due to that, it is not yet endangered but at the current rate it could become endangered in a few years, and extinct by end of the century if not soon - I germinated the seed by placing a mix of limestone, gravel, pumice and sand, over 29ºC for 3 weeks. Although a biblical species, frankincense is very rarely cultivated, and if it is, only as a bonsai; as far as I know, outside of the Middle East, I know only of one person growing it, and that is in Arizona). I could technically grow my frankincense tree if not in bonsai form, in the drier parts of Portugal.
Aloe dichotoma, an amazing aloe tree!
  • Aloe dichotoma (an outstanding yet vulnerable status aloe from South Africa and Namibia - germinated at 25ºC on moist gravel; it's rare but sometimes cultivated, including for its conservation purposes. However its population in the wild is reducing, mostly due to climate change, so it is important to continue its preservation efforts)
A forest of jubaea chilensis, called coquito nut
  • Parajubaea torallyi and jubaea chilensis, these two palms I got in ebay, but there are increasingly endangered in the wild (especially the parajubaea), despite ocasional cultivation and even an interesting use as a coconut-like fruit from a tree which is relatively hardy when grown in Mediterranean climates; apparently they can be grown in climates like California, Texas and South Europe. They are native, respectively, to steep ravines in Chile and moist ravines in a small part of Bolivia.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Fresh new year! List of gardening/ permaculture projects for 2014 !


It has been a while since I do not write.
I should write about my travellings back in January, and all the ideas for new projects I had starts since then.
Needless to say I have been obsessively gardening in February, now that springs is nearing.


Everything is growing amazingly good, thanks to the two CFL growing lights I bought last November. They are 250W and 300W. Tomatoes have buds and salads grow fast, when placed about 30-40cm away, and if tomato seedlings are placed about 20cm then they grow like crazy. Seedlings are 30cm tall one month from seed.

Two fluorescent lamps (300W and 250W) allow me to grow tomatoes and salads during the winter


This is a project dedicated to Pami, which is now on the first year of her herbalism/natural medicine course. We want to have a collection of dried herbs and homemade tinctures, so we are collecting medicinal herbs. I have grown from seed comfrey, borage, arnica, skullcap (last two with 2 month cold stratification), marshmallow. I have also a crazy big motherwort plant (3 month old from seed), which is a very good herb for anxiety and heart.  Our dream is to have a etnobotanical collection, and we are building it that way.

Motherwort, an amazing herb for the heart and anxiety


Ok. This one is work-related. I work as a soap maker/ natural cosmetic/ herbalist, so I have a fairly wide collection of essential oils in our workplace. Of course we all know what a lavender or a thyme plant looks like, but what about frankincense or patchouli? So, these are the species I am growing from seed, to smell them directly from the plant! I also have eucalyptus citriodora (with a fabulous scent when you touch the leaves!), tea tree (very tiny seedlings germinated over a radiator over a month). I want to germinate plumeria but so far I have failed (its flowers are ornamental and have a soberb sweet smell).

Patchouli plant (and tiny tea tree seedlings in background to the left)


This is my special pet project. I had the idea back in November after watching a documentary on endangered animals, and thought I could help a few endangered plants. I found seed of many on the internet (some of which rapidly disappearing, and on brink on extinction). I have ordered a dozen of them, and now I am on to germinate them. I have succedeed with frankincense (near endangered even if it such a famous biblical tree), that required radiator and a special mix of volcanic gravel and limestones. Germination is about 10% and keeping seedlings alive requires rigorous control of moisture on the dry side, and strong light. I also have a fan to simulate wind, which helps plants to become strong. Other than it, I have aloe dichotoma (an endangered aloe from south africa) and an endangered species bauhinia (germinated like a bean). Obviously by using only seed you do not threaten the endangered plants themselves. This project is a big one, and many seeds are very rare and expensive (and difficult to start), so I will need to write a crowdfunding project to help me finance this. Hope people contribute. Furthermore, I plan to later propagate more these rare plants and spreadf them to other people, so that these species remains less rare and farther away from the brink of extinction.

Aloe dichotoma, frankincense, and bauhinia, 3 plants I am growing from seed that face risk of extinction. 


This is a second attempt after the experiments last summer.
Last year I successfully grew siberian tomatoes, even in such an unusually cold and rainy summer! This year I want to try corn; still a second try of the painted mountain corn, which failed miserably last summer, but I am going to try also dwarf blue jade corn, and earlivee (the quickest corn to produce). Dwarf and early varieties are probably a good bet.
I ordered bush bean "provider" which was recommended by people in Canada, as more cold tolerant than most beans. And bush varieties of pumpkins: summer ball and golden nugget. They don't grow long, so they will be similar to zuchini which grows well in our cool Icelandic summers.
About the tomatoes, I am growing an outstanding number of 15 different varieties, all adapted to cold climates, from Alaska, Canada and Siberia. I already exposed seedlings to -6ºC and snow outside and had several of them survived. I am doing a natural selection of them.

This siberian tomato plant has survived freezing of -6ºC and it is still alive and recovering. While I demonstrate the extreme situation, this variety is able to set fruit outdoors in Iceland, which is quite an achivement.


I done this back in 2007. I did an experiment of planting spinach and radish for each day for an entire moon cycle. Such a patience! I observed that radish produced better roots and bushier plants when planted in earth and water element days, while seeds in general germinated faster near the full moon. Seeds germinated near new moon grew longer roots, while those at full moon, longer aerial parts.
As a scientist/ biologist, I am quite surprised, shocked, and fascinated, that yes plants do respond to lunar cycles and lunar influences.
Now I have repeated the experiment in February with seeds of radish, broccoli, tagete, chicory and tomatoes. I have seen many interesting observations which I will report later, but basically they reinforced what I have seen back in 2007. I add that last year I saw also an impact of the use of certain biodynamic herbs (valerian, nettles, dandelion, chamomile) on the growth of vegetables (when added on the watering of those plants).


This is another crazy idea I had.
Long it has been reported that crops grow fantastic well in volcanic slopes and soils. Since I live in a volcanic island, one day, while we were hiking, I imagined I could try the volcanic material of the different 30 active volcanoes in Iceland, and see how plants react. I started a few experiments with ash and gravel from Hekla, Veidivotn, Katla and Grimsnes volcanoes from Iceland. So far, I see that most of them seem to increase growth of the plants, as compared to controls without volcanic material. I will report on this later.

Testing different volcanic rocks/ash, in plant growth


These are all developments done with other people.
First, I have been invited to give permaculture lectures where I live in Sólheimar, I will gladly do so. I think it's time to push forward some of my educational side. Also, this spring I am excited to see whether I will manage to have the opportunity to do an online permaculture course with the big guys in Australia. More details later.
Another outreach thing - but one that I am skeptical about - is to bring forward the idea of permaculture into Solheimar (the community where we live in). This would be to implement the idea of a garden with perennial species, zoning design and forest gardening, applied  to the community garden in Solheimar, possibly also to the other outdoor spaces, and also inside the community´s plastic house. Perhaps even a collection of medicinal plants, exotic tropical species and unusual crops.
All of these ideas develop slowly. People are still not receptive, so I do not want to invest much energy on it. Also I am impatient so when people do not show interest or support, I quite rather early and focus in my own projects without bothering others. I don't like pushing my ideas into other people, if they are not receptive to them. Manifesting the idea of permaculture is surely a challenge in Iceland (since it has no tradition in gardening or even vegetable farming). Nevertheless I feel the need to move my ideas from a personal to a more communitarian and social sphere. It makes all the sense, since human beings are community beings, not isolated cells. Let's see how it goes.

I am happy growing many indoor vegetables, and also many other interesting species, like edible perennials, fruit trees, endangered species, medicinal herbs. However such projects cannot be sustainable if not supported by other fellow human beings, and continued by others.


One of these is to continue to cultivate edible plants from around the world, especially perennials, and introduce some of them to my permaculture garden in front of our house. And hopefully transform it, gradually, into a forest garden kind of thing.

Another project is to continue the 1 month food production project. This year I will still cultivate vegetables, broad beans, normal beans and peas, potatoes, and of course, try grains. Last year the grains mostly failed (except for oats), so now I am cultivating much earlier indoors (and more varities - something ought to work!). I organized myself and did a calender for the gardening tasks in Iceland, with the exact timing one must sow seeds and transplant them outdoors, in order to be successfully with an harvest. I also want to eat much more, rather than just trying and experiment. Currently, we are already growing salads and sprouts indoors.

I also want to develop an essential oil mix to deter spider mites and aphids. I created one with rosemary, peppermint, lemongrass, and some lavender, thyme and cinnamon. It seems to at least control them, but it burns the leaves of some sensitive plants if applied too much. Perhaps dilution is key. Spider mites are a big problem, they quickly kill a plant, and I can loose months of effort within a couple of days.

Yacon(left) and chinese artichokes (right): two edible perennial roots

Indoors, I am excited to try to acomplish the following goals: collect seed from the perennial roccoto chili pepper, from the mexican jicama root, harvest chinese yams, grow different and beautiful varieties of peppers, tomatoes and corn, grow and produce yacon, grow more moringa, grow winged beans, and try peanuts for the first time. Outdoors, I want to grow skirret, chinese artichokes and try again the groundnut. Want to try quinoa outdoors, now not in a container but transplanted into the soil! And hopefully I will get the cherry tree to produce fruit this year (fingers crossed!)