Saturday, 25 June 2016

Polyculture Project - Market Garden Study - Update 6

Here's a little of what we've been up to during the Polyculture Market Garden Study the last few weeks.

With a welcome break from the cool damp conditions the gardens are really starting to get going and all of a sudden, summer has arrived :)

Photos from June 

We said our farewells to Marika Wanklyn (it was great having you on the team!) and a big thank you to Johannes who joined us for just a week during his ZIS trip ( If your adventurous, curious and 16 - 20 years old ZIS provide a great opportunity for travel). We're delighted to welcome back Ala Pekalska who helped to turn some of the garden produce into delicious meals during our Edible Ecosystem Design Course.

The Market Garden Polycultures   

The gardens are coming along nicely albeit a few weeks behind. Tomato, Squash, Chilli and Beans are in flower and the first fruits are setting.  The leafy crops are producing well and the trees and shrubs are filling with fruits and nuts

Our earliest fruiting cutivar is Tigerella. A reliable cropper with very few problems 

We generally don't experience pest problems, however we do keep a close eye on a few organisms in order to prevent them from causing significant damage. Cabbage White are one such organism.

Pieris brassicae - Cabbage White

Pieris brassicae - the large white, also called cabbage butterfly or cabbage white have been flying since early June - always a clear signal to keep an eye out for their eggs on the underside of our Brassica crops which this year include Kale, Borecole and  Kohlrabi.  One adult female can lay up to 600 eggs and a small batch of the larva (20-30) can obliterate a 40 x 20 cm leaf in a few days so this is one potential pest we pay careful attention to.

Large White - Pieris brassicae eggs and new hatched larvae on underside of Kohlrabi leaf

One advantage of polyculture is that it's more difficult for the butterflies to locate our crops among the other crops and they spend more time in flight where that are more likely to be caught by one of the many birds that use the garden as a feeding ground. Some butterflies do manage to mate and lay eggs so we check the underside of leaves every 4-7 days. If we fail to remove the eggs and the larvae emerge they need to travel around various other plants before they can locate another brassica food plant and are again more likely to to be located by the teams of pest predators we work with on the site i.e birds, frogs, toads, ground beetles, predatory wasps etc.

Our Permaculture Market Garden Polycultures 

Comfrey Harvest 

Second Comfrey Cut from the biomass patch 

This second cut of the year was taken from the same 13 m2 trial bed consisting of 42 plants precisely 37 days after the first cut.  For information on the first cut see here. The plants were flowering for 5 days before the cut and full of pollinators as usual

Natasha, Ute and Kata cutting and weighing the 'Bocking 14' comfrey patch 

The biomass weighed in at 32.2 kg. Not far off 1 kg of growth per day  and almost 10 kg more than the previous cut probably due to the longer days and higher temperatures.

We just about managed to squeeze the biomass into a 200 L barrel. This should convert to 15 -20 L of comfert concentrate which can be diluted further to 150 - 200 L of liquid fertliser.

We're using a fast growing hybrid Symphytum x uplandicum 'Bocking 14' - Comfrey in our gardens and for this trial and will publish the full records from the biomass patch at the end of year. For more information on these super plants and how to establish and manage a patch see our previous post here.

Forest Garden

Fruits from the Forest Garden

Plenty of fruit coming out of the gardens this month including raspberries, strawberries, currants, mulberries, cherries and early plums. The main work in the forest garden is cutting back growth around the establishing plants,  maintaining the pathways and harvesting the fruits to eat fresh, preserve and for our Trustika - food coop customers.

Mulberries - a challenge to find in the market due to their short shelf life. Our Mulberries arrive to our customers less than 20 hrs after shaken from the tree.  

Mulberry Harvest   

Here's a video made by my youngest son Archie of a mulberry harvest in the garden.

Paulownia Coppice

We've been experimenting with Paulownia spp. in the gardens for the last 4 years and are seeing some excellent potential for biomass and stake material for the market garden. We're currently focusing on using the plant as a nurse species for vegetable production and  to grow 1.5 m tall tomato support stakes.  I'll be writing a more detailed post on this in the near future, but for now here are some photos of the 4 month old regrowth we are seeing from these plants in our gardens.

Paulownia elongata - 4 month old coppice regrowth  

Pigs and Ducks 

Late spring marks the arrival of new animal residents to the garden. A small flock of ducks and two Bulgarian white pigs join us for the summer.  

Karl and Marx  

The Quackers 

Edible Ecosystems Design Course

Thank you to the wonderful participants of this year's Edible Ecosystems Design Course and for all the crew that helped out. You can check the photos from the course here.

Edible Ecosystems Design Course June 2016 

See here for the results of our polyculture studies from 2014 - 2016

 If you appreciate the work we are doing you can show your support in several ways.


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Sunday, 5 June 2016

Polyculture Project - Market Garden Study - Update 5

We said goodbye to Charlotte who has returned to Norway to make a start on her upcoming project. Thank you Charlotte, for all of your help, it was a pleasure to have you here:)  We're pleased to welcome Natasha from New Zealand to the team. 

The Market Garden Polycultures 

We are growing 3 annual polycultures this year. Ares includes a perennial support crop, but the main crops are annuals. Here are the plant lists for the polycultures.

Common Name
FamilyCommon Name
FamilyCommon Name
African MarigoldAsteraceaeCourgette Zucchini
Pot Marigold AsteraceaeCourgette Zucchini
Black Beauty
Courgette Zucchini
Black Beauty
CucurbitaceaeDwarf Yellow Bean
FabaceaeRed OnionAmaryllidaceae
Squash Waltham ButternutsCucurbitaceaeDwarf Borlotto Bean
Lingua Fuoco Nano
FabaceaeWhite OnionAmaryllidaceae
Summer Squash
Yellow Bush Scallop
Black Beauty
SolanaceaeDwarf Yellow Bean
Autumn King
ApiaceaeDwarf Borlotto Bean
Lingua Fuoco Nano
French Climbing Bean
Cobra Beans
Rainbow Mix
Delicacy Purple
French Climbing Bean
Hristo's Beans
FabaceaeKale - Borecole
BrassicaceaePaulownia tomentosaPaulowniaceae
SolanaceaeKale - Borecole
Black Krim
SolanaceaeSwiss Chard
Rainbow Mix
Ukrainian Purple
Rainbow Mix
Saved seed
White Gem
Anna Russian
SolanaceaeKohlrabi - Delicacy PurpleBrassicaceae
Sweet Genovese BasilLamiaceaeChilli Pepper

This week we planted out the support species- Calendula officinalis and Tagetes erecta into Zeno. Both of these plants are reliable self seeding annuals.

 As long as you don't mulch where last season's plants were, you can expect many seedlings to emerge in the spring and can use these to stock the beds. Three or four plants can produce 100's of strong seedlings.    

A patch of self seeded Calendula officinalis 

It's been more of the same cool and wet weather over the last few weeks. Parsnips, carrots, chard, dwarf beans and kale in Epictetus have all responded well to the cooler weather, but many of the warm weather crops such as squash, peppers and aubergines are struggling.  Hopefully, they should take off with warmer temperatures forecast.  

Siberian Kale - ready for the first of many harvests


With no clear break in the weather so far, hay making is still on hold and we've had plenty of time to try and identify a range of grasses we have growing on the site. Thanks to Ute for identifying the following grass species from the garden:

Cock's Foot (Dactylis glomerata)
Meadow Brome (Bromus commutatus)
Great Brome (Bromus diandrus)
False Oat grass (Arrhenatherum elatius)
Wall Barley (Hordeum murinum)
Bent or Bentgrass (Agrostis sp.)
Probably also both Poa trivialis and Poa annua

Photos by UteVillavicencio

Forest Garden 

Cherries - It's been a poor year for cherries with what little fruit that set quickly spoiled by heavy rainfall. We still managed to pick at least 20 kg from some very reliable trees in the back garden and have some late ripening cultivars yet to harvest from the orchard. On the bright side, it looks like we're in a for a bumper plum harvest.

Fireblight - For the first time I can remember one of our "semi-wild" pear trees is hosting  Erwinia amylovora - Fireblight,  a pathogenic bacteria.

Natasha cut out all of the infected branches and we removed them from the site for winter kindling. With more wet and stormy weather forecast for June, the bacteria are likely to spread. It's interesting to see how the windward face of the tree carries the majority of the infected branches.

Natasha pruning out the infected branches 

Below is some more information on the disease cycle of Fire blight.

Image from

See here for the results of our polyculture studies from 2014 - 2016

 If you appreciate the work we are doing you can show your support in several ways.