Sunday, 15 April 2018

Biomass Trials, Bulb planting and Forest Walk - Week 2 - The Polyculture Project

It's been a glorious spring week in Shipka!  This week we've continued planting in Ataraxia, our new perennial polyculture trial garden, have been foraging in the mountains for wild garlic and continued preparing the beds in the market garden for the annual crops.

You can read about what we got up to in week one here and  here's what we've been up to this week.

The Perennial Polyculture Trial Garden


We started to plant out the biomass beds in Ataraxia and added some more productive and support plants into the polyculture beds.

Ataraxia - The Perennial Polyculture Trial Garden

We've selected a range of pioneer plants to grow in the biomass beds and will be studying the suitability of each species for use as mulch plants. The ideal plant should grow well on poor soils, have relatively low water demand, be fast growing and tolerant of regular pruning.

We are experimenting with three categories of plants in the biomass beds.  

Nitrogen Fixing Trees and Shrubs ​​ - Paulownia tomentosa - Robinia pseudoacacia - Alnus cordata - Elaeagnus umbellata  
C4 perennial grasses -  Miscanthus x giganteus - Aruno donax 
Fast growing  perennials - Symphytum x uplandicum ' Bocking 14' - Morus alba - ' Vratza 24'

The pioneer plants will be in blocks of 1.5 m wide  x 8 m long  as shown in the below image. 




The biomass plants are planted at 50 cm between plants, 3 rows per bed. This season the plants will establish good root systems and settle into the beds and next season we will begin various pruning regimes, weigh the biomass and measure regrowth rates of each species.  

Alex measuring out the spacing between the Paulownia tomentosa.




Angela planting out Narcissus poeticus - Poet's Narcissus as a bulbous layer in the polyculture beds.




This beautiful spring ephemeral attracts bees and other pollinators and is the species considered to be one of the first daffodils to be cultivated. It's likely to have adorned the gardens and window sills of the Romans, Greeks and perhaps the Egyptians and Sumerians before them.




We also added the shrub layer to the productive polyculture beds which consisted of Gooseberry between the Hazelnut in bed B and Loganberry between the Hazelnut in Bed D    



Here is an overview of the trial beds showing the biomass beds and the productive beds



The Market Garden




We picked up a few trucks full of spoiled straw from a local farmer and a truck load of composted farmyard manure for the market garden.   





The bed preparation work flow is as follows; sprinkle 100 -120 g of ash per m length of bed, fork over the beds to relieve compaction, spot weed the beds chop and dropping all plants back to the surface (apart from those with  rhizomes that should be removed), rake back surface mulch, deposit 20 L of compost, replace the surface mulch, wait for a heavy rain to saturate the soil and then top up the surface mulch.     
  



Mountain Hike and Wild Garlic Pesto


We took a hike up in the mountains to a spot where Wild Garlic -  Allium ursinum can be found hugging the forest floor and harvested some to make a wild garlic pesto from the leaves. 




This time of year the forest floor, still fully bathed in spring light from the lack of leaves on the Beech trees, is full with flowering spring ephemerals and other forest herbs. These plants play a vital role in the cycling of nutrients by fixing minerals into biomass during the dormant season thereby preventing them from leaching out of the soil profile during the winter rains and snow melt. As the deciduous plants emerge from dormancy and fill with leaves the ephemeral plants having completed their reproductive cycles for the season release their herbaceous tissue back to the forest floor and hibernate in bulbous form until the next season. This resource sharing in time and space is a vital part of effective polyculture design that we try to integrate into our landscape designs for gardens and farms. 


Some Spring Ephemerals and woodland herbs from the surrounding forests 


Wild Garlic Pesto 


What you need - Wild garlic (a few bags full!) lemons, walnuts, olive oil, salt, food processor or blender

What to do - Wash the garlic and put it inside the blender, pour in the oil, squeeze in some lemon juice, sprinkle some salt and walnuts, crumbly goats cheese  and blend it until it is a paste. Taste it and add whatever of the ingredients you feel it needs more of (which definitely won't be the garlic!) Spoon it into jars and put in the refrigerator. Eat it with toast, pasta, cheese and meats.




Here are some photos from around the gardens:

Pyrus communis 'Early Boliaka 'planted 2 years ago and flowering for the first time, hopefully we'll get some August Pear 



Gingko biloba emerging from winter dormancy  


Prunus spinosa - Sloe  under Juglans regia - Persian Walnut . Lots of these shrubs forming thickets on the edge of the native living hedges that surround the garden. They do not seem at all inhibited by the Walnut. 



If you are interested in what we are doing at the project and would like to learn more about regenerative landscape design we have a seven day course coming up in June. For more info click on the poster below.





 If you appreciate the work we are doing you can show your support in several ways. Make a purchase of plants or seeds from our Bionursery, consider joining us on our upcoming Regenerative Landscape Design Course. You could also donate directly to our Polyculture Project



 



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