Sunday, 29 July 2018

Soil Testing, Discovering Local Plants and Woodland Coppice - Week 16 - The Polyculture Project

Loving the cool and wet summer this year. It's certainly a stark contrast to what's going on in West and S.W Europe. We're spending the days between gardens mainly harvesting and mowing in the mornings and working on new designs and writing up the results from last years APP trials in the afternoons. I hope to publish those this coming week.  So here's some photos and news of what we've been doing in the gardens this week. 




 Robinia Coppice 


We have a small woodland plot where we have been experimenting with coppicing. The dominant tree species in the woods are Robinia pseudoacacia - Black Locust  a North American native that naturalized in the area after being introduced here many years ago. Last spring we felled some of the trees in order to start the coppice. The aim is to grow the support stakes for our market garden from the coppice. The regrowth is going well and we'll make the first cuts this autumn. High levels of the alkaloid taxifloin make the wood very resistant to rot.       


There are some beautiful old Juglans regia - Persian Walnut in the woodland. It's interesting that the west facing bark of the boles are covered with lichen.


I might try this pattern for wall paper :) 



We've kept a small stand of  the oldest Robinia pseudoacacia - Black Locust  trees. I'll probably thin out within the next 5 years  


Here you can see the new coppice growth. I'm planning to cut this growth at the end of the season and use the material for tomato stakes. A good tomato stake is 1.8 m long. 30 cm can be staked in the ground leaving 1.5 m of support for the tomato to grow up 


The forest floor is well covered with one of my favorite shade tolerant ground covers Rubus caesius - Dewberry.  Next month the cover will be peppered with delicious little purple berries :)


It's not the first time I've seen this plant in the woods and on the woodland edges. Judging by the bell shaped flowers it's certainly one of the 33 species of Campanula found in Bulgaria. The coarse leaves and erect form of the plant leads me to believe it is the Campanula trachelium - Nettle-Leaved Bellflower. Specific epithet (the second part of the latin name) comes from the Greek word trachelos meaning neck in reference to a former belief that this perennial plant could be used as a medical remedy for sore throat.




Soil Testing and Discovering Local Plants in Eudaimonia 


We're planning to start a new garden in the near future dedicated to local herbs, shrubs and trees that provide nectar and pollen forge to bees and other pollinators. We'll also include some Castanea sativa - Sweet Chestnut trees on the Northern boundary of the site. Our first steps when creating a new garden is to carry out a number of surveys namely a botanical survey, an entomolgical survey and a soil survey. Our project mission is to develop and promote practices that provide nutritious affordable food while enhancing biodiversity so we like to get to know the existing biodiversity and soil conditions before we start development. Danile and Emilce carried out the soil tests on the site sampling 5 random areas on the plot and assessing the soil using the Northern Rivers Soil Health Card. which is simple and easy, and with annual tests you can build up a record of your soil health and understand the effect management practices are having on soil health.   



Some of the plants growing on the plot that we intend to propagate and grow in drifts in the new garden include these beautiful Echinops bannaticus. We have 6 species of Echinops here in Bulgaria 4 of which are ubiquitous across the country.  


Another local plant that we'll be including in the herbaceous drift plantings are the wonderful Trifolium arvense, commonly known as hare's-foot clover. The seed should be ripe in a few weeks and we'll collect some and sow them in the spring 


More local Echinops bannaticus



A short walk to the west of Eudaimonia is one of the mountain rivers in the area. It's a great spot to escape the summer heat.  


This Snail and Slug (in the far background) seemed to agree with me on that!




Forest Garden


With all of the rain we have had this summer the forest gardens are looking pretty lush. On the left is Prunus dulcis cv. - Almond and on the right Corylus avellana - Hazelnut.  The hazelnuts are doing wonderfully this year but the almond tree - although started the year with the best crop ever - has lost 90% of the nuts to what at first glance is a maggot of some sort probably a moth larvae. I need to do some research on this and see if there is way to mitigate the damage. I found this Pest Management in Organic Almond 
that should be helpful.


We've been growing Rubus fruticosus  Blackberry 'Reuben' since last year. The plants are settling into the garden well. This cultivar is unusual for blackberries in that it is a primocane which means the fruits form on the new spring growth. The growth is upright and can reach 2 m while the berries can weigh up to 11g each and taste fabulous. Here you can see the first ripening berries with  Lythrum salicaria - Purple Loosestrife  in the background. We are propagating this plant via layering and should have this cultivar available in the nursery next spring.



Over in the market garden the polyculture vegetable beds are pumping out plenty of produce :)   



http://www.thepolycultureproject.com/store/c2/Grow_your_Own_Polyculture_.html
Grow your own permaculture polycultures -  seed, tubers, bulbs and cuttings

If you would like to create a forest garden and would like some practical hands on experience take a look at our course coming up this Autumn. We'll be covering site surveying, landscape design software, installing access, beds, irrigation channels, planting tree, shrub, herb and ground layers and making a small wildlife pond. All in 3 days! And plenty of follow up material to take away with you to digest slowly.   

Forest Garden Course 



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

  • Sales from our nursery go towards supporting the project. You can find a variety of plants or seeds from our BioNursery here that you can purchase to build your own  productive bio-diverse gardens.  
  • Join us on one of our upcoming Courses and enjoy an educational adventure in rural Bulgaria where you'll be learning how to create regenerative landscapes producing food and other resources while enhancing biodiversity. 


 






Sunday, 22 July 2018

Planning for Tree Planting, Biomass Plants, Growing Trees from Seed - Week 15 - The Polyculture Project

The summer is in full swing here and we are fortunate enough to have one of those rare seasons so far when the rains come just at the right time to keep everything fresh and full of vigor. Here's what we've been up to the gardens this last week and a few observations from the forest gardens. 




The Perennial Polyculture Trial Garden - Ataraxia 



This week we started the preparation for the next wave of planting in Ataraxia. For this section we are trying a different method of bed preparation.(for 5 methods of bed prepartion we tried last year see this blog post). We establish the tree row bed on contour and mow the bed pathway emptying the trimmings onto the adjacent bed area.  We'll also deposit biomass from other areas of the gardens onto the tree row bed to build up organic matter. We then spot mulch the precise location of where the trees will be planted with straw bales and place 5 L of compost full of young composting worms - Eisenia fetida - and the cocoons of these worms under each bale. By spring time the planting sites should be weed free with a nice layer of compost on the surface and a fine top soil tilth produced by the worm activity. We'll then fork over the area, dig the tree hole, plant the trees and use the bales to mulch the tree. Here you can see the bales spaced 4m apart, the ideal spacing for Corylus spp. - Hazelnut that we intend to plant here.      



I'm really pleased with how our new garden Ataraxia is coming along. There are fewer things better in life than taking an idea and literally watching it grow:) 


The biomass trial plantings are going well . Left to right below you can see Alnus cordata  - Italian Alder Paulownia tomentosa - Foxglove Tree - Miscanthus x giganteus - Giant Miscanthus - Morus alba - White Mulberry 



Here is the planting scheme for the trial beds. You can read more about this garden and our trials here
If you appreciate the study we are carrying out and the work we do please consider making a contribution to the project. Funding from people that see the value in what we are doing makes it possible for us to develop our project, paying for experts to carry out aspects of study that we cannot, such as biodiversity studies and soil analysis and provides us with the opportunity to focus on our mission to develop and promote practices that provide nutritious affordable food while enhancing biodiversity. You'll find some of the rewards we offer our patrons here.

 



Forest Garden


The first fruits are forming on a young Akebia quinata - Chocolate Vine that I planted by an IBC container (1000L water tank) to cover the harsh plastic and metal. Grown from seed approx 6 years ago this plant has made an excellent job of covering the container but has a penchant to intermingle with  Caragana arborescens - Siberian Pea Tree and Prunus insititia - Damson planted nearby. 


Prunus spinosa - Sloe  are packing fruit this year. I can't recall ever seeing so many fruits on these plants in the area. I'm guessing that it's the result of the hot and dry April we experienced this year.
One of the huge benefits of polyculture is that no matter what the weather decides to do in any given year something will thrive :)  
 
Prunus spinosa - Sloe

Here's a photo of the Prunus spinosa - Sloe blossom in the spring - early April

Prunus spinosa - Sloe

 This Alnus cordata  - Italian Alder was grown from a seed that I collected from a street tree in my old neighbourhood in South London. This is the first year the tree has produced fruits (most people refer to these as cones). Italian Alder is tolerant of pollution, dry soils and poor site conditions, making it a useful tree for landscaping a wide range of sites. It can grow in poor soils, compacted areas and soils with a high pH. Its resistance to wind make it an ideal plant for screening and windbreaks and it can also be planted in coastal regions. As with other Alnus species, Alnus cordata has the ability to associate with Bacteria, namely Frankia spp. and fix nitrogen from the air.


Permaculture Plant - Alnus cordata  - Italian Alder

If you would like to grow these plants from seed, the best time to harvest the fruits is in October or November (before they open). Place the "cones" on plate on the windowsill  for  3 - 4 weeks and when they open  place them in a paper bag and shake them. There are 100's of seed in each "cone". Sow the seeds straight away into a tray on the windowsill or greenhouse and they should germinate by the spring.   



http://www.thepolycultureproject.com/store/c2/Grow_your_Own_Polyculture_.html
Grow your own permaculture polycultures -  seed, tubers, bulbs and cuttings

If you would like to create a forest garden and would like some practical hands on experience take a look at our course coming up this Autumn. We'll be covering site surveying, landscape design software, installing access, beds, irrigation channels, planting tree, shrub, herb and ground layers and making a small wildlife pond. All in 3 days! And plenty of follow up material to take away with you to digest slowly.   

Forest Garden Course 



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

  • Sales from our nursery go towards supporting the project. You can find a variety of plants or seeds from our BioNursery here that you can purchase to build your own  productive bio-diverse gardens.  
  • Join us on one of our upcoming Courses and enjoy an educational adventure in rural Bulgaria where you'll be learning how to create regenerative landscapes producing food and other resources while enhancing biodiversity. 


 




Sunday, 15 July 2018

Summer Herbs and Fruits and Wildflowers in the Polyculture Veg Beds and Forest Garden. Week 14 - The Polyculture Project

Shifting down gears as we go into summer with plenty of observing, harvesting and eating the harvest this week. The gardens are doing an excellent job of turning light, carbon dioxide and water into food and we're doing a good job of appreciating that :)


Market Garden


Walking around the gardens on a sunny summer morning following a night of heavy rain you can certainly sense the garden's will to grow. Symphytum x uplandicum - Comfrey with vegetables polycultures in the background 



The polyculture beds  


We're pleased to again be offering a modest selection of vegetables and fruits to Trustika Food co-op. Dylan is handling the orders this year and here he is picking pears for orders. 


Trustika is an excellent example of connecting food producers with consumers. The food co-op buying and selling takes place on an ingenious piece of database design using google sheets by Borislav Dimitrov who also manages the food co-op. Using their gmail accounts producers list, consumers order and everything is delivered to a central pick up point. Elegant :)     

Garden produce picked and ready for delivery 


Foeniculum vulgare - Fennel   planted on the perimeter of the polyculture beds. An excellent plant for beneficial insects and great kitchen herb too.


The green patch with various plants growing have emerged from a cow manure deposits that were put on this meadow outside our market garden during the winter. Amazing to see the variety of seeds that have germinated in the manure, including a number of squash plants that are running rampant.     


Forest Garden 


Possibly one of the hardiest figs on the planet was developed here in Bulgaria. A cultivar named 'Michurinska 10' is commonly grown here at altitudes above 1000 m elevation in areas that receive extreme winters lows of below -20. Here you can see the breba crop of figs already ripe by early July.


About 5 years ago I collected seed from the parent of the below plant standing proud in the glasshouse borders of RHS Wilsley Gardens in the UK. The borders were designed by one of my favorite garden creators Piet Oudolf. The plant is Glycyrrhiza yunnanensis -Yunnan Liquorice and this year it has flowered and set seed for the first time :)  I've not been able to confirm that the plant is edible, however, being a relative of Glycyrrhiza glabra the plant used to make Liquorice it may well be.  



Apple tree in the home forest garden is looking good this year 


Prunella vulgaris - Self-heal is one of favourite edible summer herbs. The young leaves and stems can be eaten raw in salads and the whole plant can be boiled and eaten These plants are perennial but in my experience never survive more than a few years. Gratefully, they self seed quite easily popping up in various spots in the gardens including the lawns.   


Morus alba - White Mulberry Still fruiting well into July. The fruits are larger and sweeter than the early ripening fruit



Young trees in the bionursery are doing well with all the rain and sunshine. Here we have classic bee trees  Tetradium danielii - Korean Bee Tree  and Albizia julibrissin - Silk tree with Symphytum x uplandicum - Comfrey
planted below.


Hibiscus syriacus - Rose of Sharon flowering. A great summer flowering shrub with edible flowers and very suitable for hedging. Another plant that will feature in our upcoming bee garden, Eudaimonia.  



Seed pods of  Lunaria rediviva - Perennial Honesty. Excellent bee plant for early spring. Another plant with edible relatives Lunaria annua - Annual honesty, but I cannot find any account that L.rediviva is edible. 


Wild  Saponaria officinalis - Soapwort in a field behind Ataraxia. I noticed a large number of Ladybirds - Coccinellidae on the plants 


If you would like to create a forest garden and would like some practical hands on experience take a look at our course coming up this Autumn. We'll be covering site surveying, landscape design software, installing access, beds, irrigation channels, planting tree, shrub, herb and ground layers and making a small wildlife pond. All in 3 days! And plenty of follow up material to take away with you and digest slowly.   


Forest Garden Course 


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

  • Sales from our nursery go towards supporting the project. You can find a variety of plants or seeds from our BioNursery here that you can purchase to build your own  productive bio-diverse gardens.  


 






We offer a range of plants and seeds for permaculture and forest gardens from our plant nursery including a range of fruit and nut cultivars. Delivery to all over Europe available from Nov - March