Saturday, 3 October 2020

Walnuts, Bulbs from the Allium Nursery and Persimmons - Week 27 - The Polyculture Project

It's truly a relief to move into autumn following the hottest and driest summer I can remember here. It's a pleasure to be in the gardens again and witness the last flurry of activity before the winter sets in.  

This week marks the peak of walnut season! Once they start to drop we take a long stick and gently hit the branches. As you can see in the image below, most of the nuts have been released from the husks and need just a slight bit of encouragement to fall. Of course you can always leave them to drop on their own, but it makes for more efficient harvesting to collect the nuts in one go.


A walnut from the tree in the volunteer house garden. Possibly the best tasting walnuts in town!


Walnut trees produce the chemical juglone, which is exuded from all parts of the plant. This chemical can inhibit the growth rate of nearby plants, a phenomenon known as negative alleopathy. You can see our previous blog post here which provides a table of plants that are tolerant to juglone. The lists were compiled from published sources and are based on observation under various settings, but few plants have actually been experimentally tested for sensitivity to juglone. The plants highlighted in green in the table are species we have personally observed growing seemingly unhindered in and around the under story of Juglans regia.  


We are offering some great cultivars this season. You can check out what's on offer here.



Last week we finished our first online Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course, although it's not a wrap yet, as the participants will be using the knowledge that they gained and the exercises that were completed throughout the course to put together final a final design project. We're really looking forward to seeing the designs and hope to share some of them on here with you in November and December. A massive thank you to everyone who took part - it's been a great 20 weeks, and we look forward to seeing your final designs in the coming  months!

We are already looking forward to next years course that will start on the 1st May 2021 - if you are interested you can register here for the full course before 1st December with promo code EARLY2021 and receive a 25% discount,


I was amazed but delighted to find a few ripe Japanese Persimmon - Diospyros kaki this week. The fruits are significantly smaller than usual - probably due to the very dry and hot summer experienced here this year. Ordinarily the fruit ripens in November - December, and we often have to pick it when it's hard and soften the fruit indoors on the windowsill. This is the first time I have picked it ripe from the tree, a somewhat messy experience as the fruit is so very soft when ripe. Absolutely delicious though!




 Persimmon prefers full sun, but can tolerate light shade. This tree is growing next to, and partially under, the walnut tree forementioned. You can see the two trees together in the below image. The main trunk of  the Diospyros kaki - Japanese Persimmon is approximately 5m away from the main trunk of the Juglans regia - Persian Walnut, and both trees are thriving so far. We may need to lift the lower limbs of the Walnut in the future to make some space, but otherwise they both appear quite comfortable. For a list of Persimon cultivars on offer this season see here.




The Allium nursery has come full circle! From planting out the first bulbs last autumn to now harvesting baby bulbs to offer to our customers this season. All the species we planted and now offer are edible, attractive to beneficial insects, flower at various times throughout the year, and root at different depths.  See below for a more detailed profile on A.atropurpureum - Ornamental Onion.


Allium atropurpureum or Ornamental Onion, is a perennial bulb with flower stems growing to 1m in height.  Native to the Balkan region and although quite tolerant of different soil types, heavy clay soils should always be avoided with Alliums. They really seem to thrive in open, sunny positions in well drained soil. A.atropurpureum is fairly drought tolerant and can tolerate quite low temperatures (USDA hardiness zone 7-10).  It's striking tall drumstick-like appearance brings a unique quality to the garden, and the flowers are an unusual maroon colour, blooming in May - June.




Uses: This Allium didn't get the common name Ornamental Onion for nothing, and it's highly valued for its aesthetic qualities. It can be grown in a sunny border in a polyculture in the herb layer, and may also be grown with roses as it is thought to play a helpful role in pest control. It shouldn't be grown with legumes, but can be grown with carrots and beetroots, making a good guard on the outer edges of an annual vegetable bed.




Edibility: The bulbs are reportedly edible, although we haven't tried them yet.  The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, and are best when young and before the plant flowers. Flowers can be used as a garnish on salads. Although no specific mention of medicinal uses has been seen for this species, members of this genus are in general very healthy additions to the diet and are thought to reduce cholesterol and improve circulation.

Biodiversity: Lots of dark wine red nectar-pollen rich florets, making a large characteristically Allium shaped pom-pom that forms on the end of a long stem. Known for attracting bees, butterflies​/​moths, birds and other pollinators, and stands out due to its height.
 
Propagation: Bulbs should be planted 10cm deep in the autumn for emergence the following spring.  Once clump forming, can be divided in the spring.


   If you are would like to learn how to  Design and Build A Forest Garden ,we have a webinar coming up on Saturday, 28th of November 2020 - 19.00 GMT+3.  It's a live session where we'll go through step by step what you need to know to get started and end with a Q&A session. We'll send you a recording of the webinar when it is finished along with our design spreadsheets and plant lists to help get you started with your own Forest Garden Design.  

The webinar will be hosted on zoom and you can book your place here - Looking forward to it!

How to Design and Build A Forest Garden - Webinar



Welcome to our Online Store where you can find Forest Garden/ Permaculture Plants, Seeds, Cuttings, Bulbs, Rhizomes and Polyculture Multi-packs along with digital goods and services such as Online Courses, Webinars, eBooks, and Online Consultancy and finally we've added a Bulk Fruit and Nut Tree order form for Farms, Orchards, Nurseries, and Large Regenerative Landscape Projects. If there is anything in the store you would like to see but is not there, please let us know. We hope you enjoy the store and find something you like :) It's your purchases that keep our Project going. Thank you. Enter Our Store Here

Plants, Seeds, eBooks, Consultancy, Bulk Fruit and Nut Tree Orders for Permaculture, Polyculture, Forest Gardens and Regenerative Landscapes.




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Sunday, 20 September 2020

Turning Season, Grapes Galore and Forest Garden Webinar - Week 26 - The Polyculture Project

Summer has slipped effortlessly into autumn, and although we're still without any rain at all, the nights are getting chilly and what's left of the annual production is now finishing up. Thoughts are turning to autumn planting and nursery work - welcome to The Polyculture Project - Week 26.


Before we look at this week's events, we want to let you know about our 'How to Design and Build A Forest Garden' webinar, now scheduled for Saturday, 28th of November.

The session will be based on this forest garden that Paul recently designed. It will be around 2 hours long and will include and overview of the design, the starting point, why we laid out access, water, drainage, habitat features and planting locations where we did, species selection, technical discussion and a Q&A. 

We've been gorging on grapes all week, which are incredibly sweet this year due to the low amount of rainfall. To maintain the plants, we usually water each vine weekly with a couple of large watering cans (around 20L of water). Other than that, the vines require little attention from us during the growing season, except to pluck these fine fruits when ripe and enjoy :) For our essential guide see here. We also offer a range of cultivars from our bionursery, so check out our selection here.


 


Reuben is known as the first primocane blackberry that produces fruit on the current year's growth. Although the immature fruit shown in the photo is unlikely to ripen this year now, the pretty flowers will keep blooming right through until October and are a great for attracting beneficial organisms to the garden.




The turn of the season well represented by these sunflowers. We leave them to provide a tasty snack for a variety of bird life, whose snacking inevitably means a few seeds are scattered into the soil which then germinate the following spring and develop into very strong plants.



 
Leaving herbaceous plant material to remain over winter, specifically plants with hollow stems, is a great idea as it can provide nesting and shelter sites for beneficial organisms that will emerge from the stems in the spring and start to provide the pest predator support in the gardens from the very beginning of the growing season.  The below photo includes some excellent plants growing throughout our gardens that attract a host of pest predator organisms and also have hollow stems.  Eutrochium spp. - Joe Pye weed, Anthriscus sylvestris - Cow parsley, Angelica sylvestris - Wild Angelica, are some other hollow stemmed herbs.




An update on the ducks - it's quite unbelievable how much they have grown recently. They have now all developed their mature plumage, and fairly soon will be adult size. It's going to be interesting a)trying to get them into the cage at night, and b)seeing how they will all fit into it! 


The whole family together.  A noisy bunch!


We've been experimenting with pollarding and coppicing biomass plants. There are a number of trees and shrubs, Paulownia tomentosa being one, that can be planted solely for biomass production within a polyculture where the biomass can be chopped and dropped directly around neighbouring plants. Such plants should be left to grow for at least 3 years and cut to ground level in the spring of the 4th year. Depending on the species selected, it’s possible to cut back the new growth from these plants 3 - 4 times a years. This makes a great source of mulch for a polyculture, right where you need it.



Regrowth of Paulownia stools in our garden. The tree was 3 years old when we cut it down to ground level last year. This year we've cut it back 5 possibly 6 times already, and you can see how much more biomass has been produced, despite it being mid September. These trees are mulch machines! 

Some of the other plants we have been experimenting with include Rhus typhina, Robinia pseudoacacia and Ailanthus altissima.  Fraxinus excelsior and Tilia cordata are also promising for cooler and wetter climates, but can get quite large so should not be too tightly packed into a productive polyculture. 


Juglans regia - Persian Walnut, a tip bearing cultivar in the home garden

The Walnuts harvest looks to be bountiful this year. In some cultivars, Walnut fruits form on the tips of the new seasons growth on other cultivars the fruit is formed on the lateral shoots. Lateral bearing cultivars bear fruits on lateral buds of shoots and are generally of higher productivity than terminal and intermediate bearers due to the larger number of fruit buds on these plants, whereas terminal or tip bearing cultivars bear fruits on the tips of the shoots. For more information on Walnuts see our essential guide here. For more information on the cultivars we're offering this season, see here.


Walnut Cultivars Available This Season


If you are would like to learn how to  Design and Build A Forest Garden ,we have a webinar coming up on the 28th November 2020 - 19.00 GMT+3.  It's a live session where we'll go through step by step what you need to know to get started and end with a Q&A session. We'll send you a recording of the webinar when it is finished along with our design spreadsheets and plant lists to help get you started with your own Forest Garden Design.  

The webinar will be hosted on zoom and you can book your place here - Looking forward to it!

How to Design and Build A Forest Garden - Webinar




Welcome to our Online Store where you can find Forest Garden/ Permaculture Plants, Seeds, Cuttings, Bulbs, Rhizomes and Polyculture Multi-packs along with digital goods and services such as Online Courses, Webinars, eBooks, and Online Consultancy and finally we've added a Bulk Fruit and Nut Tree order form for Farms, Orchards, Nurseries, and Large Regenerative Landscape Projects. If there is anything in the store you would like to see but is not there, please let us know. We hope you enjoy the store and find something you like :) It's your purchases that keep our Project going. Thank you. Enter Our Store Here

Plants, Seeds, eBooks, Consultancy, Bulk Fruit and Nut Tree Orders for Permaculture, Polyculture, Forest Gardens and Regenerative Landscapes.




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

  • Comment, like and share our content on social media.

Monday, 14 September 2020

Shipka Festival, Fig Cultivars and Late Pollenisers - Week 25

It's still super hot and dry here in Shipka, probably the driest summer I can remember. Fortunately the streams is still flowing and we are managing to keep everything well watered but we're certaunky looking forward to the autumn. 

Here in Shipka this weekend the second edition of the Shipka Fest was held. The Shipka Fest is an annual event organised by Open Mind Foundation, with three days of arts and crafts, held at the local ethnographic museum Chirpanliev House. There were some great authentic music performances, traditional songs and dance, craft demonstrations and artisans including local woodturners and blacksmiths, and a wonderful weekend of weather as summer very lazily melts into autumn. 

There was a beautiful stall full of dried herbs and herbal treatments, and when I stopped to buy some Comfrey ointment, the lady and I got talking, and it turns out that she had bought some of our plants a few years ago that are growing well in her garden. It's always a pleasure to hear news of how our 'babies' are doing :) The lady's name is Nadezhda Maksimova, and she has been growing plants and studying herbalism for some years, now bringing some wonderful products to market.


The glut of figs continues in all the gardens where the fig trees grow! For a more in depth look at this incredible plant take a look at a previous blog post - Dig the Fig, but for now let's have a look at how the fruits of some of the popular cultivars compare. Fig cultivars have many unique characteristics, such as compact to spreading growth habits, fruit colour, shape, taste and size and plant hardiness. 

From left to right: Juglans regia 'Black Danov' - 'Izmir' - Michurinska 10' and 'Right Yellow Hardy'
      
Left to right 'Izmir' - 'Michurinska 10' - 'Hardy Yellow '- 'Black Danov'


We grow and offer from our bio nursery 'Michurinska 10', one of our favourite cultivars. It's possibly one of the hardiest figs in the world, grows vigorously and can reach 5m in height. It reliably produces an abundance of small and tasty fruits that take well to drying.


The ducks are absolutely thriving at the home garden, and making a fair bit of noise in the process! You can see from this photo how much weight they are gaining, and the difference of 3 weeks between the oldest and the youngest are beginning to become more subtle.  Pretty soon though, the predators will be out and about, and they will need to return to the cage at night time.


Pears ripening in the forest garden. You can check out what cultivars we are offering this season here.





Sedem telephium - Orpine is such a joy in the gardens in early autumn. It produces a mass of pink flowers that are a welcome resource for pollinators this late in the season and is a pretty undemanding plant, being fairly drought tolerant once established. The flowers are quite long-lasting and even during the winter, the dead foliage and stalks add a striking interesting texture to the garden.


If you are would like to learn how to  Design and Build A Forest Garden ,we have a webinar coming up on Saturday, 28th of November 2020 - 19.00 GMT+3.  It's a live session where we'll go through step by step what you need to know to get started and end with a Q&A session. We'll send you a recording of the webinar when it is finished along with our design spreadsheets and plant lists to help get you started with your own Forest Garden Design.  

The webinar will be hosted on zoom and you can book your place here - Looking forward to it!

How to Design and Build A Forest Garden - Webinar



Welcome to our Online Store where you can find Forest Garden/ Permaculture Plants, Seeds, Cuttings, Bulbs, Rhizomes and Polyculture Multi-packs along with digital goods and services such as Online Courses, Webinars, eBooks, and Online Consultancy and finally we've added a Bulk Fruit and Nut Tree order form for Farms, Orchards, Nurseries, and Large Regenerative Landscape Projects. If there is anything in the store you would like to see but is not there, please let us know. We hope you enjoy the store and find something you like :) It's your purchases that keep our Project going. Thank you. Enter Our Store Here

Plants, Seeds, eBooks, Consultancy, Bulk Fruit and Nut Tree Orders for Permaculture, Polyculture, Forest Gardens and Regenerative Landscapes.




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

  • Comment, like and share our content on social media.

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Late Summer Fruits and Herbs from the Forest Garden and making Elderberry Syrup - Week 24 - The Polyculture Project

It's another baking hot week here in the Balkans, sweetening the grapes on the vine and ripening ridiculous quantities of figs. 


It's turning out to be a bumper year for figs, and we're drying them for the winter and digging out the fig jam recipes. Here in Bulgaria, jam is typically made by first of all placing the fruit into a saucepan or other container, covering it with sugar and leaving it overnight for the fruit to release its juice. The cooking part comes the next day.  There is a delicious recipe here that unusually, uses the green, unripened figs. These figs are pierced with a sewing needle in several places, and then boiled 3 times for around 5 minutes (each time discarding the water) and finally cooked down in a sugar syrup. I found a video outlining these steps which you can see here


September in our region generally equates to somewhat of a grape gluttony and fig feast, but there are plenty of  other berries still on offer from the forest garden, including blackberriesraspberries and Cornellian Cherries. We've been experimenting with pruning the raspberries at different times of the year in order to try and prolong the fruiting period. We're finding pruning half of the raspberries in the autumn is an easy way to get fruits from late May through to October. The unpruned canes fruit from May - July and the pruned canes start to fruit in mid-August - October.


You can take a look at some of the fig and grape cultivars that we have on offer this season from our bio nursery. We're taking orders now for November delivery.




This week, Dylan has been on a herping trip to the Pirin mountains in southern Bulgaria He found a European Yellow Tailed Scorpian - Euscorpius flavicaudis. They are ubiquitous in Bulgaria. although i've never seen them here in Shipka. Interestingly, one of the largest colonies of this creature can be found on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent living in the south-facing walls, rock crevices, abandoned buildings and railway sleepers of the dockyard in Sheerness for over a century. It is thought that they originally found their way into the UK accidentally, stowed away in shipments of Italian masonry back in the 19th century.

Photo by Dylan Alfrey - European Yellow Tailed Scorpian - Euscorpius flavicaudis 

Allium tuberosum  - Garlic Chives are in full flower. These are one of our favourite perennial vegetables. The bodacious flowers, very attractive to bees, are on show around this time of year, from August - September. Being from the Allium family it is said to be a good companion plant in the garden confusing many pests with their strong aroma. The plant has many medicinal properties including the leaves and bulbs used on bites, cuts and wounds. We have the plants planted along the border of our Asparagus officinalis - Asparagus patch that you can see growing in the background in the below photo. It's a good spot for them, as if they were interplanted with the Asparagus more centrally in the beds, the tall and thick summer growth of the Asparagus would out compete them. Being on the edges of the patch also means the Allium leaves can easily be harvested throughout the year.


Asparagus leaves, known as fronds. Soon they will start turning beautiful autumnal tones



The ducks are doing well, with the ducklings really gaining weight now and growing up fast.  The whole family is now free ranging around the garden and enjoying the refreshing water of the pond as temperatures continue to exceed 30°c this week. Some of our neighbours have expressed an interest in taking a few of the ducks, and soon we'll have to start organising their autumn and winter accommodation, as it's during these seasons in our region that their predators will start to visit, mainly house martins and foxes.


The ducks having a swim with Tansy - Tanacetum vulgare growing in the foreground

Honeysuckle - ​Lonicera periclymenum growing in the home garden. It's a great candidate for the vertical layer and is excellent for covering walls, but can overtake certain areas and plants so it's essential to factor that in before planting. One of the main ways that it spreads is via birds. The birds eat the berries and then deposit the seeds complete with a nice rich mulch of manure (their droppings). Flowers of Lonicera periclymenum are edible and can be used to make a syrup that seems to capture the sweet scent of the flowers in a delightful drink.


Talking of syrups, Sophie made a batch of Elderberry syrup the other day. Elderberries contain cyanide-inducing glycosides which are pretty toxic to humans, but if the berries are well cooked, these harmful properties are lost. We've been making the syrup a few times over the last decade or so and are still writing to tell the tale. The syrup is stored in the fridge and only used medicinally, usually a teaspoon a few times a week during the winter to ward off colds. 

   


Elderberry Syrup
  • Fresh Elderberries
  • Water
  • Fresh Ginger and Dried Cloves (optional)
  • Honey
Cover the fresh elderberries with cold water by about 5cm. Add grated fresh ginger (as much as you like) and some dried cloves. Bring to the boil, and then simmer for around an hour, partially covered. When warm, strain through a muslin cloth (an old pillowcase is perfect for the job too) and squeeze the berries to extract as much of the juice as you can. Compost/discard this pulp. With the remaining juice, add some honey to sweeten. For 1kg fruit, we found just 2 tablespoons of honey was enough. Pour while still lukewarm into clean bottles and place in the fridge. A vacuum usually forms, keeping the syrup in a good condition for longer.

Satureja montana - Winter Savory - goes wonderfully with many meats and potatoes 


Eupatorium cannabinum - Hemp Agrimony - an excellent perennial, highly attractive to wildlife


If you are would like to learn how to  Design and Build A Forest Garden ,we have a webinar coming up on Saturday, 28th of November 2020 - 19.00 GMT+3.  It's a live session where we'll go through step by step what you need to know to get started and end with a Q&A session. We'll send you a recording of the webinar when it is finished along with our design spreadsheets and plant lists to help get you started with your own Forest Garden Design.  

The webinar will be hosted on zoom and you can book your place here - Looking forward to it!

How to Design and Build A Forest Garden - Webinar




Welcome to our Online Store where you can find Forest Garden/ Permaculture Plants, Seeds, Cuttings, Bulbs, Rhizomes and Polyculture Multi-packs along with digital goods and services such as Online Courses, Webinars, eBooks, and Online Consultancy and finally we've added a Bulk Fruit and Nut Tree order form for Farms, Orchards, Nurseries, and Large Regenerative Landscape Projects. If there is anything in the store you would like to see but is not there, please let us know. We hope you enjoy the store and find something you like :) It's your purchases that keep our Project going. Thank you. Enter Our Store Here

Plants, Seeds, eBooks, Consultancy, Bulk Fruit and Nut Tree Orders for Permaculture, Polyculture, Forest Gardens and Regenerative Landscapes.




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

  • Comment, like and share our content on social media.