Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Polyculture Trial - Apple Polyculture vs Monoculture - How Do they Compare in Terms of Costs, Soil Health, Biodiversity, Production and Time?

I'm so looking forward to the spring to meet our Polyculture Study crew and get back into the gardens. This season we'll be shifting our focus to perennial polyculture experiments and forest garden yields.

During the last few weeks, I've been working on a new perennial polyculture trial that we're aiming to start this April. It's a long term comparative study looking at the input and outputs of growing an Apple tree in polyculture vs monoculture.

Thank you Simon Leupi for your feedback and suggestions on the study design, and to Chris Mallorie for discussing the trial with me, and working on the organic fertility and pesticide protocol.

Apple Polycutlure vs Apple Monoculture Study 

During this post, I'll present the trial garden and trial design, cover what we will record, and take a look at some of the shortcomings of the study.

So, let's start with a look at the garden where we'll be growing the trials.

Trial Garden Overview 


Location: Shipka, Bulgaria, Southeast Europe
Köppen Climate Classification - Dfc borderline Cfb
USDA Hardiness Zone: 5b (conservative) - 7a (risky)
Latitude: 42° 
Elevation: 565 m
Average Annual Rainfall: 610 mm 
Prevailing Wind: NW & NE
Garden Area - 352m2
Garden Location on our Project Map - See here

We'll be growing four trials on the plot as seen in the below image. We chose this plot as each trial will more or less experience equal environmental conditions. There is a very mild slope on the site from N - S and no slope W-E.

Perennial Polyculture Research Garden - Orexis

The plant we chose to feature in the trial is Apple - Malus pumila ‘Red Cap’


Here's some info on this cultivar
  • Origin: A mutation of a spur Red Delicious with a sweet taste and a crisp texture.
  • Growth: Strong growth, develops more shoots in comparison with other spur mutants of Red  Delicious.
  • Fruit Colour: Ripens with a full deep dark red colour.
  • Fruit Size: Big, elongated fruits.
  • Fruit Storage: Good, similar to other clones of Red Delicious.
  • Taste: The fruit is sweet, with crunchy and firm flesh, which becomes softer during long storage. 
  • Flowering: Early to midseason bloom.  It blooms relatively early, but for a long period. Good pollinator cultivars include Evereste, Idared and Golden Delicious.
  • Production: Early and regular, at the end of September and beginning of October.
We've selected feathered whips (generally bigger than a whip with well-developed side branches) 2nd year on the graft with Rootstock - MM106. The selected plants will be of equal shoot and root mass.


The Four Trials 


We'll be growing 4 trials with each trial planted in a 56m2 area. The trials will include 2 polycultures and 2 monocultures as shown below.




Polyculture 1  - Suitable for broadscale application- Apple planted with two Nitrogen fixing shrubs (Elaeagnus umbellata) and bulbs at the base of the tree. The spacing of the shrubs and bulbs is such that a compact utility tractor can operate within the orchard, leaving two strips of wildflowers between tree and shrub rows.

You can find an example of how this polyculture would look within an orchard setting in the below image.



Polyculture 2 - Intensive polyculture. only really practical for gardens or small market gardens, schools, parks or small scale landscaping in general. It will be high maintenance.



Monoculture Organic - Apple cultivation with the full works of organic synthesized proprietary products applied  (all recommended fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides).


Monoculture Conventional - Apple cultivation with the full works of non-organic synthesized proprietary products applied (all recommended fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides).



Species List for Each Trial
QtyBotanicalCommonFamily Function
Orexis- Polyculture 2
CANOPY LAYER
1Malus pumila 'Red Cap'Apple Rosacea Productive - Food
SHRUB LAYER
1Ribes rubrumRedcurrant GrossulariaceaeProductive - Food
1Ribes nigrumBlackcurrant GrossulariaceaeProductive - Food
2Elaeagnus umbellataAutumn OliveElaeagnaceaeSupport - Nitrogen Fixation - Productive
HERB LAYER
6Symphytum x uplandicumComfrey - 'Bocking 14'BoraginaceaeSupport
Mulch/Polleniser
2Foeniculum vulgareFennel Apiaceae
Umbelliferae
Productive - Support
2Origanum vulgareOreganoLamiaceae Productive - Support
10Allium tuberosumChinese Chives AlliaceaeProductive - Support
GROUND LAYER
48Allium ursinumWild Garlic CaryophyllaceaeSupport
Polleniser
Native Ground Cover - See Existing Flora Sheet
BULBS - Tree Pits
4Galanthius sp.Snow DropsAmaryllidaceaeSupport
Polleniser/Mineral Repositor
4Corydalis bulbosaCrested LarkPapaveraceaeSupport
Polleniser/Mineral Repositor
4Crocus nudiflorusAutumn CrocusIridaceaeSupport
Polleniser/Mineral Repositor
Orexis- Polyculture 1
CANOPY LAYER
1Malus pumila 'Red Cap'Apple Rosacea Productive - Food
SHRUB LAYER
2Elaeagnus umbellataAutumn OliveElaeagnaceaeSupport - Nitrogen Fixation - Productive
GROUND LAYER
Native Ground Cover - See Existing Flora Sheet
BULBS - Tree Pits
4Galanthius sp.Snow DropsAmaryllidaceaeSupport
Polleniser/Mineral Repositor
4Corydalis bulbosaCrested LarkPapaveraceaeSupport
Polleniser/Mineral Repositor
4Crocus nudiflorusAutumn CrocusIridaceaeSupport
Polleniser/Mineral Repositor
Orexis-Organic
CANOPY LAYER
1Malus pumila 'Red Cap'Apple Rosacea Productive - Food
GROUND LAYER
Native Ground Cover - See Existing Flora Sheet
Orexis- Conventional
CANOPY LAYER
1Malus pumila 'Red Cap'Apple Rosacea Productive - Food
GROUND LAYER
Native Ground Cover - See Existing Flora Sheet


What we will Record


What we will record - Soil Physical Analysis - Three Soil physical tests will be taken every 3 years in the locations seen in the below image, and should be rotated so that they are taken in a different quarter of the area every 3 years.



What we will record - Annual soil mineral analysis - Each year soil samples within each plot will be collected and sent off to the lab to test for  N-P-K-Mg-Ca and soil organic matter.


Our project mission is to develop and promote practices that can produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity, so it's important to us to record biodiversity within the trials. We'll attempt to do this via simple botanical and invertebrate surveys.


What we will record - Botany - On the first week of each month during April - September, we’ll photograph all flowering vegetation within each trial plot, identify species and record on sheets.


What we will record - Invertebrates  - In the 2nd week of May - July, and September we will carry out  2 surveys (Thur & Fri) . The surveys will consist of';
  • Sweep netting - 10 mins - Ground/grass layer 
  • Vegetation Beating - 10 mins - Tree/shrub and herb layer
  • 4 Pitfall traps set on Thursday and emptied on Friday.
The number of unique species identified will be recorded for each plot.


What we will record - Biomass - All arisings from mowing will be weighed and recorded for each trial. For the two polyculture trials, we'll also record the biomass trimmed from the E.umbellata shrubs that will be cut annually and kept trimmed to 1 m width and 1.5 m height. All trimmings will be weighed fresh and recorded on site.

The below image indicates (in greenish grey) the area of each plot that will be mown.


What we will Record - Growth and Development - The development during the year will be recorded using the BBCH Scale I.


Growth will be recorded by the girth of stem at the base and new growth at end of the season, the no. of flowers in the spring, and the weight of  the fruits in the autumn.


What we will Record - Management - Polyculture 1 and 2 - Time and Cost to Manage each Trial

Fertility - Apply 20 L of compost to the surface of the planting area every spring for 4 years. 
Mulching - Apply a thick mulch (10 - 20 cm deep) when the ground is thoroughly soaked and before the dry season begins for 4 - 5 years. 
Irrigation - Applying approx 20 L of water every 20 days without rain (or when the soil is dry below the surface). 
Weed/Mow - Mow area every 4th week of the month April - September.
Pruning - Formative prune when young i.e pruning to form the desired shape of the mature tree. Standard prune every year, i.e remove deadwood and crossover branches.

What we will Record - Management - Organic and Conventional - Time and Cost to Manage each Trial

Fertility - Application of recommended fertility additives.
Spraying - Application of recommended organic pesticide, fungicide, and herbicide additives.
Irrigation - Applying approx 20 L of water every 20 days without rain (or when the soil is dry below the surface). 
Weed/Mow - Mow area every 4th week of the month April - September. 
Pruning - Formative prune when young i.e pruning to form the desired shape of the mature tree. Standard  Prune every year i.e remove deadwood and crossover branches.

What we will Record - Time and Cost to Establish each Plot

Plant, Materials and Labour costs will be recorded for each trial.

Shortcomings of the Study


We are practicing amateur science and have no formal training or education regarding the design of such trials. Any feedback regarding the design of the trial is very welcome. We are planning to start the trial in April 2020 so we have time to make amendments. Please do get in touch if you have something to add or take away.

Some of the shortcomings we've identified so far include:  

Replicates of each of the trials would be great, but we are currently limited by suitable space. It would be great to find other people in similar biomes to run the trial simultaneously.

Proximity to wild areas will impact the invertebrate measurement of the organic and conventional plots and will not be representative of a typical monoculture environment.

If you are in a position to carry out this trail in sync. with us, or know someone who may be, please get in touch.  It will be great to have the trials running in different locations simultaneously and to compare the results. We're still working on the final protocols, but when we're ready we'll be happy to share our protocols and record-keeping sheets to anyone that may be interested.

If you would like to be involved in our trial and projects we're working on, we still have a few 4 week and 2-week positions available during June - July - August or September on our Polyculture Study this year.  If you would like to join us you can find out more and register here.

Permaculture and Regenerative Design Internships

We look forward to hearing from you.

Upcoming Forest Garden Courses 


If you would like to learn how to create a forest garden and gain some practical hands-on experience come and join us for our Design and Build a Forest Garden Course. We'll be covering site surveying, landscape design software, installing access, beds, irrigation channels, planting tree, shrub, herb and ground layers, and wildlife ponds. All in 3 days! And plenty of follow up material to take away with you to digest slowly.

Design and Build - Forest Garden Course  - Regenerative Landscape Design Course

Registration for our course is now open with a 15% discount on accommodation and food fees when you register as a group (2 or more). You can also take advantage of early booking discounts if you book 3 months before the course starts.


If you can't make it to Shipka in person you are welcome to join our   Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course

Regenerative Landscape Design Online Course

We're super excited about running the course and look forward to providing you with the confidence, inspiration, and opportunity to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes, gardens, and farms that produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.
You can find out more about the course here to see if it tickles your fancy, and if you subscribe to our newsletter below or you already have subscribed you are welcome to a 10% discount on the full enrollment fees for this course.  Just use the promo code SUB2020 in the section of the registration form to receive your discount.


                                                                        


We are looking forward to providing you with this unique online learning experience - as far as we know the very first of its kind, and if you are thinking of reasons why you should do this course and whether this course is suitable for you, take a look here where we lay it all out.

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Thursday, 30 January 2020

Nitrogen Fixation - How it Works and a Look at Some Super Nitrogen Fixing Trees, Shrubs and Herbs

An essential component of any regenerative landscape will be the Nitrogen-fixing perennial plants within the community of fruits, nuts and herbs and other plants.

During this post, we will look at why Nitrogen is important for plants, How Nitrogen can be biologically sourced and we'll profile some of our favorite Nitrogen-fixing trees, shrubs and herbs

Nitrogen Fixing Trees, Shrubs and Herbs for Permaculture and Polyculture

Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plant growth and development and although around 78% of the earth's atmosphere is nitrogen, plants cannot utilize this. Plants instead depend upon combined or fixed forms of nitrogen, such as ammonia and nitrate. Currently, the majority of this nitrogen is provided to cropping systems in the form of industrially produced nitrogen fertilizers. The use of these fertilizers has led to worldwide ecological problems, such as the formation of coastal dead zones, and requires a high energy input to produce. Biological nitrogen fixation, on the other hand, offers a natural means of providing nitrogen for plants. 

Legume (aka Pulse Crop) in association with Rhizobium bacteria.   

Biological Nitrogen fixation is an important component of regenerative agriculture,organic gardening/farming, forest gardening, and other polyculture practices. Through a partnership with micro-organisms in their roots, some plants can turn atmospheric nitrogen into nitrogen fertilizers useful to themselves but also becoming available to their neighbors over time through root dieback, leaf fall, and chop and drop pruning. These are known as the nitrogen-fixing plants.

This is a mutually beneficial relationship with the plant providing carbohydrates obtained from photosynthesis to the microorganism and in exchange for these carbon sources, the microbes provide fixed nitrogen to the host plant.
While it does not replace the need to bring in other nutrients depleted by harvests such as phosphorus and calcium, nitrogen fixation provides a valuable biological source of an essential fertilizer.

There are two main groups of microbes that plants associate with in order to utilize the atmospheric nitrogen to fuel growth. They are  Frankia and Rhizobium.

Frankia


Many plants partner with micro-organisms called Frankia, a group of Actinobacteria. These plants are known as the actinorhizal nitrogen fixers.


Frankia can be seen above as the  nodules forming around the roots of one of our Elaeagnus umbellata saplings in our nursery.
Actinorhizal plants are found in many ecosystems including alpine, xeric, chapparal, forest, glacial till, riparian, coastal dune, and arctic tundra environments and can be found in the following plant families  

  • Betulaceae, the birch family.
  • Myricaceae, the bayberry family.
  • Casuarinaceae, the Austrian “pines”.
  • Elaeagnaceae, the oleasters.
  • Rosaceae, the rose family.
  • Rhamnaceae, the buckthorn family.
These plants tend to thrive in nitrogen-poor environments and are often the pioneer species in plant communities playing an important role in plant succession.

Rhizobium


By far the most important nitrogen-fixing symbiotic associations are the relationships between legumes (plants in the family Fabaceae) and Rhizobium and Bradyrhizobium bacteria. These plants are commonly used in agricultural systems such as alfalfa, beans, clover, cowpeas, lupines, peanut, soybean, and vetches. 
The Rhizobium or Bradyrhizobium bacteria colonize the host plant’s root system and cause the roots to form nodules to house the bacteria. The bacteria then begin to fix the nitrogen required by the plant. Access to the fixed nitrogen allows the plant to produce leaves fortified with nitrogen that can be recycled throughout the plant. This allows the plant to increase photosynthetic capacity, which in turn yields nitrogen-rich seed.

Rhizobium colonies clearly seen as nodules on the plant roots of Spartium junceum

So now you know what nitrogen fixation is, lets take a look at some of my favorite Nitrogen Fixing Trees - Shrubs and Herbs that we use throughout our polyculture gardens.

Nitrogen Fixing Trees


Italian Alder - Alnus cordata 


Alnus cordata - Italina Alder - Nitrogen Fixing Tree


Overview: Alnus cordata  - Italian Alder  is a deciduous tree that grows up to 25m at a fast rate. It has a long season in leaf - from April to December - and is in flower in March. Has a heavy leaf canopy and when the leaves fall in the winter, they help to build up the humus content of the soil.The species is monoecious and is pollinated by wind. Thrives on poor and dry soils, even sometimes on chalk, but prefers to be near water.

Uses: Windbreak, pioneer species for re-establishing woodlands, ornamental, biomass production, coppice, ornamental. The timber has a red/orange appearance and is used for turning and carving.

Nitrogen Fixing Potential: Level of fixation not specified on the USDA website.

Biodiversity: The catkins of Italian Alder provide early pollen for insects, and the over-wintering cones are a good food source for birds.

Propagation: Seed germination rates generally high. Transplant into permanent positions when growth has reached a suitable level.


Black Locust - Robinia pseudoacacia 


Robinia pseudoacacia - Black Locust

Overview:
 Robinia pseudoacacia - Black Locust is a rapidly growing, deciduous tree that is native to North America. This member of the pea and bean family (Leguminosae) has now naturalised in many parts of Europe. It is in flower in June, and the seeds ripen from November to March. The species is hermaphrodite.  It's a good tree for establishing on degraded land but can become invasive due to its prolific seed production, and it also spreads by suckering from the roots. Prefers well drained soil and sunny positions.

Uses: Shelterbelts and windbreaks, restoration projects due to extensive root system, dynamic accumulator, ornamental. The wood is very durable and rot resistant, good for posts and beams in construction. An essential oil is obtained from the flowers and used in perfumery.

Nitrogen Fixing Potential: The species is classified by USDA as being a MEDIUM Nitrogen fixer with estimated yields of 85-160lbs/acre or 39-72kg/4050m²  or 0.014g /m2.

Biodiversity: The pretty flowers open in May or June after the leaves have developed and are attractive to a wide range of pollinators, including bees that produce  "Acacia" honey. Noted for attracting a wide range of insects. A dynamic accumulator gathering minerals or nutrients from the soil and storing them in a more bioavailable form that can then be used as fertilizer.

Propagation: Pre-soak seed for 48 hours in warm water and sow in late winter in a cold frame. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when ready and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter.  Plant into their permanent positions the following summer. For cuttings, use small new-growth branches at least 8 inches long with a leaf node near the cut. Can take up to 3 months for roots to develop.

Sea Buckthorn - Hippophae rhamnoides


Hippophae rhamnoides -  Sea Buckthorn
Overview: Hippophae rhamnoides -  Sea Buckthorn is a deciduous thorny shrub growing to around 6m in height. It is in flower in April, and the seeds ripen from September to October. Provides an abundance of highly nutritious orange berries in the autumn. The species is dioecious and is pollinated by wind. Requires a sunny position and does very well in sandy soils. Fairly slow growing and plants produce abundant suckers.

Uses: Shelter hedge, Pioneer species to reestablish woodlands, Maritime exposure tolerated - stabalises sand dunes. The wood of Sea Buckthorn is tough, hard, very durable, fine-grained and used for fine carpentry and turning.

Nitrogen Fixing Potential: The species is classified by USDA as being a MEDIUM Nitrogen fixer with estimated yields of 85-160lbs/acre or 39-72kg/4050m²  or 0.014g /m2

Biodiversity: Provides shelter and in the autumn, berries for birds. The ripe fruits also attract insects, and therefore birds that feed on insects such as thrips, earwigs and mites. Deer, mice and other rodents may also feed on sea buckthorn, and bees and hoverflies are attracted to the flower's nectar.

Propagation: Sow seed in spring in a sunny position in a cold frame. Germination is usually quick and successful, although 3 months cold stratification may improve the germination rate further. Once big enough, transplant into individual pots and grow on in a greenhouse for the first winter. Take cuttings at the end of autumn or very early in the spring before the buds burst. Store them in sand and worm casting mix until April, then cut into 7 - 9cm lengths and plant them in a sun room or with plastic bags and bottom heat.

Nitrogen Fixing Shrubs 


Elaeagnus umbellata - Autumn Olive


Elaeagnus umbellata - Autumn Olive 

Overview: Elaeagnus umbellata - Autumn Olive  - A large deciduous shrub from E.Asia, growing 4.5 m high and 4.5 m wide, tolerates part shade, very drought tolerant. Branches are often thorny, leaves are bright green and silvery beneath. Yellowish white, fragrant flowers are produced in May-June, followed by rounded silvery brown (ripening red) fruits in Sep-Oct. Sometimes cultivated for its edible fruit. There are many named cultivars. Flowers are rich nectar and very aromatic. Plants can fruit in 5 yrs from seed. This specie is considered invasive in the U.S.

Uses:  Hedging plant, ornamental and tolerates maritime exposure succeeding in the most exposed positions.  The plant is used as a nurse tree, when planted with fruit trees it is reported to increase the overall yield of the orchard by 10%. It can also be grown as a biomass crop on a 3 year rotation.

Nitrogen Fixing Potential:
 The species is classified by USDA as being a MEDIUM nitrogen fixer with estimated yields of 85-160lbs/acre or 39-72kg/4050m² or 0.014g /m2.

Biodiversity - The shrubs will begin to flower in the 4th or 5th year after planting and are attractive to a wide range of pollen and nectar feeding invertebrates. If you leave some fruits on the tree they provide a good source of winter food for birds. In time as the hedge thickens up with regular pruning, suitable nesting habitat will form inside the lower part of the hedge. Birds such as Wren, Chiffchaff and Robin are commonly found in dense low hedging. These birds can help to keep common vegetable pest populations low.

Propagation: Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. It should germinate in late winter or early spring, though it may take 18 months. Stored seed can be very slow to germinate, often taking more than 18 months. A warm stratification for 4 weeks followed by 12 weeks cold stratification can help. The seed usually (eventually) germinates quite well. Prick out the seedlings into individual pot as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant out when they are at least 15 cm tall. 

Caragana arborescens - Siberian Pea Tree


Caragana arborescens - Siberian Pea Tree

Overview: Caragana arborescens - Siberian Pea Tree - A deciduous shrub originating from Central Asia belonging to the Fabaceae (legume) family growing to 5-6m high and 4m wide with an upright habit. It grows vigorously. Flowers are borne from buds on the previous year's wood and are typical of flowers from this family. Flowering occurs in May. Pollination is via bees, usually wild bumble bees. Pods develop from flowers - looking like small pea pods, they are 4-5 cm long. The pods ripen to amber or brown from June -July onwards and seeds fall by August. The plant is extremely hardy tolerating winter temperatures of -40. Prefers a continental climate with hot dry summers and cold winters.

Uses:  Windbreaks and shelter belts, wildlife-erosion control plantings, Extensive root system that stabalizes the soil. Plants make good wildlife fodder and can be used to as poultry food. A fiber is obtained from the bark and used for rope making.



Nitrogen Fixing Potential: The species is classified by USDA as being a MEDIUM Nitrogen fixer with estimated yields of 85-160lbs/acre or 39-72kg/4050m²  or 0.014g /m2

Biodiversity - The shrubs will begin to flower in the 4th or 5th year after planting and are attractive to a wide range of pollen and nectar feeding invertebrates from Apil - May.
In time as the hedge thickens up with regular pruning, suitable nesting habitat will form inside the lower part of the hedge. Birds such as Wren - Troglodytes troglodytes, Chiffchaff - Phylloscopus collybita and Robin - Erithacus rubecula are commonly found in dense low hedging. These birds can help to keep common vegetable pest populations low.

Propagation: Seed propagation is the norm. Seeds germinate better after a short period of stratification and/or soaking in warm water prior to planting.

Cytisus scoparius - Broom 


Cytisus scoparius - Broom 
Overview: Cytisus scoparius - Broom ​ A hardy Nitrogen fixing shrub native to Europe growing to 2.4 m by 1 m at a fast rate. Its bright yellow flowers appear in spring, from May to June and attract a range of invertebrates. A versatile plant well suited to many soil types that can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Prefers a sunny position but tolerates some shade and will succeed in exposed conditions including maritime exposure. A deep root system means they are very drought tolerant once established and grow well on dry banks. Very tolerant of cutting, it regenerates quickly from the base.
   
Uses:  Ornamental, Maritime exposure tolerated - stabalizes sand dunes. Urban plant - tolerates atmospheric pollution.  An essential oil from the flowers is used in perfumery. Great plants for fiber, basketry and good brooms (hence the commom name!).  You can either place stems on the ground and go over them with a rotary lawn mower to break the biomass into smaller pieces or leave as rough mulch.

Nitrogen Fixing Potential: The species is classified by USDA as being a HIGH Nitrogen fixer with estimated yields of +160lbs/acre or +72kg/4050m² or 0.018g /m2.
  
Biodiversity - A good bee plant and an also a good food plant for many caterpillars - it reportedly provides the food for the larvae of the green hairstreak butterfly. Ants are attracted to the seeds, feeding on the juicy attachment that holds them to the pods and thus distributing the seed. 

Propagation: The plant is very easy to grow from seed and large quantities of plants can be grown very quickly. Seed harvested in the summer can be sown straight after picking and overwintered indoors (or protected and planted out the following autumn). Seeds germinate better after soaking in warm water for 8-12 hrs prior to planting.


Elaeagnus angustfolia - Oleaster, Russian Olive


Elaeagnus angustifolia - Russian Olive

Overview: 
Elaeagnus angustifolia - Russian Olive - A deciduous large shrub or small tree from Europe and W.Asia, growing approx 7m high and 7m wide. Tolerates part shade, salt and air pollution. It has silvery branches often thorny, with silvery scales when young, silvery willow-like leaves, silvery flowers in June and yellowish-silvery fruits ripening in October. Plants prefer continental climate.  This species is often cultivated in Europe and Asia for its edible fruits (there are many named varieties some of which are thorn less). The plants begin to flower and fruit from three years old. It is very tolerant of pruning even right back into old wood. The flowers are sweetly scented. Fruits hang on the plant for much of the winter providing a valuable source of winter food for birds. The fruit is readily eaten and disseminated by many species of birds. This species is considered invasive in the United States.

Uses: Hedging plant (NB does not form a dense screen), biomass crop,tolerates maritime exposure. Edible fruit -raw or cooked as a seasoning in soups, and the expected fruit yields are 7-9kg per plant. The taste is dry sweet and mealy. The seed oil, flowers and leaves are used medicinally.  An essential oil obtained from the flowers is used in perfumery. Leaves are used as goat and sheep fodder. The wood is hard, fine-grained and used for posts, beams, carving, domestic items and makes good fuel.

Nitrogen Fixing Potential: This specie is classified by USDA as being a HIGH nitrogen fixer with estimated yields of 160+ lbs/acre or 72>kg/4050m²

Biodiversity:  When in flower the plants are attractive to a range of pollinators and I've often observed our plants teeming with flying insects during the flowering period. When trimmed the plants will ramify well and can form a dense hedge-like appearance. The interior of the plants in this condition is perfect for nesting birds and for small mammals and lizards to retreat into when under threat.

Propagation: Establishment and reproduction of Elaeagnus angustifolia is primarily by seed, although some spread by vegetative propagation also occurs. Cold stratification of the seed is required for 30-60 days. Sowing when fruits ripe will probably provide the best germination results.


Before we look at some nitrogen-fixing herbs I'd like to bring to your attention our Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course -  How to Design, Build and Manage Polycultures for Landscapes, Gardens, and Farms. If you would like to learn how to design regenerative landscapes to get the most from nitrogen-fixing plants including what plants to select for where, planting advice, how to manage the plants, how to grow them in bulk, calculators to work out how many Nitrogen-fixing plants you will need to support your crop plants,  extensive nitrogen-fixing plant lists and detailed planting schematics of nitrogen-fixing polycultures we are growing in our trial gardens, then this course is perfect for you.

Regenerative Landscape Design Online Course

We're super excited about running the course and look forward to providing you with the confidence, inspiration, and opportunity to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes, gardens, and farms that produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.
You can find out more about the course here to see if it tickles your fancy, and if you subscribe to our newsletter below or you already have subscribed you are welcome to a 20% discount on the full enrollment fees for this course.  Just use the promo code SUB2020 in the section of the registration form to receive your discount. This offer is valid until the 15th of February 2020.


                                                                        


We are looking forward to providing you with this unique online learning experience - as far as we know the very first of its kind, and if you are thinking of reasons why you should do this course and whether this course is suitable for you, take a look here where we lay it all out.


Nitrogen Fixing Herbs 


Trifolium repens -White Clover 


Trifolium repens - White Clover 

Overview
Trifolium repens - White Clover - White clover is a dwarf, prostrate, mat-forming perennial that can spread via stems which freely root along the ground at the nodes. Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist soils in light shade, but tolerates full sun and moderately dry soils.

Uses:  White clover has been described as the most important forage legume of the temperate zones. Besides making an excellent forage crop for livestock,  clovers are a valuable survival food: they are high in proteins and although not easy for humans to digest raw, this is easily fixed by boiling the harvested plants for 5–10 minutes. Dried flower heads and seedpods can also be ground up into a nutritious flour and mixed with other foods, or can be steeped into an herbal tea. The plants ability to spreads aggressively by creeping stems makes is a good ground cover plant.  The plant is also used as a companion plant  when undersown with cereals or tomatoes.

Nitrogen Fixing Potential:  The species is classified by USDA as being a HIGH Nitrogen fixer with estimated yields of +160lbs/acre or +72kg/4050m² or 0.018g /m2.

Other sources state up to 545 kg of N per hectare per year is possible.

Biodiversity: The plants provide a source of nectar and pollen for a number of native bees as well as the honey bee.

Propagation: Best propagated by seed.  Pre-soak the seed for 12 hours in warm water and then sow in spring in situ. Division is also possible in the spring and autumn. 

Planting Material: For covering an area quickly seed is the best option.

Onobrychis viciifolia - Sainfoin





Overview: Onobrychis viciifolia - Sainfoin is a perennial herbaceous legume. It has deep tap-roots which are helpful in harvesting minerals from the subsoil. It's in flower from June to August and is hermaphrodite. Sainfoin flowers are pink, attractive and start blooming with the lower flowers, then moving up the stem. Produces a good bulk of foliage, and makes an excellent green cover/manure. Prefers a well-drained neutral to alkaline sandy loam in full sun and loves full sun.

Uses: Green manure, soil stabalizer (due to deep tap root),companion plant. Grown for pasture, hay or silage since it is very palatable to livestock.

Nitrogen Fixing Potential:  The species is classified by USDA as being a MEDIUM Nitrogen fixer with estimated yields of 85-160lbs/acre or 39-72kg/4050m²  or 0.014g /m2

Biodiversity: Sainfoin produces Nectar and Pollen for Honeybees and Bumblebees. This nectar is thought to be one of the highest yielding honey plants. The flowers of Sainfoin attract huge numbers of insects and some reports clain Sainfoin may attract up to ten times more bees than white clover. . Deer enjoy sainfoin, and some game birds such as turkey and pheasants shelter among the plant.

Propagation: For the best results pre-soak seed for 12 hours in warm water and sow in situ in the spring


All of the plants mentioned above and more are available from our bio nursery as plants or seeds and some species available at special discounts for bulk orders. You can find out more info about our plants by clicking on the plant names below.

Upcoming Forest Garden Courses 


If you would like to create a forest garden and gain some practical hands-on experience come and join us for our Desing and Build a Forest Garden Course. We'll be covering site surveying, landscape design software, installing access, beds, irrigation channels, planting tree, shrub, herb and ground layers, and wildlife ponds. All in 3 days! And plenty of follow up material to take away with you to digest slowly.

Design and Build - Forest Garden Course  - Regenerative Landscape Design Course

Registration for our course is now open with a 15% discount on accommodation and food fees when you register as a group (2 or more). You can also take advantage of early booking discounts if you book 3 months before the course starts.


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Would you like to be involved in the project next season?  1-6 month placements on our polyculture study are now open. 


Permaculture and Regenerative Design Internships


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

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We offer a diversity of plants and seeds for permaculture, forest gardens and regenerative landscapes including a range of fruit and nut cultivars. We Deliver all over Europe from Nov - March. - Give a happy plant a happy home :)


Our Bio-Nursery - Permaculture/Polyculture/ Regenerative Landscape Plants 


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Design and Create Webinars - Forest Gardens, Urban Gardens, Permaculture, Regenerative Farming   


We're hosting a range of online learning sessions including how to create habitat to enhance biodiversity, how to design and build a forest garden, polyculture design software tutorials, regenerative farm, and landscape design, urban gardening and much more. If you would like to be notified when our next sessions are coming up please add your email below and hit subscribe and we'll be in touch.




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Please Consider Supporting Our Efforts 


Our project grows with our desire to provide better quality information. Our overheads and demands on our time also grow along with our development and this presents a challenge for us to maintain the project and activities. We do not receive any government, institutional or NGO funding for our project and rely on revenue from sales of our courses, plants, consultancy, and design work along with the support of our amazing volunteers to develop and manage the gardens and are very grateful for this. So please consider joining us for a course or event, purchasing products and services from our online store or plants from our bio nursery, participating in our online educational platforms and support the project while we support you. Feeling super generous today? You can also support us directly with a one-time donation or become a sponsor of our project providing monthly support. With your support, we will continue to improve on producing quality information and data for the community, building a world-class demonstration landscape and progress on our mission to develop and promote practices that can produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.

 

We also accept donations via bank transfer in USD - EURO - GBP - AUD - NZD  - (please email for account details) and via peer to peer distributed ledger - BTC - ETH



If you are not in a financial position to purchase our products and services or donate please comment, like and share our work. This helps us to spread our work further afield and is much appreciated.