Sunday, 19 May 2019

Grape, Blueberry and Jostaberry Polyculture, Wildlife Pond and Bioblitzing - Week 7 - The Polyculture Project

It's been another productive week here in Shipka thanks to our amazing team :)  May and June are the wettest months of the year in our area and although it does not rain continuously, when it does rain it pours. It's quite similar to tropical weather this time of year and often the rainy spells come at regular intervals such as the early hours of the morning, while it is still dark, and in the afternoons. I love this weather and this time of year, the plants seem most content, healthy and full of vigour.

Forest Garden/Wildlife Garden/ Polyculture 


Grape, Blueberry and Jostaberry Polyculture - Hecate


Our productive polyculture of Grape, Blueberry and Jostaberry (nicknamed Hecate) is coming along nicely. I forgot to get a photo of the bed but here is an illustration and some photos of the plants.





Plants look even more beautiful during and after a rain, adorned with little water droplets sparkling in the light. This Vaccinium corymbosum cv. - Blueberry 'Sunshine Blue' is a Dwarf Blueberry and tolerant of a higher pH than most blueberry cultivars. They have delicious fruits and are very productive when grown in pots. We have 8 of these plants in the polyculture planted beneath the Grape Vines.  


I found a local supply of a great pest and disease resistant  Vitis vinifera cv. - Grape cultivar called 'Moldova'  The first shoots are coming along nicely. We'll be growing these in the polyculture trained along wires, a method known as the kniffin system.   


We put a few Iris germanica - Bearded Iris on the edges of the polyculture just because of the outrageous flowers! We also have Rubus × loganobaccus - Loganberry planted on the south edge and a trim of  the very edible Hemerocallis fulva - Orange Daylily planted 20 cm apart. These plants make a good ground cover and I'm hoping they will provide a barrier to prevent the meadow grasses creeping into the bed.  



Phronesis - Forest Garden 


We started work on the wildlife pond for our new forest garden this week. Dylan and his friends dug out the bulk of the pond a few weeks back and this week we levelled the banks, defined the shape,  created some shelves and dug out a little more depth in preparation for lining.  The pond is located at the bottom of the garden as shown in the below illustration. 



Installing a pond is probably the single most effective thing you can do in a garden to enhance biodiversity and wildlife and the majority of the wildlife that will be attracted to the pond will be of great benefit to your garden or farm, i.e pollinators and pest predators.  For full instructions on how we build our ponds you can read our previous posts - Small Pond Installations for Irrigation and Wildlife - Part 1 and Small Pond Installations for Irrigation and Wildlife - Part 2 - Liners. I'll be writing Part 3 - Planting The Pond using this pond as an example in the coming weeks. 

Here is Ronan defining the shelves of the pond that will be used to locate the emergent plants such as Iris psueodocorus and Thypa latifolia 


The soil from the excavation is very useful. we laid down some tarps around the edges to make it easier to move around.  


We put the soil from the pond to good work separating the top soil from the sub soil and using the sub soil as a layer for the raised beds that are located either side of the pond (as you can see in the above illustration of the garden). We'll be adding layers of the freshly cut surrounding wild vegetation, spoiled straw and fresh manure next week and these beds will be ready for planting next spring.

Pierre Barbieux the founder of Bois de Rode Bos in Belgium visited for the day to see what we're up to here and helped out in the morning with the raised beds. Pierre is growing an excellent variety of rare fruit and nut cultivars at his 3 ha site just outside Brussels.


When making deep mulched raised beds it's important to relieve the compaction in the bed area before applying the layers of organic matter. It's also preferable if the ground is thoroughly soaked before mulching. In this case we had some beautiful rain recently. Here is Ronan and Lea using the broad forks to de-compact the bed area. Note the existing vegetation is not removed or turned over.


With regular rains and warm sunny spells forecast for this month it's a great time to add a few last plantings and sowing to the channels we created. Here is Misha planting Symphytum x uplandicum - Comfrey cuttings along the central irrigation channel of the garden at approx. 50 cm  apart. These plants will provide a valuable source of mulch for the trees and shrubs we have planted in the garden and being located right next to the irrigation channel with access to abundant water they should produce very high yields. I 'd estimate within two years we will be able to make 5 cuts per season with yields of 8 kg of biomass per plant per season. We''ll certainly leave the plants to flower during the season as they are very attractive to wildlife. You can read more about this amazing plant here.



Lea and Ronan sowed Trifolium repens - White Clover into the berms that were created when establishing the irrigation channels. Trifolium repens - White Clover provides excellent cover and as long as you don't sow the cultivated variety (often referred to as Dutch Clover) they are very tolerant of foot and light vehicle traffic. We have these seeds along with other green manures and ground covers available from our online store
 

Wildlife in the Gardens


I photographed this array of insects enjoying the blossoms of our Zanthoxylum simulans- Szechuan Pepper  during a cup of coffee in the home garden - Apatheia. It's remarkable how attractive this plant is to a range of invertebrates many of which are great pollinators and pest predators. Zanthoxylum simulans- Szechuan Pepper produces a great spice too.






Viburnum opulus 'Xanthocarpum' - Guelder Rose ​ is another plant that is extremely attractive to wildlife and generally very beautiful. The fruits of these plants are edible and I waited eagerly for 4 years for my first and last fruit. The fruits of these plants fall into my 'apocalypse food' category. I might make this a  new category for the nursery website :)   


This is a Morus alba - White Mulberry pollard we have been growing for about 8 years now. These new shoots will probably reach over a metre by the end of summer. The lush new regrowth makes excellent rabbit and pig food. Here is a video by Arch of cutting the trees a few years back and feeding them to the animals. For more on Mulberry check out our article Mo' Mulberry 



Mid week we bio blitzed Phronensis and a new garden we will be developing for our upcoming June Design and Build a Forest garden Course. Bio blitzing is basically taking a careful look at the flora and fauna of the site and photographing the flowering plants and invertebrate activity. We'll do this once per month during the growing season to keep a record of the biodiversity we have on our sites. These are some of the photos from the blitz. Thanks Ronan, Lea, Misha and Philip for these. 

Bioblitz - Wildlife Gardens 


Other News 

Shipka Festival 

For all you happy people living nearby, next weekend our friends have organised music, film and crafts in Shipka and you are welcome to come along! 

Our gardens will also be open during the day if you would like to have a look around. You can find out more about the activities and schedule here 



More news..... 

If you are part of the Swedish Permaculture Associataion - Permakultur Sverige you may be interested in this opportunity to attend a range of courses across Europe (all expenses covered) including our Design and Build a Forest Garden Course and Regenerative Landscape Design Course. You can find out more about this opportunity here.

Thank you Misha and Philip from Green School Village -  for partnering with Permakultur Sverige to include our project courses.


Upcoming Courses


Our next course is scheduled for June so if you would like to create a forest garden and gain some practical hands on experience do join us this summer. 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 a Forest Garden Course 

Registration for our June course is now open with 15% discount on accommodation and food fees when you register as a group (2 or more).

Polyculture/Regenerative Landscape Design Webinars 




This season we are running live interactive sessions hosted on Zoom on a range of topics. You can register for a  webinar here.


Would you like to be involved in the project? We are currently offering 1 - 6 month positions on our polyculture study.



Permaculture and Regenerative Design Internships 

We offer a diversity of plants and seeds for permaculture and forest gardens including a range of fruit and nut cultivars. We Deliver all over Europe from Nov - March.

We also offer a range of products all year round from our Online Store 

Give a happy plant a happy home :) 




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

  • Join our Patreon Page and receive exclusive content, store discounts and lots more   
  • Comment, like and share our content on social media.





 




Sunday, 12 May 2019

Forest Garden Plants, River Irrigation, Paulownia Coppice & Garden Bees - Week 6 - The Polyculture Project

It's been a relaxed week here in Shipka. The main focus has stayed on the market garden where we are sowing and planting out the warm season annual crops. The weather has been warm with cloudy cool spells and the wild vegetation is really starting to take off. The fruits are forming on the trees and shrubs and the promise of summer, albeit 6 weeks away, is in the air.

So here's what we've been up to this week.



Ronan Delente a chef who has been travelling the world cooking across the continents has joined as for the study this year. Ronan has been experimenting with various recipes using the wild plants and perennial vegetables from the gardens. He started a blog this week to share his recipes and love for cooking with perennials. Check out his Falafel recipe here - looks very tasty!

The Forest Garden - Aponia  



It's going to be a good year for plums it seems especially the wild Prunus cerasifera - Cherry Plum that grow in abundance in our area. These plums are great, each wild tree has unique tasting plums and I reckon about 1 in 10 have the perfect amount of juiciness, sweetness and acidity that I love in these fruits.



Mespilus germanica - Medlar  is flowering. This is seedless local cultivar and provides us with great fruit from late November into December. 


Looking forward to the fruits from this Rubus fruticosus cv. - Blackberry cultivar 'Reuben'. This cultivar is unusual for blackberry in that it produces fruit on new growth, known as a primocane. We get some great fruit from this plant in the summer and it continues to flower into late October and although the fruit does not ripen that late in the season the flowers do provide scarce forage for pollinators.


As the warmer season approaches we will be needing to irrigate the gardens. This week we went for a walk up the mountain to show the team the source of our irrigation, the river in the valley above us, and how the town diverts the river to supply water for gardens and farms in the area. 


Here's a map showing the channel we use to irrigate the market garden and home garden on the west side of town . The red markers are places where the stream can be diverted to irrigate the other gardens of the town. The end of the blue line in the bottom left hand corner is the market garden. The above photo was taken at the other end of the blue line on this map. 


For the East side gardens we use a different river . Here's a short video made by Archie of the our Design and Build a Forest Garden Course this April that shows the irrigation channels in the new forest garden we built during the course 

 


I spotted the first flowering Chamomile of the season. This is one of our favourites to collect and dry for a supply of herbal teas. The first time I collected chamomile I was confused in trying to identify the plant . Browsing through herb books to look up the herb I found many names, both common and scientific. First of all the word chamomile is sometimes spelled camomile then there’s Roman (or English) chamo­mile, a perennial, and German (or Hungarian) chamomile, an annual. The German species might be listed as Matricaria chamomilla, Chamomilla recutita, or Matricaria recutita. Roman chamomile is referred to in some sources as Anthemis nobilis, in others as Chamaemelum ­nobile. I wrote a blog post years ago to help with identification. You can find it here if you are interested  



Paulownia Coppice Trials 


I've been experimenting with growing Paulownia tomentosa - Foxglove Tree in the garden. Our experiments include growing the plants in the center of our vegetable raised beds for shade and mulch, growing the plants for tipi poles, fence posts and stakes in the vegetable gardens and generally to see how much biomass these plants can produce in the polyculture garden.  

Here is a photo of Paulownia tomentosa - Foxglove Tree  used for shade support in our vegetable polycultures. This photo was taken in the summer of 2016 just 3 months after planting the 1 year old whips, already providing some nice shade that helps preventing the parsley from bolting to seed.  


This photo shows the trees after planting in 2016 and then in the summers of the following years. 


This spring about 3 weeks ago I cut down the trees and the largest tree (shown below) was approx 4 m tall and approx. 15 cm wide at the base. You can see 3 weeks after I cut the tree the new growth is already emerging. I expect these new shoots will reach at least 1 m tall by the end of the season. I'll post some photos in the future.

   
Here's a photo of some of the pole wood we harvested from the two beds.  We used this wood to stake the tomatoes and the thinner diameter wood for bean poles. The larger diameter wood is not shown here and will be used for fence posts at some point.  


Based on some trials with coppicing paulownia in the home garden, I expect much faster growth from the coppice stools than from the original whips we planted.  

If we get enough people sign up for our patron I'll write up a detailed report of all of our Paulownia trials for our patrons. Speaking of Patron,  if you are interested in learning how you can grow food and other resources while enhancing biodiversity then why not become a patron of our project?  As a patron we will be sharing more in depth elements of our work with you, including monthly detailed polyculture profiles (such as this) video tours of forest gardens, and we'll provide you with access to our webinars and unique design spreadsheets. You can also participate in monthly Q&A sessions where you can bring your own projects to look over and discuss with the group. 


Our goal is to educate and build a network of designers and practitioners while raising funds to help support and develop our project's activities. Join us !

https://www.patreon.com/thepolycultureproject
Become a Patron of our Project 


Bees in the Gardens 


Xylocopa violacea, the violet carpenter bee is one of the largest bees in Europe. These solitary bees hibernate overwinter and emerge in the spring, usually around April or May. The female creates the nest alone. The eggs are laid within a series of small cells, each of which is supplied with a pollen ball for the larvae to feed upon. The adults emerge in late summer then hibernate until the following year They hibernate in dead wood boring tunnel in the material hence they are called "carpenter bee"  and they will use the same nest of abandoned nest if available, a good reason to leave some old logs around the garden. 



Honey bees are loving the Allium schoenoprasum - Chives in the nursery. These bees were moving very slowly over the flowers, almost as if they were drunk on the nectar.


Kale we sowed last year and harvested all of last summer and through the winter is flowering at the moment.  Not all of our kale survive the winters here (winters can be very harsh), but there is a patch in a protected spot that does well.  Kale is a biennial plant the life cycle of which span two years.  They flower and produce seeds in their second year after which they whither away. You can keep the plants alive for many years by cutting back the flowering growth but I like to let some plants go. As you can see below they are extremely attractive to a range of bees and other pollinators. For more info on plant life cycles see our previous post here 



Polyculture/Regenerative Landscape Design Webinars 



This season we are running live interactive sessions hosted on Zoom on a range of topics. You can register for a  webinar here.


Would you like to be involved in the project? We are currently offering 1 - 6 month positions on our polyculture study.



Permaculture and Regenerative Design Internships 

We offer a diversity of plants and seeds for permaculture and forest gardens including a range of fruit and nut cultivars. We Deliver all over Europe from Nov - March.

We also offer a range of products all year round from our Online Store 

Give a happy plant a happy home :) 





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

  • Join our Patreon Page and receive exclusive content, store discounts and lots more   
  • Comment, like and share our content on social media.





 

Our next course is scheduled for June so if you would like to create a forest garden and gain some practical hands on experience do join us this summer. 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 a Forest Garden Course 

Registration for our June course is now open with 15% discount on accommodation and food fees when you register as a group (2 or more).

Monday, 6 May 2019

Phronêsis our new Forest Garden, Preparing Raised Beds, Launching a Patreon Page and Edible Perennials - Week 5 - The Polyculture Project

It's been an eventful week here at the project, planting out the market garden crops, digging wildlife ponds and launching a Patreon Page!! We also welcome Ben, a landscaper from the UK, that joined us for the course and is staying on for a few weeks for the polyculture study.

At the beginning of the week we said farewell to the participants of our Design and Build a Forest Garden course after a marvellous three days of design and build that resulted in the creation of a new forest - details of which will follow. 

So here's what we've been up to last week.
    


The Design and Build a Forest Garden Course


Our Design and Build courses are exactly that. We start with the design and end with the build. For  this particular course the location for the new garden was just east of our perennial polyculture trial garden, Ataraxia, in a new area we are developing called Phronesis. The forest garden is named after and dedicated to  Joost W. van der Laan who made a generous donation to our Polyculture Project Crowdfunder last year. Thank you Joost :)  


It was an eclectic group of people that joined us for the course this spring including young farmers, fitness trainers, a landscape gardener, a journalist and a Hollywood actress -  coming together from all over the world to create a fledgling forest garden. This occurred at about the same time 10,000's of people were laying down on the floors of London to protest to government about biodiversity loss and environmental damage. I wonder whether if just 5% of them (of those that have not already) were to build a forest garden whether the result might be 50 x more effective than expecting the government to do something?  But hey - people love a "lay-in" it seems :)   


The primary purpose of this garden is to produce round wood for fence posts, light construction wood, and stakes and pole wood for the market garden crops. The secondary purpose is to provide fruits and nuts in the under story and a range of habitat to support wildlife.  Here's an illustration of the garden.



The goals of this design were to:
  • encourage growth of existing biodiversity as much as possible and provide new habitat that enhances biodiversity
  • utilise the slope of the land and existing water source to irrigate the garden
Here's a before and after shot 

 View of the planted out garden from the east 


View of the planted out garden from the west 


  This image provides a growth projection from initial plant out to year 3, year 8 and year 15-20 when the garden is mature.  



We did not have time to dig out the wildlife pond for the garden during the course but Dylan and his friends completed the dig the day after (and staged a little "lay in"). We'll be lining and planting this out in the coming weeks. 



Here are the marvellous participants of the course. For more photos of the course see here


Our next course is scheduled for June so if you would like to create a forest garden and gain some practical hands on experience do join us this summer. 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 a Forest Garden Course 

Registration for our June course is now open with 15% discount on accommodation and food fees when you register as a group (2 or more).

The Market Garden - Aponia 


After the Design and Build a Forest Garden Course our attention shifted to the market garden where we are starting to plant out our annual herb and vegetable polyculture - Zeno.  We have been growing this polyculture for 7 years now and have for the last 4 years been comparing yields of the polyculture with the same crops planted in blocks nearby. You can find the previous 4 year's results of this trial here and more information and diagrams of the polyculture Zeno here

I actively encourage the growth of wild plants in our beds whenever we are not growing crops in them. From October through to April the beds are generally full of native plants that provide a winter cover, offer support to wildlife and provide a significant amount of biomass for the beds when we prepare them for planting in May. The first step is to spread approx 100 g of ash per m2  over the surface of the bed. Next we broadfork the beds and pull the native plants out of the clods removing plants with rhizomes such as nettles and mints (for the compost pile) and leaving all of the other plants on the surface to decompose in situ.   


Next we add approx 20 L of compost per m 2 to the surface 


and then we mulch the bed with 1 bale per m length of bed 


The compost is spread evenly over the surface and the straw mulch is applied 


We are growing 6 cultivars of tomatoes this year. Sophie started the tomatoes from seed in mid February and transplanted the seedlings into 10 L pots when they were approx 8 cm tall. You can comfortably fit 7 or 8 seedlings in each 10 L pot . We removed the plants from the pots and sat them in buckets of water prior to planting out.  The cultivars we are growing are Tigerella - Ukraine Purple - Chocolate Pear - Alicante - Yellow Pear  and Rozavo Magia  


Using pole wood harvested from the forest garden, from plants including Juglans regia - Persian Walnut - 
Paulownia tomentosa - Foxglove Tree - Alnus cordata  - Italian Alder Corylus avellana - Hazelnut  and Prunus insititia - Damson we erected the stakes to support the tomatoes.

These stakes also serve well as bird perches which is great as the birds will often rest on the perches while hunting for larvae in the vegetable beds.  


The bed on the right will be planted with the Zeno Polyculture and the bed on the left will have the same crops planted in blocks.



You can find the results from the last 4 years of this study here


We're Launching a Patreon Page! 


If you are interested in learning how you can grow food and other resources while enhancing biodiversity then why not become a patron of our project?  As a patron we will be sharing more in depth elements of our work with you, including monthly detailed polyculture profiles (such as this) video tours of forest gardens, and we'll provide you with access to our webinars and unique design spreadsheets. You can also participate in monthly Q&A sessions where you can bring your own projects to look over and discuss with the group. 


Our goal is to educate and build a network of designers and practitioners while raising funds to help support and develop our project's activities.We're in seedling stage at the moment, but with you on board we're on our way to grow this to a mighty tree:)


https://www.patreon.com/thepolycultureproject
Become a Patron of our Project 



The Forest Garden - Edible Perennials 


There is a brief window of opportunity to harvest Elm seeds in the Spring, when the seeds are green, leafy and coin sized. Just as the plant embryo is forming they have an oiliness and taste not too dissimilar to peanuts. According to Plants for a Future,  the seeds contain about 34.4% protein, 28.2% fat and 17% carbohydrate. Here are some photos by Ronan of the Ulmus sp. seeds ripe for eating. 




Chaenomeles speciosa - Jap. Quince and Aronia melanocarpa - Black Chokeberry  are dominant in the shrub layer of the forest garden. The fruits of these plants are not particularly suitable for eating freshly picked but both plants are great for juicing. With the quince juice being super rich in vitamin C. You can read more about Japanese Quince in our previous post here 



 Great to see a Mulberry tree we planted last year flowering this year, hopefully we will get some fruit in a few months. This is Morus kagayamae - 'Kinriu' a dioecious female plant that will produce fruit with a male pollinator mulberry nearby.  For more info on Mulberry check out our previous post dedicated solely to these marvellous plants here


Our  Elaeagnus umbellata - Autumn Olive shrubs are flowering  profusely this spring. The flowers are very attractive to a range of pollinators and pest predators, and come October will have transformed into  sweet little red balls of fruit.    



Forest Garden Maintenance - It's been about two weeks since I last cut the pathways in the forest garden and leaving it any longer this time of year makes the job twice as hard as the lush vegetation grows so tall it clogs up the lawn mower. It takes around 40 minutes to mow all of the pathways and this includes emptying the nutrient dense cuttings onto the surface of the raised beds where we grow our annual vegetables. I would estimate that we receive approx 60 kg of trimmings each time we cut in the spring which is a decent quantity of fertiliser. As long as you spread the trimmings thinly on the surface they will quickly decompose.  Here are some photos of the freshly cut pathways within our 8 year old forest garden in Aponia. We established most of these pathways with the lawn mower and some of them we dug out when we first developed the garden and sowed with Trifolium repens - White Clover.




Polyculture/Regenerative Landscape Design Webinars 



This season we are running live interactive sessions hosted on Zoom on a range of topics. You can register for a  webinar here.


Would you like to be involved in the project? We are currently offering 1 - 6 month positions on our polyculture study.



Permaculture and Regenerative Design Internships 

We offer a diversity of plants and seeds for permaculture and forest gardens including a range of fruit and nut cultivars. We Deliver all over Europe from Nov - March.

We also offer a range of products all year round from our Online Store 

Give a happy plant a happy home :) 




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

  • Join our Patreon Page and receive exclusive content, store discounts and lots more   
  • Comment, like and share our content on social media.