Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Polyculture Project - Market Garden Study - Update 1

This year I'll be posting periodical reviews of what we're getting up to during the Polyculture Study.

Cherry Plum- Prunus cerasifera one of many wild fruit trees in the Market Garden  

 So, here's what we've been up to in the market garden last week.

But first just to let you know we've revamped 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.

New Polycultures

We're trying some new polycultures this year one of which we'll be experimenting with how much mulch we can grow within the beds using a fast growing, nitrogen fixing, biomass producing perennial Paulownia tomentosa.

Paulownia tomentosa 'Shan Tong' are planted in the middle of a 1.2 m wide raised bed to provide biomass for mulch and shade during the hottest periods of summer. These are nitrogen fixing plants and fairly deep rooted so I'm hoping there won't be detrimental competition with the annual crops.

We'll be experimenting with various pruning regimes that will include the regular dropping of the huge leaves and coppicing/pollarding the herbaceous growth. We've called this polyculture Ares.

Ares - Paulownia tomentosa planted 1.5 m apart in the center of the vegetable beds

We have two beds dedicated to this polyculture with the P. tomentosa  in one bed planted at 1.5 m apart  and another bed 1 m apart. The following annual crops will be planted around the Paulownia.

Ares Polyculture - An experimental polyculture integrating nitrogen fixing, biomass producing perennials with annual crops

We welcome back Kata Prodanov to the study as well as Simon Rogowski, who is also involved in our land stewardship scheme. Simon has been recording some footage for a film we may be making about the polyculture project. The rest of the team will be arriving at various times within the next few weeks.

Sowing Seeds 

Tomato seedlings. It's amazing how many plants you can start in a small space. All of the 10 tomato cultivars we are growing this year in the market garden and our home gardens have been sown into two 50 x 30 x 15 cm trays. 

We started sowing Tomato and Basil seeds indoors in early March, followed on this week by Aubergine and Chili. These seedlings require 21 to 27 C to germinate so we sow them in large trays and place them in heated rooms. The seedlings are moved out into cloches in the garden in early April and are planted out into the beds in May.

I've been using 14W  225 LED panel lights the last couple of years to prevent the seedlings bending towards the light (Phototropism). They work really well and at just under £20 are great value. Each panel can cover around 50 cm2, but you should be able to cover more area with some clever mirror positioning.

Basil seedlings on the windowsill of a warm room bathed in the red and blue light from the 14 W LED panel lamp. 
Parsley was sown outside along with some red onion sets planted into a new polyculture being trialed this year called Ares.


We set up cloches in the home gardens where we will be raising many of the crops that will later be planted out in the market garden. Next week we'll be sowing a range of seed in the cloches but it's good to set them up early so that the unwanted seed present in the soil can germinate and be hoed out before the crop seed is sown.

Gathering Materials 

We collect spoiled straw from local farmers. The bales being wet are of no use to the farmers for animal bedding  and we collect them free of charge. Wet bales can sometimes harbor slugs in which case its not a great idea to use them for mulch in the vegetable garden. Setting chickens on slug infested bales will soon clear the slugs.

Straw bales stacked for future use in the garden

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 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.


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.


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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. 

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