Monday, 18 April 2016

Polyculture Project - Growing Food and Biodiversity

Our mission is to provide nutritious affordable food while enhancing biodiversity. We aim to achieve this by developing model gardens and farms that:
  • produce a diverse range of seasonal fruits and vegetables
  • enhance biodiversity
  • are low cost to establish and manage 
  • can be replicated easily in any temperate climate.
The last 3 years we have been gathering data to show the productivity of our models (see here) but currently lack a measure of biodiversity to support the casual observation of enhanced levels within the gardens.

This year we are beginning to explore this with three entomological surveys scheduled for April, July and September as part of our polyculture market garden study.  We hope this will provide us with a glimpse into what's going on at that level.

Photos by Peter Alfrey and Ute Villavicencio from the April 2016 Survey 

Welcome to our Online Store where you can find Forest Garden/ Permaculture plants, seeds, bulbs and Polyculture multi-packs along with digital goods and services such as Online Courses, Webinars, eBooks, and Online Consultancy.  We hope you enjoy the store and find something you like :) It's your purchases that keep our Project going. Yuu can also find our full list of trees. shrubs and herbs for forest gardens on our website here 


The Entomological Surveys 

The idea is to monitor two annual beds in the market garden as seen in the below diagram. The lower bed is planted with a  polyculture (Zeno) the upper bed with the same crops but planted in plant groups. For more on the Zeno Polyculture see here.

Illustration of the beds where the surveys are taken showing the different planting schemes  

Our annual herb and vegetable polyculture (Zeno) is designed to not require rotation, to utilize the beneficial relationships between plants and to create diverse and effective soil food webs that increase production. We are hoping to find out whether or not it provides more habitat for invertebrates.

The Market Garden - The surveys were carried out in raised beds labelled Annual Vegetable Guilds 

My brother Peter Alfrey has agreed to undertake the surveys and last week carried out the first survey in the market garden with Polyculture study team member Ute Villavicencio and my son Dylan.

Peter emptying the sweep nets
Not being experts in Balkan entomology, we identified to family/genus level (with abundance and plant associations noted) and took photo specimens of all the species recorded. We hope to send the photos to Balkan entomologists for species identification. Please contact us if you can help us in any way with this stage of the survey.

The April Survey - Methodology

The survey is carried out before any garden preparation disturbances occur. The beds are generally well vegetated by a diversity of native pioneers and the bed margin growth that has established since the autumn of last year.

Photo on left was taken in November 2015 after all vegetables and herbs had been harvested and the crop residue cut and placed on the surface of the beds. Tagetes erecta were left. The Photo on the right was taken one day before the survey in April 2016. The beds were allowed to naturally succeed from Nov - April.

Pit fall traps are set at mid-points in the traditional organic beds where the monoculture patches of crops will be planted. The pitfalls traps are located at the same spacing in the polyculture beds. 

Vegetation (mainly vetches, red-dead nettles, docks and grasses) in one meter squares around the pit fall traps is noted.

Visual transect surveys of all the insects visiting the bed along the whole of the 23 m length is taken for each bed. Each species is collected and photographed.

Pop up field lab :)

The vegetation on the margins is also swept.

Dylan and Ute sweeping the marginal vegetation.
As the beds at the moment are largely identical (at pre-planting stage colonised by native pioneers) the results as expected were similar in both beds. The survey will be repeated in July and September.

For more on this see Peter's blog.  Peter will also be publishing a full report that will be presented along with the study results.

Bio Blitz 

Peter, Ute, Alexandre, Dylan and Stoyan also carried out a bio blitz on one of our new sites. The goal here was to gather a baseline survey of the plot before we begin developing perennial polycultures on the site so we can see how our methods effect the existing biodiversity.

Bio-blitzing one of our new plots that we'll be planting out as part of the upcoming Perennial Polyculture study.

We're looking forward to the next survey taking place in July :)

Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course 

Want to learn how to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes?  Join us for our Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course from May 1st to Sep 13th, 2023. 

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.

Regenerative Landscape Design Online Course

You can find out all about the course here and right now we have a 20% discount on the full enrollment fees. Just use the promo code
 RLD2023 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. 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. Looking forward to it!


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 


Support Our Project 

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.
  • Donate directly via PayPal to or via FTX Pay


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.

You can also register for our online training, services, and products directly here.


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