Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Polyculture Project - Market Garden Study - Update 9

It's been a busy month here kicking off with our Regenerative Landscape Design Course. Thank you to all of our wonderful guests and special thanks to Georgi Pavlov for your help running the topography sections, and Kata Prodanov for your help in the kitchen. We had a marvelous time and it was great to welcome back Simon and Kartini who having purchased some land in Shipka are starting the initial stages of their site design.

Some pics from The Regenerative Landscape Design Course. More photos from the course here.

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.

Registration for a June 2017 re-run of this course is now open with an early booking discount of 20% from food and accommodation fees available. For more information on this course click below.

New to the study this month are Jack and Tadeo who have been a tremendous help, and we'd also like to say a big thank you to Susan Eggers and to Sophie's parents Jan and Keith. 

The study is almost over for this season and a few days ago we said farewell to our core team members Ute Villavicencio and Kata Prodanov.

Core Team - Ute Villavicencio and Kata Prodanov.

You have been absolutely wonderful and we cannot thank you enough for your support this past season! We're looking forward to future collaboration and wish you both all the very best.

Market Garden 

The garden appears to sighing with relief after the hot summer conditions, still no significant rains for 12 weeks now but weekly irrigation ensures the produce keeps coming and as the weather cools the beans are flushing and the Kale is making a come back. The tomatoes and basil are still going strong and will continue to do so before the first frost (maybe as early as October or as late as November) kills them off.

Polyculture Market Garden - September Produce in the annual vegetable beds. Kale, Chard, Beets, Basil,Squash,Tomato, Beans,Carrots and Parsnips. 

Earthworks, Bridges and Grape Harvest  

We've been making some light earthworks in the market garden, adjusting the path height levels to better disperse the flood irrigation water across all of the beds and making some adjustments to the pond banks. We also added some bridges over swales and channels that run across the site to improve access.

Photos from the permaculture market garden 

The team picked over 100 kg of grapes from our arbors. Grape arbors are a neat feature of nearly all the houses in Shipka. The high summer sun is effectively shielded by the summer growth and when the vines lose their leaves in the winter the low winter sun pours into the houses. We inherited our vines from the previous owners with some vines being over 80 years old. We prune each February and water well during early fruiting periods. Other than that vines naturally produce excellent yields year on year. We have at least 5 cultivars growing although at the moment I'm not sure what they are.

Some of our grape cultivars 

We turned most of the grapes into fresh juice that tastes divine. 20 L have been frozen - 20 L refrigerated,  10 -15 L we turned to mollasses and 12 L we are making a small batch of wine with.

Pest and Disease

For the last few years late summer has been bringing small but significant numbers of shield bugs to the annual beds, what I think to be Nezaria viridula  (thanks Asen Genovski for the I.D). The bugs are attracted to the tomato plants and feed just under the skin of the ripening fruits. This year the damage caused by these insects has been great enough for us to declare them a pest.

Nezara viridula

Many species of Shield bugs are known to feed on tomatoes, known collectively as Tomato Stink Bugs. We'll be reading up on our species to see what we can do to control the numbers of these pests, but here are a few control suggestions from  directed generally at all species of stink bugs/shield bugs.

Wash plants. When bugs first make an appearance in your tomato patch, spray tomato plants daily with water. The stream will force them off plants. You can also treat tomatoes with a 1-1 solution of water and vegetable oil, olive oil, or lavender oil applied with a garden sprayer to repel the insects.

Hand pick bugs. Remove them and drop them into a bucket of soapy water. You can place a tray beneath plant and shake it to collect bugs.

Plant “trap cropsin an area around the tomato garden but set apart from the tomato plants. Trap crops are natural deterrents that draw stink bugs away from tomato plants and provide them with a thriving habitat. By planting abundant areas of small-flowered plants, you also encourage parasitic wasps, birds, and other predators that feed on the bugs. Stink bugs are known to be attracted to the color yellow. Mustard, millet, buckwheat, sorghum, sunflowers, marigolds, garlic, lavender, and chrysanthemums are good trap crops for these pests.

I can't say they are attracted to the marigolds in and around the beds or lavender but they are certainly attracted to the french beans with the feeding from the bean sap resulting in contorted and stunted bean growth. They have also been observed in the formed seeds of Calendula plants. Nasturtiums appear to attract another species of shield bug but not these guys.

The chickens are not interested and the ducks (that we have re-introduced into the garden for the first time in 5 years) give them a wide berth. One possible reason for the sudden influx of shield bugs could be that the activity of the ducks rummaging through the bed mulch has scared off would be pest predators such as toads, frogs, slow worms and lizards that usually settle there.

Ducks in the annual polyculture beds 'Zeno' 

This does seem somewhat unlikely given that the bugs are mainly located in the canopy of the plants and the forementioned predators are hunting at ground level. It could be that after 10 years without rotating the crops the populations have steadily built up in which case it's time to rotate with some crops that these shield bugs do not effect such as carrot, parsnip, beet, chard, corn, onion and chilli to name but some.    

Forest Garden

White Mulberry - Morus alba for animal fodder 

Here's a short video made by Balkan Ecology Project's youngest team member, our son Archie Alfrey, showing the use of 2nd year pollard/coppice regrowth shoots of Morus alba for pig and rabbit food. It's amazing how fast these trees grow!


Late Pollinisers 

Here are a few late flowering edible perennials that we have dotted around the forest garden. These plants will flower throughout September and into October providing valuable forage to a range of pollinators and pest predators.

Sedum telephium - tasty green shoots in the spring - late flowering nectar pollen resource in the autumn.
Drought tolerant and clump- forming

Allium tuberosum - Garlic Chives or Chinese Chives. I observed at least four species of pollinators on these plants whilst taking this photo. A great late flowering perennial vegetable for sun and shade.


Ficus carica - 'Izmir' - an excellent sweet tasting fig. Remarkable how much fruit the tree provides despite the drought like conditions this year. This tree is located in an area of the garden that does receive irrigation.

Fig - Ficus carica 'Izmir'

We have some great fig cultivars from the nursery this year.  Click here for a recent blog post all about figs and click below to view figs on offer from our plant nursery

The Bio-nursery

Plant orders are coming in early this year and when the plants are dormant we'll be sending them out to customers all over Europe.

The tree nursery looking great in spite of the fact we have had no significant rain for 12 weeks. The good soil built largely by years of chicken tractoring and chop and drop mulching, shade cast by the surrounding fruit trees and passive irrigation works very well in keeping the soil sufficiently moist for good growth

Just some of the nursery trees above include:
  • Catalpa bignonioides - Indian Bean Tree
  • Picea glauca - White Spruce
  • Caragana arborescens - Siberian Pea Tree
  • Hibiscus syriacus - Rose of Sharon
  • Juglans regia - Persian Walnut
  • Prunus cerasus - Sour Cherry
all available from our Permaculture/Forest Garden Plant nursery.

Dewberry - Rubus casieus - great ground cover for deep shade

See here for the results of our polyculture studies from 2014 - 2016

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 


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