Monday, 12 September 2016

Regenerative Landscape Design - Conceptual design for 80 ha site - Debnevo - Bulgaria

This spring I was asked to develop a conceptual design for Catherine Zanev and Adjmal Dulloo for a fantastic piece of land on the north side of the Balkan mountains. My goal was to analyse the site and identify the potential of the land for future regenerative development.

I've been working with Catherine and Adjmal since 2013 on various sites across Bulgaria, and last year we completed the design of a 5 ha polyculture orchard  (Suhi Dol)  that is now coming to life with the help of project manager Petar Mateev and the team.

Suhi Dol - Illustration of the design at maturity - the silvopasture stage.
image by  

Suhi Dol - Todorovo - Photos taken of the first tree 
plantings from this spring - the silvoarable stage. 

Catherine and Adjmal, along with other pioneer land owners within the regenerative movement, are working towards taking land management to the next level, producing nutritious affordable food, dignified jobs and enhanced biodiversity.

Bostan Bair - A view from one of the three hills on the site.  An 80 ha neglected plum orchard

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.

Breakdown of how the conceptual design was developed.

We started by ordering a digital terrain model (DTM) of the Bostan Bair site, supplied by Geodetect BG. I sent the DTM to Georgi Pavlov who extracted slope, aspect, elevation, water flow and topography data and exported these to layers onto google earth. This gave us a great visual overview of the land.

Following a visit to the site in February 2016 and further analysis of the DTM, we identified the site potential for water harvesting, located optimal locations for reservoirs/ponds and water tanks, and access routes across the landscape, all largely determined by the topography of the land.

This provided us with a landscape divided into a number of separate plots and each plot was further analysed and identified to be suitable for various cultivation practices.

The site showing access and water bodies 

The land was further divided into broad zones based on geographical features as illustrated below.

Images by Georgi Pavlov - 

Regenerative Landscape Design - Bostan Bair

Broad site zones and potential design solutions within those zones

Below you can find each zone along with a list of some cultivation practices that are most suitable for use within them.

Wetland/Semi Wetland

Biomass Production
Beneficial Habitat
Aquatic grasses grown for mulch in the market gardens
Geese and Ducks
e.g Willow and Cornus for basketry, Watercress - Rice
Habitat for pest predators , cover for nesting birds
Portion of land left to naturally succeed

The wetland/semi wetland zones are areas on the site where water naturally accumulates and are prone to periodical flooding. These areas are well suited to growing biomass for use in the market gardens and orchards, rearing fowl and growing wetland tree crops such as Salix spp. and Cornus sanguinea for basketry material, and growing semi-aquatic crops such as rice and watercress. The lowest points can be easily converted into wildlife ponds and can provide excellent beneficial habitat to support other cultures around the site.


Market Garden
Grain and Fodder/Forage
Propagation facilities
Forest Garden
Vegetable production, raised beds, intensive polyculture vegetable production.
Paddocks of cereals and fodder crops on rotation cycles that can be used to grow animal foods or as forage paddocks.
Chicken in mobile pens preparing raised vegetable beds and rotating around the established beds to clear pests and fertilize.
Nursery for market garden and forestry.
Polycultures of soft fruits for market garden supplies.
River fed
wildlife pond to support the market garden crops  

The area has good access to the main road, receives high levels of light, is on a mild gradient and has relatively low irrigation energy requirements. The site is suitable for raised bed vegetable and herb production, grain/ fodder/hay production, rotational grazing, soft fruit production and a plant/crop nursery.

Undulating Highland

Alley Cropping Silvopasture
Alley Cropping
Orchard Restoration
Fruit and nut perennial polycultures planted on contour belts with animals rotated through the alleys.
Fruit and nut perennial polycultures planted on contour belts with cereals/grasses grown in alleys.
Drought tolerant timber/biomass/fodder trees.
Water tolerant timber/biomass/fodder trees.
Honey production within the agroforestry
areas dedicated to bee trees, shrubs and herbs.
Rain fed wildlife and wetland for biomass production and support species habitat.
Restoring healthy sections of the plum orchard.  

The undulating hillsides are well suited to a range of agroforestry practices including:

  • silvopasture wherein high value orchard polycultures are grown with animal grazing in between rows.
  • silvoarable systems of orchard polycultures with cereals/fodder/biomass grown in between. 
The dry and steeper areas in this region are dedicated to drought tolerant timber species under grazed by a succession of animals, and the wet low lying areas are dedicated to flood tolerant biomass and fodder trees. The northern hill has wonderful views lending itself well to accommodation for tenants, tourism or an education/visitor centre.


Steep land

Woodland coppice
Coppice and timber production
producing site materials, nut crops, animal fodder, materials for craft.
Coppice management demonstration center - Courses, craft work etc.
Portion of land left to naturally succeed.
Steep inaccessible slopes planted with bee trees, shrubs and herbs.

This land is difficult to access and work on due to steep gradients. The steepest areas of the site can be planted with trees, shrubs and herbs that will provide a succession of nectar and pollen to bees and other pollinating invertebrates. This area is already naturally succeeding to woodland.

On the less steep hillsides a variety of coppice trees can be planted. The coppice can provide material for the market garden and for fencing material across the site.


Riparian Zones
Maintain the diversity of the existing riparian buffer.
Cropping of existing walnuts and apples and other crops.
Ram pump potential.
Modify tracks to shed water and direct to ponds.

The boundaries of the site are already well established. The riparian buffer along the river side is in good condition and should be maintained as it is. The tracks on the northern boundary require some modifications in order to shed water and avoid runnels.

We're looking forward to the future development of the site.  This season the cleared areas of the site were used to grow Einkorn, an ancient form of wheat, and produced better than expected yields of this grain. This autumn we'll be sowing a winter cover of Rye and Vetch in order to build fertility and soil organic matter. Planting of an organic cherry orchard is also planned on the site this fall.

Images by Georgi Pavlov - 

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. 

Permaculture and Regenerative Design Internships


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