Sunday, 29 April 2018

Forest Gardens, Wildlife and Water Harvesting - Week 4 of the Polyculture Project

With the new perennial garden plantings in, raised beds prepped and seeds sown for the market garden, this week was mainly maintenance (watering, weeding) and time to start work on an unfinished project. 

Check here for Week 1Week 2  and Week 3 updates

Water Harvesting Reservoir 

We're looking to supply the irrigation needs for the garden at the volunteer house with just rain water by storing the water collected from the roof in a reservoir. This will be the first pond/reservoir that we've made with a rectangular shape (approx 2.5 m deep 2 m wide and 6 m long). The rectangular shape and depth of this reservoir will reduce evaporation but it's unsuitable for attracting the diversity of aquatic plant life and insects that we usually have in our ponds. We do plan to introduce some habitat in the way of floating islands and land/water interfaces for frogs and other aquatic wildlife Rectangular shape reservoirs often become breeding grounds for mosquitos and the habitat should provide control for the mosquitos and offer some pest control and support in the gardens.   

Last summer we excavated the hole for the reservoir. The pond is located on the highest point in the garden. The guttering as seen on the left side of the photo, will be extended over the grape arbor and into the pond. 

Angela and Malcolm using the transit level to establish a level bank around the reservoir.

Stakes in and string tied around each stake to mark the level of the pond


Quite a bit of soil had washed into the hole over the winter so we cleaned the hole up removed sharp stones ready for applying the liner.  Here's Malcolm undertaking the vital role of selecting a playlist before the digging commences :)

We still need to level the banks of the pond but we thought we'd get the liner in before the spring rains come down. We're using a trilaminate  LDPE liner for this pond 

Last year I wrote a series of blogs on small pond installations for farms and gardens, so if you are interested you can find much more detail about the process there.

Planting in the Perennial Polyculture Trial Garden - Ataraxia 

Seeing as it has not rained for the last 3 weeks or so we checked this season's plantings and watered where necessary. We also planted the last of the plants for this spring into an overflow swale that we prepared last year on our Regenerative Landscape Design Course. 

The lovely folk from last years Regenerative Landscape Design Course creating the overflow swale.  

The swale takes the overflow from the pond. The basin (low section) was sown with nitrogen fixing ground cover and the berm (high section) was planted with various trees, shrubs, herbs and bulbs.

The above photo does not capture the diversity of planting but this 2.5 m x 10 m swale is currently inhabited by the following plants




 Green Manure of Onobrychis viciifolia - Sainfoin  and Trifolium repens - White Clover has established well since the sowing last June. 

Wildlife in the Gardens

Been seeing these bagworms around recently which despite the name are actually moths. These guys are quite the architects  building mobile homes with pieces of twigs, leaves and other plant matter.  The larvae begin to build the case as soon as they hatch.  The females will remain in the case their entire lives while the males will eventually take flight for a day or two, find a mate and then perish. 

Psychidae - Bagworm or Bagmoth - genus, species unknown 

Carpenter bee - Xylocopa sp. - Photo by 
Lyubomir Durankiev 

European green lizard (Lacerta viridis) taking cover in a hawthorn shrub in Ataraxia. We've had to remove some of the shrubs in the garden to make way for the raised beds but we pile the branches at the side of the garden to provide the cover these amazing reptiles require.   

Lacerta sp. taking cover in shrub  

Lacerta sp. taking cover in the piles of sticks from the shrubs we removed 

Here's a short video from Dylan of some wildlife in the gardens last week


Forest Garden

Despite the fact we have had next to no rainfall since April, the forest garden is looking lush and all the plants are doing great.  The forest garden is composed of several layers and when planted appropriately, a forest garden allows for a greater density of resources and can be a  largely self- fertilising, and healthy ecosystem. In the picture below I have labelled the tree and shrub layer ,although there are probably over 300 species in this photo if you include the smaller shrubs, herbs and ground layers. Profiles of some of the plants we grow in each layer in our forest gardens can be found here.
Forest Garden / Food Forest

Comfrey among the Raspberry and Blackcurrants.  As Symphytum x uplandicum - Comfrey Bocking 14 starts to flower is the ideal time for cutting to ground level and applying as mulch but it's always good to let a few plants flower for the bees and beauty.

Symphytum x uplandicum - Comfrey Bocking 14 

Upcoming Courses

If you would like to create a forest garden and gain some practical hands on experience come and join us this Autumn. 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.

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

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.

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 :) 

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