Sunday, 15 April 2018

Biomass Trials, Bulb planting and Forest Walk - Week 2 - The Polyculture Project

It's been a glorious spring week in Shipka!  This week we've continued planting in Ataraxia, our new perennial polyculture trial garden, have been foraging in the mountains for wild garlic and continued preparing the beds in the market garden for the annual crops.

You can read about what we got up to in week one here and  here's what we've been up to this 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.

The Perennial Polyculture Trial Garden

We started to plant out the biomass beds in Ataraxia and added some more productive and support plants into the polyculture beds.

Ataraxia - The Perennial Polyculture Trial Garden

We've selected a range of pioneer plants to grow in the biomass beds and will be studying the suitability of each species for use as mulch plants. The ideal plant should grow well on poor soils, have relatively low water demand, be fast growing and tolerant of regular pruning.

We are experimenting with three categories of plants in the biomass beds.  

Nitrogen Fixing Trees and Shrubs ​​ - Paulownia tomentosa - Robinia pseudoacacia - Alnus cordata - Elaeagnus umbellata  
C4 perennial grasses -  Miscanthus x giganteus - Aruno donax 
Fast growing  perennials - Symphytum x uplandicum ' Bocking 14' - Morus alba - ' Vratza 24'

The pioneer plants will be in blocks of 1.5 m wide  x 8 m long  as shown in the below image. 

The biomass plants are planted at 50 cm between plants, 3 rows per bed. This season the plants will establish good root systems and settle into the beds and next season we will begin various pruning regimes, weigh the biomass and measure regrowth rates of each species.  

Alex measuring out the spacing between the Paulownia tomentosa.

Angela planting out Narcissus poeticus - Poet's Narcissus as a bulbous layer in the polyculture beds.

This beautiful spring ephemeral attracts bees and other pollinators and is the species considered to be one of the first daffodils to be cultivated. It's likely to have adorned the gardens and window sills of the Romans, Greeks and perhaps the Egyptians and Sumerians before them.

We also added the shrub layer to the productive polyculture beds which consisted of Gooseberry between the Hazelnut in bed B and Loganberry between the Hazelnut in Bed D    

Here is an overview of the trial beds showing the biomass beds and the productive beds

The Market Garden

We picked up a few trucks full of spoiled straw from a local farmer and a truck load of composted farmyard manure for the market garden.   

The bed preparation work flow is as follows; sprinkle 100 -120 g of ash per m length of bed, fork over the beds to relieve compaction, spot weed the beds chop and dropping all plants back to the surface (apart from those with  rhizomes that should be removed), rake back surface mulch, deposit 20 L of compost, replace the surface mulch, wait for a heavy rain to saturate the soil and then top up the surface mulch.     

Mountain Hike and Wild Garlic Pesto

We took a hike up in the mountains to a spot where Wild Garlic -  Allium ursinum can be found hugging the forest floor and harvested some to make a wild garlic pesto from the leaves. 

This time of year the forest floor, still fully bathed in spring light from the lack of leaves on the Beech trees, is full with flowering spring ephemerals and other forest herbs. These plants play a vital role in the cycling of nutrients by fixing minerals into biomass during the dormant season thereby preventing them from leaching out of the soil profile during the winter rains and snow melt. As the deciduous plants emerge from dormancy and fill with leaves the ephemeral plants having completed their reproductive cycles for the season release their herbaceous tissue back to the forest floor and hibernate in bulbous form until the next season. This resource sharing in time and space is a vital part of effective polyculture design that we try to integrate into our landscape designs for gardens and farms. 

Some Spring Ephemerals and woodland herbs from the surrounding forests 

Wild Garlic Pesto 

What you need - Wild garlic (a few bags full!) lemons, walnuts, olive oil, salt, food processor or blender

What to do - Wash the garlic and put it inside the blender, pour in the oil, squeeze in some lemon juice, sprinkle some salt and walnuts, crumbly goats cheese  and blend it until it is a paste. Taste it and add whatever of the ingredients you feel it needs more of (which definitely won't be the garlic!) Spoon it into jars and put in the refrigerator. Eat it with toast, pasta, cheese and meats.

Here are some photos from around the gardens:

Pyrus communis 'Early Boliaka 'planted 2 years ago and flowering for the first time, hopefully we'll get some August Pear 

Gingko biloba emerging from winter dormancy  

Prunus spinosa - Sloe  under Juglans regia - Persian Walnut . Lots of these shrubs forming thickets on the edge of the native living hedges that surround the garden. They do not seem at all inhibited by the Walnut. 

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 Desing 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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