Saturday, 14 April 2018

The Beginning of the Season, Soil Sampling, Preparation, Additives. Week 1 - The Polyculture Project

It's been a great first week on the polyculture study, we're very happy to welcome Alex, Angela, Malcolm and Victoria to the project.

We started the week taking the soil samples in the new trial garden Ataraxia. The soil analysis is used to assess the Advance Planting Preparation Trial.

The Soil tests we use are from Northern Rivers, an excellent tool for assessing soils  

Advance planting preparation is basically the addition of organic matter into the planting zone 6 - 12 months before planting to improve soil conditions for the incoming plants. This can be in the form of mulches that suppress existing growth and decompose in situ or in the form of green manures that replace the existing growth and improve the soil. The aim of the trial is to discover methods that are inexpensive, time efficient, least disruptive to the existing wildlife and that provide the optimal conditions for the incoming plants.

The perennial polyculture trial beds -  6 beds - 1.5m wide and 25m  long with 50cm internal pathways and 1m wide periphery pathways

You can read more about this trail including the different bed preparation methods we used here.

We'll be publishing the results of these trials once we get the mineral analysis results back from the lab in the next few weeks.
Soil samples bagged and tagged

After taking the soil samples, we we're ready to starting planting out the beds. We marked out where the plants should be with stakes and loosened up the soil with the broadfork before digging the planting holes. The broadfork is an excellent tool for this job, the soils in this garden are very stony and difficult to dig and using the broadfork before digging the holes made the job much easier. 

Thanks again to Krasimir from Gligans Handmade Broadforks for donating this tool to the project. Krasimir makes these tools by hand and they are great quality and super useful. Check out his your video of his tools in action  and check their facebook page here

Malcolm on the broadfork, loosening the soil before the planting holes are dug 

We started to plant out the perennial polycultures in Ataraxia. The below bed is composed of hazelnut, wild garlic, walking onion, snowdrop, fumewort, wild strawberry and we'll be planting asparagus and Gooseberries in the coming weeks. This is the green manure bed and we planted straight into the cover. The green manure cover consists of Onobrychis viciifolia - Sainfoin , Trifolium repens - White Clover and a range of volunteer native plants yet to be identified.  

Angela planting Galanthus sp. and Corydalis sp. spring bulbs  

The Perennial Polycultures that we've been planting in the new garden -  more on this here

Alex and Victoria planting Cornus mas - Cornelian Cherry

We are growing three Bulgarian cultivars of Cornellian Cherry in the gardens. 

We also have these cultivars available from the nursery 

Cornelian Cherry - Cornus mas
Back at the house Dylan and Archie are potting up herbs in the nursery

I found this juvenile Slow Worm - Anguis fragilis under the plant pots in the nursery. Great to see these around the young plants as their main diet is slugs.

Over to the market garden at the end of the week to start preparing the annual beds for this season's crops. We removed some of last year's hardy vegetables, added 100 - 120 g of ash per m length, broad forked it over, pulled weeds and left them on the surface (removed the rhizomatous ones) and added 20 L of composted farmyard manure per m length of bed.

We leave our annual vegetable beds to naturally vegetate during the dormant season and do not disturb them until it is time to plant/sow the next season crops.

Annual ground covers such as the above Lamium purpureum, known as red dead-nettle and Myosotis spp. from the family Boraginaceae produce thick patches throughout the gardens providing an excellent source of nectar and pollen for early pollenisers and a great source of mulch.

Wood ash is applied to the raised beds, a hand trowel full (100-120g) per m length of bed.

Purple Kale, Parsnips and Broccoli left over from last season. Given the relatively mild winter we had this year the Kale and Broccoli have been producing all winter.

Many of the fruit trees are in blossom now, the spring is in full swing 

If you would like to create a forest garden and gain some practical hands on experience join us this Spring. We'll be covering site surveying, landscape design software, installing access, beds, irrigation channels, planting tree, shrub, herb and ground layers and making a small wildlife pond. All in 3 days! And plenty of follow up material to take away with you to digest slowly.

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. Give a happy plant a happy home :) 

The Bionursery

 If you appreciate the work we are doing you can show your support in several ways.


  1. Wow! Just finished reading this blog post for week 1, and I am SO motivated to keep reading and learning--Thank ya!

  2. Read about your project in the book 'Forest Gardening' by Tomas Remiarz.
    I am Adeline, a Slavic-American person, and also, studying enviornmental studies at college: that's why I am extra interested in following the Balkan ecology project.(: