Thursday 24 May 2018

Cherry Heaven, Robinia Coppice and Irrigation Channels. Week 7 - The Polyculture Project

Another cool and cloudy week punctuated with intense sunny spells, my favourite type of weather in the gardens. This week we continued planting out the warm season crops such as tomatoes, squash and sweetcorn, cleared out the undergrowth in the Robinia pseudoacacia coppice, worked on the irrigation channels for the perennial polyculture trial garden and picked the first of the cherries.

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We said goodbye to Malcolm this week - (thanks for joining us, Malcolm!) and welcomed Elise to the project.

The Gardens

Misty morning in the market garden. After the rains is a great time to chop and drop the vegetation building up a nice layer of water retentive organic matter before the long dry summers we usually have here. 

Below the walnut tree on the southern boundary we have a good shrub layer establishing including  Prunus insititia - Damson  and  Sambucus nigra  - Elderberry. It's common knowledge that walnuts produce a alleopathic chemical called juglone but in my experience there are few plants that seem to be negatively impacted by this. I started a list of plants that we or other growers have seen growing well with walnuts. You can find that list here 

Over at the volunteer house thDiospyros kaki - Japanese Persimmon is in flower. It looks like we will have a bumper crop of Persimmon this year.

The Orchard

We made our first visit to the orchard this year to catch the early cherries.

Angela and Victoria picking the early season cherries

We have not been mowing or grazing the orchard the last 3 years and native shrubs such as this Rosa canina - Dog Rose  are starting to establish among the grasses. I prefer to mow or graze and move these types of plants into the hedgerows,  as we see more diversity of flowering plants and insects in the orchard after cutting.   

Cydonia oblonga - Quince fruits forming 

The nuts are forming nicely on the young walnut trees in the orchard. 

The Coppice

Last year with the assistance of Chris Mallorie,  Fergus Webster and Gabriele Landi we started to fell some Robinia pseudoacacia in a small woodland plot.

We went back to the coppice last week and it was great to see the regrowth doing so well and the emergence of many more flowering plants and insects taking advantage of the extra light now available.  

Victoria cutting back the growth around the stools and thinning some of the smaller and bent regrowth in order to promote faster growth of the straight stems. We're planning on using the coppice sticks next year for tomato stakes. 

Here you can see the regrowth 3 weeks after the first cut last year and the regrowth approx 1 year later. The tallest regrowth stems were over 2m tall and approx 4- 5 cm diameter 

The Cornus sanguinea - Common Dogwood that grows in the understory of the woodland along with Hawthorn - Crateagus spp. are making the most of the light and flowering prolifically.

The herb layer is also a lot more active and colorful

Irrigation Channels

Victoria and Elise reshaping the irrigation channels for the perennial polyculture trial garden.

We divert some flow away from the main river into hand dug channels that pass through various plots of land before draining into our pond.

 The final stretch before entering the garden. This stream fills our pond but we also use a passive irrigation system diverting the water into contour paths that fill with water. We raise the water level in the paths by blocking the low points with sacks of sawdust. The sitting water is then drawn throughout the soil via capillary action.


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