Saturday 9 June 2018

Snake Eggs, Perennial Herbs, Polyculture Gardens. Week 9 - The Polyculture Project

It's been a productive week in the gardens with perfect growing conditions - some heavy rains in the afternoons and evenings, followed by bright and warm mornings. 

 We're splitting our time between the market garden and the new garden Ataraxia,  the perennial polyculture trial garden  and carrying out maintenance task such as mowing, weeding, some late herb and vegetable plantings and manually removing pest eggs such as Pieris brassicae - Large white. 

Daniel found what we think are most likely a clutch of Grass Snake - Natrix natrix eggs under the mulch in one of the beds. Great to see the garden is attracting these snakes. They are good pest predators in the gardens and keep the Marsh Frogs quiet! Eggs are laid in June and July. The female may lay up to 40 leathery matt-white eggs, often choosing compost and manure heaps and the eggs measure from 23-30 mm. The hatchlings emerge in autumn.  

Some of the snake eggs under the mulch (Daniel's hand for perspective)   

Over in the market garden , the vegetable polycultures are coming on well 

We're planting blocks of potatoes in trenches under sunflowers that we'll mound up as per traditional method. We have another block of potatoes we're growing in deep mulch     

A raised bed in the forest garden that we use for propagating hardwood cuttings from Red and Black Currants and for dense sowing of carrot seed. 

Perennial vegetable  Allium cepa proliferum - Tree Onion with bulbils growing on the tips. 

We went to see  Dimo from Wastenomore farm last week to have a look around his place, where he is predominantly making composts from the leftover material from the local lavender and rose oil industry and growing cultures of various EMs - Effective Microorganisms. You can find out more about Wastenomore here.

Perennial Herbs 

Levisticum officinale - Lovage makes a great companion plant and noted for attracting wildlife specifically Ichneumon wasps, which parasitize the larvae of herbivorous insects.   It likes it fairly moist, so we have it planted along irrigation channels among fruit trees and bushes. It's incredible how large these plants get, easily reaching 2m in height.

Sideritis scardica - Ironwort is flowering for the first time. This plant is endemic to the Balkan Peninsula, where it is found at high altitudes in rocky montane areas. It is under intense collection pressure from the wild, with increasing demand for its medicinal value. The plants has historically been a valuable medicinal plant. The name 'Sideritis' derives from the Greek word “sideros” meaning iron; in the ancient past, Sideritis was a generic reference for plants used to heal wounds caused by iron weapons during battles. It is also commonly used to make an excellent 'mountain tea (Mursalski Tea) and is rich in flavanoids, terpenes and essential oils, iridoids, coumarins, lignans and sterols.
To order this plant please contact us

Verbascum ( common name - mullein / velvet plant) is one of my favorite wild herbs around here. As well as perennial there are biennial and annual plants in this genus. It's a great plant for dry gardens and is very much appreciated by ornamental gardeners as well as herbalists. Mullein tea is a traditional treatment for respiratory problems, such as chest colds, bronchitis and asthma. Leaf poultices have been used in the past to treat bruises, tumors, rheumatic pains and Mullein flower oil (made by steeping the flowers in warm olive oil) also has been used for treating hemorrhoids, as well as earaches.

There are over 40 species of Verbascum in Bulgaria and 20 of these are protected according to THE BULGARIAN FLORA ONLINE. I've not attempted to identify species but I think even within species there is much variation in how the inflorescence looks. There are also a few mutated plants around such as the "Verbascum hand" pictured below.

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