Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Creating a Raised Bed, Summer Fruits and Wild Rivers - Week 13 - The Polyculture Project

We are easing into the summer this year with a lovely rainy June that so far has extended into July, while still experiencing plenty of dry and warm spells to enjoy in the gardens.

This week we said goodbye to Angela Rice who has been with us for the last 3 months and has without doubt has been one of the most amazing organisms in the gardens :) Thank you and we hope to see you soon. Farewell also to Poppy, Angela's dog that she adopted during her stay here.    

The Gardens 

We welcomed some new residents to the garden this week -  Don, Gal and H (please comment below  if you get the reference)  are 4 weeks old. The previous ducks we've had have been an absolute pleasure both in the garden and in the kitchen. We're hoping to overwinter Don, Gal and H for breeding.    

We also go 4 little tiddlers (5 day old when they arrived) 

Angela putting up nets for a late sowing of peas we're growing for pea shoots.

Ataraxia - Making Raised Beds 

We made a raised bed in Ataraxia last week, the method we used is a great way to create the perfect environment for your incoming plants without having to dig the soil but ideally you should make the bed 6 - 12 months before planting so that all of the material is well decomposed and the ground layer of vegetation does not interfere with your new plants. Here's a step by step guide to how we made it.

The bed design is 1.3 m wide with 50 cm pathways around it. We pegged out the area beforehand and established the bed on contour. The next step is to cut the existing vegetation to ground level and leave it on the surface of the bed area and then fork over the ground well. A broadfork is a great tool for this and I never tire of promoting Gligan Homemade broadforks, who kindly donated the below tool you can see Emilce using for our project. It's best to create your raised bed just after heavy rains so that the soil is well hydrated before it is covered, otherwise soak the ground well first before making the bed.

Having all of the materials nearby is very useful.  We gathered mature horse manure, not so mature cow manure, some moth eaten rugs, scythed hay from the surrounding area, cardboard and straw. 

After soaking the ground well, cutting the vegetation and aerating the soil we lay down a weed preventive layer which in this case are old wool and cotton rugs and blankets. Landscapers mat, cardboard or newspaper can also be used here. The idea of this layer is to prevent the existing vegetation from growing through the mulch. The ground layer of vegetation starved of light will decompose adding extra fertility to the bed.

Next we're placing partially decomposed manure over the rug

We add a layer of soaked cardboard on top of the manure and a layer of  cut vegetation from the surrounding area on top of the card 

One last layer of manure and than top it off with thick layer of straw and it's complete.

The order you make the layers and the number of layers are up to you. The most important things to remember are soaking the ground well before starting, forking the ground over, and adding a weed barrier. The finish can also be a layer of manure and sowing a green manure into the compost is a nice touch especially if you are making the beds during a time where some rain will be expected to help the seeds germinate. The green manure can be turned in a later date or you can plant directly into the cover.   For more green manure and cover crops see here 

Here you can see the finished bed. We established the bed on contour so the raised bed will also promote even distribution of water drainage during the heavy rains.  We mowed the vegetation either side of the bed for ease of access. This bed will be ready for planting by the spring.  

You can see the raised bed in the background here. The beds in the foreground are swales that catch the runoff from a pond to the left of the photo.  

River Walk 

Had a walk up to a local river, Leshnitza

I've never seen the river so high and turbulent, the result of this extremely wet June. 

A diversity of butterflies enjoy the  Origanum vulgare - Pot Marjoram growing wild by the riverside 

I was really pleased to find a number of Wild Cherry - Prunus avium trees while on the river walk. These fruits ripen much later than the garden cultivars and each tree provides fruit of different taste some slightly bitter some very sweet but all with a density of flavour you don't find in the garden cultivars. I collected seed from the trees and have sown them into trays. I find for many tree and shrub species sowing seed straight from the ripe fruit (after cleaning) increases the chance for germination and many will germinate before the Autumn. We'll see about these ones.    


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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 :)