Sunday, 29 July 2018

Soil Testing, Discovering Local Plants and Woodland Coppice - Week 16 - The Polyculture Project

Loving the cool and wet summer this year. It's certainly a stark contrast to what's going on in West and S.W Europe. We're spending the days between gardens mainly harvesting and mowing in the mornings and working on new designs and writing up the results from last years APP trials in the afternoons. I hope to publish those this coming week.  So here's some photos and news of what we've been doing in the gardens this week. 



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 Robinia Coppice 


We have a small woodland plot where we have been experimenting with coppicing. The dominant tree species in the woods are Robinia pseudoacacia - Black Locust  a North American native that naturalized in the area after being introduced here many years ago. Last spring we felled some of the trees in order to start the coppice. The aim is to grow the support stakes for our market garden from the coppice. The regrowth is going well and we'll make the first cuts this autumn. High levels of the alkaloid taxifloin make the wood very resistant to rot.       


There are some beautiful old Juglans regia - Persian Walnut in the woodland. It's interesting that the west facing bark of the boles are covered with lichen.


I might try this pattern for wall paper :) 



We've kept a small stand of  the oldest Robinia pseudoacacia - Black Locust  trees. I'll probably thin out within the next 5 years  


Here you can see the new coppice growth. I'm planning to cut this growth at the end of the season and use the material for tomato stakes. A good tomato stake is 1.8 m long. 30 cm can be staked in the ground leaving 1.5 m of support for the tomato to grow up 


The forest floor is well covered with one of my favorite shade tolerant ground covers Rubus caesius - Dewberry.  Next month the cover will be peppered with delicious little purple berries :)


It's not the first time I've seen this plant in the woods and on the woodland edges. Judging by the bell shaped flowers it's certainly one of the 33 species of Campanula found in Bulgaria. The coarse leaves and erect form of the plant leads me to believe it is the Campanula trachelium - Nettle-Leaved Bellflower. Specific epithet (the second part of the latin name) comes from the Greek word trachelos meaning neck in reference to a former belief that this perennial plant could be used as a medical remedy for sore throat.




Soil Testing and Discovering Local Plants in Eudaimonia 


We're planning to start a new garden in the near future dedicated to local herbs, shrubs and trees that provide nectar and pollen forge to bees and other pollinators. We'll also include some Castanea sativa - Sweet Chestnut trees on the Northern boundary of the site. Our first steps when creating a new garden is to carry out a number of surveys namely a botanical survey, an entomolgical survey and a soil survey. Our project mission is to develop and promote practices that provide nutritious affordable food while enhancing biodiversity so we like to get to know the existing biodiversity and soil conditions before we start development. Danile and Emilce carried out the soil tests on the site sampling 5 random areas on the plot and assessing the soil using the Northern Rivers Soil Health Card. which is simple and easy, and with annual tests you can build up a record of your soil health and understand the effect management practices are having on soil health.   



Some of the plants growing on the plot that we intend to propagate and grow in drifts in the new garden include these beautiful Echinops bannaticus. We have 6 species of Echinops here in Bulgaria 4 of which are ubiquitous across the country.  


Another local plant that we'll be including in the herbaceous drift plantings are the wonderful Trifolium arvense, commonly known as hare's-foot clover. The seed should be ripe in a few weeks and we'll collect some and sow them in the spring 


More local Echinops bannaticus



A short walk to the west of Eudaimonia is one of the mountain rivers in the area. It's a great spot to escape the summer heat.  


This Snail and Slug (in the far background) seemed to agree with me on that!




Forest Garden


With all of the rain we have had this summer the forest gardens are looking pretty lush. On the left is Prunus dulcis cv. - Almond and on the right Corylus avellana - Hazelnut.  The hazelnuts are doing wonderfully this year but the almond tree - although started the year with the best crop ever - has lost 90% of the nuts to what at first glance is a maggot of some sort probably a moth larvae. I need to do some research on this and see if there is way to mitigate the damage. I found this Pest Management in Organic Almond 
that should be helpful.


We've been growing Rubus fruticosus  Blackberry 'Reuben' since last year. The plants are settling into the garden well. This cultivar is unusual for blackberries in that it is a primocane which means the fruits form on the new spring growth. The growth is upright and can reach 2 m while the berries can weigh up to 11g each and taste fabulous. Here you can see the first ripening berries with  Lythrum salicaria - Purple Loosestrife  in the background. We are propagating this plant via layering and should have this cultivar available in the nursery next spring.



Over in the market garden the polyculture vegetable beds are pumping out plenty of produce :)   




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