Sunday, 5 August 2018

Plants to Attract Beneficial Insects, Bed Preparation Trials and Forest Garden Plants - Week 17 - The Polyculture Project

Following months of what I consider the perfect weather, sunshine in the mornings, rain in the afternoons, the return of sunshine in the evenings, we are now experiencing our regular summer, hot day after hot day -  not that I am complaining as this is the weather we need to ripen my favourite summer fruits, grapes, figs and peaches :) So here is what we've been up to in the gardens this week.   

But first just to let you know we've revamped our Online Store where you can find Forest Garden/ Permaculture Plants, Seeds, Cuttings, Bulbs, Rhizomes and Polyculture Multi-packs along with digital goods and services such as Online Courses, Webinars, eBooks, and Online Consultancy and finally we've added a Bulk Fruit and Nut Tree order form for Farms, Orchards, Nurseries, and Large Regenerative Landscape Projects. If there is anything in the store you would like to see but is not there, please let us know. We hope you enjoy the store and find something you like :) It's your purchases that keep our Project going. Thank you. Enter Our Store Here

Plants, Seeds, eBooks, Consultancy, Bulk Fruit and Nut Tree Orders for Permaculture, Polyculture, Forest Gardens and Regenerative Landscapes.

The Polyculture Vegetable Garden 

The polyculture vegetable beds in the market garden are providing all the evidence we need to assure us that our regenerative landscape design strategies are working  i.e select climate compatible plants, locate the plants in the right position of your landscape, provide plenty of habitat for beneficial organisms, grow plenty of chop and drop biomass, and feed the soil with plenty of organic matter.

Some of the produce from the vegetable beds 

We're trying these currant tomatoes this year, they certainly provide a tasty little morsel 

One our staple Tomato cultivars is Tigerella. 

They reliably produce high yields year on year regardless of the weather and do not suffer from cracking that can be a problem with our tomatoes given the flood irrigation system we use. If you would like to know more about cracking in tomatoes including why it happens and what can be done to prevent it check our blog post here.

Cultivar 'Black Krim' shows high susceptibility to cracking both in green and ripe fruits  
We always inlcude Calendula and Marigold in our vegetable polycultures. The Calendula - Calendula officinalis self seed , the Marigolds - Tagetes patula and T.erecta  we sow with the Basil under cover in early April and plant out in mid May. 

Plants to Attract Beneficial Insects  

We have lots of wild areas that serve as beneficial habitat in the market garden. This a great way of preserving the wide diversity of local flora and keeping intact the food webs that have been working away long before we arrived. We generally leave wild areas that surround the vegetable beds and this works well as the cultivation bed area is quite small, but when the cultivation area is larger or there is no opportunity to have wild zones around the perimeter due to lack of space, what looks like a good alternative to me is  having wild patches within the cultivated areas . Here you can see a 3m section of our 24m long raised beds that was left fallow this year. An excellent variety of wild plants have established here and the area is teaming with insects.     

Ladybird Beetle - Coccinellidae are all over Heracleum sphondylium, commonly known as hogweed, a common weed in Europe and a much undervalued one by us humans. The plants are the Costa del Sol of the insect kingdom, attracting hordes of insects every summer. 

Wasps, Bees, and Hoeverflies are just a few of the insects that frequent the Foeniculum vulgare - Fennel  plants this time of year 

Sunflowers make a wonderful attractant for beneficial organisms. Being a member of the Asteracea family they are favoured by a number of bee species and if you don't mind sharing the seeds - many birds including sparrows, finches, robins and blackbirds.  Sunflowers seeds are packed with fat and protein and are rich in vitamins and minerals such as calcium, vitamin B, iron and potassium, essential for keeping birds and humans healthy. The birds will most likely dine on a few grubs whilst they are in the garden and are a vital part of pest control in our gardens.    

Dionysus is a new productive polyculture I have designed for our perennial polyculture trial garden. The herb layer for this polyculture consists of plants that attract a wide range of beneficial insects namely Echinacea purpurea - Purple Coneflower - Levisticum officinale - Lovage - Sedem telephium - Orpine and Foeniculum vulgare - Fennel  the The plants can also be used for culinary purposes and have some excellent medicinal properties. All of the plants in this polyculture are available from our plant nursery this season.

We also have seed packs available from our online store for growing plants to attract beneficial insects. 

€25.50 including worldwide delivery

Forest Garden 

Our perennial vegetable polyculture is establishing well in the forest garden. This polyculture includes Allium tuberosum  - Garlic Chives around the south border, Asparagus officinalis - Asparagus throughout the bed and Fragaria x ananassa - Strawberry as ground cover. You can read more about this polyculture here in last year's blog post when we had just planted it out.

It's a sea of asparagus fronds in the perennial bed. We'll cut the fronds down to ground level in the winter. 

Elaeagnus angustifolia - Russian Olive grown from seed 7 years ago have fruited for the first time this year. Looking forward to fruit ripening sometime in September to October. Like all the plants in this genus, Oleaster has Nitrogen Fixing capabilities and when planted with fruit trees is said to increase the overall yield of the orchard by 10% whilst themselves producing a yield of berries. For more nitrogen fixing plants see here 

Rhus typhina -   Stag's horn sumach fruit. I've not tried the furry berries yet but have read many reports that they can be used to make a lemonade. They can stay on the tree right through the winter but are best to harvest late summer or early autumn. 

Prunus spinosa - Sloe fruits are abundant this year 

Sambucus ebulus - Dwarf Elderberry grows wild in various patches around Shipka. The Dwarf Elderberry is a herbaceous species of elder, growing only to a height of 1.2 m, making it an ideal candidate for the woodland garden, or as ground cover.  Its clusters of pretty white flowers attract a wide variety of wildlife and its leaves are widely used in herbal medicine. When ripe all of the berries are dark purple.

Ataraxia - Perennial Polyculture Trail Garden 

I finished writing up our trial, testing 5 methods to prepare beds for tree and shrub planting. You can find an overview of the trial and results here. We are trying some different APP methods for the next years plantings including spot mulching the area where the trees will be planted with bales', and using trimmings from the pathway to smother the vegetation between the bales and build up organic matter.   

This method was suggested by Daniel and entails laying clear plastic on the bed area during the hot summer months to burn the vegetation. We'll pull back the plastic in early September, scarify the surface and sow various cover crops on the bare earth.    

Found this beautiful Anthemis tinctoria - Yellow Camomile  in the perennial trial beds. Thank you Zuzana Spakova for identification.  According to the conspectus of Bulgarian Vascular Flora we have 24 species of Anthemis here.  

Upcoming Forest Garden Courses 

If you would like to create a forest garden and gain some practical hands-on experience come and join us for our Design and Build a Forest Garden Course. 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 course is now open with a 15% discount on accommodation and food fees when you register as a group (2 or more). You can also take advantage of early booking discounts if you book 3 months before the course starts.


Please Consider Supporting Our Efforts 

Our project grows with our desire to provide better quality information. Our overheads and demands on our time also grow along with our development and this presents a challenge for us to maintain the project and activities. We do not receive any government, institutional or NGO funding for our project and rely on revenue from sales of our courses, plants, consultancy, and design work along with the support of our amazing volunteers to develop and manage the gardens and are very grateful for this. So please consider joining us for a course or event, purchasing products and services from our online store or plants from our bio nursery, participating in our online educational platforms and support the project while we support you. Feeling super generous today? You can also support us directly with a one-time donation or become a sponsor of our project providing monthly support. With your support, we will continue to improve on producing quality information and data for the community, building a world-class demonstration landscape and progress on our mission to develop and promote practices that can produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.


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Would you like to be involved in the project next season?  1-6 month placements on our polyculture study are now open. 

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