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.   

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.
Grow your own permaculture polycultures -  seed, tubers, bulbs and cuttings

Upcoming Courses

If you would like to create a forest garden and gain some practical hands on experience come and join us in the Spring. 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.

Design and Build - Forest Garden Course  - Regenerative Landscape Design Course

Registration for our April 2020 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.

  • Consider joining us on for one our Courses or Webinars 
  • Comment, like and share our content on social media.

Polyculture - Forest Gardens - Permaculture - Regenerative Design Webinars 

Want to join us for one of our live webinars?  Forthcoming webinars include ;

Polyculture - Forest Gardens - Permaculture - Regenerative Design Webinars 

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 :) 

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