Sunday, 12 August 2018

Praying Mantids, Native Medicinal Plants and Garden Produce - Week 18 - The Polyculture Project

It's been a hot and dry week in the gardens - summer has finally shown up this year! We said our goodbyes to Daniel and Emilce last week - thanks so much for joining us and for all of your input into the gardens. We welcomed back Victoria and we're happy to be joined by Ezekiel.     

Always a pleasure to observe The European Praying Mantid - Mantis religiosa in the gardens. This is a young specimen no more than 4 cm long. This time of year through to late September you can find mantids in the garden but you have look quite hard as they are often on plants with similar colouration to their bodies. They are predators of many types of insects, including flies, moths, grasshoppers, crickets and aphids (when very young).  Mantids will also feed on some beneficial insect species and female Mantids will often eat the male after mating.

 I often find Mantid cocoons on the underside of rocks protected from the rain but warmed by the winter sun. These egg cases can hatch 100's of baby Mantids that have a voracious appetite for aphids. The cocoons are laid in the autumn will overwinter and hatch in the spring.  

The Market Garden 

Dylan is handling the Trustika food coop orders this year. Tuesday is delivery day and he heads down to the garden early to pick the orders.  

Vegetables from our veggie box posing for a quick photo before delivery to our customers 

Aronia melanocarpa - Black Chokeberry berries are ripe for picking. I prefer to use the berries in teas, juices or for baking as I find them somewhat astringent when eaten fresh.   

Medicago sativa - Alfalfa, also called lucerne flowering in the market. We sowed this patch 4 years ago into an odd triangular bed on the edge of the vegetable beds. They make a good mulch plant, are great animal fodder, very attractive to bees and the young shoots in spring are pretty tasty.  

 Symphytum x uplandicum - Comfrey planted along side the water channel. We've cut this row twice this season already. If you would like to find out more about how much comfrey biomass you can harvest check out our previous post here. 

Over at the volunteer house the apples trees are full this year. 

With all of the rain we've had throughout the last few months our rain water catchment reservoir at the volunteer house is full with water despite the fact that the roof guttering is broken and half of the water runs off the edges rather then into the drain pipes! Unlike the rest of our ponds this is a rectangular shaped reservoir and is not suitable for wildlife. We're going to try building a floating habitat island for this pond in the coming weeks to address this. For more on wildlife pond design see our previous post here.

Local Native Medicinal Plants 

I believe the species we have growing in the local woodlands and our forest garden, and photographed below, is Arum maculatum.  There are 5 species of Arum in Bulgaria. Arum spp. are well known for their thermogenesis i.e they can produce heat. The male plant produces salicylic acid triggering thermogenic reactions that can result in the temperature of the flower being higher by 15-25 C than the surrounding air. This phenomenon is one of two major pollination strategies that aim to attract potential pollinator like insects. The other strategy is releasing a very strong odour that attracts insects. The plants are fruiting at this time of year in the forest garden. All parts of the plant are considered poisonous but the plant has many medicinal properties. In Bulgaria the tubers have traditionally be used to treat haemorrhoids.

Interestingly, according to this report on the medicinal properties of Arum spp. the plant leaves are eaten fresh and cooked in Turkey.  

The ripening berries of Sambucus ebulus - Dwarf Elderberry. Toxic in large quantities but commonly used for medicinal purposes this plant has a long relationship with humans. Remains of pollen, seeds/fruits and charcoals have been found at a Bronze Age archaeological site in Tuscany, at a Neolithic site in the French Alps and here in Bulgaria at the Durankulak site on the Black Sea coast.It may have been a staple food in the past but most certainly would have undergone a culinary treatment to reduce its toxicity.

Eupatorium cannabinum - Hemp Agrimony grows wild around our way. The plant prefers moist soil and is often found beside streams and water channels in full sun to partial shade.  It's greatly loved by butterflies and moths. The genus name Eupatorium can be traced back to the ancient Greek king Mithridates Eupator (120-63 BC), who apparently was the first to use this plant as a medicine. Avicenna (980-1037), a Persian physician and philosopher, wrote about the uses of hemp agrimony as a medicinal plant. This herb also was used by others who practiced Arabic herbal medicine in the early Middle Ages, primarily as an invigorating tonic and detoxifying agent. The plant has been used as an herbal remedy for viral infections such as colds and flu. Additionally it has been used to treat high fever.

If you would like to create a forest garden and gain some practical hands on experience join us this Spring. We'll be covering site surveying, landscape design software, installing access, beds, irrigation channels, planting tree, shrub, herb and ground layers and making a small wildlife pond. All in 3 days! And plenty of follow up material to take away with you to digest slowly.

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. Give a happy plant a happy home :) 

The Bionursery

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