Sunday, 21 April 2019

Planting a Polyculture Orchard, Biomass Trials, the Forest Garden and Wildlife - Week 3 - The Polyculture Project

We're pleased to be joined by Lia this week who will be part of the team for the rest of the season. I'll get the team photo up next week. It's been a productive week with planting out more trees and shrubs for our perennial polyculture trials, almost finishing the planting of out of small polyculture orchard (ran out of fruit trees) and preparing the annual beds and some sowing in the market garden.    



Ataraxia - Perennial Polyculture Trial Garden - The Polyculture Orchard 


The last couple of weeks we have been planting out the tree layer of a small polyculture orchard in Ataraxia. 





All of the fruit and nut cultivars in this polyculture orchard are available from our nursery for delivery in the Autumn

We prepared the planting areas for these trees last summer by pegging out a contour line across the field to mark the tree row, mowing a pathway through the existing vegetation and placing straw bales on the planting locations with a shovel full of compost under each bale.  This spring we dug the holes and planted the trees.



This advance planting preparation works really well at killing off the existing vegetation under the bales and provides a nice layer of composted material to plant into and, of course, the bale is in place to mulch the tree following planting out.  We'll be adding shrub, herb and bulb layers to the rows in the future.


Perennial Polyculture Trial Beds - Ataraxia 

We're continuing development of the polyculture trial garden. The below photo shows the garden when we first installed the beds 2 springs back.



Philip and Ronan planted  Elaeagnus umbellata - Autumn Olive shrubs in between Cornus mas - Cornelian Cherry trees for one of our perennial polyculture trails in Ataraxia 


The plants are spaced  2m apart in a 1.3m wide raised bed. The  Elaeagnus umbellata - Autumn Olive will be trimmed to form 1m  x  1m tall shrubs with the trimmings used to mulch the  Cornus mas - Cornellian Cherry trees. We're growing 3 Bulgarian Cornus mas cultivars, 'Pancharevski', 'Shumenski' and the local 'Kazanlushki'. We'll have these cultivars available from the nursery this autumn, you can find out more about them here



The Elaeagnus umbellata - Autumn Olive plants are two years old grown from seed and have established excellent root systems and formed associations with Frankia spp. nitrogen fixing bacteria which you can see are the white nodules on the below photo. For more on Nitrogen fixing Bacteria see our previous post here  


In another perennial polyculture bed in this garden, we replaced some low quality Jostaberry plants that I bought from the market last year that did not survive with some home grown Ribes nigrum cv.- Blackcurrant and Ribes rubrum cv. - Red currant  between the Corylus avellana - Hazelnut  trees. We also added some ground cover Ajuga reptans - Bugle and will plant some more Fragaria x ananassa - Strawberry in the ground layer next week. 


A row of Allium ursinum - Wild Garlic  and Asparagus officinalis - Asparagus will be added into this bed in the future as illustrated in the below plan. 


In the biomass beds we added Alnus cordata  - Italian Alder a fast growing, drought tolerant, nitrogen fixing tree that we are growing to see how much biomass we can grow in concentrated plantings of these trees. You can read more about this trial here. Here is Ronan broad forking the bed to prepare the area for the incoming trees. 

Aponia - The Market Garden


The Fragaria x ananassa - Strawberry ground cover in our Asparagus officinalis - Asparagus beds are starting to flower. I'm not expecting much from the strawberries as their main role to provide ground cover to reduce weeding in the aspargaus bed, but nonetheless it will be interesting to see how they produce. 


Vinca minor - Lesser Periwinkle and Muscari neglectumGrape Hyacinth flowering profusely in the ground layer. These plants take a few seasons to establish but really settle in well with the V.minor forming an excellent evergreen cover and the Grape Hyacinths forming ever expanding clumps. Both plants play a role in preventing nutrients from washing out of the soils during the winter rains and snow melt and provide a valuable source of forage for bees and other pollinators during early spring.  


Our new tree plantings in the Forest garden are coming along well. Here is a Apple 
Malus pumila - "Karastoyanka"  with a Tulipa sp. - Tulip  bulbs planted underneath. A week or so after the tulips have flowered we'll cut back the tulips and the emerging native plants and apply a thick layer of straw mulch. We'll probably plant some Allium schoenoprasum - Chives into the mulch and I'm trying out planting some Tayberry around the young fruit trees this year to see whether the trunk can be used to support the Tayberry growth.  


The native herb layer in the Forest Garden is gorgeous this time of year, lush green and radiating vigor. Every couple of weeks from now until mid summer different plants will be flowering. Cruciata laevipes - Crosswort  is the yellow flowering plant here and Veronica sp. is blue flowering plant. We'll cut this vegetation for hay in late June before the dry season starts. 



If you would like to create a forest garden and gain some practical hands on experience join us this summer. 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.

Design and Build a Forest Garden Course 

Registration for our June course is now open with 15% discount on accommodation and food fees when you register as a group (2 or more).


Eileen who is volunteering with a neighbouring project in the village through the EVS program  has been joining us in the gardens on Mondays and was helping out sowing the Brassica seeds for our Allium trial where we are looking at the pest repellent properties of Amaryllidaceae (Garlic/ Allium family). We are sowing a central row of Borecole- Kale 'White Russian' and to rows of Kohlrabi "Purple Vienna' with  Allium cepa proliferum - Tree Onion and  Nectaroscordum siculum - Bulgarian Honey Garlic  around the borders. You can find more info on this trial in last weeks blog here   


The Carex spp. Sedges are starting flower in the wildlife pond 



Wildlife in the Gardens 


So many unusual bees in the gardens! The social bees are very familiar to many people (honey bees and bumble bees) but there are huge diversity of other bees that go largely unnoticed. These bees are important pollinators for wild plants and cultivated plants and crops that we rely on, and are some of the species that are most often displaced in the environment as wild plants and habitat is replaced by industrial farm land and development. I'm proud to see that our gardens have a place for these organisms along with our food crops.     


I found another Mantis religiosa cocoon (ootheca) this time at the base of the Cornus mas tree we planted last year in the windbreak row. Females lay about 100 eggs in these white hardened foam ootheca (cocoon). Although Mantids are generalist predators and will eat a range of insects including those that are beneficial the young mantids have an appetite for aphids and the adults will often prey on pests such as crickets and caterpillars.


Philip spotted this Angle Shades - Phlogophora meticulosa  (thanks Peter Alfrey for ID) that was resting on a straw bale, perfect camouflage. This moth is found throughout Europe as far east as the Urals and also in the Azores, in Algeria, and in Asia Minor, Armenia, and Syria. The larvae(caterpillar)  of this moth will feed on many crop plants including beets, grape vine, Prunus spp. . We'll keep an eye out for the larvae   


The boys found this little beauty under the straw in the garden the other day - I think it is Northern White-Breasted Hedgehog - Erinaceus roumanicus.


Hedgehogs feed on a wide variety of animals (especially insects) and plants, and are thought to control insect pest populations in some areas. Contrary to popular belief only approximately 5% of their diet will be slugs or snails with their preferred food being caterpillars and beetles. We often find holes in the raised beds where they have been rummaging around for food at night.

That's all for this week. If you enjoyed this post please leave us a comment and a like and even better share it with your friends on social media. The more our articles are shared the more likely they are to appear in search engines and the further we can reach people with our message and grow our project. Thank you.


Polyculture/Regenerative Landscape Design Webinars 


This season we are running live interactive sessions hosted on Zoom to discuss in more depth and answer any questions related to polyculture/regenerative landscape design.


The next session will be live on May 4th UTC 9.00 am on How to Design and Build a Forest Garden. and is based on the design of this garden

If you would like to join us you can book your place here.


The session will be around 2 hours long and will include :

  • Overview of the Design - Design Goals and Objectives 
  • Starting Point - How we approached the design of this landscape
  • Rationale - Why we laid out access, water, drainage, and planting locations where we did    
  • Species Selection   -  How and why we selected the various species    
  • Technical Discussion - Software and tools we used 
  • Closing Questions and Answers 
  • Access to design spreadsheets and databases including a number of unique species lists.



The participation fee will be €30 (or the equivalent value in the currency of your choice).  I hope to be able to share my experience and attract people that are interested in polyculture design in order to build a network of designers and practitioners while raising some funds to help support and develop our project's activities.

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.
Give a happy plant a happy home :) 


http://www.thepolycultureproject.com/store/c2/Grow_your_Own_Polyculture_.html



 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.





 


Sunday, 14 April 2019

Bio Pest Control, Green Manure Trials, Oeschberg Pruning and Wildlife in the Gardens - Week 2 - The Polyculture Project

It's been a wet but wonderful week here on the polyculture study, here's what we've been up to in the gardens.



Aponia - The Market Garden


We've started a few new trials in Aponia this season.

I was looking into the science behind the pest repellent properties of Amaryllidaceae (Garlic/ Allium family)  this winter and was introduced to a great text called Garlic and Other Alliums - The Lore and the Science by Eric Block (thanks Lorenzo Costa for the link). The author looked at various studies on this topic and found that field trials confirm the ability of Allium-derived organosulfur compounds to repel predators and kill insect pests.

I thought to see if we could use some of the plants from this family to tackle two of the most harmful pests in our gardens both of which target Brassica crops. The pest are Eurydema oleracea and Pieris brassicae



The idea is to flank patches of  brasscia crops with plants that contain these organosulfur compounds and to cut the plants and spread the material around the brassica when we first notice the pest arrive in the gardens and then cut again at regular intervals throughout the growing season. We'll look at the quantity of pest in each patch and the amount of damage that occurs from the pests.

The two pest repellent species I have selected for the trial are  Allium cepa proliferum - Tree Onion and Nectaroscordum siculum - Bulgarian Honey Garlic.  Bulgarian Honey Garlic is the strongest plant from Amaryllidaceae that I have come across and has brought me to tears on a few occasions, just from handling the plants, so seemed like a good candidate.  




Here is the planting plan of the patch 


Ronan, Misha and Philip set up 3 patches one with Allium cepa proliferum - Tree Onion another at the opposite end of the bed with  Nectaroscordum siculum - Bulgarian Honey Garlic. and one will be in the middle with just the brassica crops. We will use Siberian Kale as the Brassica crop for this trial. The trial will begin properly next season as we need the young 'repellent plants' to establish so that when they are cut they will have the ability to grow back easily and quickly. 




We'll separate the trail patches with blocks of Symphytum x uplandicum - Comfrey (just because we have a lot of root cuttings to plant out and i thought i'd give this plant a shout out as I hardly ever mention it ;)  






Here are the two patches planted out. We'll sow some Kale this week into the patches. Looking forward to see the results of this. 



The second trial is a Green Manure/Cover Crop Trial -  This is a comparative study and is a very simple trial where we sow 3 m2  patches of three different Nitrogen fixing ground covers

The species and quantity of seed used for each patch is as follows

Onobrychis viciifolia - Sainfoin - 55 g (husked seed)
Trifolium repens - White Clover - 30 g
Medicago sativa - Alfalfa/Lucerne - 45 g


We'll look at how fast each species takes to provide cover, the quantity of biomass produced and how attractive each species are to wildlife in the gardens.

Green manure/Cover crops can be grown to protect and/or enrich the soil. It's an important part of a vegetable crop rotation plan in order to biologically maintain soil health and manage insect, weed, and disease pressure. Green manures/Cover crops offer many benefits, but not all at once, nor from one species. You may want to protect the soil from intense erosion, alleviate compaction, suppress weeds, build organic matter, add Nitrogen or mop-up available nutrients after the growing season.

We have these cover crops/green manures available from our online store here



Oeschberg Pruning 


Leo and Misha, who are back on their travels now, carried out some pruning techniques on a Pear - Pyrus communis - "Early Boliarka" in the market garden and various Apple trees at the guest house. The pruning method they practice is called Oeschberg and was developed in the late 1920's by Hans Spreng in Oeschberg, Switzerland.

Photo by Misha 

The main goal of this pruning technique is to  develop a stable crown framework by pruning the crown to 3 or 4 relatively steep angles, self-supporting boughs and a central leading shoot. This allows the fruit trees to maintain a state of vigour and productivity and ease of harvest into old age. It's very well suited for standard trees, the type of trees that filled orchards all over Europe before the days for dwarf rootstocks. During the first 4-7 years the idea is to prevent the tree from producing fruit while the main frame boughs mature to a size where they can support the weight of fruit.

Here's a short video made by Archie of Leo pruning the Pear tree    

  
and some before and after shots of the apple trees  at the volunteer house 



Thank you Misha and Leo for the pruning and for the photos :)  

Wildlife in the Gardens 


Here is a photo of one of the two wood ant colonies (Formica sp.) in Aponia our market garden. These colonies have been with us since the beginning of the garden development. These incredible ants work around the clock, albeit  much slower and less active during the night. They appreciate the straw we lay down as mulch and use this to cover their sizeable nests. The resulting formations soak up sunlight and keep the ants warm.  


Over in Ataraxia I noticed 100's, if not 1000's of these insects (Diptera) this week mostly stationery on the leaves and branches of the shrubs and trees in the garden.  I also noticed 100's of larvae the week before so perhaps these are the adults that have emerged. Still need to confirm identification but it looks like the adults are probably Bibio sp. - Hawthorn Flies (thank you Karastojanov Viktor) 


Super chuffed to see the European mantis - Mantis religiosa  cocoon (ootheca) this week . Dylan's eagle eyes spotted the cocoon on the underside of one of the rocks placed on a rock pile in the gardens. We build the rock piles to provide basking zones for reptiles and nesting sites for spiders and Mantids :)  among others. Great to see them working.      


Here is the rock pile located between a newly planted Corylus avellana - Hazelnut  and 
Diospyros kaki - Japanese Persimmon.  I've exposed the rock for the photo which you can see in the bottom centre of the pile. When the Female lays the cocoon it will do so in a sheltered area away from wind and rain. Females lay about 100 eggs in a white hardened foam ootheca (cocoon). Although Mantids are generalist predators and will eat a range of insects including those that are beneficial the young mantids have an appetite for aphids and the adults will often prey on pests such as crickets and caterpillars.  



Here's a photo of young Mantid from the guest house garden in the summer


and another photo of an adult dining on a cricket 



Taraxacum sp  - Dandelion always a favourite source of food to a range of solitary bees and other pollinators in the gardens. 




Apatheia - The Home Garden


It's great to see this Ribes aureum - Golden Currant, a native currant of West North America, flowering for the first time in our home garden. Looking forward to trying the fruits from this plant. The flowers have a pronounced fragrance similar to that of cloves or vanilla.



If you enjoyed this post please leave us a comment and a like and even better share it with your friends on social media. The more our articles are shared the more likely they are to appear in search engines and the further we can reach people with our message and grow our project. Thank you.


Polyculture/Regenerative Landscape Design Webinars 


This season we are running live interactive sessions hosted on Zoom to discuss in more depth and answer any questions related to polyculture/regenerative landscape design.

The next session will be live on May 4th UTC 9.00 am on How to Design and Build a Forest Garden. If you would like to join us you can book your place here.

The session will be around 2 hours long and will include :
  • Overview of the Design - Design Goals and Objectives 
  • Starting Point - How we approached the design of this landscape
  • Rationale - Why we laid out access, water, drainage, and planting locations where we did    
  • Species Selection   -  How and why we selected the various species    
  • Technical Discussion - Software and tools we used 
  • Closing Questions and Answers 
  • Access to design spreadsheets and databases including a number of unique species lists.


The participation fee will be €30 (or the equivalent value in the currency of your choice).  I hope to be able to share my experience and attract people that are interested in polyculture design in order to build a network of designers and practitioners while raising some funds to help support and develop our project's activities.


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.

Registration for our June course is now open with 15% discount on accommodation and food fees when you register as a group (2 or more).

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.
Give a happy plant a happy home :) 


http://www.thepolycultureproject.com/store/c2/Grow_your_Own_Polyculture_.html



 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.