Monday, 25 March 2019

Spring in the Gardens, Fruit Trees in Blossom and Ground Covers

Just one week to go before the arrival of our 2019 Polyculture Study team and we're getting ready and looking forward to another productive year in the gardens. 

I'll be posting updates each week here on what we've been up to and Archie will be managing our Instagram account uploading short videos of our activity every few days so if you would like to see what's happening there your can join the page here.  Meantime we'll kick off the season here with some observations from the early spring .   

Forest Garden 

Our Corylus avellana - Hazelnut  plants have been flowering for the last 5 weeks and with the unusually warm and dry spring I expect a decent yield from the 4 year old plants. In the photo below you can see the fully open male catkin empty of pollen and the inconspicuous spider like female flower that is red when fresh but now withering.  For a shed load more info on Hazels check out our previous blog The Amazing Hazel - The Essential Guide to Everything you need to know about Hazels

Corylus avellana - Hazelnut Male and female flowers 

Prunus cerasifera - Cherry Plu
 are ridiculously full with blossoms this year. This is a 7 year old plant, grown from seed from local wild plants, that I have been trimming back from a pathway the last few years . The result is this wall of blossom. These plants are great for wildlife hedges providing abundant pollen and nectar resources, dense growth suitable for nesting birds such as tits and tasty plums from late June - Late September, depending on the plant.            

Prunus armeniaca - Apricot  blossoming, so looking forward to these fruits in Early Summer . The fruits from this plant should ripen around the second week of June. 

Corydalis bulbosa - Spring Fumewort  is one the first plants to emerge from the winter around here and one of my favourite spring ephemerals. The hedgerows and woodlands are littered with these bulbs that are general isolated plants but sometimes they form clumps of 5 or 6 plants as pictured below. 

After a few warm days here Vinca minor - Lesser Periwinkle  did not waste any time getting their flowers out much to the appreciation of the bees and other pollinating insects. This plant makes an excellent ground cover and if planted out approx. 30 cm between plants can create a thorough cover within 2 seasons. 

Tulipa sp. - Tulip find their way through the cover and as you can see in the below photo a Tanacetum vulgare - Tansy   that has just starting it's spring growth easily holds its own among the cover.  Vinca minor - Lesser Periwinkle is certainly one of the most effective ground cover plants and has the added advantage of being evergreen.   

Forsythia europaea, a plant from the olive family Oleaceae, are native here in the Balkans. We have a Forsythia in the garden that I purchased from a nursery here  about 8 years ago and it grows well and flowers profusely each year. It surprises me how I never notice bees or other pollinators attracted to the plant but it could be that the nursery plant I bought was the popular garden cultivar Forsythia x intermedia . I'll try and take a look at some the native wild plants that are often growing by the high way road sides to see if they have any pollinator action. I did find this ladybird on one of the branches.     

Rubus idaeus cv. - Raspberry emerging. If you leave some of last years stems uncut they will provide the first fruits in June. The new growth coming from the base of the plant will fruit in late September.      

 Zanthoxylum piperitum - Japanese Pepper Tree a native to  E. Asia - N. China, Japan, Korea. has very unusual bark with large spines (thorns) developing as the plant matures. The branches and leaves also have these spines albiet smaller which leads me to believe it is probably vulnerable (or was at some point) to some mammalian herbivore in its native range. The leaves and fruits are very strong tasting making an excellent spice so whatever may want to eat it must have a pretty tough palate.    

Market Garden 

Sophie got the seedlings going this winter , sowing 6 cultivars of tomatoes (see below) and basil for our Zeno polyculture trial.

T1 Solanum lycopersicum Tigeralla
T2 Solanum lycopersicum Ukranian purple
T3 Solanum lycopersicum Chocolate pear
T4 Solanum lycopersicum Alicante
T5 Solanum lycopersicum Yellow pear
T6 Solanum lycopersicum Rozova magia

Tomato seedlings started indoors for planting out in Late April 

The rest of the plants for this polyculture will be sown in the coming weeks in trays or directly in the ground. you can find out more about this Annual Vegetable and Herb polyculture here.

Zeno an Annual Vegetable and Herb Polyculture 

Sweet Genovese Basil seedlings started indoors for planting out in Late April 

For those of you that follow the blog you are probably aware that I am somewhat fond of the marvel that is Symphytum x uplandicum - Comfrey 'Bocking 14'

This week whilst digging up a large order of cuttings for The Forest Farmers, (a start up Regenerative Agroforesty design project in the Netherlands) I found yet another reason to show this plant some love. As the plants mature around the 4th or 5th year the crown center begins to rot and this decomposing material seems to be very attractive to the red worm Eisenia fetida ,our native composting worms. This may be one of the reasons we are observing increased soil fertility around our comfrey plants i.e the castings from these worms are highly fertile.

Eisenia fetida congregating around the decomposing heart of a 4 year old Comfrey 'Bocking 14'  

We have Comfrey 'Bocking 14' root cuttings from our online store here

Video clips from the Gardens 

Archie and his friend Mitko will be making short videos of what we're up to in the gardens this year and posting them on our Instagram Account.  Here are the first two videos. 

Grape Pruning and Propagation

Sowing a Patch of Buckwheat

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Upcoming Courses

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

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Give a happy plant a happy home :)