Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Foraging for Wild Garlic, Forest Garden Maintenance, Planting out Polycultures - Week 4 - The Polyculture Project


It's been a busy week here, getting the last of the trees and shrubs planted around the gardens and  preparing beds for the annuals. We also had an open day last weekend and was great to meet people from all over Bulgaria with shared interests in regenerative gardening. At the end of the week we started our Design and Build a Forest Garden Course and had a great time with an awesome group. I'll write a post on the course and the garden we created during the course in the coming weeks.


It's been sunny and warm for the first time this month and a good opportunity to get a team photo of the polyculture study crew. Misha, Philip, Eileen,  Ronan and Lia (left to right) have been doing an amazing job in the gardens this season.     


Ataraxia


Forest Garden Maintenance - November last year we created a 150 m2 forest garden in Ataraxia during our Design and Build Course (you can read about how we created this garden in a previous post here).  The plants are establishing well although it seems the shrub layer has been under attack from rabbits during the winter with some browsing damage evident. Forest gardens require little maintenance when they are young, but do need close observation and some important tasks carried out from time to time. For example, last week we added some more mulch to the plants and removed some of the grasses that were starting to grow at the base of the plants and may likely compete with the establishing plants for mineral nutrients, light and water.   


Here is an illustration of how the mature Forest Garden should look. 

Forest Garden 

We've been planting out more perennial polycultures into the over flow swales in Ataraxia. The over flow swales (as the name suggests) catch the overflow from our reservoir in the garden. They consist of a 1 m wide basin and 1 m wide berm. The berm makes great raised beds where we plant out perennial polycultures, whereas we sow Trifolium repens - White Clover in the basins that can tolerate some foot traffic and can be mown periodically providing a nitrogen rich mulch for the crops planted on the berm.  Misha and Lia planted Vaccinium corymbosum cv. - Blueberry 'Sunshine Blue' to join some Vitis vinifera cv. - GrapeHemerocallis fulva - Orange Daylily and Iris germanica - Bearded Iris plants already planted a few weeks ago.


Lia and Ronan planted out Asparagus officinalis - Asparagus  and Fragaria x ananassa - Strawberry for ground cover in a deep mulched raised bed we made last June. The soil is beautiful. You can read about how we created this raised bed last June in a previous post here.


The bed was full of what I think are Prunus cerasifera - Cherry Plum seedlings. The seeds most probably got there from the manure we applied to the bed last year. Cherry Plums are abundant in this area and grazing animals will gobble them up from under the trees. The seedlings should make great root stocks for grafting so I've potted them up.    



In case your interested, we've been adding some new stuff to our online store 

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


Apatheia  - Home Garden 

 

Akebia quinata - Chocolate Vine, so impressive this time of year :) The beautiful flowers feed the bees for 3 - 4 weeks and transform into odd looking edible fruits by mid October. We grow this plant up an arbor to provide shade to the bio-nursery plants during high summer.





 A late ripening apple tree in our garden is always the last apple to blossom. I think it's a Granny Smith. Delicious, crunchy, sweet with a hint of acidity, one of my favourite apples.  




Local native Alliaria petiolata has spread nicely around the garden.  This biennial flowering plant is from the mustard family, Brassicaceae and when picked young makes a nice addition to the salad bowl. The flowers are also extremely attractive to a range of solitary bees.   


Ribes nigrum cv.- Blackcurrant blossoms are transforming into fruits, looks like it will be a good year for currants.



Philip with bags of goodies - edible greens from the Market Garden including Nettles- Urtica dioica - Chickweed - Stellaria media and Rumex spp. known locally as Лапад -(Lapad)



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).


Mountain Hike  


We went for a hike up to the beech forests to pick some Wild Garlic - Allium ursinum (also known as buckrams, ramsons, wood garlic or bear's garlic). It was still quite damp in the forest from all the rain fall from the previous weeks, conditions that  Fire salamanders (Salamandra salamandra) feel comfortable moving around in. I spotted a few of them on the way up. 


About 1.5 km up the mountain the floor of a west facing slope is adorned with a carpet of Allium ursinum - Wild Garlic   under the Beech - Fagus sp. trees. We picked bags full for pesto and salads.


Among the wild garlic you can find small patches of this beautiful legume,  Spring Vetchling - Lathyrus verna. This nitrogen fixing herbaceous perennial is native to forests of Europe and Siberia. The flowers attract bumblebees among other pollinators.   



Wildlife in the Gardens 


We found this beautiful European rhinoceros beetle - Oryctes nasicornis in the Nursery compost pile that includes branches and stumps which makes sense as the larvae grow in decaying plants feeding on woody debris. The development period of the larvae can lasts 2 - 4 years with the adult beetle emerging at the end of March, April or May. Adult beetles as shown below only live several months and do not feed relying on reserves accumulated during the larval stages. They will mate and lay eggs before the Autumn. 


Me and Dylan came across this Toad - Bufo bufo crossing the field where our new forest garden will be created. It's unusual to see toads out in the open especially around midday. Close inspection of the toad revealed some damage to the animals head. Dylan suggested it may have been caught by a Stork and dropped when the bird was in flight. We moved the toad into some damp shade.  


Always a pleasure to see what is in my opinion the most princely of amphibians in our gardens. This Agile Frog - Rana dalmatina leapt across my view and landed in perfect pose on a  Symphytum x uplandicum - Comfrey plant.  


Polyculture/Regenerative Landscape Design Webinars 


This season we are running live interactive sessions hosted on Zoom on a range of topics. You can register for a  webinar here.

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 :) 



 If you appreciate the work we are doing you can show your support in several ways.

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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 a small polyculture orchard (ran out of fruit trees) and preparing the annual beds and sowing in the market garden.    



Ataraxia - Perennial Polyculture Trial Garden - The Polyculture Orchard 


The last couple of weeks we've 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 is 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 neglectum - Grape 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.