Sunday, 26 May 2019

Fruits from the Forest Garden, Lining the Wildlife Pond and Garden Wildlife - Week 8 - The Polyculture Project

What a lovely week! We were pleased to be joined by Amy and Karo on the Polyculture study who stopped by for a short visit and helped us out in the gardens planting out basil and peppers, preparing a new swale in the market garden (Aponia) and working on the irrigation channels, raised beds and wildlife pond in Phronensis.  We've had great weather with the rains falling at night and warm sunshine in the mornings. Ivana from  Permakulura(cs) in Czech Republic also popped by for a morning to see the gardens. It's always a pleasure to learn of the many projects all over Europe. 

So here's what we've been up to this week


Market Garden - Aponia


Experience has taught me that the warm season plants (apart from Tomatoes) are better planted out later than earlier in our location, even if this means leaving the seedlings in a crowded pot for a few weeks longer. The plants that are planted in late May always outperform the early May plantings. This week we planted pepper and basil seedlings into the annual beds. 


Allium schoenoprasum - Chives flowers are perfect for eating right now. The nectaries are full and although onion and sugar probably sounds like a combination you could give a miss it actually tastes pretty good :)


The broad beans - Vicia faba are in flower and we should get some beans next week. Soph planted these in early March mixed with potatoes and garlic, everything is doing well. I love the green, black and white of Vicia faba, it's the same colour theme of our logo.  


Here's this week's photo of the  Paulownia tomentosa - Foxglove Tree regrowth. This is 3 weeks of growth. more on Paulownia Coppice here.


We have four Swales in our Market garden, we made the fourth swale during our PDC back in 2012 and we have not got around to planting it out. Unless I have a plan for planting and the plants are ready to go, I prefer to let places grow wild. In this case the swale has  been fallow for 7 years providing great habitat and plenty of biomass. Here are some shots of the PDC group making the swale. 


 This Autumn we're planning to plant out the area with a perennial polyculture featuring Vaccinium corymbosum cv. - Blueberry  and Scorzonera hispanica. To prep it for planting we cut back the existing vegetation with a scythe leaving the cuttings on the surface, broad forked the area to create some air pockets and fissures in the soil, applied approx. 30L per m2 of partially decomposed farmyard manure and mulched it like it was going out of fashion!  


Lea, Amy and Karo bringing buckets and barrows of manure for the swale.


Ronan, Lea, Amy and Karo applying the straw mulch.  


Phronensis 


Over at Phronensis we finished off the raised beds using the soil from the pond excavation along with straw mulch, card and wild vegetation trimmings. We'll add another layer of fresh manure topped with straw to these beds over the next few weeks. 


We put the liner in place for the wildlife pond and lightly secured the edges with some rocks so that it does not blow away in the wind. We'll fill and plant next week.  For more info on liners, why to use, when to use, what to use and how to do it. check out our previous post Small Pond Installations for Irrigation and Wildlife - Part 2 - Liners 


Great job on the pond even though it currently does looks like a giant "inny" belly button as Karo pointed out :)   


The Cherries are coming! If you search around a while you can pick some nice sweet ripe ones now. It's a good year in terms of quantity of cherries but how the weather pans out will determine how good the crop is. Too much rain now will produce watery fruits that eventually split but a week of hot sun will be cherry heaven. 


It's another great year for Prunus dulcis cv. - Almond . I've only one of these trees in the forest garden planted up against a west facing wall protected from the wind but seeing as the tree is providing quite regular yields I'm looking to plant more of these. We'll have some great cultivars available from the nursery this season.     


I love Nectaroscordum siculum - Bulgarian Honey Garlic  not only because it makes a great seasoning known locally as Самардала (Samardala) but because it has very impressive flowers. These plants grow among the Symphytum x uplandicum - Comfrey and as you can see the inflorescence extend well above the comfrey leaves. After the flowers have set seed the plant will wilt back to bulb until next spring.


One of our forest garden nitrogen fixers and mulch machines  Spartium junceum - Broom
has started to flower. These plants produce great quantities of biomass but the leaves and stems are tough and break down slowly. Makes a great mulch in the perennial beds under the currants and raspberries. 


Pleased to see our Schisandra grandiflora flowering for the first time (maybe second time) and hopefully we'll see the first ever fruits this year. These plants are native to Asia and are commonly grown in gardens as ornamentals. The fruits are edible and they are very hardy surviving the coldest winters here in an exposed location.  I'm going to try propagating the plant via cuttings of the semi ripe shoots in August.


Something has taken a liking to our Viburnum opulus 'Xanthocarpum' - Guelder Rose leaves. It seems to only be feeding on the leaves on the lower half of the shrub for now and I assume that it's a nocturnal feeder as I could not see any signs of the culprit. 


Rosa canina - Dog Rose in flower and a reminder of the coming rose season. Shipka is located right in the heart of the Rose Valley. The valley is famous for its rose-growing industry which has been cultivated here for centuries, and produces close to half of the planets rose oil. For a few days around early June the aroma of roses fills the air and it's quite intoxicating.         



Wildlife in the Gardens 


A common site in the gardens this time of year are the Araneus diadematus - European Garden Spider nests. The adult spiders are chiefly responsible for those face-full-of-web moments during a morning stroll in the garden . During the night the industrious spider spins its silk and weaves it into a web ready for the following day.  The adults are large for European spiders with females growing to 15 mm (body length), and males to 9 mm. 


Panorpa communis - Scorpionfly on Viburnum opulus 'Xanthocarpum' - Guelder Rose ​. They eat dead insects, sometimes live aphids and are known to poach food from spider webs. They also feed on plant sap. Although fully winged, the adults rarely fly very far and spend much of their time crawling on vegetation in damp, shaded places near water and along hedgerows. Thanks Peter Alfrey for the I.D


Design and Create Webinars - Forest Gardens, Urban Gardens, Permaculture, Regenerative Farming      


We're hosting a range of webinars including how to create habitat to enhance biodiversity, how to design and build a forest garden, polyculture design software tutorials, regenerative farm and landscape design,  urban gardening and more. If you would like to be notified when our next webinar is coming up please add your email below and hit subscribe and we'll be in touch. You can also register here for our upcoming webinars.



                                                                        

Polyculture - Forest Gardens - Permaculture - Regenerative Design Webinars 


Food from the Gardens 

Ronan Delente a chef who has been travelling the world cooking across the continents has joined as for the polyculture study this year. Ronan has been experimenting with various recipes using the wild plants and perennial vegetables from the gardens.  You can find his latest recipe of Risotto, wild dock leaf with teriyaki Szechuan Pepper and Black locust flower on his blog here


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 :) 


Sunday, 19 May 2019

Grape, Blueberry and Jostaberry Polyculture, Wildlife Pond and Bioblitzing - Week 7 - The Polyculture Project

It's been another productive week here in Shipka thanks to our amazing team :)  May and June are the wettest months of the year in our area and although it does not rain continuously, when it does rain it pours. It's quite similar to tropical weather this time of year and often the rainy spells come at regular intervals such as the early hours of the morning, while it is still dark, and in the afternoons. I love this weather and this time of year, the plants seem most content, healthy and full of vigour.

Forest Garden/Wildlife Garden/ Polyculture 


Grape, Blueberry and Jostaberry Polyculture - Hecate


Our productive polyculture of Grape, Blueberry and Jostaberry (nicknamed Hecate) is coming along nicely. I forgot to get a photo of the bed but here is an illustration and some photos of the plants.





Plants look even more beautiful during and after a rain, adorned with little water droplets sparkling in the light. This Vaccinium corymbosum cv. - Blueberry 'Sunshine Blue' is a Dwarf Blueberry and tolerant of a higher pH than most blueberry cultivars. They have delicious fruits and are very productive when grown in pots. We have 8 of these plants in the polyculture planted beneath the Grape Vines.  


I found a local supply of a great pest and disease resistant  Vitis vinifera cv. - Grape cultivar called 'Moldova'  The first shoots are coming along nicely. We'll be growing these in the polyculture trained along wires, a method known as the kniffin system.   


We put a few Iris germanica - Bearded Iris on the edges of the polyculture just because of the outrageous flowers! We also have Rubus × loganobaccus - Loganberry planted on the south edge and a trim of  the very edible Hemerocallis fulva - Orange Daylily planted 20 cm apart. These plants make a good ground cover and I'm hoping they will provide a barrier to prevent the meadow grasses creeping into the bed.  



Phronesis - Forest Garden 


We started work on the wildlife pond for our new forest garden this week. Dylan and his friends dug out the bulk of the pond a few weeks back and this week we levelled the banks, defined the shape,  created some shelves and dug out a little more depth in preparation for lining.  The pond is located at the bottom of the garden as shown in the below illustration. 



Installing a pond is probably the single most effective thing you can do in a garden to enhance biodiversity and wildlife and the majority of the wildlife that will be attracted to the pond will be of great benefit to your garden or farm, i.e pollinators and pest predators.  For full instructions on how we build our ponds you can read our previous posts - Small Pond Installations for Irrigation and Wildlife - Part 1 and Small Pond Installations for Irrigation and Wildlife - Part 2 - Liners. I'll be writing Part 3 - Planting The Pond using this pond as an example in the coming weeks. 

Here is Ronan defining the shelves of the pond that will be used to locate the emergent plants such as Iris psueodocorus and Thypa latifolia 


The soil from the excavation is very useful. we laid down some tarps around the edges to make it easier to move around.  


We put the soil from the pond to good work separating the top soil from the sub soil and using the sub soil as a layer for the raised beds that are located either side of the pond (as you can see in the above illustration of the garden). We'll be adding layers of the freshly cut surrounding wild vegetation, spoiled straw and fresh manure next week and these beds will be ready for planting next spring.

Pierre Barbieux the founder of Bois de Rode Bos in Belgium visited for the day to see what we're up to here and helped out in the morning with the raised beds. Pierre is growing an excellent variety of rare fruit and nut cultivars at his 3 ha site just outside Brussels.


When making deep mulched raised beds it's important to relieve the compaction in the bed area before applying the layers of organic matter. It's also preferable if the ground is thoroughly soaked before mulching. In this case we had some beautiful rain recently. Here is Ronan and Lea using the broad forks to de-compact the bed area. Note the existing vegetation is not removed or turned over.


With regular rains and warm sunny spells forecast for this month it's a great time to add a few last plantings and sowing to the channels we created. Here is Misha planting Symphytum x uplandicum - Comfrey cuttings along the central irrigation channel of the garden at approx. 50 cm  apart. These plants will provide a valuable source of mulch for the trees and shrubs we have planted in the garden and being located right next to the irrigation channel with access to abundant water they should produce very high yields. I 'd estimate within two years we will be able to make 5 cuts per season with yields of 8 kg of biomass per plant per season. We''ll certainly leave the plants to flower during the season as they are very attractive to wildlife. You can read more about this amazing plant here.



Lea and Ronan sowed Trifolium repens - White Clover into the berms that were created when establishing the irrigation channels. Trifolium repens - White Clover provides excellent cover and as long as you don't sow the cultivated variety (often referred to as Dutch Clover) they are very tolerant of foot and light vehicle traffic. We have these seeds along with other green manures and ground covers available from our online store
 

Design and Create Webinars - Forest Gardens, Urban Gardens, Permaculture, Regenerative Farming      


We're hosting a range of webinars including how to create habitat to enhance biodiversity, how to design and build a forest garden, polyculture design software tutorials, regenerative farm and landscape design,  urban gardening and more. If you would like to be notified when our next webinar is coming up please add your email below and hit subscribe and we'll be in touch. You can also register here for our upcoming webinars.



                                                                        

Polyculture - Forest Gardens - Permaculture - Regenerative Design Webinars 



Wildlife in the Gardens


I photographed this array of insects enjoying the blossoms of our Zanthoxylum simulans- Szechuan Pepper  during a cup of coffee in the home garden - Apatheia. It's remarkable how attractive this plant is to a range of invertebrates many of which are great pollinators and pest predators. Zanthoxylum simulans- Szechuan Pepper produces a great spice too.






Viburnum opulus 'Xanthocarpum' - Guelder Rose ​ is another plant that is extremely attractive to wildlife and generally very beautiful. The fruits of these plants are edible and I waited eagerly for 4 years for my first and last fruit. The fruits of these plants fall into my 'apocalypse food' category. I might make this a  new category for the nursery website :)   


This is a Morus alba - White Mulberry pollard we have been growing for about 8 years now. These new shoots will probably reach over a metre by the end of summer. The lush new regrowth makes excellent rabbit and pig food. Here is a video by Arch of cutting the trees a few years back and feeding them to the animals. For more on Mulberry check out our article Mo' Mulberry 



Mid week we bio blitzed Phronensis and a new garden we will be developing for our upcoming June Design and Build a Forest garden Course. Bio blitzing is basically taking a careful look at the flora and fauna of the site and photographing the flowering plants and invertebrate activity. We'll do this once per month during the growing season to keep a record of the biodiversity we have on our sites. These are some of the photos from the blitz. Thanks Ronan, Lea, Misha and Philip for these. 

Bioblitz - Wildlife Gardens 


Other News 

Shipka Festival 

For all you happy people living nearby, next weekend our friends have organised music, film and crafts in Shipka and you are welcome to come along! 

Our gardens will also be open during the day if you would like to have a look around. You can find out more about the activities and schedule here 



More news..... 

If you are part of the Swedish Permaculture Associataion - Permakultur Sverige you may be interested in this opportunity to attend a range of courses across Europe (all expenses covered) including our Design and Build a Forest Garden Course and Regenerative Landscape Design Course. You can find out more about this opportunity here.

Thank you Misha and Philip from Green School Village -  for partnering with Permakultur Sverige to include our project courses.


Food from the Gardens 

Ronan Delente a chef who has been travelling the world cooking across the continents has joined as for the polyculture study this year. Ronan has been experimenting with various recipes using the wild plants and perennial vegetables from the gardens.  You can find his recipes of on his blog here.



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 :)