Monday, 6 May 2019

Phronêsis our new Forest Garden, Preparing Raised Beds, Launching a Patreon Page and Edible Perennials - Week 5 - The Polyculture Project

It's been an eventful week here at the project, planting out the market garden crops, digging wildlife ponds and launching a Patreon Page!! We also welcome Ben, a landscaper from the UK, that joined us for the course and is staying on for a few weeks for the polyculture study.

At the beginning of the week we said farewell to the participants of our Design and Build a Forest Garden course after a marvellous three days of design and build that resulted in the creation of a new forest - details of which will follow. 

So here's what we've been up to last week.

The Design and Build a Forest Garden Course

Our Design and Build courses are exactly that. We start with the design and end with the build. For  this particular course the location for the new garden was just east of our perennial polyculture trial garden, Ataraxia, in a new area we are developing called Phronesis. The forest garden is named after and dedicated to  Joost W. van der Laan who made a generous donation to our Polyculture Project Crowdfunder last year. Thank you Joost :)  

It was an eclectic group of people that joined us for the course this spring including young farmers, fitness trainers, a landscape gardener, a journalist and a Hollywood actress -  coming together from all over the world to create a fledgling forest garden. This occurred at about the same time 10,000's of people were laying down on the floors of London to protest to government about biodiversity loss and environmental damage. I wonder whether if just 5% of them (of those that have not already) were to build a forest garden whether the result might be 50 x more effective than expecting the government to do something?  But hey - people love a "lay-in" it seems :)   

The primary purpose of this garden is to produce round wood for fence posts, light construction wood, and stakes and pole wood for the market garden crops. The secondary purpose is to provide fruits and nuts in the under story and a range of habitat to support wildlife.  Here's an illustration of the garden.

The goals of this design were to:
  • encourage growth of existing biodiversity as much as possible and provide new habitat that enhances biodiversity
  • utilise the slope of the land and existing water source to irrigate the garden
Here's a before and after shot 

 View of the planted out garden from the east 

View of the planted out garden from the west 

  This image provides a growth projection from initial plant out to year 3, year 8 and year 15-20 when the garden is mature.  

We did not have time to dig out the wildlife pond for the garden during the course but Dylan and his friends completed the dig the day after (and staged a little "lay in"). We'll be lining and planting this out in the coming weeks. 

Here are the marvellous participants of the course. For more photos of the course see here

Our next course is scheduled for June so if you would like to create a forest garden and gain some practical hands on experience do 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 wildlife ponds. 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).

The Market Garden - Aponia 

After the Design and Build a Forest Garden Course our attention shifted to the market garden where we are starting to plant out our annual herb and vegetable polyculture - Zeno.  We have been growing this polyculture for 7 years now and have for the last 4 years been comparing yields of the polyculture with the same crops planted in blocks nearby. You can find the previous 4 year's results of this trial here and more information and diagrams of the polyculture Zeno here

I actively encourage the growth of wild plants in our beds whenever we are not growing crops in them. From October through to April the beds are generally full of native plants that provide a winter cover, offer support to wildlife and provide a significant amount of biomass for the beds when we prepare them for planting in May. The first step is to spread approx 100 g of ash per m2  over the surface of the bed. Next we broadfork the beds and pull the native plants out of the clods removing plants with rhizomes such as nettles and mints (for the compost pile) and leaving all of the other plants on the surface to decompose in situ.   

Next we add approx 20 L of compost per m 2 to the surface 

and then we mulch the bed with 1 bale per m length of bed 

The compost is spread evenly over the surface and the straw mulch is applied 

We are growing 6 cultivars of tomatoes this year. Sophie started the tomatoes from seed in mid February and transplanted the seedlings into 10 L pots when they were approx 8 cm tall. You can comfortably fit 7 or 8 seedlings in each 10 L pot . We removed the plants from the pots and sat them in buckets of water prior to planting out.  The cultivars we are growing are Tigerella - Ukraine Purple - Chocolate Pear - Alicante - Yellow Pear  and Rozavo Magia  

Using pole wood harvested from the forest garden, from plants including Juglans regia - Persian Walnut - 
Paulownia tomentosa - Foxglove Tree - Alnus cordata  - Italian Alder Corylus avellana - Hazelnut  and Prunus insititia - Damson we erected the stakes to support the tomatoes.

These stakes also serve well as bird perches which is great as the birds will often rest on the perches while hunting for larvae in the vegetable beds.  

The bed on the right will be planted with the Zeno Polyculture and the bed on the left will have the same crops planted in blocks.

You can find the results from the last 4 years of this study here

We're Launching a Patreon Page! 

If you are interested in learning how you can grow food and other resources while enhancing biodiversity then why not become a patron of our project?  As a patron we will be sharing more in depth elements of our work with you, including monthly detailed polyculture profiles (such as this) video tours of forest gardens, and we'll provide you with access to our webinars and unique design spreadsheets. You can also participate in monthly Q&A sessions where you can bring your own projects to look over and discuss with the group. 

Our goal is to educate and build a network of designers and practitioners while raising funds to help support and develop our project's activities.We're in seedling stage at the moment, but with you on board we're on our way to grow this to a mighty tree:)
Become a Patron of our Project 

The Forest Garden - Edible Perennials 

There is a brief window of opportunity to harvest Elm seeds in the Spring, when the seeds are green, leafy and coin sized. Just as the plant embryo is forming they have an oiliness and taste not too dissimilar to peanuts. According to Plants for a Future,  the seeds contain about 34.4% protein, 28.2% fat and 17% carbohydrate. Here are some photos by Ronan of the Ulmus sp. seeds ripe for eating. 

Chaenomeles speciosa - Jap. Quince and Aronia melanocarpa - Black Chokeberry  are dominant in the shrub layer of the forest garden. The fruits of these plants are not particularly suitable for eating freshly picked but both plants are great for juicing. With the quince juice being super rich in vitamin C. You can read more about Japanese Quince in our previous post here 

 Great to see a Mulberry tree we planted last year flowering this year, hopefully we will get some fruit in a few months. This is Morus kagayamae - 'Kinriu' a dioecious female plant that will produce fruit with a male pollinator mulberry nearby.  For more info on Mulberry check out our previous post dedicated solely to these marvellous plants here

Our  Elaeagnus umbellata - Autumn Olive shrubs are flowering  profusely this spring. The flowers are very attractive to a range of pollinators and pest predators, and come October will have transformed into  sweet little red balls of fruit.    

Forest Garden Maintenance - It's been about two weeks since I last cut the pathways in the forest garden and leaving it any longer this time of year makes the job twice as hard as the lush vegetation grows so tall it clogs up the lawn mower. It takes around 40 minutes to mow all of the pathways and this includes emptying the nutrient dense cuttings onto the surface of the raised beds where we grow our annual vegetables. I would estimate that we receive approx 60 kg of trimmings each time we cut in the spring which is a decent quantity of fertiliser. As long as you spread the trimmings thinly on the surface they will quickly decompose.  Here are some photos of the freshly cut pathways within our 8 year old forest garden in Aponia. We established most of these pathways with the lawn mower and some of them we dug out when we first developed the garden and sowed with Trifolium repens - White Clover.

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.

Upcoming Courses

Our next course is scheduled for October so if you would like to create a forest garden and gain some practical hands on experience do join us this Autumn. 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.

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

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.

We also offer a range of products all year round from our Online Store 

Give a happy plant a happy home :) 

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