Sunday, 16 June 2019

Thinning and Lifting in the Forest Garden, Biomass Plants and Garden Wildlife Week 11 - The Polyculture Project

It's been a productive week in the gardens and we've been busy chopping and dropping, digging water channels and pruning. It's starting to heat up in the gardens now and the fruits are ripening.

So here's what we've been up to.  


Aponia - Forest Garden Maintenance 


We have a combination of fruiting shrubs and trees planted along swales in the Forest garden including Rubus fruticosus cv. - BlackberryRibes nigrum cv.- BlackcurrantAronia melanocarpa - Black Chokeberry and Prunus cerasifera - Cherry Plum and Chaenomeles speciosa - Jap. Quince. The plants generally grow well together but over time the dense entanglement can reduce air circulation within the mixed canopy that can start to create stressful conditions for the plants, it also makes it difficult to harvest. To remedy this we practice thinning and lifting. Thinning is basically removing approx 1/3rd of the oldest wood within each shrub. We also remove the dead wood and any branches that are rubbing against each other. Lifting is removing the lower branches of the trees to above head height in order to access around the tree and provide more light and air flow under the canopy. All of the pruned material are chopped into smaller pieces and applied to the surface under the shrubs. Here are Lilly and Lea (in the thick of it) thinning the shrubs and trees on the Swale.  You can see the lifted Prunus cerasifera - Cherry Plum to the left of Lilly 



Forest Garden Fruits 


The first crop of Rubus idaeus cv. - Raspberry are ready. These fruits form on the unpruned canes from last year. The pruned canes will produce fruit around late September 


It's another good year for Prunus spinosa - Sloe. The shrubs are full of fruit that will ripen in late summer.


Ribes rubrum cv. - Red currant are starting to ripen




The meadows around the area are ready for a hay cut. The lack of a long dry period this spring has prevented a cut so far this season.  


Birdsfoot trefoil - Lotus corniculatus is one of many nitrogen fixing herbs that grow among the grasses in the meadows




Wildlife in the Gardens 


I found what looks like the beginning of a wasp nest among the stack of straw bales in the garden. 


We have a growing population of Grassnakes - Natrix natrix in the gardens. These are harmless snakes that can be useful pest predators feeding on slugs when they are young. This is the first time I have seen these snakes in the nursery area of garden. It was among the potted plants probably hunting for frogs that shelter among the pots looking for slugs. For more information about this snake check out Dylan's website Bulgarians Reptiles



Biomass Trials - Ataraxia


An ideal biomass/mulch plant grows fast, is drought tolerant, competes minimally with crop plants, does not contain seed that easily spreads, is easy to handle and cut, i.e,  not thorny/prickly or tough and fibrous, and can biodegrade relatively quickly (thereby returning the nutrients back to soil). It should also be inexpensive to produce lots of plants and easy to establish. We're experimenting with various plants in the trial garden to see which plants are most suitable for mulch production.  You can find out more about our biomass trials here.




Out of these three plants Miscanthus x giganteus - Giant Miscanthus  is certainly the easiest to propagate with a plant grown from a rhizome being able to produce up to 5 more plants within a year. Some care should be taken when choosing the location of the  Miscanthus x giganteus - Giant Miscanthus  as the plant spreads rapidly forming large impenetrable clumps. We plant on raised beds and mow the pathways aorund the beds to keep them contained. Here is Ronan dividing clumps of Miscanthus x giganteus for planting around the pond in Katal√™psis -The Polyculture Study Guest House. These plants are also useful in producing support material for vegetables in the gardens.


For more on growing your own mulch see our previous blog post - How to grow your own mulch 

For the Bulgarian translation of the blog see here - thank you Mihaela Tzarchinska.

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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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