Sunday, 21 July 2019

Plum Season, Growing Paulownia Trees for Shade/Mulch and some Forest Garden Plants Week 15 - The Polyculture Project

It's been my kind of summer so far, not too hot, lovely sunshine and heavy rainfall just when it's needed :)   

 Here's what we've been up to in the gardens last week.  

Paulownia Trials

It's been a while since I posted the most recent photo of our Paulownia tomentosa - Foxglove Tree trees that we grow in the centre of our vegetable beds to provide shade, mulch and round wood for use in the gardens.

I cut the trees to ground level in early May (see our previous blog post here) below you can see photos of the stool after 3, 5 and 9 weeks growth.  The beetroots planted in the beds are appreciating the shade and are some of the first to mature and overall seem to be in better condition to beetroot sown in other areas of the garden in full sun.

The regrowth is exceeding my expectations with the highest plant over 2 m tall in just 3 months. Misha thinned and lifted the trees this week to provide some mulch for the beetroots growing underneath and to allow more light to reach the ground. The below photo shows before and after thinning and lifting the plants in a section of the bed.  

About 8 years ago in the home garden I planted a small area with six 1 year old Paulownia tomentosa - Foxglove Tree saplings and let them grow for 3 years before the first cut, after which I've been cutting this little patch of Paulownia every year in the spring for the last 5 years and the regrowth still comes back strongly. As you can see from the below photo, I thin the regrowth from each stool to two of the straightest stems and lift all of the lower leaves and branches to encourage vertical growth. I'm growing a few Lonicera periclymenum - Honeysuckle that tolerate the shade under the trees that I use as mother plants for our nursery stock.    

The oldest and largest  Paulownia tomentosa - Foxglove Tree we have in the gardens is a plant I grew from seed 9 years ago and planted into the forest garden in Aponia. The tree has established well reaching at least 12 m tall and 6 m wide before the wind took the top out last Autumn. In the below photo you can see the regrowth from this season reaching up high into the sky. I should think the regrowth will also be damaged by the autumn winds but we'll see.    

Forest Garden Plants 

Hibiscus syriacus - Rose of Sharon has started to flower and will continue to flower right up until early Autumn. These compact shrubs make great under story plants for the forest garden and can also be used as hedging plants.  

Levisticum officinale - Lovage  is a great under story herb flowering profusely and attracting a range of beneficial insects. If you are looking to harvest the leaves for culinary purposes it's best to cut back the flowering growth to the ground to promote fresh regrowth. 

I have Lythrum salicaria - Purple Loosestrife  planted around the 1000 L rain water catchment tank. The plant can be invasive in wetlands but behaves very well in the gardens. The pink/purple flowers  blooms throughout the summer months and are attractive to range of wildlife.  You can see Rubus fruticosus cv. - Blackberry 'Reuben' in the background of this photo. This primocane (fruits on first year growth) cultivar is very compact compared to other Blackberry cultivars, and the first fruits have already ripened tasting delicious.


Our crab apple is full of fruit this year. The apples are quite sweet but very small with the largest being around 6 cm wide. I'm not so keen on the taste of these apples but they make an acceptable nibble and in previous years when we have had pigs and rabbits that are a  much appreciated part of their diet. Crab apples are great to grow as pollinator partners to enhance cross pollination with other apples trees due to their prolonged flowering period and reliability to flower each year. 

I noticed a gap in fruit production from our gardens in July about 5 years ago so planted some early season plums as well as a number of Apricot cultivars to fill the void.  This is the first year we are receiving fruit from the plum cultivars 'Czar' and 'Karlovska Afazka'   and an Apricot 'Early Kishinevska' has provided a few handfuls too. The  Prunus spp. - 'Czar' tree photographed below is one of the earliest culinary plums in the season. The tree can also grow in partial shade so a good choice for the forest garden. The plums are great tasting, well worth the wait :) 


Prunus spp. - 'Karlovska Afazka' was planted 3 years ago and is absolutely packed with fruit this year.  

Atraxia - the Perennial Polyculture Trial Garden 

We've been chop and dropping in the perennial polyculture beds probably for the last time this season. We only chop and drop the plants around the young trees and shrubs and leave the spaces between the plants to grow wild. Here are Tobi and Christina chop and dropping around the Cornus mas - Cornellian Cherry and Elaeagnus umbellata - Autumn Olive in one of the perennial polyculture trial beds.

The spacing between the Cornus mas - Cornellian Cherry and Elaeagnus umbellata - Autumn Olive is 2 m and the plants are planted in the center of a 1.3 wide raised beds. To see how we established the raised bed see our previous post here.

Shahara watering the corn seedlings sown into a raised bed about 4 weeks ago.

Market Garden - Aponia 

The produce is starting to ripen in the market garden with Kohlrabi, Beetroot, Potato, Kale, Beans and Courgettes coming along well and the first of the Basil and Tomato starting to ripen. As we arrive in garden on Monday morning the first job is to inspect the Brassica crops for pests such as Pieris brassicae - Large White eggs and larvae and more common this time of year the Cabbage Bug - Eurydema oleracea.

We had a tray of Leeks - Allium porrum 'Bulgarian Giant' left over from the late spring sowings. I'm not sure whether they have spent too much time in the flats and whether they will develop well but i thought we'd try them in a shady spot and see how they get on. Here's Shahara planting out the Leek seedlings approx 25 cm apart in little nests made into the mulch.

Here's a shot of the marvellous team in the market garden 

Garden Wildlife 

What I believe to be Micrommata virescens - Green Huntsman Spider protecting her young on the underside of a Kohlrabi leaf. Rather than chasing after their prey, these spiders wait for passing invertebrates and then pounce on it.  Hence the "Huntsman" name - see here for more info.

Identified hairy larvae found in the deep shade under a tarp.  

Unidentified larvae on Verbascum sp. 

That's all for this week!

Upcoming Courses

If you would like to create a forest garden and gain some practical hands on experience come and 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).

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

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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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