Sunday, 25 August 2019

Forest Garden Fruits Galore, Serpentine Irrigation Channels and the arrival of Ducklings - Week 20 - The Polyculture Project

It's been another very hot and dry one in Shipka this week. We welcome Jolanda, Paul and Ryan to the project and say farewell to Shahara. Thanks Shahara for joining, it's been an absolute pleasure. Shahara Khaleque is on her way back to her own project in Hong Kong and you can check out her project here - GrowingSmart.HK. We also welcomed eight little ducklings to the garden this week.


Forest Garden - Apatheia


Over in the home garden it's the most productive time of the year in terms of the diversity of fruits and nuts available. Currently there are Apples, Pears, Walnuts, Hazelnuts, Almonds, Figs , Raspberries, Blackberries, Elderberries, Plums, Cherry Plums, Cornelian Cherries, Grapes and Peaches.     

Rubus fruticosus cv. - Blackberry 'Reuben' is one of my favourite blackberry cultivars. The fruits are delicious and it's a very compact blackberry that fruits on first year growth, so can be cut to the ground every Autumn and will produce fruit the following summer. Another plus with this cultivar is the extended flowering period if you leave a few stems standing from last year's growth. It's common to find blossoms and ripe fruits, and all stages in between, on the plant at the same time. The most recent blossoms will probably not produce ripe fruit before the winter but they will provide good forage for bees all the way into late October. Here you can see the blossoms and fruits from the bush.    


Here is Sedem telephium - Orpine planted under the Blackberry bush, another late flowering perennial that produces a decent salad leaf in early spring.
  

Armoracia rusticana - Horseradish bed in the understory of an Apple, Mulberry and Cherry Tree.


Physalis alkekengi - Chinese Lantern makes a good ground cover for shady areas. The beautiful lanterns encapsulate a decent tasting berry although there is quite some variation in taste among plants with some being very sweet and others quite bitter.   


I planted this Prunus cerasifera - Cherry Plum sapling in the forest garden about 6 or 7 years ago and it's now grown to be a sizeable tree approx 5 m tall and is always very productive. The surprising thing about this tree is the extremely long fruiting period. The fruits are good to eat from early June and this time of year they are very sweet, and we can expect good plums right the way through to late September. The tree is placed in the lower canopy below an old Cherry and a Paulownia tomentosa  and receives probably 3-4 hours of direct sun every day. I think the lower light levels and its sheltered position may be why the fruiting period is so long compared to other Prunus cerasifera - Cherry Plum.       


The Pyrus communis - Pear tree (left) was in the garden when we moved in and is situated under a walnut tree. The shade from the walnut keeps the tree small and we never get more than 10 - 20 pears from this tree. I'm not sure of the cultivar but they taste great and are rarely troubled by pests or diseases, ripening towards the end of August - mid Sep. Vitis vinifera cv. - Grape  growing in our yard. This is a common local cultivar mainly grown for wine but they are very tasty.


Allium tuberosum  - Garlic Chives in full flower growing in the under story of Cornus kousa - Korean Dogwood.


Zanthoxylum piperitum - Japanese Pepper Tree are ripe. The husks turn red and split to release the seed. At this stage they can be harvested, dried and stored for use as you would peppercorns.


We have an old Victoria plum in the garden that is on it's way out now with various limbs colonised by bracket fungus. The tree does still produce a decent crop of tasty plums so I've been removing the infected limbs one by one and hopefully the tree will go on a while longer yet.


Perilla frutescens - Shisho is a self seeding annual that has found a home in the garden. The leaves of these plants are used in Asian cuisine and have a very strong taste of what some may describe as apricot flavoured nettles. The deep purple jagged leaves make quite a dramatic effect in the gardens and seem to be good structures for spiders to spin web upon.    


Fruits from our Forest Garden - Apatheia - We'll  have variety of fruit and nut trees and shrubs suitable for forest gardens available from our nursery this autumn. You can find our plant list here 

Fruit and Nut Trees and Shrubs for Forest Gardens 

Here's a photo of Apatheia in late April taken from the balcony. I'll be making a 2D illustration for this garden over the winter to display planting distances and under story plantings. 



Ducklings  


We're very pleased to welcome this brood of ducklings to the gardens. It's quite a miracle seeing as the mother and father ducks were attacked by an animal during the winter (probably something from the Mustelid familly, possibly a fox). Sophie managed to nurse them back to health and they all made a full recovery. The mother duck had further misfortune earlier this year when our dog gobbled her eggs up just days before they were to hatch. So against all the odds here they are.     


The two male ducks have been hanging around the mother and ducklings. Here they are foraging in the irrigation channels  


Ekpyrosis - A Developing Forest Garden


We started this garden in June with the assistance of the fine folk that joined us for the Design and Build a Forest Garden Course. The primary purpose of the garden is to produce fruits and perennial vegetables with all fertility to support growth produced within the garden (beyond the initial set up inputs) and the secondary purpose is to provide a range of habitat to support wildlife.   

Design and build a forest garden course participants in the garden 
We created a serpentine irrigation channel for this garden which feeds in from a mountain stream. We've had a few teething problems with the water flow so far with water overflowing on the corners  and water flowing over the channel edges in some places.   We've been using the transit level to adjust the channel depth and have slowed the flow rate of the water down to better handle the corners. Here are Lea, Shahara and Simon using the transit level to fix the depth of the channels to improve the water flow.  We'll see how we get on with this design.


We'll be planting out the beds in Spring of next year and we'll be planting the support trees in the Autumn. Here are Misha, Jolando and Paul taking the soil tests in Ekpyrosis before we plant out the support tree layer in the Autumn. 


Here's an illustration of the forest garden when mature  



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.





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, 18 August 2019

Hazelnut Harvest, Broken Branches, Wild Flowers and Forest Garden Plants Week 19 - The Polyculture Project

It's been a lovely week here in Shipka - although quite windy, and the plants and soils dry out very quickly, so this week we've been irrigating the gardens as much as possible.  We've also continued with invertebrate surveys and soil tests and processing some of the harvests from the gardens. 

So here's what we've been up to in the gardens this week.    

   

Hazel  - Corylus spp. Yields 


We are growing around 7 different cultivars of  Corylus spp. - Hazelnut  among the different gardens. I planted the first cultivars in the Market Garden - Aponia three seasons ago  and they have been producing nuts for the last few years. This year I have started to record the yields of the various plants hoping to identify the cultivars that are best suited for our gardens for future plantings.

'Ata Baba' 


The below image shows the planting locations of various Hazel cultivars in Aponia, namely ;
  1. 'Tonda Gentile Romana' 
  2. 'Ata Baba'
  3. 'Barcelona'
  4. 'Badeovidim'


There were only nuts on the Ata Baba and Badeovidim cultivars this year. The nuts of these cultivars  look very similar to each other both being Filberts (Corylus maxima) although the Ata Baba nuts are slightly larger and the Badeovidim are more frequently clustered in 4 or 5 husks as opposed to the Ata Baba that cluster in 2s and 3s  shown below.   


I harvested nuts from 2 trees of Ata Baba and 2 trees of Badeovidim, weighed and photographed the nuts. 


Here are the records for this year 

Corylus spp. - Hazel Records 2019 - Aponia
14/08/2019
No.Year Planted BotanicalCultivarHarvest kgFruit Notes Notes Harvest Period
1April 2015Corylus avellana Tonda Romana n/ano fruit this year - previous years have been fruitful Mid August
2April 2015Corylus maxima Ata baba0.210Mostly 1 or 2 husks per flower
some 3
no signs of Nut Weevils - Balaninus nucum Mid August
3April 2015Corylus avellana Barcelona n/atree on left of below image FTGL for stakes - no fruit since the planting out
tree on right no fruit this year or since planting out - very tall plant
Early September
4April 2015Corylus maxima Badeovidim0.200Mostly 2 or 3 husks per flower
some 5 and one 6
Nut Weevils - Balaninus nucum destroyed 3 or 4 of the nuts Mid August 

There were signs of the Nut Weevil - Balaninus nucum on 3 or 4 of the Badeovidim nuts as shown below but none on the Ata Baba nuts . 


We're offering a range of cultivars including the above mentioned 'Ata baba' from the nursery this year . You can find out more about the plants we have on offer here 

http://www.balkep.org/hazelnut-cultivars.html


Wild Flowers in the Gardens


Saponaria officinalis - Soapwort grows wild in the meadows and woodland edges in and around the gardens. It's an attractive plant with a long blooming period throughout the summer.  As its common name implies, it can be used as a very gentle soap and has historically been used to clean delicate textiles. We encourage it in the gardens and I have found it makes an excellent ground cover in dry sunny spots.  


Another wild growing beauty that makes a great ground cover is Salvia verticillata - Lilac sage.  This herbaceous perennial forms expansive clumps and flowers from spring through to late summer and is much visited by pollinators. Although in the Salvia genus I am not aware of any culinary uses for this plant   

 

Phronensis - 


We established this new forest garden in April of this year with the help of our amazing Design and Build a Forest Course participants. This week we have been taking soil surveys in the garden with aim to track the heath of the soil over time and see how our planting schemes and management plans affect soil health. Here are Lea and Eva working through the soil heath cards from Northern Rivers.


The garden design, species list and planting scheme. 


The primary purpose of the garden is to produce round wood for fence posts, light construction wood, and stakes and pole wood for the market garden with secondary purposes to provide fruits and nuts in the under story and a range of habitat to support wildlife. 

Since we established the garden in the spring I've mowed the pathways 4 times (approx once every 2 or 3 weeks taking approx. 20 minutes per cut), we've pulled weeds growing through the mulch around the newly planted trees twice (that's 48 mulched plants that takes 3 or 4 people about 45 - 60 minutes per weeding session) and this week we have watered the plants for the first time this season  following the initial plant out.  Here you can see the third row of Paulownia tomentosa - Foxglove Tree and Alnus cordata  - Italian Alder trees planted on contour. establishing well. 



We've also added the pond and finished off the raised beds in the south end of the garden.  If you don't include the raised beds, this seems to be quite a low maintenance garden. 



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.




Forest Garden Plants 


It's been a great year for plums, perhaps a bit too good as quite a few plum trees around the area have been snapping out limbs from the weight of the fruit. The photo below is of a Prunus insititia - Damson  on the southern border of the garden. Two limbs snapped out making it easy pickings for Eva and Simon that collected about 10 kg of the plums for pies and jams. 


Prunus insititia - Damson  fruits from our fallen branches 


Here is Misha picking green beans in the market garden. These beans are a local cultivar from a friend of Misha's in a neighbouring village. The plants seem to like it the garden and have been very productive so far and are great tasting both raw and cooked.    


It's that time of year when the wild Rubus fruticosus cv. - Blackberry generously present themselves to the animals. What with all the rain we had this season the wild berries are plump and juicy. Personally I prefer the taste of the wild blackberries to the cultivated ones, although a new cultivar 'Reuben' that I've been growing for a few years is pretty close. Here are some black berries growing up a small apple tree we have in Aponia. Next week the apples should be ripe and you can pick and eat the blackberries and apples right from the same spot. An excellent combination fresh as well as baked in a crumble :)       


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, 11 August 2019

Habitat Mosaic, Measuring Garden Wildlife, Biomass Belts and Forest Garden Plants Week 18 - The Polyculture Project

It's certainly feeling like mid summer around here, the temperature has increased, the rains have paused and there are more fruits than you can shake a fruit laden stick at. This week we started a series of observational surveys and tests looking at habitat, garden wildlife (specifically invertebrates) and soil health.  

So here's what we've been up to in more detail :)


Habitat Types - Aponia 


Our project mission is to develop and promote practices that can produce food while enhancing biodiversity. In order to encourage biodiversity in our gardens we include a variety of habitat into the landscape design, some wild (at various stages of succession) and some cultivated. The gardens are, essentially, a mosaic of habitat.

The map below shows the various habitat types within our 8 year old Market Garden, Aponia. (Aquatic habitat not labelled). I'll be writing a detailed report of these habitat types at a later date including the typical flora and fauna species, how to develop, maintain and manage them, and what is the productive potential of each habitat. 

 

For now we wanted to take a closer look at the biodiversity value that each of these habitats provide, specifically to see how they compare with each other and how our cultivated habitat types i.e annual and perennial polyculture, compare to the wild habitat types. This week we devised some simple invertebrate surveys within the habitat types using pitfall traps and canopy observations to measure the number of unique species found in each habitat. The habitats we surveyed included:

  • Perennial Polyculture 
  • Annual Polyculture 
  • Mixed Species Hedgerow
  • Late Scrub
  • Early Scrub
  • Mixed Species Meadow

This will be a 3 year study with the surveys carried out at the same time every Monday and Tuesday  for a 3 week period in the months of August and April.  Weather conditions - Cloud Cover - Temperature - Wind are recorded with each survey.
 

The Pitfall Traps


Two pitfall traps are set within each habitat type. Each trap is labelled for recording purposes. The traps are set on Monday morning, left overnight and emptied onto white trays on Tuesday morning. The number of unique species are counted within each trap and an average of the two traps per habitat is taken to provide the average number of unique species found within each habitat type. After emptying the traps, lids are placed on the jars and the survey is repeated the week after.  The below image shows the locations of the traps within each habitat type.   

 

 Shahara made some great videos that show the habitat types and how we undertake the pitfall traps surveys.  Here's part one 


and here's part 2


You can find more of Shahara Khaleque's videos on her project facebook page GrowingSmart.HK. Thank you Shahara :) 

 Canopy Observations 


50 m trails within each habitat are determined as shown by red dotted lines in the below image 


There are 10 observation locations in each trail spaced 5 m apart from each other. At each location the observer stands and observes for 2 minutes within their field of vision (without moving head) and  counts and records the number of unique species they can see on the plant vegetation and on the ground. Species you have seen in previous locations are counted again i.e you start a new species-count after every change of location - and an average of the number of unique species seen on the trail is recorded.

Unique species = do not count individuals, count visibly different species, e.g. 
3 black ants and 1 red ant = 2 species
1 big black spider and 1 small black spider, hard to say if it is young/old or male/female = 2 species
1 small spider and 1 big spider that are clearly the same species = 1 species

Flying species: Bypassing flying insects do not count. Insects hovering (to feed on nectar/pollen) or landing in your field of vision do count.

The canopy observation is then repeated by a different observer for each habitat and an average is taken of the two surveys for the final unique species count for each habitat. 

Thank you Simon and Eva for writing the protocol for the canopy observation survey and with your help and feedback on the survey design.  Here are Philip and Shahara taking canopy observations in the Mixed Species Meadow and Early Scrub habitat types


The Results - Week 1


For what it is worth, here are the results from last weeks surveys . I'm looking forward to getting more data in the future and hope, at least, to gain a glimpse of how invertebrate diversity compares within these habitats. 


Shortcomings of the Surveys 


We'd like to keep the surveys  as simple and replicable as possible without sacrificing the validity of the data. We've identified the following shortcomings so far. 

  • Because we are not using ethanol in the pitfall traps (commonly used to kill what falls in the traps), it's possible that predators may fall in and eat prey species before we can count them 
  • As we are not identifying the species and have limited knowledge of entomology we may be counting unique species when in fact they are male or female, larvae/adult or at different instar stages
  • The canopy observations do not account for nocturnal invertebrates
  • The canopy observations from the habitat types with tall shrubs and trees do not account for invertebrates in the higher canopy. We could use a "beating tray" observation for this but for some of the habitat such as early scrub and hedgerow it will be difficult to set this up. 
  • Doing these surveys each month from April - October would provide a more accurate picture. 

If you have any suggestions on how we can improve the survey please do let us know and if you would like to try the survey yourself, send me an email and I'll send you the record sheets and protocols. 

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.





The Biomass Belt - Aponia


About four years ago we planted out an experiment called the "biomass belt", a support polyculture composed of biomass plants, Comfrey 'Bocking 14', in raised beds, Nitrogen fixing ground cover sown into pathways and a Nitrogen fixing hedgerow. The purpose of the polyculture is to grow mulch and fertilizer for annual and perennial crops around the garden. You can read more about this polyculture in detail here.
  
Here are some photos taken last week of the biomass belt.  


The belt is growing well, although not all of the original hedgerow species have survived, we added Miscanthus x giganteus - Giant Miscanthus into the hedgerow to fill the gaps. Elaeagnus umbellata - Autumn Olive has grown well as a hedge plant and is fruiting this year (even after trimming in the spring).  The Symphytum x uplandicum - Comfrey 'Bocking 14'​ beds have done well and you can find some details of how much biomass we harvested from these beds here. I'm really pleased with the Trifolium repens - White Clover pathways.

Here is the original layout and planting scheme...


....and here an illustration of how the Biomass Belt functions - Thanks Georgi Pavlov for the illustration.


Aponia - Market Garden 


Climbing Beans, Cucumbers and Melothria scabra - Cucamelon. The Beans and cucamelon are doing great but I've rarely had great results with cucumbers. They always seem to be misshapen, small with bitter skin, although tasty enough when peeled.    





The Paulownia tomentosa - Foxglove Tree rows that we are growing to shade the annual vegetable beds are ready for another thin. We tried 1.5 m spacing between the trees in the bed on the left and 1 m spacing in the bed on the right. I'd say the 1.5 m spacing is sufficient, providing plenty of shade and as you can see in the below image the trees appear to grow faster at this spacing.


The fallow patches in the market garden are in full flower now attracting an abundance of insects. Viper's-bugloss - Echium vulgare is a great wildlife plants and its deep roots (down to 70 cm) probably serve well as a mineral repositor fixing nutrients that would otherwise wash through the soil into biomass.      




The team chilling :)



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 :)