Sunday, 29 September 2019

Starting a New Garden, Propagating Currants, Forest Garden Fruits and the Last Week of the Project, - Week 25 - The Polyculture Project

Last week was the closing week of the Polyculture Study for this season  - and what a season it's been thanks to all of the awesome people that have joined us this year.  We're so grateful that people from all over the world participate in the project with such enthusiasm and help us on our quest to develop and promote practices that provide food and other resources while enhancing biodiversity. Thank you so much to the crew of 2019, it's been an absolute pleasure.

The Polyculture Study Crew of 2019

Ronan Delente - Michael Krack - Leonie Steinherr - Ben Peirson - Lilly Clark - Martin Votava - Amy Brangwyn - Eileen Wylicil - Tobi and Christina.Ruchel - Karo Castro-Wunsch - Kiki Ami - Maria Cruz - Shahara Khaleque - Jolanda de Rooij - Paul Vdsande - Simon Leupi  - Eva Goldmann - Ryan Sapsed - Rowan Brooks - Joana de Melo Sampaio

and special thanks to the core team who have been with us from the start to the finish of the season:) 

Mihaela Tzarchinska  - Philip Varionov - Lea Valfigueira

 l'll have the results of the various trials we have been working on this season up on the website in the coming months. So here's what we've been up to in the gardens in our final week. 



A New Garden - ProkopĂȘ  


For the last week of the study we started work on a new forest garden - ProkopĂȘ, carrying out soil surveys, topography surveys and a preliminary botany survey on the plot. Here's the plot  


We always begin development of a new garden with a simple soil analysis to see what condition the soil is in. We are using the Northern Rivers Soil Health Card for these tests, with some small modifications. Here are Misha, and Joana taking the base soil surveys on the plot with Philip recording.


Lea and Ben making a topo survey of the plot and pegging out five contour lines across the area in order to establish irrigation channels, bed layout and plant spacing.



As you can see from the below photo there a is quite a slope on the Northern border of the plot. We measured the elevation fall from the top of the slope to the bottom and found a 2.95 m drop. We have access to flowing water from the higher ground via a stream and it will be interesting to learn what potential we have for hydro energy based on this elevation difference.  In the past, locals would use water power for wood turning and metal works.  


I made a quick survey of the existing trees and shrubs on the site. Common to all of the plots around here Prunus spinosa - Sloe and Rosa canina - Dog Rose are present growing among the grasses.


In the hedgerow we have a Carpinus sp. Hornbeam and Ligustrum vulgare - Privet  growing under Cornus mas - Cornellian Cherry 

 

Crataegus - Hawthorn growing under a Field Maple 


 There are also a number of young Juglans regia - Persian Walnut  and one large Walnut tree and a few Acer campestre - Field Maple


I also photographed the herb layer for autumn flowering plants and will carry on with botany surveys in the following seasons to get a fuller picture of the herb and bulb diversity on the site.  

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 



Propagating Currants - Hard Wood Cuttings 


We have been pruning and propagating Ribes nigrum cv.- Blackcurrant and Ribes rubrum cv. - Red currant  this week. For pruning currants it's good to remove approx. 1/3 of the older stems from the shrub anytime during the Autumn or Winter. Usually you will find 2 or 3 good hard wood cuttings from the pruned stems. The hardwood cutting should be this years growth and are easy to identify by the lighter colour. Ideally the cuttings should be 30 cm  long but shorter and longer cuttings will also work. The older stems can be cut into smaller pieces and left on the surface of the bed unless the pruned material is diseased in which case it should be removed from the area.  Here are Joana and Ryan taking the cuttings


We prepared a space in a raised bed for the hardwood cuttings, clearing the weeds, digging a 30 cm deep trench and soaking the ground well. We then removed all of the lower leaves from the cuttings and placed them in the trench approx 15 cm apart, watered well and pulled the soil and compost back into the trench to cover the cuttings leaving approx 5- 10 cm of the cuttings exposed. If the cuttings are well watered during dry periods, this time next year the cuttings will have developed roots and can be dug out and transplanted into their permanent positions. Hardwood cuttings from currants is one of the easiest methods of propagation. If you are propagating different cultivars don't forget to label them well.  



Forest Garden Fruits 


One of our Elaeagnus umbellata - Autumn Olive  shrubs has gone all in with fruit this year.  Elaeagnus umbellata - Autumn Olive are small but very tasty and my personal favourite of all Elaeagnus spp.
We'll probably try a jam this season, just need to work out a fast way to remove the seed.    


Rubus fruticosus cv. - Blackberry 'Reuben'are still  flowering, fruiting and ripening. I'm very pleased with this cultivar and will be planting more it in the gardens. It works well in the under story of a lifted fruit tree as the erect growth of the blackberry finds support on the lower limbs of the tree and there is no need to build support frames for the plants. The below photo shows the fruit ripening among the lower branches of a plum tree.   


Sedem telephium - Orpine is flowering, a great bee plant for the end of the season.


It's been an odd year for our Cornus mas - Cornellian Cherry. with the fruits ripening in late September. The tree was in flower by late February as usual but in previous years the fruits were ripe by the end of August. It's packed full of fruit this year, perhaps this has delayed the ripening.  


Mahonia aquifolium - Oregon Grape berries. An excellent shrub for deep shade providing an early source of nectar and pollen for bees and tasty little berries in the Autumn. 


The crew :) 



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, 22 September 2019

Robinia Hedging, Forest Garden Fruits, Wild Boar Destruction - Week 24 - The Polyculture Project

Finally we received a welcome rainfall this week, and although not enough to soak the soil it did certainly provide some relief. We said goodbye to Rowan last week and welcomed back Ben to the project and Joanna who will be joining us for the remainder of the season.

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


Robinia pseudocacaia Hedging 


About 6 years ago I planted some 1 year old  Robinia pseudoacacia - Black Locust saplings in a row to form a hedge boundary on the southern border of our garden Aponia. Although not typically used for hedging, I liked the idea of using these plants as they grow fast, are extremely drought tolerant, provide excellent forage for bees via the nectar rich blossoms and, being capable of fixing nitrogen, they could be regularly pruned and used to fertilise the productive plants in the forest garden. Six years on and the hedge has developed reasonably well and certainly has over exceeded my expectations for biomass production in addition to producing flowers for the bees for the last 3 years. Last week we pruned the hedge for the second time this year as seen in the below photo   


Robinia pseudoacacia - Black Locust  is not ideal for hedging as the plants tend to branch around 1 m off the ground leaving a gap in the lower section of the hedge. It does form a decent screen above this and can be trimmed and reduced at least twice a year producing high quantities of biomass. I'm going to try planting some shade tolerant shrubs in the under story to fill the gap. Mahonia aquifolium - Oregon Grape  should work well , although quite slow to get going,  Mahonia aquifolium - Oregon Grape can grow well in full shade, is evergreen, flowers early in the season providing a great early source of forage for bees and produces tasty little fruits in the Autumn. 


Here's an illustration of single row of Robinia pseudoacacia - Black Locust  and  Mahonia aquifolium - Oregon hedge planting that should work well together. 


The long straight pole wood pruned out of the Robinia pseudoacacia - Black Locust is stored for staking tomatoes and all of the other branches and leaves are piled onto raised beds we are preparing for planting next season. This rough mulch can be cut into smaller pieces with a chainsaw or shredded for faster decomposition. Here you can see the freshly cut branches stacked on the raised bed.   


It was interesting to observe that even though we have been cutting this hedge twice a year, birds are still nesting in the canopy. Here you can see what I think is a blackbird or thrush nest. We leave the height just over 2 m high which seems suitable for nesting birds. By timing the cutting to late June and late September we should be able to not disturb the birds breeding cycle .   


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 

 


Paulownia Trials 


So its almost the end of the growing season here for Paulownia tomentosa - Foxglove Tree. The trees are now hardening their wood in preparation for the winter and  just one night of below 0 temperatures will kill off the leaves and herbaceous growth. Here is a photo of Martin standing next to the tallest of the trees we are growing for shading the annual vegetable beds. You may recall from previous posts that all of these trees were cut to ground level in mid April of this year and the growth you can see in the below photo is the coppice regrowth within 5 months.      


We've been thinning the coppice regrowth to one main stem and removing the lower leaves and axillary growth at regular intervals throughout the growing season. All of this biomass is applied to the vegetable beds as a mulch. Next season we have the option to cut them back to ground level and repeat the process or to allow them grow and cut them back the year after for pole wood. The below image shows the stool a week after cutting on the left. You can just see the emerging bud that eventually becomes the main stem from the picture on the right.   



Live Webinar Coming up this Autumn


It's that time of year to start planning your garden plantings for this coming Autumn or the Spring. If you would like some guidance and advice on how to choose your plants we'll be running a live webinar this November.  How to Select Fruit and Nut Trees for your Forest Garden/Polyculture Orchard - Webinar - 2nd November 2019 - 18.00 -20.00 UTC. (starting time suitable for US partcipation)


The session will overview what you need to know when selecting Fruit and Nut trees for your Forest Garden/Polyculture Orchard and how to plan the layout of the garden. It will be around 2 hours long and will include:


Selecting trees that suit your climate and location
Choosing the right root stock and cultivar
Selecting trees with pollination compatibility
Pest and Disease Resistance
Choosing the right location and spacing for your trees
Buying Fruit and Nut Trees
Planting out and aftercare
Software for Planning Garden layout
Closing Questions and Answers 
Access to design spreadsheets including a Selection Check List and  Pollination Requirements for Common Fruit and Nut Trees


You can register here . The fee is €30 or €40 if you register as a group of three or €100 as a group of 10. If you would like to register as a group please send an email to balkanecologyproject@gmail.com and we'll take it from there.

Forest Garden Plants 


Still plenty of harvest to process this is the time of year in the forest garden and gathering seed from many of the perennial herbs, shrubs and trees we grow in the nursery. It's great to see the first fruit on our 2 year old Apple - Malus sp. 'Karastoyanka' This is a Bulgarian cultivar suitable for organic growing. The fruits ripen from late Sep - early Oct  and are excellent for storing over the winter.   


The solo fruit on the tree planted two springs ago 


The Mespilus germanica - Medlar tree is always a reliable producer in the forest garden. These fruits will ripen in late November through to December and along with Diospyros kaki - Japanese Persimmon  are one of a few late winter fruit trees. The blossoms of these plants are exceptionally beautiful. 


The young Ficus carica cv. - Fig trees I've been planting around the gardens the last few years are starting to fruit.  Below you can see one of the hardiest figs on the planet, 'Michurinska 10' grown from a hardwood cutting 3 years . The picture on the right is a Cornus mas - Cornellian Cherry tree grown from seed 7 years ago and fruiting from the first time in the forest garden.


Another reliable producer is Chaenomeles speciosa - Jap. Quince. The fruits are best harvested for juicing  after a frost when they soften and can be squeezed like lemons. You can also prepare them as you would Cydonia oblonga - Quince . For more info on this wonderful plant check out our article - The Quincessential Guide to Japanese Quince - Chaenomeles speciosa


Archie has been collecting Elaeagnus angustifolia - Russian Olive seeds from the shrubs in our garden for seed orders. Elaeagnus angustifolia - Russian Olive  is great drought tolerant nitrogen fixing shrub best planted in hedges and boundary plantings. It grows very fast and is great for chop and drop, although the branches are quite thorny. 



I love walking the gardens before sundown this time of year. The light reveals the beauty of the wilting plants and the intricate design of their seed heads.  


Wild Boar Disruptions in the Gardens 


I've been aware of Wild boar - Sus scrofa -  around the area for many years but until last week, have never directly experienced any disruptions in the gardens. It seems at least one Boar (perhaps more) has been venturing in from the dry woodlands in search for moist soil to rummage around in. The first place I noticed them was around the water channels where the boar/s ploughed through the soil in search for grubs and worms. We noticed this damage when trying to divert water from the river into the gardens and found the water channels had been turned over.  


Our new garden beds were also hit by the Boar foraging under the relatively moist deep mulch presumably to eat the worms and grubs that accumulate in the decomposing material. 


On the way back from the woods, a day before we discovered the Boar disturbances in the gardens, Dylan and I came across a body of  a Boar, probably 2 or 3 days old judging by the quantity of maggots in the corpse orifices. I'm not sure what happened to the animal but there were clear signs that some carnivore had been at the meat, probably the European jackal - Canis aureus moreoticus.    Boars are hunted here to control the populations in the residential areas but the carcass is usually butchered for meat. Perhaps the boar was shot, injured ran away and died a later or perhaps it just died of natural causes.        

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 :)