Sunday, 15 September 2019

Juicing Grapes, Birds in and Around the Gardens and Moth Trapping - Week 23 - The Polyculture Project

More harvesting and processing this week as we slip into the Autumn. It's cooled down but still very sunny and dry here with average day time temperatures in the mid 20 C. This week we're pleased to welcome Rowan to the project and my brother and his family who have been travelling around Europe over the summer. My brother Peter has been surveying the Moth populations in the gardens and has been continuing his ongoing survey of bird life in the area. You can find Peter's blogging on the trip here.

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

Moth Trapping 

Peter brought along his moth surveying equipment and has been setting the traps up in three of the project gardens Aponia, Apathia and Ekpyrosis (see garden locations here) 

Here's a photo of the moth trap in the home garden, Apatheia. The trap works by attracting the moths to a box with a lamp during the night. There are openings in the box that the moths crawl into.

Once in the box there are number of empty egg cartoons and the moths settle into the various nooks and crannies!

In the morning you can open the box and look through the cartoons to identify what has settled.  

Pete places the species in pots for a closer look, takes a portrait and releases the moths. Here's a selection of just a few of the moth species recorded in the gardens. For moth names and more photos see Pete's blog here.

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 and we'll take it from there.

Grape Harvest and Juice Making 

Our Vitis vinifera cv. - Grape  vines have done very well this year in all of the gardens. Last week we harvested approx. half of the fruit for juicing. Providing there is not a lot of rainfall, and day time temperature remains above 20 C, the grapes will continue to sweeten. Personally I prefer a slight sourness to the juice but if you are making wine it's best to leave them on the vines until the end of September to increase the sugar content.

Here is some of the harvest, washed and ready for crushing.

First the grapes are put through the mangle (yellow tool on the right) after which the separated juice is poured into a container as seen here by Martin and Rowan.

The crushed grapes are then put into the press where the rest of the juice is pressed from the crushed fruits. We'll then sieve the juice as we pour it into bottles and the fruit matter is put on the compost pile.  I would estimate we ended up with at least 40+ L of juice from this first harvest.

Another abundant fruit this time of year are Ficus carica cv. - Fig. There are only so many figs you can eat in a day but fortunately figs are super easy to dry and taste just as good, if not better. Fig cultivar  'Michurniska 10'  are excellent for drying being small and sweet and in a dry summer you can dry many of the figs on the tree. Drying figs is really easy, just cut them in half and leave in the oven overnight at 55 C or better still in the window of your car parked in the sun. For much more info all about figs check our previous post here.

Hardy fig cultivars from Balkan Ecology Project Plant Nursery

Garden Wildlife 

This time of year you are most likely to see European mantis - Mantis religiosa. They are busy mating and laying their egg cases that we often find on the underside of rocks and boulders in the gardens. They are predators of many types of insects, including flies, moths, grasshoppers, crickets and aphids (when very young).  Mantids will also feed on some beneficial insect species but are very welcome in the gardens. 

What I think is Argiope bruennichi - Wasp spider is a common resident in the marker garden often spinning up impressive orb webs between the tomato plants. As with most spiders they are generalist predators and will eat whatever happens to find their way into the web. When prey is caught in the web, Argiope bruennichi will immobilise the prey by wrapping it in silk, then it will inject a paralysing venom after which it will proceed to dine.    

Our house cat Cynthia unfortunately is a masterful hunter and each week brings us various trophies such as lizards, slow worms and dragonflies. This week she arrived with a juvenile Red Back Shrike. These birds are excellent pest predators and often hunt in our garden. For many years I have observed a mating pair of shrikes in the garden training their young in the art of the hunt but it seems the hunter has become the hunted. The bird was still alive and we attempted to nurse it back to health but it did not make it.   

Birds in and Around the Gardens 

Some of the technology we have available today to record, monitor and understand wildlife is incredible. eBird is the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science project, with more than 100 million bird sightings contributed each year by eBirders around the world. My brother has been contributing to a list of the birds in and around the project gardens here in Shipka. So far there have been 104 species recorded.  You can find the list here 

Here are some photos of some birds from our area taken last week by Peter Alfrey

Gray-headed Woodpecker - Picus canus

 Juvenile Montagu's Harrier - Circus pygargusa, a common bird of prey in our location  

A pair of Black Storks - Ciconia nigra

Juvenile Lesser Kestrel - Falco naumanni

Red-backed Shrike - Lanius collurio with Black Field Cricket 

Eurasian Nuthatch - Sitta europaea perched on Prunus cerasifera - Cherry Plum

Spotted Flycatcher - Muscicapa striata perched on Cydonia oblonga - Quince 

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.

  • Comment, like and share our content on social media.

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 :) 

No comments:

Post a Comment