Thursday, 30 January 2020

Nitrogen Fixation - How it Works and a Look at Some Super Nitrogen Fixing Trees, Shrubs and Herbs

An essential component of any regenerative landscape will be the Nitrogen-fixing perennial plants within the community of fruits, nuts and herbs and other plants.

During this post, we will look at why Nitrogen is important for plants, How Nitrogen can be biologically sourced and we'll profile some of our favorite Nitrogen-fixing trees, shrubs and herbs

Nitrogen Fixing Trees, Shrubs and Herbs for Permaculture and Polyculture

Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plant growth and development and although around 78% of the earth's atmosphere is nitrogen, plants cannot utilize this. Plants instead depend upon combined or fixed forms of nitrogen, such as ammonia and nitrate. Currently, the majority of this nitrogen is provided to cropping systems in the form of industrially produced nitrogen fertilizers. The use of these fertilizers has led to worldwide ecological problems, such as the formation of coastal dead zones, and requires a high energy input to produce. Biological nitrogen fixation, on the other hand, offers a natural means of providing nitrogen for plants. 

Legume (aka Pulse Crop) in association with Rhizobium bacteria.   

Biological Nitrogen fixation is an important component of regenerative agriculture,organic gardening/farming, forest gardening, and other polyculture practices. Through a partnership with micro-organisms in their roots, some plants can turn atmospheric nitrogen into nitrogen fertilizers useful to themselves but also becoming available to their neighbors over time through root dieback, leaf fall, and chop and drop pruning. These are known as the nitrogen-fixing plants.

This is a mutually beneficial relationship with the plant providing carbohydrates obtained from photosynthesis to the microorganism and in exchange for these carbon sources, the microbes provide fixed nitrogen to the host plant.
While it does not replace the need to bring in other nutrients depleted by harvests such as phosphorus and calcium, nitrogen fixation provides a valuable biological source of an essential fertilizer.

There are two main groups of microbes that plants associate with in order to utilize the atmospheric nitrogen to fuel growth. They are  Frankia and Rhizobium.

Frankia


Many plants partner with micro-organisms called Frankia, a group of Actinobacteria. These plants are known as the actinorhizal nitrogen fixers.


Frankia can be seen above as the  nodules forming around the roots of one of our Elaeagnus umbellata saplings in our nursery.

Actinorhizal plants are found in many ecosystems including alpine, xeric, chapparal, forest, glacial till, riparian, coastal dune, and arctic tundra environments and can be found in the following plant families  

  • Betulaceae, the birch family.
  • Myricaceae, the bayberry family.
  • Casuarinaceae, the Austrian “pines”.
  • Elaeagnaceae, the oleasters.
  • Rosaceae, the rose family.
  • Rhamnaceae, the buckthorn family.
These plants tend to thrive in nitrogen-poor environments and are often the pioneer species in plant communities playing an important role in plant succession.

Rhizobium


By far the most important nitrogen-fixing symbiotic associations are the relationships between legumes (plants in the family Fabaceae) and Rhizobium and Bradyrhizobium bacteria. These plants are commonly used in agricultural systems such as alfalfa, beans, clover, cowpeas, lupines, peanut, soybean, and vetches. 
The Rhizobium or Bradyrhizobium bacteria colonize the host plant’s root system and cause the roots to form nodules to house the bacteria. The bacteria then begin to fix the nitrogen required by the plant. Access to the fixed nitrogen allows the plant to produce leaves fortified with nitrogen that can be recycled throughout the plant. This allows the plant to increase photosynthetic capacity, which in turn yields nitrogen-rich seed.

Rhizobium colonies clearly seen as nodules on the plant roots of Spartium junceum

So now you know what nitrogen fixation is, lets take a look at some of my favorite Nitrogen Fixing Trees - Shrubs and Herbs that we use throughout our polyculture gardens.

Nitrogen Fixing Trees


Italian Alder - Alnus cordata 


Alnus cordata - Italina Alder - Nitrogen Fixing Tree


Overview: Alnus cordata  - Italian Alder  is a deciduous tree that grows up to 25m at a fast rate. It has a long season in leaf - from April to December - and is in flower in March. Has a heavy leaf canopy and when the leaves fall in the winter, they help to build up the humus content of the soil.The species is monoecious and is pollinated by wind. Thrives on poor and dry soils, even sometimes on chalk, but prefers to be near water.

Uses: Windbreak, pioneer species for re-establishing woodlands, ornamental, biomass production, coppice, ornamental. The timber has a red/orange appearance and is used for turning and carving.

Nitrogen Fixing Potential: Level of fixation not specified on the USDA website.

Biodiversity: The catkins of Italian Alder provide early pollen for insects, and the over-wintering cones are a good food source for birds.

Propagation: Seed germination rates generally high. Transplant into permanent positions when growth has reached a suitable level.


Black Locust - Robinia pseudoacacia 


Robinia pseudoacacia - Black Locust

Overview:
 Robinia pseudoacacia - Black Locust is a rapidly growing, deciduous tree that is native to North America. This member of the pea and bean family (Leguminosae) has now naturalised in many parts of Europe. It is in flower in June, and the seeds ripen from November to March. The species is hermaphrodite.  It's a good tree for establishing on degraded land but can become invasive due to its prolific seed production, and it also spreads by suckering from the roots. Prefers well drained soil and sunny positions.

Uses: Shelterbelts and windbreaks, restoration projects due to extensive root system, dynamic accumulator, ornamental. The wood is very durable and rot resistant, good for posts and beams in construction. An essential oil is obtained from the flowers and used in perfumery.

Nitrogen Fixing Potential: The species is classified by USDA as being a MEDIUM Nitrogen fixer with estimated yields of 85-160lbs/acre or 39-72kg/4050m²  or 0.014g /m2.

Biodiversity: The pretty flowers open in May or June after the leaves have developed and are attractive to a wide range of pollinators, including bees that produce  "Acacia" honey. Noted for attracting a wide range of insects. A dynamic accumulator gathering minerals or nutrients from the soil and storing them in a more bioavailable form that can then be used as fertilizer.

Propagation: Pre-soak seed for 48 hours in warm water and sow in late winter in a cold frame. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when ready and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter.  Plant into their permanent positions the following summer. For cuttings, use small new-growth branches at least 8 inches long with a leaf node near the cut. Can take up to 3 months for roots to develop.

Sea Buckthorn - Hippophae rhamnoides


Hippophae rhamnoides -  Sea Buckthorn
Overview: Hippophae rhamnoides -  Sea Buckthorn is a deciduous thorny shrub growing to around 6m in height. It is in flower in April, and the seeds ripen from September to October. Provides an abundance of highly nutritious orange berries in the autumn. The species is dioecious and is pollinated by wind. Requires a sunny position and does very well in sandy soils. Fairly slow growing and plants produce abundant suckers.

Uses: Shelter hedge, Pioneer species to reestablish woodlands, Maritime exposure tolerated - stabalises sand dunes. The wood of Sea Buckthorn is tough, hard, very durable, fine-grained and used for fine carpentry and turning.

Nitrogen Fixing Potential: The species is classified by USDA as being a MEDIUM Nitrogen fixer with estimated yields of 85-160lbs/acre or 39-72kg/4050m²  or 0.014g /m2

Biodiversity: Provides shelter and in the autumn, berries for birds. The ripe fruits also attract insects, and therefore birds that feed on insects such as thrips, earwigs and mites. Deer, mice and other rodents may also feed on sea buckthorn, and bees and hoverflies are attracted to the flower's nectar.

Propagation: Sow seed in spring in a sunny position in a cold frame. Germination is usually quick and successful, although 3 months cold stratification may improve the germination rate further. Once big enough, transplant into individual pots and grow on in a greenhouse for the first winter. Take cuttings at the end of autumn or very early in the spring before the buds burst. Store them in sand and worm casting mix until April, then cut into 7 - 9cm lengths and plant them in a sun room or with plastic bags and bottom heat.

Nitrogen Fixing Shrubs 


Elaeagnus umbellata - Autumn Olive


Elaeagnus umbellata - Autumn Olive 

Overview: Elaeagnus umbellata - Autumn Olive  - A large deciduous shrub from E.Asia, growing 4.5 m high and 4.5 m wide, tolerates part shade, very drought tolerant. Branches are often thorny, leaves are bright green and silvery beneath. Yellowish white, fragrant flowers are produced in May-June, followed by rounded silvery brown (ripening red) fruits in Sep-Oct. Sometimes cultivated for its edible fruit. There are many named cultivars. Flowers are rich nectar and very aromatic. Plants can fruit in 5 yrs from seed. This specie is considered invasive in the U.S.

Uses:  Hedging plant, ornamental and tolerates maritime exposure succeeding in the most exposed positions.  The plant is used as a nurse tree, when planted with fruit trees it is reported to increase the overall yield of the orchard by 10%. It can also be grown as a biomass crop on a 3 year rotation.

Nitrogen Fixing Potential:
 The species is classified by USDA as being a MEDIUM nitrogen fixer with estimated yields of 85-160lbs/acre or 39-72kg/4050m² or 0.014g /m2.

Biodiversity - The shrubs will begin to flower in the 4th or 5th year after planting and are attractive to a wide range of pollen and nectar feeding invertebrates. If you leave some fruits on the tree they provide a good source of winter food for birds. In time as the hedge thickens up with regular pruning, suitable nesting habitat will form inside the lower part of the hedge. Birds such as Wren, Chiffchaff and Robin are commonly found in dense low hedging. These birds can help to keep common vegetable pest populations low.

Propagation: Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. It should germinate in late winter or early spring, though it may take 18 months. Stored seed can be very slow to germinate, often taking more than 18 months. A warm stratification for 4 weeks followed by 12 weeks cold stratification can help. The seed usually (eventually) germinates quite well. Prick out the seedlings into individual pot as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant out when they are at least 15 cm tall. 

Caragana arborescens - Siberian Pea Tree


Caragana arborescens - Siberian Pea Tree

Overview: Caragana arborescens - Siberian Pea Tree - A deciduous shrub originating from Central Asia belonging to the Fabaceae (legume) family growing to 5-6m high and 4m wide with an upright habit. It grows vigorously. Flowers are borne from buds on the previous year's wood and are typical of flowers from this family. Flowering occurs in May. Pollination is via bees, usually wild bumble bees. Pods develop from flowers - looking like small pea pods, they are 4-5 cm long. The pods ripen to amber or brown from June -July onwards and seeds fall by August. The plant is extremely hardy tolerating winter temperatures of -40. Prefers a continental climate with hot dry summers and cold winters.

Uses:  Windbreaks and shelter belts, wildlife-erosion control plantings, Extensive root system that stabalizes the soil. Plants make good wildlife fodder and can be used to as poultry food. A fiber is obtained from the bark and used for rope making.



Nitrogen Fixing Potential: The species is classified by USDA as being a MEDIUM Nitrogen fixer with estimated yields of 85-160lbs/acre or 39-72kg/4050m²  or 0.014g /m2

Biodiversity - The shrubs will begin to flower in the 4th or 5th year after planting and are attractive to a wide range of pollen and nectar feeding invertebrates from Apil - May.
In time as the hedge thickens up with regular pruning, suitable nesting habitat will form inside the lower part of the hedge. Birds such as Wren - Troglodytes troglodytes, Chiffchaff - Phylloscopus collybita and Robin - Erithacus rubecula are commonly found in dense low hedging. These birds can help to keep common vegetable pest populations low.

Propagation: Seed propagation is the norm. Seeds germinate better after a short period of stratification and/or soaking in warm water prior to planting.

Cytisus scoparius - Broom 


Cytisus scoparius - Broom 
Overview: Cytisus scoparius - Broom ​ A hardy Nitrogen fixing shrub native to Europe growing to 2.4 m by 1 m at a fast rate. Its bright yellow flowers appear in spring, from May to June and attract a range of invertebrates. A versatile plant well suited to many soil types that can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Prefers a sunny position but tolerates some shade and will succeed in exposed conditions including maritime exposure. A deep root system means they are very drought tolerant once established and grow well on dry banks. Very tolerant of cutting, it regenerates quickly from the base.
   
Uses:  Ornamental, Maritime exposure tolerated - stabalizes sand dunes. Urban plant - tolerates atmospheric pollution.  An essential oil from the flowers is used in perfumery. Great plants for fiber, basketry and good brooms (hence the commom name!).  You can either place stems on the ground and go over them with a rotary lawn mower to break the biomass into smaller pieces or leave as rough mulch.

Nitrogen Fixing Potential: The species is classified by USDA as being a HIGH Nitrogen fixer with estimated yields of +160lbs/acre or +72kg/4050m² or 0.018g /m2.
  
Biodiversity - A good bee plant and an also a good food plant for many caterpillars - it reportedly provides the food for the larvae of the green hairstreak butterfly. Ants are attracted to the seeds, feeding on the juicy attachment that holds them to the pods and thus distributing the seed. 

Propagation: The plant is very easy to grow from seed and large quantities of plants can be grown very quickly. Seed harvested in the summer can be sown straight after picking and overwintered indoors (or protected and planted out the following autumn). Seeds germinate better after soaking in warm water for 8-12 hrs prior to planting.


Elaeagnus angustfolia - Oleaster, Russian Olive


Elaeagnus angustifolia - Russian Olive

Overview: 
Elaeagnus angustifolia - Russian Olive - A deciduous large shrub or small tree from Europe and W.Asia, growing approx 7m high and 7m wide. Tolerates part shade, salt and air pollution. It has silvery branches often thorny, with silvery scales when young, silvery willow-like leaves, silvery flowers in June and yellowish-silvery fruits ripening in October. Plants prefer continental climate.  This species is often cultivated in Europe and Asia for its edible fruits (there are many named varieties some of which are thorn less). The plants begin to flower and fruit from three years old. It is very tolerant of pruning even right back into old wood. The flowers are sweetly scented. Fruits hang on the plant for much of the winter providing a valuable source of winter food for birds. The fruit is readily eaten and disseminated by many species of birds. This species is considered invasive in the United States.

Uses: Hedging plant (NB does not form a dense screen), biomass crop,tolerates maritime exposure. Edible fruit -raw or cooked as a seasoning in soups, and the expected fruit yields are 7-9kg per plant. The taste is dry sweet and mealy. The seed oil, flowers and leaves are used medicinally.  An essential oil obtained from the flowers is used in perfumery. Leaves are used as goat and sheep fodder. The wood is hard, fine-grained and used for posts, beams, carving, domestic items and makes good fuel.

Nitrogen Fixing Potential: This specie is classified by USDA as being a HIGH nitrogen fixer with estimated yields of 160+ lbs/acre or 72>kg/4050m²

Biodiversity:  When in flower the plants are attractive to a range of pollinators and I've often observed our plants teeming with flying insects during the flowering period. When trimmed the plants will ramify well and can form a dense hedge-like appearance. The interior of the plants in this condition is perfect for nesting birds and for small mammals and lizards to retreat into when under threat.

Propagation: Establishment and reproduction of Elaeagnus angustifolia is primarily by seed, although some spread by vegetative propagation also occurs. Cold stratification of the seed is required for 30-60 days. Sowing when fruits ripe will probably provide the best germination results.


Before we look at some nitrogen-fixing herbs, I'd like to bring to your attention to our upcoming Design and Build A Forest Garden webinar, coming up on the 28th November 2020 - 19.00 GMT+3.  It's a live session where we'll go through step by step what you need to know to get started and end with a Q&A session. We'll send you a recording of the webinar when it is finished along with our design spreadsheets and plant lists to help get you started with your own Forest Garden Design.  

The webinar will be hosted on zoom and you can book your place here - Looking forward to it!

How to Design and Build A Forest Garden - Webinar




Nitrogen Fixing Herbs 


Trifolium repens -White Clover 


Trifolium repens - White Clover 

Overview
Trifolium repens - White Clover - White clover is a dwarf, prostrate, mat-forming perennial that can spread via stems which freely root along the ground at the nodes. Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist soils in light shade, but tolerates full sun and moderately dry soils.

Uses:  White clover has been described as the most important forage legume of the temperate zones. Besides making an excellent forage crop for livestock,  clovers are a valuable survival food: they are high in proteins and although not easy for humans to digest raw, this is easily fixed by boiling the harvested plants for 5–10 minutes. Dried flower heads and seedpods can also be ground up into a nutritious flour and mixed with other foods, or can be steeped into an herbal tea. The plants ability to spreads aggressively by creeping stems makes is a good ground cover plant.  The plant is also used as a companion plant  when undersown with cereals or tomatoes.

Nitrogen Fixing Potential:  The species is classified by USDA as being a HIGH Nitrogen fixer with estimated yields of +160lbs/acre or +72kg/4050m² or 0.018g /m2.

Other sources state up to 545 kg of N per hectare per year is possible.

Biodiversity: The plants provide a source of nectar and pollen for a number of native bees as well as the honey bee.

Propagation: Best propagated by seed.  Pre-soak the seed for 12 hours in warm water and then sow in spring in situ. Division is also possible in the spring and autumn. 

Planting Material: For covering an area quickly seed is the best option.

Onobrychis viciifolia - Sainfoin





Overview: Onobrychis viciifolia - Sainfoin is a perennial herbaceous legume. It has deep tap-roots which are helpful in harvesting minerals from the subsoil. It's in flower from June to August and is hermaphrodite. Sainfoin flowers are pink, attractive and start blooming with the lower flowers, then moving up the stem. Produces a good bulk of foliage, and makes an excellent green cover/manure. Prefers a well-drained neutral to alkaline sandy loam in full sun and loves full sun.

Uses: Green manure, soil stabalizer (due to deep tap root),companion plant. Grown for pasture, hay or silage since it is very palatable to livestock.

Nitrogen Fixing Potential:  The species is classified by USDA as being a MEDIUM Nitrogen fixer with estimated yields of 85-160lbs/acre or 39-72kg/4050m²  or 0.014g /m2

Biodiversity: Sainfoin produces Nectar and Pollen for Honeybees and Bumblebees. This nectar is thought to be one of the highest yielding honey plants. The flowers of Sainfoin attract huge numbers of insects and some reports clain Sainfoin may attract up to ten times more bees than white clover. . Deer enjoy sainfoin, and some game birds such as turkey and pheasants shelter among the plant.

Propagation: For the best results pre-soak seed for 12 hours in warm water and sow in situ in the spring


All of the plants mentioned above and more are available from our bio nursery as plants or seeds and some species available at special discounts for bulk orders. You can find out more info about our plants by clicking on the plant names below.



If you are would like to learn how to  Design and Build A Forest Garden ,we have a webinar coming up on Saturday, 28th of November 2020 - 19.00 GMT+3.  It's a live session where we'll go through step by step what you need to know to get started and end with a Q&A session. We'll send you a recording of the webinar when it is finished along with our design spreadsheets and plant lists to help get you started with your own Forest Garden Design.  

The webinar will be hosted on zoom and you can book your place here - Looking forward to it!

How to Design and Build A Forest Garden - Webinar


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Design and Create Webinars - Forest Gardens, Urban Gardens, Permaculture, Regenerative Farming   


We're hosting a range of online learning sessions 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 much more. If you would like to be notified when our next sessions are coming up please add your email below and hit subscribe and we'll be in touch.




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Please Consider Supporting Our Efforts 


Our project grows with our desire to provide better quality information. Our overheads and demands on our time also grow along with our development and this presents a challenge for us to maintain the project and activities. We do not receive any government, institutional or NGO funding for our project and rely on revenue from sales of our courses, plants, consultancy, and design work along with the support of our amazing volunteers to develop and manage the gardens and are very grateful for this. So please consider joining us for a course or event, purchasing products and services from our online store or plants from our bio nursery, participating in our online educational platforms and support the project while we support you. Feeling super generous today? You can also support us directly with a one-time donation or become a sponsor of our project providing monthly support. With your support, we will continue to improve on producing quality information and data for the community, building a world-class demonstration landscape and progress on our mission to develop and promote practices that can produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.

 

We also accept donations via bank transfer in USD - EURO - GBP - AUD - NZD  - (please email for account details) and via peer to peer distributed ledger - BTC - ETH



If you are not in a financial position to purchase our products and services or donate please comment, like and share our work. This helps us to spread our work further afield and is much appreciated.


Sunday, 26 January 2020

Balkan Ecology Project - Finalist for 2019 Permaculture Magazine Prize

In 2019 our project was nominated as a finalist for The Permaculture Magazine Prize Fund. We did not win a prize but we're grateful to be included and grateful for their initiative to fund projects around the world.   Here's the article about our project that appeared on their website. For more details on the projects that won and on the prize fund see here.

The Balkan Ecology Project - Monday, 6th January 2020

Paul Alfrey shares the story behind the Balkan Ecology Project, creating polyculture trials, an abundant market garden and their work with permaculture. One of the 2019 Permaculture Magazine Prize finalists.



The Balkan Ecology Project is a family-run project, founded in 2010. The main aim being to develop and promote practices that provide food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity. Running and overseeing the project are Paul and Sophie, a couple originally from the UK and their then two young children Dylan and Archie - more about us here.

In the beginning…


Having spent some seasons here, charmed by the relaxed pace of life, climate and natural beauty of rural Bulgaria, we eventually decided to stay. The environment seemed ideal for bringing up our two sons at the time aged 5 and 3, and living in Bulgaria provided us with the time to develop our interests without the pressures of running a business seven days a week, meeting mortgage payments, and generally living the life that is somewhat inevitable when trying to make ends meet in a London suburb.

Southeast Europe, Bulgaria - Shipka. The home of our project


Introducing Permaculture


Coming from a manicured and highly managed part of the UK it was a real pleasure to observe the wildness of a landscape and how this intermingled with residential and commercial areas and the high levels of biodiversity associated with this. It was also very inspiring to see how many of our neighbours produced large quantities of food including fruits, vegetables, meat and diary, and how remarkably tasty the food was. It was around this time that a friend who had recently returned from a Geoff Lawton course gave us The Permaculture Home Garden by Linda Woodrow. Read during a winter when back in the UK, this book changed how we started to view gardening. Returning to Bulgaria the following spring, and fully inspired, we set out to permaculture our gardens!

The home garden - inspired by Linda Woodrow - The Permaculture Home Garden  

How the Project Evolved


After a few years in Bulgaria, it became clear that as the country integrated into the EU and with EU funded backed agricultural practices, the ecology around us was deteriorating due to the shift in land management. We started to consider the possibilities of how food production could be achieved while enhancing biodiversity and embarked on purchasing land around us to prevent it from being used for industrial agricultural purposes.

Approximately 4.5 hectares of land is now owned by the project, much of which is divided up into scattered plots. This means that effectively a much larger area of 53.5 ha is essentially protected because these plots break up large areas of land that may otherwise be earmarked for industrial agriculture. You can see a map of our project gardens here. The wonderful diversity of wild flora and fauna coupled with an extraordinary quantity of heritage fruit and nut trees on some of these plots are now much more likely to survive for the local community and future generations to enjoy.

Some of these plots, we realized, were perfect to start experimental designs on to really examine how we might achieve food production while enhancing biodiversity. A lot of the plants and trees selected for the design process could not be easily sourced within Bulgaria or Europe at the time and were expensive so we began to grow the plants and trees that we wanted to experiment with ourselves. Excess plants from our nursery formed the foundation of our plant nursery, which has evolved to now include not just individual plants but communities of plants for forest gardens. You can find our list of plants for forest gardens here. We are pleased and proud to have sent our plants to farms and gardens all over Europe.

You can visit our Online Store where you can find Forest Garden/ Permaculture Plants, Seeds, Cuttings, Bulbs, Rhizomes and Polyculture Multi-packs along with digital goods and services such as Online Courses, Webinars, eBooks, and Online Consultancy and a Bulk Fruit and Nut Tree order form for Farms, Orchards, Nurseries, and Large Regenerative Landscape Project. Enter Our Store Here

Plants, Seeds, eBooks, Consultancy, Bulk Fruit and Nut Tree Orders for Permaculture, Polyculture, Forest Gardens and Regenerative Landscapes.


Research and Trials - The Polyculture Project


To communicate our vision with other growers, specifically farmers and landowners, it became clear that we would need working examples of productive and biodiverse cultures and experimental data to share. Rather surprisingly, it was difficult to find any data to support many of the practices advocated within the main permaculture literature, so we started to gather some ourselves and The Polyculture Project was born.

Thanks to the regular participation of volunteers, interns and specialists that join us for our polyculture study every year from April – September, we are able to establish and maintain new trial and demonstration gardens where we aim to test various popular permaculture practices and publish our results online, sharing what does and does not work. Our trials include how productive polycultures can be, what are the best plants for biomass and fertility, and we undertake wildlife surveys specifically insect and bird diversity in and around the gardens.


We publish all the data that is gathered from the trial gardens on our website and blog in order to provide a broad guide as to what can be expected for other growers and, more crucially, to inspire further amateur and professional research and study in this area. In our opinion, the more people that try out ways of producing food that encourages biodiversity the better. You can find our results here  and more about our six month study and internships here.  Our work is pertinent to anyone growing in Temperate, Mediterranean and Subtropical climate of the planet.

The Perennial Polyculture Trial Garden in Year 2


Courses and Education


Since the early days we have invited people to come, learn and take part in our project by attending courses and events. Ranging from the early days of Permablitz weekends to 72 hour PDC courses. We now mainly offer three day Design and Build a Forest Garden Course where participants have the opportunity to experience the process of design from the initial survey to actually installing some of the main design features into the landscape. It’s a great opportunity to network and connect with like-minded individuals and groups, share our experiences and develop new gardens for the project.



For the Future…


We feel optimistic about the future of the project where we aspire to continue our research and grow our demonstration gardens to become a world class example of a regenerative landscape. We aim to provide information and models for large-scale land management as well as small-scale home and community gardens.

We make no claims that our methods can feed the world, but we do claim that anyone can grow polycultures, and by doing so they are taking a small yet likely significant step in reversing at least a small portion of the damage that industrial agriculture creates. We thoroughly enjoy both the design and work in our gardens and highly recommend it to anyone looking for an intellectual pursuit as well as a physical one. It’s a bit like working on a 3D amorphous puzzle, just one that you may eat.

Lastly, we are eternally grateful to friends, family, volunteers, donors and our customers that support us and help us on our mission to develop and promote practices that provide nutritious affordable food while enhancing biodiversity.


Upcoming Forest Garden Courses 


If you would like to create a forest garden and gain some practical hands-on experience come and join us for our Design and Build a Forest Garden Course. 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 course is now open with a 15% discount on accommodation and food fees when you register as a group (2 or more). You can also take advantage of early booking discounts if you book 3 months before the course starts.


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Please Consider Supporting Our Efforts 


Our project grows with our desire to provide better quality information. Our overheads and demands on our time also grow along with our development and this presents a challenge for us to maintain the project and activities. We do not receive any government, institutional or NGO funding for our project and rely on revenue from sales of our courses, plants, consultancy, and design work along with the support of our amazing volunteers to develop and manage the gardens and are very grateful for this. So please consider joining us for a course or event, purchasing products and services from our online store or plants from our bio nursery, participating in our online educational platforms and support the project while we support you. Feeling super generous today? You can also support us directly with a one-time donation or become a sponsor of our project providing monthly support. With your support, we will continue to improve on producing quality information and data for the community, building a world-class demonstration landscape and progress on our mission to develop and promote practices that can produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.

 

We also accept donations via bank transfer in USD - EURO - GBP - AUD - NZD  - (please email for account details) and via peer to peer distributed ledger - BTC - ETH



If you are not in a financial position to purchase our products and services or donate please comment, like and share our work. This helps us to spread our work further afield and is much appreciated.

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Would you like to be involved in the project next season?  1-6 month placements on our polyculture study are now open. 


Permaculture and Regenerative Design Internships


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We offer a diversity of plants and seeds for permaculture, forest gardens and regenerative landscapes including a range of fruit and nut cultivars. We Deliver all over Europe from Nov - March. - Give a happy plant a happy home :)


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Saturday, 25 January 2020

Japanese Persimmon - The Essential Guide to Probably Everything you Need to Know about Growing Persimmon

Highly regarded in Eastern culture for thousands of years, the Persimmon has rightly so started to gain more appreciation in the West. Whether on the tree, or suddenly appearing in the fruit isles of your stores and markets, the bright and cheerful fruits of Persimmon provide a welcome dazzle to the winter. Being easy to grow, producing a reliable crop of delicious fruits, and generally untroubled by pests and diseases, this is a perfect tree for permaculture and forest gardens. During this post we’ll take a close look at these incredible plants, including how to grow them, their many uses, growing them in polycultures and permaculture settings, and I’ll introduce some lovely pest and disease resistant cultivars that we are offering from the bio nursery this season.

Persimmon - Diospyrus kaki for Permaculture and Polycultures


Overview


Persimmon belongs to the Genus Diospyros a part of the family Ebenaceae, a family well represented in tropical Africa and Asia. The plants were evidently given the nod of approval from our Greek ancestors, as the name we use for the genus today was how the Greeks referred to the plant, with Dios meaning divine. The plants are thought to have been consumed as a food source long before the Hellenistic period, way back in the prehistoric era in the far east, where they today remain a highly favoured fruit, with over a thousand different cultivars in existence.

The genus Diospyros contains almost 400 species, but when we speak of Persimmon there are generally three species we are referring to; Diospyros virginiana (D.virginiana) is the species native to North America -  hence its common name American persimmon; Diospyros lotus - Date Plum is of central Asian descent, and;  Diospyros kaki (D.kaki)refers to Japanese persimmon, which is actually thought to be native to China! There is also a fair bit of hybridization between these species.

An easy way to tell the plants apart when not in fruit is by the leaves. D.kaki has significantly rounder leaves in comparison to the other two species, while D.lotus has glossy leaves.  Both D.lotus and D. virginiana have leaves that are lance-shaped.



All species are relatively easy to grow, mostly free from pests and diseases and crop reliably.       
D. virginiana is not generally considered a commercial crop, although they are very productive. The fruit of  D. virginiana is smaller (plum sized) than that of D. kaki (peach sized) and it reportedly has a uniquely rich texture with a high sugar content, tolerating much lower temperatures than D.kaki and D.lotus. For gardens with very cold winters of USDA hardiness 5 or lower, D. virginiana is probably the only persimmon you will be able to grow. D.lotus aka Date Plum is a great plant for warmer climes, also with small and abundant fruits. My only experience of the fruit has been a positive one, picking them dry from the tree in December in the Pontic mountains of North Turkey. They tasted very date like and plummy indeed. 


Diospyros spp. Fruits and Leaves - D.virginiana photo from www.plantsmap.com/plants/5577

The fruit you are likely to be most familiar with in the stores is that of Diospyros kaki - Japanese Persimmon. The fruit of D. kaki is delicate, luxurious and juicy with a gelatinous texture. There are 1000's of cultivars that are classified into two general groups: astringent and non-astringent. The astringent cultivars need to entirely soften before being palatable and are generally picked hard and ripened indoors, whereas the non-astringent fruit will ripen hard and can be picked off the tree ready to eat like an apple. If your only experience of eating persimmon is of an unripe astringent cultivar plucked from a tree in late Autumn, I'm sure you never intend to try one again and are completely perplexed by why anyone would even consider eating such repugnance. I encourage you to try again with a ripe and ready fruit :) Seeing as almost all commercial production today is of D. kaki, this species will be the subject of this post.

Diospyros kaki ripening on our tree in late November

Japanese Persimmon- Diospyros kaki


Latin name - Diospyros kaki
Common name -  Japanese Persimmon, Kaki Tree, Sharon Fruit, Fruit of Sharon. The Bulgarian name - "Pайска ябълка" meaning "heavenly apple" seems an appropriate title.
Family -  Ebenaceae

History -  The origins of D.kaki are thought to be in China where it has been cultivated for over two thousand years. The plants spread to neighbouring countries including Japan around the eighth century AD, where it still enjoys celebrity status with the dried fruits being used as decorations during the New Year holiday. It would have found its way into the middle east and Eastern Europe with traders, no doubt, and was highly valued in those lands, where it is still commonly grown today. By the late 1700's, cultivation had begun in Western Europe and at some point in the mid-1800's, it was being grown in California.

Bertha Lum - 1934 - Persimmon market - Japan

As mentioned above, cultivars of D.kaki are categorized as astringent and non-astringent. It's interesting to note that all original cultivars were astringent until a mutant tree arose at some point in Japan that produced non-astringent fruits. This chance occurrence triggered breeding programs around the world for non-astringent cultivars. One famous example of a somewhat modern non-astringent cultivar is the Israeli cultivar 'Triumph' that was marketed as Sharon Fruit after the Sharon Plain in Israel, where the plants are commercially grown.

Growing range - Indigenous to the mountainous regions of China, and possibly through to Japan and Korea, today Persimmon are cultivated all over the world in a wide range of climate conditions that range from subtropical coastal regions, to warm inland temperate areas  Around 70% of the production today remains in China. Some reports say Persimmon are found wild in China, growing up to 2400 m (8000 ft) altitude. The bulk of commercial cultivation in Europe takes place in Italy.

Diospyros kaki - Persimmon - Native Range - UCONN

Description
-   Growing at a medium rate, D.kaki can reach 9-12  m in height and 8 m in width. A multi-trunked or single-stemmed deciduous tree, it can definitely be described as ornamental with a tropical twist. Its life span is thought to be around 40 - 60 years. The fruits somewhat resemble a bizarre cross between a tomato and a pumpkin and remain on the trees like lanterns long after the strikingly beautiful autumn leaves have dropped. Leaves in the growing season are alternate, simple, ovate and up to 18 cm long and 10 cm wide. Autumn colors are quite breathtaking.


 Photos by @5imonapo Flickr

Sexual Reproduction - The species is mainly dioecious, which means that each individual tree is either male or female. The pollen from the flowers on the male tree should be carried via insects (generally bees) to the flowers on the female tree for the fruit to set, however, many popular cultivars are parthenocarpic which means that they only produce female flowers and will set seedless fruit without pollination.  When growing these cultivars there is no need to be concerned about the plant's gender, however, they will benefit from (and in some cases will need) the pollen from another cultivar, so growing multiple cultivars is recommended. Female flowers are single and cream-colored, while the male flowers are typically borne in clusters of threes, with a pink tinge to them. If growing trees from seed, it may take five years for your tree to bloom before you can clearly identify which gender your tree is.

Diospyros kaki - Female flowers of a parthenocarpic cultivar in our garden

There is not much in life more useful than a seed, but the Persimmon seed takes it to another level. Give up the complex computer modeling, sack the legions of climate scientists, and forget launching satellites into the thermosphere to gather meteorological data. Instead, forecast your winter weather by breaking into a Persimmon fruit once it is soft, removing the seeds, and slicing them down the middle to see which piece of cutlery is best represented!  If it looks like a fork, winter will be mild;  a spoon, there will be a lot of snow; and if you see a knife shape, winter will be brutally cold. Can someone please tell the World Meteorological Organization? ;)

Image from https://www.hoosierweather.com/weather_lore.php

Light Preferences - Persimmon prefers full sun, but can tolerate light shade. We have an excellent plant growing next to, and partially under, Juglans regia - Persian Walnut in the garden of our crew house. You can see the two trees in the below image. The main trunk of  Diospyros kaki - Japanese Persimmon is approx 5 m away from the main trunk of the  Juglans regia - Persian Walnut, and both trees are thriving so far. We may need to lift the lower limbs of the Walnut in the future to make some space, but otherwise they both appear quite comfortable. More on this polyculture later.



Water needs - D.kaki can tolerate drought fairly well, but you will get the best fruits when the tree is properly irrigated during drier periods.  Like most fruit trees, it's very important that it receives enough water during the flowering period and during fruit swell.  We sometimes can have periods of up to 12 weeks without rain and do not irrigate our tree, but our tree is mature with an established deep taproot that can harvest water from depth. Newly planted trees will certainly require more care and attention for the first 3 - 5 years.

Habitat and Biodiversity - The flowers are attractive to a range of pollinators, including honey bees and bumblebees, and the fruits provide a great source of winter food for birds. We always leave some on the tree as provision for the birds.

Hardiness - USDA 7 - 9 -  D.kaki does best in areas that have moderate winters and relatively mild summers. We have an astringent variety in the garden of the crew house that must be at least 20 years old and survives our winters, experiencing extreme lows of -20 degrees C and producing well. The plant is located near the house and sheltered from the northerly winter winds, so this may be contributing to its success.


Where to Plant



Climatic Limitations - Persimmons have proved to be highly adaptable to a wide range of climate conditions, ranging from subtropical coastal regions to warm inland temperate areas, but it may not fruit in tropical lowlands due to lack of winter chill. The plant is considered suitable for all zones favourable to citrus, but those zones with the coldest winters induce the highest yields. It is suited to semi-arid and high humidity atmosphere and can be grown at altitude 0- 2500 m. The plants are not very tolerant of the wind.

Soil - Persimmons have a reputation for being very easy to grow, tolerating many conditions. They do well in a wide range of soil types, but favour deep, well-drained loam soils with a good supply of organic matter. Heavy clay loam soils that are prone to water-logging should be avoided. Optimum tree growth is in the range of pH 6.0–7.5.

Location - The main thing to consider when choosing a spot for your tree is that it should receive a good amount of light, ideally  6-8 hours per day during the summer.  Care should be taken to protect from strong winds. You should also consider the fact that you will need space to climb the tree to harvest the fruits. Different cultivars grow to different heights, so consider the height and spread of the Persimmon you want to grow, and make sure there is enough room for the tree to reach maturity.

Pollination/Fertilisation - Most Persimmon cultivars are female trees that can produce seedless fruits in the absence of male plants but as mentioned above it's best to grow a few cultivars to encourage better yields. It is worth noting that sometimes inconsistencies occur and occasionally male flowers may arise on female trees, or perfect flowers may transpire containing male and female parts that self-pollinate. Generally speaking, two weeks after the leaves emerge from buds, flowers should appear. Bees are the main pollenizers for Persimmon trees, and some native bees will successfully transport pollen between trees a hundred meters away.

As a side note and testament to the resilience of these plants, following the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki in 1945, where all else was destroyed a  D.kaki tree miraculously survived, albeit scorched and weak. Fifty years after the bombing, Mr. Masayuki Ebinuma, an arborist who lived in the area, treated the damaged tree, and it started to bear fruit. Mr. Ebinuma saved seeds from the fruits and carefully grew them and has started to hand them out as a symbol of peace. You can find more info on this wonderful project here. I've just applied for some seeds :)



Feeding, Irrigation and Care



Feeding - Most trees do well without feeding once established, but when planting out we always add 20 -30 L of compost to the soil surface and a thick layer of straw mulch atop the compost. It's good to pull the mulch 10 -15 cm away from the trunk during the winter to keep moisture from accumulating next to the trunk and rotting the collar.

Planting -  The optimum time to plant trees is in the autumn, as the roots have time to settle and the tree can put on growth more quickly come the springtime, but it is also perfectly acceptable to plant out in spring before the tree breaks dormancy. The best plants to use are bare rooted 2nd year on the graft trees that have only been transplanted once before. D.kaki has a long taproot which is sensitive, and care should be taken when transplanting, as any damage done can be slow to heal.  When planting or transplanting don't be alarmed if you notice that your tree has black roots - it is quite normal and doesn't necessarily indicate that the health of the tree is compromised.

We have a range of excellent cultivars available from our Nursery that should start to fruit and flower 2 - 3 years after planting. We can deliver to anywhere in Europe from late November - early April. Click on the banner below for cultivar details and send us an email balkanecologyproject@gmail.com to reserve your plants or place an order.

Persimmon - Diospyros kaki for permaculture gardens/forest gardens/regenerative landscapes 

It's worth mentioning here that newly transplanted young Persimmons may not leaf out until June in the first season after planting. Taking that further, while researching this blog post I came across a forum where some growers described their newly planted Persimmon trees remaining completely dormant the first year after planting, but leafing out without problem in the second year. On another occasion when planting out a Persimmon cultivar, we saw plenty of growth from the base of the plant, but nothing above the graft. After a while when the leaves developed on the new growth, I could see that the tree was grafted onto Diospyros virginiana - American persimmon, and the graft had not taken.

Weeding - Mulching plants with a 10 -20 cm deep layer each spring, and pulling weeds that start to grow through in the summer is good practice when the plants are young. As the trees mature, they grow well among other plants of all kinds and weeding is not necessary as a standard practice.

Pruning - Before pruning Persimmons, you should know that flower buds and fruit are borne in the autumn and will be ready to bloom during the following spring. Cutting back the tips of branches will, therefore, remove the flowering buds and consequently the fruit.

Persimmon trees are known for being generous and can bear fruit prolifically, but this can be too much of a good thing and cause the branches to break. Any broken branches should be removed to reduce the risk of infection. If a tree becomes too tall, picking fruit may become difficult and thinning out the taller limbs may be necessary.

Harvesting -  The non-astringent cultivars produce fruits that can be eaten straight off the tree, but the astringent types should be picked to ripen inside at room temperature on a windowsill. When they soften they can be enjoyed by eating the pulp with a spoon, rather like eating yogurt from a pot. We harvest our astringent fruits in late autumn when the fruits are yellow-orange. When you gently press the side of the fruit and leave a dent, it is ready to eat.  It should be so soft that picking it up risks rupturing the skin. If you are in a hurry to eat your heavenly parcels of goodness, I've read that placing the fruit into a paper bag along with an apple speeds up the ripening process. As I write, I am trying this method out in comparison with leaving some fruits on a windowsill.

Persimmon fruits ripening inside

Propagation - You can propagate from seed, but there is no telling what the fruit will be like so grafting is the most common method of propagation for these plants. You can use the seed to grow rootstocks, and if so it's best to use fresh seed collected in the autumn and sow immediately outside or in a cold room.  Germination usually takes between 2 - 3 weeks following 60 - 90 days of cold stratification.

Grafting should be conducted during the dormant period, before vegetative growth begins, on rootstocks with stems at least 1 cm in diameter.  The scion wood should be about 12 cm long with 2 to 4 buds. Three rootstocks are generally used - D. kaki - most preferred and compatible with all cultivars, D.virginiana - Tolerant to drought and waterlogging and D.lotus that is incompatible with nonastringent cultivars.

As with most fruit trees, there is a very low success rate for hardwood and softwood cuttings.


Potential Problems



Pests and Disease - Persimmons have few serious disease or pests  - another favourable attribute -  but listed here are two well-known causes of illness in Persimmons, neither of which I have personally experienced:
  • Crown Gall - rounded growths or galls can develop on the Persimmon’s branches, caused by the bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens, which enters the plant through wounds in roots or stems, and stimulates the plant tissues to grow in an distorted way. The roots also develop similar galls or tumors which harden. The risk of your tree becoming infected is minimized by pruning in the dormant season.
  • Anthracnose - A fungal disease, thriving in wet conditions, and often appearing in spring targeting the vulnerable newly formed growth including twigs, leaves and fruits. Identifiable by tiny black spots that appear on the leaves and then develop into larger lesions. The tree may lose its leaves starting at the bottom branches. Clearing leaf fall and autumn debris, as well as pruning back, is thought to help control this condition as the fungus overwinters in the twigs and bark.
  • Branch break can be a problem during years of bumper crops. As the fruits mature the excessive weight can snap out large limbs. This can be avoided by pruning out the smaller fruits when you see the tree is full of them. This can also help reduce the risk of receiving no fruit the following year.    

Persimmon Uses


Fruit -  Astringent varieties when left to ripen to be almost at the point of turning rotten often develop a very good flavor that is far superior to non-astringent forms. However, astringent varieties can also benefit from being left to become softer. The dried fruits are very popular and seedless fruits are excellent for drying whole. D.kaki fruits are nutrient-dense - a good source of Magnesium, Calcium, and Phosphorus as well as high in Vitamins A and C.

See the table below fon depth analysis of nutrients:
Persimmon fruit nutrition profile, Japanese, fresh, Value per 100 g. (Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
PrincipleNutrient ValuePercentage of RDA
Energy70 Kcal3.5%
Carbohydrates18.59 g14%
Protein0.58 g1%
TotalFat0.19g1%
Cholesterol0 g0%
Dietary Fiber3.6 g9.5%
Vitamins
Choline7.6 mg1.5%
Folates8 µg2%
Niacin0.100 mg1%
Pyridoxine0.100 mg7.5%
Riboflavin0.020 mg1.5%
Thiamin0.030 mg2.5%
Vitamin C7.5 mg12.5%
Vitamin A81 IU3%
Vitamin E0.73 mg5%
Vitamin K2.6 µg2%
Electrolytes
Sodium1 mg0%
Potassium161 mg2.5%
Minerals
Calcium8 mg0.8%
Copper0.113 mg12.5%
Iron0.15 mg2%
Magnesium9 mg2%
Manganese0.355 mg15%
Phosphorus17 mg4.5%
Zinc0.11 mg1%
Phyto-nutrients
Carotene-a0 µg--
Carotene-ß253 µg--
Crypto-xanthin-ß1447 µg--
Lutein-zeaxanthin834 µg--
Lycopene159 µg--

                                     
Wood  - Persimmon wood is very strong, but also has a very high shrinkage rate meaning it can move and be unsuitable for structural construction. It is used in woodturning, and used to be very popular in the production of golf heads when wooden clubs were used. Persimmon wood is used for paneling in traditional Korean and Japanese furniture. More specific information about the properties of Persimmon wood can be found at The Wood Database.

Erosion control: A potentially useful species for small scale erosion control due to its deep taproot. You would probably not use cultivars for this type of planting, but plants grown from seed may be worth trying.

Animal Fodder - The fruits are very nutritious and farm animals relish them, especially pigs, however, the leaves are not palatable and animals seldom eat them or damage newly planted specimens.

Leaves -  Persimmon leaves are high in fiber, vitamin C, amino acids, magnesium, and contain tannins which can help digestion. While researching this blog I was surprised to learn that Persimmon leaves are sometimes used in Sushi dishes. More commonly, though. they are often used as a tea. The leaves can be steeped in boiling water in both fresh or dried forms, and are said to be good for metabolism.



Landscaping - Persimmon naturally adopts a dome or pyramidal behavior, with a rather expanded crown and high ramification. This makes it is possible to train the tree to grow using techniques that align with this natural tendency.  Vigorous and semi-dwarf cultivars are suitable for espalier specifically palmette training, if wire supports are provided, particularly in exposed situations. Such systems have the advantage of reducing wind damage to branches and fruit, and possibly encouraging earlier production and even higher yields.

Biodiversity - I've not looked too closely at the organisms attracted to Persimmon, but for sure bees and other pollinators feed on the flowers and nectar, while birds will feed on fruits left on the trees over winter. The crowns are quite open, and I've not seen any nesting going on in the trees. Flowers typically bloom in May making Persimmon a fairly late emerger in the spring. This means the tree offers pollen to bees at a time when most other fruit tree flowers have finished.

Hedging - I've not seen or tried these plants in a hedge, but I see no reason why some of the smaller cultivars would not be very suitable, so long as they are reasonably well protected from any prevailing winds. They take well to pruning, and have largish leaves that would provide an attractive screen from late spring to autumn.

Medicinal uses - D.kaki have high anti-oxidant activity, but this is variable and cultivar specific. Some astringent varieties show a very high antioxidant activity and may help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes and a wide range of cancers. They have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body which can only be a good thing as inflammation is one of the major factors in the development of more serious and chronic conditions. Here's something worth knowing - Persimmon apparently appears to alter and reduce the rate of alcohol absorption and metabolism, and thus improve the symptoms of a hangover :) The fruit is used for a variety of medicinal purposes, that interestingly, depend upon its state of ripeness. For example, juice from the unripe fruit is said to be helpful in treating hypertension, while dried ripe fruit is used to help bronchial complaints.


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Persimmon Yields


D.kaki reaches peak production at 10 - 11 years, but can continue to be very productive for decades. Eight-year-old trees can be expected to yield 20 - 40 kg of fruit per tree, and a fully grown tree from 150-250 kg.



Persimmon Polycultures 


D.kaki has great potential for use in polycultures. The fact that they break out into leaf fairly late can be used as an advantage while planning a polyculture, and this along with the tree crown breaking quite high means there can be a shrub layer incorporated into the design. These features also offer a decent opportunity for spring greens to be grown in the herb layer.

They are a fairly slow-growing tree, which also means they can be interplanted for the first 12 years or so with annual crops, or other fruit and nut trees and shrubs.

We've been including Persimmon in more and more polycultures in our gardens, however I'm not yet convinced Diospryos kaki can handle the cold of our winters in the exposed areas of the garden, and we have lost a few plants over the years. The most promising demonstration of how these plants can be grown in a polyculture that I've seen is from two older trees  -  one in the garden of our crew house, and the other a fine specimen in our neighbour's garden. We're also trying Persimmon out in our polyculture orchard (see below).

Persimmon with Walnut and Fig

The Persimmon tree in the garden of the crew house grows quite happily next to a 20-year-old Juglans regia tree and shows no adverse effects from this. To the rear of the Persimmon is a mature Ficus carica which also appears to be flourishing. The below illustration shows the placement of these plants. 


I've not included the layers beneath the trees as the area close to the house is paved and there is seating area directly under the Persimmon. However, the west side of the Persimmon has a number of shrubs in a hedge and a diversity of herbs growing at the base. The Prunus persica is self-seeded and not at all productive, so we'll probably remove that next season and add currants and raspberries in this area. 



Persimmon in our Polyculture Orchard 

Last year we planted three cultivars in our polyculture orchard; 'Hyakume', 'Costata' and 'Hira Tanenashi' as shown in the illustration below. The good news about planting Persimmon in polyculture orchard is that being late-flowering, they will not compete with other fruit trees for pollination and will provide a succession of forage for pollinators in the garden. In this particular design, we are growing Hazel Corylus spp. in between each fruit tree as a lower canopy layer. The fruit trees are planted 4 m apart, and we have selected semi- vigorous rootstocks for each plant. The understory is left for wild native plants, including a range of herbaceous nitrogen fixers such as Lotus corniculatus, Trifolium spp. and Vicia spp. 



A photo of the newly planted orchard in the Spring. Thanks Ronan Delente from Perennial VISION Pérenne  for the photo. 


If you would like to learn how to design, build and manage polycultures such as the ones above we've just launched our very first Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course -  How to Design, Build and Manage Polycultures for Landscapes, Gardens, and Farms.

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Regenerative Landscape Design Online Course

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Persimmon Cultivars — Hardy and Resistant to Major Pests and Diseases from our Nursery.


Persimmon - Diospyros kaki for permaculture and Forest Gardens 

We have a small selection of cultivars that are high yielding with an excellent taste, and virtually resistant to disease and pests. Our plants are 2nd year on the graft bare roots with an approximate height of 100 - 120cm (depending on cultivar).  ​​€15 per tree, with delivery available from late November - late March, to pretty much anywhere in Europe.

Email balkanecologyproject@gmail.com to place an order.



Persimmon - Diospyros kaki 'Costata'



Description: Astringent
Root stock: D.kaki
Fruiting Period: October - November
Storage: Fruit keeps very well
Pollination: Pollination beneficial, but not necessary
Disease Resistance: Good





Persimmon - Diospyros kaki 'Fuyu'



Description: Non Astringent
Root stock: D.kaki
Fruiting Period: November - December
Storage: Fruit stores and transports well
Pollination: Self fertile
Disease Resistance: Good​





Persimmon - Diospyros kaki 'Hyakume'

Description: Non Astringent
Root stock: D.kaki
Fruiting Period: October - December
Storage: Usually ripens off the tree in 2 - 6 weeks
Pollination: Requires cross pollination
Disease Resistance: Good



Classification of Persimmon Cultivars


If you are looking to grow persimmon commercially, or just love being nerdy, it's well worth digging a little deeper on how the cultivars are classified.

Parfitt et al, 2015 have made the following classification system;

Pollination-Constant Non-Astringent (PCNA),
Pollination-Variant Non-Astringent (PVNA),
Pollination-Variant Astringent (PVA) and;
Pollination-Constant Astringent (PCA) taken from Parfitt et al, 2015

Astringent varieties such as Hachiya, Eureka and Honan Red can only be eaten when ripe because they contain water-soluble tannin in the flesh and are inedible until soft. When ripe they have almost a translucent quality to their colour, turning a deep, dark and dusky shade of orange when they are ready to eat. As the fruits tend to ripen at different times, the standard practice is to harvest all the fruit and allow them to ripen inside at room temperature. As a rule of thumb, the astringent cultivars are somewhat hardier and ripen more well in cooler climates than the non-astringent cultivars.

Non-astringent varieties such as Fuyu, Gosho and Imoto can be eaten when firm, as the tannin content is greatly reduced the moment the fruit turns from green to orange. Non-astringent cultivars have lost their astringency by maturity and can be eaten crisp like an apple or at various stages of softness. Non-astringent cultivars generally require a warmer climate and do not ripen in cooler areas.

Now in terms of the pollination aspect of the classification system, technically speaking it is actually the seeds, and the amount of ethanol in them and not the act of pollination itself, that influences the fruit. The simplest way to understand it is that the presence of seeds (through pollination) can change the colour of the fruit's flesh thus altering its astringency status. Pollination constant cultivars retain their original flesh color, while the flesh of pollination variant cultivars becomes darker when seeded.

To make things even more interesting, some Pollination Variant Varieties (by definition astringent when seedless) also include those that are astringent when they have several seeds, and partially or totally non-astringent when they have only one or a few seeds. Thankfully, most D.kaki will fruit without pollination (Parthenocarpic - setting seedless fruit without pollination), but if you are thinking about becoming a serious producer of Persimmon, it's worth doing more research on this.

The shape of the fruit also varies with cultivars, ranging from spherical to acorn shaped, or even flattened. The colour of the fruit also varies from light yellow to blood orange-red. In all cultivars, the entire fruit is edible except the seed and the calyx.


If you are would like to learn how to  Design and Build A Forest Garden ,we have a webinar coming up on the 28th November 2020 - 19.00 GMT+3.  It's a live session where we'll go through step by step what you need to know to get started and end with a Q&A session. We'll send you a recording of the webinar when it is finished along with our design spreadsheets and plant lists to help get you started with your own Forest Garden Design.  

The webinar will be hosted on zoom and you can book your place here - Looking forward to it!

How to Design and Build A Forest Garden - Webinar




Please Consider Supporting Our Efforts 


Our project grows with our desire to provide better quality information. Our overheads and demands on our time also grow along with our development, and this presents a challenge for us to maintain the project and activities. We do not receive any government, institutional or NGO funding for our project and rely on revenue from sales of our courses, plants, consultancy, and design work along with the support of our amazing volunteers to develop and manage the gardens and are very grateful for this. So please consider joining us for a course or event, purchasing products and services from our online store or plants from our bio nursery, participating in our online educational platforms and support the project while we support you. Feeling super generous today? You can also support us directly with a one-time donation or become a sponsor of our project providing monthly support. With your support, we will continue to improve on producing quality information and data for the community, building a world-class demonstration landscape and progress on our mission to develop and promote practices that can produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.

 

We also accept donations via bank transfer in USD - EURO - GBP - AUD - NZD  - (please email for account details) and via peer to peer distributed ledger - BTC - ETH



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Would you like to be involved in the project next season?  1-6 month placements on our polyculture study are now open. 


Permaculture and Regenerative Design Internships


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We offer a diversity of plants and seeds for permaculture, forest gardens and regenerative landscapes including a range of fruit and nut cultivars. We Deliver all over Europe from Nov - March. - Give a happy plant a happy home :)


Our Bio-Nursery - Permaculture/Polyculture/ Regenerative Landscape Plants 


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Design and Create Webinars - Forest Gardens, Urban Gardens, Permaculture, Regenerative Farming   


We're hosting a range of online learning sessions 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 much more. If you would like to be notified when our next sessions are coming up please add your email below and hit subscribe and we'll be in touch.




You can also register for our online training, services, and products directly here.

References


https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/119517/persimmon-growing.pdf
https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/persimmon-fruit.html
https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/fruits/persimmon/growing-persimmon-trees.htm
https://harvesttotable.com/how-to-plant-grow-prune-and-harvest-persimmons/
https://www.growables.org/information/TropicalFruit/persimmonvarieties.htm
https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/japanese_persimmon.html
https://www.intechopen.com/books/breeding-and-health-benefits-of-fruit-and-nut-crops/genetic-diversity-and-breeding-of-persimmon
https://homeguides.sfgate.com/persimmons-need-pollinated-59104.html
https://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/persimmon.html
https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2000-nov-08-fo-48529-story.html
http://www.thebigfoody.com/about-us/blog/a-little-known-fruit-the-persimmon
https://books.google.bg/books?id=H0JZDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA213&lpg=PA213&dq=when+did+persimmon+arrive+in+japan+from+china&source=bl&ots=kSvmwJ0NnJ&sig=ACfU3U1BxSm-c05ixdSI8EIdQOZavpDk9A&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwim5a_LnoDmAhVOcZoKHWBPBzMQ6AEwC3oECAsQAQ#v=onepage&q=when%20did%20persimmon%20arrive%20in%20japan%20from%20china&f=false
http://fruitandnuteducation.ucdavis.edu/fruitnutproduction/Persimmon/Persimmon_Propagation/
http://www.globalsciencebooks.info/Online/GSBOnline/images/0812/AAJPSB_2(1&2)/AAJPSB_2(2)50-54o.pdf
http://om.iamm.fr/om/pdf/a51/02600061.pdf
https://www.slideshare.net/AndrewMyrthong/persimmon-49928879
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/29660406_Health_and_medicinal_benefits_of_persimmon_fruit_A_review
https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/119517/persimmon-growing.pdf
https://www.heritagefruittrees.com.au/all-about-persimmon/
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S030442381830596X