Thursday 16 April 2020

Forest Garden Plants, Perennial Polycultures, Green Manures and Raised Beds - Week 4 - The Polyculture Project

Halfway through April already and with the last of our plant orders out to our customers it's great to be spending more time in the gardens where everything seems to make perfect sense.

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

We spent a morning in Aponia earlier this week. This is usually the garden we run our annual polyculture trials but this year seeing as we don't have our team with us we're going to focus all of the vegetable production in the home gardens and will be maintaining the forest garden in Aponia along with some of the perennial vegetable beds. We are hoping to record all of the fruit, nut and perennial vegetable harvests from the forest garden this year, something I've been meaning to do for many years. 

Prunus persica - Wild Peach sowed from seed 6 years ago is showing off in the afternoon sun. We've not had much fruit from this tree yet but hoping this will be the year this young plant hits its stride. 


The raised beds in Aponia with Paulownia tomentosa - Foxglove Tree in the beds on the right. We leave the wild plants to grow in the beds all through late autumn and into the spring and only disturb them when we are planting out the vegetables. If we have time we may plant 2 or 3 of the beds with sweetcorn but otherwise, these beds will lay fallow this year.

Muscari neglectumGrape Hyacinth we planted about 5 years ago is spreading beautifully around a support bed we have in the market garden. The 5m2 area is designated to native plants and as well as some early and late flowering species. I like to break up the nursery beds and vegetable beds with these support islands with at least 10% of the land left to wild.


Our perennial polyculture is doing well in the forest garden. We have two rows of currants one Ribes nigrum cv.- Blackcurrant one Ribes rubrum cv. - Red currant with Allium cepa proliferum - Tree Onion planted in between and two Cornus kuosa - Korean Dogwood trees on either side with a Lavandula angustifolia - Lavender planted on the corner. I think we can probably fit in a few  Allium giganteum - Giant Onion among the Currants and a few Symphytum x uplandicum - Comfrey plants that we can use for chop and drop mulch feed.

We've left a variety of wild plants growing around the edges and in a few weeks, I'll take some video of the wildlife that visits the polyculture. So far I'm pleased with how this polyculture is taking shape. Here's the original plan for the polyculture, although we did not plant the strawberry ground cover in the end. Fragaria x ananassa - Strawberry should work well as a ground cover but will probably not produce much fruit given the shade cast by the shrubs.

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Over-head shot of a Prunus tomentosa - Nanking Cherry just finishing up flowering. Looking forward to the fruits from these shrubs around the end of June.

A good example of a tip bearing fruit tree, in this case, a Pear - Pyrus communis 'Early Boliaka'. It's important to understand where the fruit on your tree will form especially if you intend to prune the tree. With a tree such as this if you were to prune all of the main stems down you would not receive any fruit as the fruit blossom are only borne on buds at the tips that develop in the previous Autumn. Some fruit trees will produce fruits from buds on spurs , others on spurs and tips and some such as Prunus armeniaca ​- Apricot 

We added some raised beds to the home garden (Apatheia) in the Autumn for starting our allium nursery (you can find the alliums we're offering here) I meant to add some corner supports to the planks but did not get around to it before I left to Istanbul for the winter but this week we finally got them on. These are the raised beds we built in the spring.

I bought a combination of L shaped corner brackets and regular brackets but the regular square brackets were not large enough.

Here are the L shaped brackets screwed into the raised beds to support the corners. Without these, the weight of the soil and plant roots expanding in the corners will likely cause damage to the corners and pull the planks apart. I'm hoping we get at least 5 years from the pine planks before we need to replace them. 

That's all for this week. 


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