Saturday 25 April 2020

Spring Pruning, Garlic Mustard Ground Cover and Pollinators in the Forest Garden - Week 6 - The Polyculture Project

It's been a beautiful week here in Shipka, lovely weather and bright blue skies. We've been busy in the gardens, getting some late planting-out done, tackling some spring pruning, and preparing the beds for the warm season annual crops.

Our early spring pruning includes some tree and shrub work that did not get done in the Autumn/Winter such as lifting larger limbs of trees and thinning crowns to allow more light through to the lower layers in the forest garden. We're also pruning out some Raspberry canes that will grow back and fruit in late summer but leaving some canes for early June fruits and reducing nitrogen-fixing shrubs and applying the pruned biomass as mulch specifically Spartium junceum - Broom. Now the weather has warmed up we are starting to mow the patches of lawn and wild plants growing on the edges of the raised bed. The lawn trimmings make a great mulch for our young nursery plants. 
Here are the tools we use for pruning, although the loppers and machetes are missing from the photo but otherwise, it's all there. 

Ivy-leaved Toadflax - Cymbalaria muralis a local native has found a place in the garden growing around our outdoor tap area. Such a delicate looking plant capable of growing in the harshest environments on cliff faces and cracks between rocks. It's found a home in our urban architecture and can often be found growing in cracks of pavements. The leaves are evergreen and the plant is in flower from May to September.  The leaves can be eaten but there are some reports of toxicity so I'd only consider this edible if you are starving during a winter.

Crab Apple Blossom an excellent pollinator for most Apple cultivars given its long blooming period. Our tree always producing a good crop of tiny little yellow when ripe apples that make a good nibble in the summer. 

Taraxacum sp. - Dandelion, always a pleasure to meet these beauties in the spring. 

Corylus avellana - Hazelnut that we cut back 3 years ago needs some of the coppice regrowth thinned to allow the straight poles to grow better. We'll use the pruned shoots for kindling and rough mulch in the forest garden.

Liatris spicata - Gayfeather is a new plant I'm trying to grow this year. Here it is emerging from the soil. Welcome to the jungle :) 

I've been encouraging Alliaria petiolata - Garlic mustard to spread around the garden. This biennial plant, a member of Brassicaceae, is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa and makes a great spring ground cover where the soil has been left bare over winter. The leaves are very edible and have a strong mustard flavor. The below photes

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 hows the plants emerging for their first season. 

And here is the plant in it's second year when it flowers, set seeds, and exits the scene. The flowers are very attractive to a range of pollinators and I've observed many beetles and spiders interacting with these plants. 

The bulbous plants are starting to fade now as the herbaceous perennial, shrubs, and trees start to leaf out in full. 

Now the temperature has warmed up, the garden is filling up with a variety of flying insects, including Solitary bees, Bee Flies, and Beetles to name but a few. These are all excellent pollinators in the forest garden. The best time to observe the flying insects is in the early afternoon when they are most active. If you are interested in learning more about pollinators and how they interact with plants check out Module 5 of our Online Course where we introduce you to our wild allies and the role they play in our productive landscapes supporting crop productivity, controlling pests and providing fertility, and how we can encourage them to live and breed in our landscapes.


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1 comment:

  1. I’m not sure where you are located but your comments on encouraging garlic mustard as native in North America are concerning as it is invasive in some areas. In Michigan a lot of time is spent by local volunteer groups trying to remove it as it chokes out the native plants. We’d all appreciate if you made this clear. Thank you!,5664,7-324-68002_71240_73853-379483--,00.html