Sunday, 5 July 2020

Early Summer in the Forest Garden, Alliums, Persimmon, Currants and the Vegetable Garden - Week 16 - The Polyculture Project

It's hot and with Summer now in full swing and temperatures easily hitting 30° C, we have needed to start irrigating the potted nursery plants and another week of this weather and we'll start irrigating the raised vegetable beds and perennial beds in the gardens.  Welcome to The Polyculture Project Week 16.

We've been giving Blackcurrants - Ribes nigrum a lot of blog space recently and rightly so! They are quite an easy plant to grow, seem to do well in polycultures and provide an abundance of nutrient dense berries in early summer.  This week it's the turn of the Redcurrants to shine. They tend to ripen a little later than the Blackcurrants, but then there is this period (for us this week) where there is a beautiful overlap and you can harvest both fruits together.  Redcurrants have a slightly sharper flavour than blackcurrants, but are just as delicious and are full of goodness. Packed full of vitamin C, they also contain good amounts of vitamin K, necessary for maintaining calcium in the bones thus promoting good bone health.

Redcurrants - Ribes rubrum are native to parts of Western Europe, and can often be found in shady areas or damp woodlands, making them the perfect candidate for a shrub layer in a polyculture. Once established, plants can produce an abundance of fruit which is most commonly used to make jellies and sauces. We haven't actually tried processing our harvest, but tend to eat them straight off the shrub, add them to some natural yoghurt for breakfast or to green juices or smoothies. You can find out more about this plant on our plant profile. The plants we offer are 1 year old bare roots that should start to produce fruit the next season after planting.

Jewel-like Redcurrants in the home garden

The sheer volume of invertebrates in the gardens continues to amaze. Here you can see on the left Hoverfly - ‎Syrphidae feeding from Erigeron annus and what i think is a Flower Longhorn Beetle-  Lepturinae feeding on Achillea millefolium - Yarrow. Beetles play an often underappreciated role in pollination but have been visiting flowers since the relationship between animals and plants began, according to some sources, for the last 200 million years. To this day they still pollinate a huge diversity of plants including the oldest flowering plants such as Magnolia spp. Most beetle-pollinated flowers are flattened or dish-shaped, with pollen easily accessible.

Over at Katelepsis, the volunteer house, the Japanese Persimmon - Diospyros kaki fruit has been forming over the last couple of weeks. I noticed a lot of the blossom and very immature fruits littering the vegetable garden and the tree appeared laden with potential fruit. I was wondering how on earth the branches would cope with the weight of all that fruit, but it seems this shedding process is characteristic of the tree and a natural process of selection. The tree is also alternate bearing, meaning that one year the crop is significantly greater than the next year, so we could be in for a bumper crop.

               Blossom and immature fruits buds littering the vegetable beds on the left, and on the right,                                           the tree from which they fell. 
One of the fruits that made it safely through the shedding selection process, captured in late June

I'm not sure which cultivar is in our garden, but it's definitely an astringent one. In case you aren't familiar, persimmon cultivars can be divided into 2 main categories, namely Astringent and Non-astringent. Due to the high content of tannins in astringent varieties, you must wait until the fruit is ripe before eating because these tannins are water soluble and when the fruit is soft and ripe they will lose their astringency. That usually means harvesting the fruit while still hard, and ripening them indoors on a windowsill. Conversely, non-astringent varieties can be eaten when hard, much like an apple, as the tannin content is greatly reduced when it turns from green to orange.  

An astringent variety of Persimmon, ripening at home in the autumn

If you're interested in finding out more about this fascinating fruit you can see our more detailed blog post 'Persimmon - The Essential Guide'. We also offer a range of exciting cultivars from our bio-nursery and are taking orders now for autumn delivery.

Persimmon for Permaculture

You may remember in a previous blog post we introduced our new Allium nursery, where we've been growing different Allium varieties to start offering bulb packs in the autumn. It's been wonderful to observe them growing this season and compare the differences in height, leave shape, structure, flowers and flowering times and taste. The image below shows Round-Headed Leek -  Allium Sphaerocephalon in flower. It's been the last one to flower from all our varieties with a pretty egg shaped head that sits upon tall, slender stems. I've been pleasantly surprised with how long each Allium's flowering period has been, with each one lasting a minimum of 3 weeks and attracting a lot of beneficial invertebrates to the garden. By planting different species in your gardens, you can basically enjoy an Allium flower throughout most of the spring and summer months. 

Round-Headed Leek -  Allium Sphaerocephalon

We are growing the Alliums in raised beds with wooden frames, and as we had a couple of spare beds we filled them with carrots and onions grown from sets. The onions are doing well but I'm not sure whether the carrots are a bit crowded in their bed. Back in the UK, my brother has had a good result from growing carrots this way without needing to thin them out, but I have some doubts cast by the small size of a few I pulled the other day that was disappointingly small. We'll see.

Raised beds with carrots on the left and onions on the right

What has done wonderfully well this year are the early potatoes. We harvested the first spuds from seed tubers sown in April. We have had a good amount of rainfall this June which has no doubt helped.

Early new potatoes

This year we've introduced a number of different Blueberry cultivars into our gardens. In our continuing theme of berry goodness, it's been wonderful to add another delicious fruit to our breakfast bowls. Our son, Archie, who is a total fruit monster announced the other day that Blueberries had knocked Strawberries of the top spot.  As a plant, they're an incredible addition to the permaculture garden, with highly ornamental cream colored bell-shaped flowers that ate a great food source for bees.

Blueberries also have good polyculture potential.  You can see in the below image a design we planted out last year in Aponia, our market garden. This productive polyculture includes an upper canopy of Prunus tomentosa - Nanking Cherry, shrub layer of  Vaccinium corymbosum cv. - Blueberry and Rubus idaeus cv. - Raspberry, ground cover of Ajuga reptans - Bugle .with Tulipa sp. - Tulip, Galanthus gracilis - Snowdrop  as the bulb layer, with native herbs around the perimeter of the bed and in the basin of the Swale.

A productive polyculture, featuring Blueberry

Earlier in our Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course, we've been looking in detail about how to organize and categorize polycultures. With a relatively complex matter such as polyculture, it's vital to be able to provide some clarity on what we are dealing with. We layout a category system for polyculture that breaks it down into 3 main categories; Infrastructure, Support and Productive.  We go through each category and discover how polyculture can be used in wide variety of applications in the landscape.  If this is something that interests you, we offer lifetime access to our course as well as a wealth of additional material each week, including a sheets folder with useful data and information tables relating to the weekly topics, design templates and case studies.  Registration is still open, and you can opt to take the whole course or pick and choose lessons or modules that interest you. See here for the weekly schedule.

Let's end this week's post with an update on the ducks. Our mother duck is still sitting on the eggs and we're delighted to discover that another female has gone broody and it sitting on a different clutch of eggs! All being well the second nest should hatch out a week after the first nest, which should be around the 18th of July, give or take a few days. Once the ducklings have successfully hatched they will be moved with Mum to an enclosed area for safety. What's quite interesting is that both mother ducks have chosen to build their nests under the Raspberry plants, but in beds that are opposite to each other for a bit of privacy :)

Would you like to come and join our autumn 'Design 'n' Build a Forest Garden Course, Oct 18-21, 2020? Registration is now open and early booking discounts are available!

Register before July 20th and receive a 10% discount from accommodation and food fees. Register as a group (2 or more) and receive 15% discount from accommodation and food fees. More info and registration can be found here.

Welcome to 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 finally we've added a Bulk Fruit and Nut Tree order form for Farms, Orchards, Nurseries, and Large Regenerative Landscape Projects. If there is anything in the store you would like to see but is not there, please let us know. We hope you enjoy the store and find something you like :) It's your purchases that keep our Project going. Thank you. Enter Our Store Here

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