Sunday, 23 August 2020

High Summer in the Forest Garden - The Polyculture Project - Week 23

There's a hint of autumn in the air this week. Although the temperatures have been above 30°c at the time of writing this blog, there has been a cooler feel to some of the nights, and the evenings are definitely drawing in.

Still no significant rainfall, since the end of June however we're fortunate to have a perennial water source which reaches our garden and all the other houses in the village via channels diverted from a mountain river. 

 Raised beds laid out on contour with sunken pathways in the home garden


Flood irrigation is generally used when a stream from a river can be diverted into the site and is what we predominantly use on our sites. We have designed all of our garden layouts based on the use of flood irrigation, positioning access and earthworks to distribute water across the site and slowly sink into the soils.  We've found between is very effective, with the pathways doubling up as irrigation channels. not only does the water sink into the soils but capillary action also draws water up into the raised beds. According to some reports, 90% of plant death following planting is the result of not enough water, so having your irrigation plan and system in place on site before planting makes a lot of sense and is absolutely essential if you are planting on a large scale or running a commercial activity.  

We are now entering the final month of our Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course. We've moved into the Design Implementation phase, and it's excellent to see the how the participants are applying the material to their own projects and coming up with some really great ideas and design elements. This week we cover how to install various methods of irrigation, how to establish access and fencing, and how to prepare the ground in advance of planting. We're planning to run the course next year with modules and weeks available to purchase individually. You can take a look at the program here.

Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course

Last week I mentioned fennel flowers stealing the show in regards to their ability to attract organisms, many of which are beneficial for our landscapes, particularly in terms of pest predation and pollination support. Here are a few photos of some of the visitors.




Here Fennel the red husks of Zanthoxylum piperitum  in the background



Once the Zanthoxylum piperitum - Japanese Pepper Tree fruits have opened and shed their seed and it's a good time to harvest the red husks. They are easy to dry in a paper bag left on a window sill for a week or so and than placed into glass jars for storing. Pop the husks into a pepper grinder for a delicious spice on pretty much any savoury dish. Caution - a little goes a long way :) 


This week the figs are coming thick and fast.  I was planning to harvest some today, cut them in half, and put them on a metal baking tray placed inside my car, with the windows slightly open for circulating air.  The fruits generally take a day or 2 to dry and ready for storing (depending on outside temps/humidity etc). Our weather forecast shows we may have a few cloudy days on the way, so we'll hold off for now. This is a very simple but also a very effective method, with the added bonus of being able to reposition the car occasionally to follow the sun's trajectory :) 



 The essential guide to growing figs will give you a good overview of growing and maintaining the plant, and for a list of cultivars that we'll have available this season see here. We have started taking orders now for autumn delivery.


Tagete sp. Marigolds are one of the support species we use extensively in our annual vegetable production beds. They self seed and tolerate drought pretty well, as well as attracting a steady stream of visitors. The flowers also make a decent cuppa. 


What summer would be complete without the obligatory Sunflower photos?!




If you are would like to learn how to  Design and Build A Forest Garden ,we have a webinar coming up on the 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




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

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




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Sunday, 16 August 2020

Tomatoes, Southern Green Stink Bugs and Fennel Flowers - The Polyculture Project - Week 22



The tomatoes are really coming thick and fast now, and I have yet to taste a tomato as delicious as the ones grown here in Bulgaria. With a slice of local goats cheese, a few basil leaves and a dash of olive oil, you have a lunch fit for a Thracian king!

Tomato - Solanum lycopersicum - growing in our polyculture Zeno. I believe this is popular Bulgarian cultivar 'Giant Rose'

Unfortunately, for the last 3 years the tomatoes have been affected by the persistent predation of the Southern Green Stink Bug - Nezara viridula. 


Life Cycle of Nezara viridula, taken from Topics in Subtropics


The young are easier to spot being black, but the only real way that we have found to deal with them is to manually remove them which is quite time-consuming. Stink bugs are on the menu of pest predators we have in the garden but they don't seem to be having an impact on these bugs. According to UC- IPM   predation can be enhanced for short distances from plantings of nectar plants such as alyssum and others as long as the flowering of these plants begins early in the season (April–June). We 'll try introducing some more support plants within the tomato planting that flower during that period  

On the left you can see the young, probably just at the 1st instar stage of development, but already causing problems, and on the right a damaged fruit. 



Chinese Lantern - Physalis alkekengi growing in the home garden. This decorative herbaceous perennial grows well in the shade and produces tasty fruit very rich in vitamin C. The plants produce papery bright-orange calyxes that develop around the ripening fruit earning the plant its common name Chinese Lantern.  


The plants spread quickly to form an attractive and dense ground cover in a shady area, as you can see in the below image taken from the forest garden section of the home garden. These plants are around 3 years old.



The view from another part of the home garden, on a late summer's evening:)



We're well and truly into Blackberry season now, and the image shows fruits from a thornfree cultivar growing in the home garden. It's anthocyanin, a plant pigment and powerful antioxidant, that gives blackberries their dark colour, and it's this that has been shown to have numerous beneficial health effects, with reportedly useful roles in dementia and cancer protection.  The good news is that some studies have shown that blackberries have one of the highest antioxidant contents per serving of any food tested - good to muse over while enjoying them in the garden :)


Fennel - Foeniculum vulgare about to burst into full bloom

The flowers of Fennel attract an astonishing amount of organisms to the garden and we're always quite amazed by the sheer volume of visitors. In particular, a variety of flies seem to visit the blooms, including Hoverflies - (Syrphid flies/flower flies), which are in fact very valuable pollinators as well as pest predators. Some species produce larvae that feed on aphids and other soft-bodied insects. The adult female hover fly will find a location where aphids are present and lay her eggs nearby. When the caterpillar like larvae emerge from the eggs, they move along the plant surface, lifting their heads to grope for prey, seizing them and sucking them dry. A single larva can consume hundreds of aphids in a month. Hoverflies are reported to be excellent at detecting and attacking even low numbers of aphids. Check back next week for some images, as I hope to capture the activity during this week.

We'll end this post with an update on the ducks - it's quite unbelievable how quickly they've grown, and 2 'batches' of ducklings have now been introduced into the garden.  The final 'batch' still requires the safety of the cage for now, as they are just 1 week old, but mother and babies are doing very well :)




We have a webinar coming up on the Saturday, 28th of November 2020 - 19.00 GMT+3. we cover the basics of how to Design and Build A Forest Garden.  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


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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Tuesday, 11 August 2020

A Beautiful Garden in the Welsh hills - Week 21

This week we take a break from our usual Polyculture Project update, and instead have a post from Sophie about her recent trip to a beautiful garden in west Wales.

During this past week I have been experiencing some cooler weather in west Wales, and based near the old market town of Machynlleth, I had the pleasure of visiting a most beautiful garden belonging to good friends of my dear friend, Susannah.  A real sanctuary for humans and a host of other organisms, nestled on the woody mountainside.



Claire and Emma's garden is very energetic. Despite visiting on a cool and damp day characteristic of a Welsh summer,  I saw an incredible amount of beneficial organisms on the site. The garden is a hub of activity, with numerous birds enjoying the canopy and understory of the plants layers which extend out the back to meet the local woodland itself. There were also plenty of visiting insects and pollinators which wasn't surprising given the incredible quantity and diversity of flowering plants in the garden. With floral diversity comes invertebrate diversity and the invertebrates are, in large part, the main diet for birds and animals further up the food chain. I'm sure I counted at least 4 different species of bees on the blooms of Phacelia tanacetifolia - Purple Tansy, which definitely appeared to be a firm favourite among the bee community.


Phacelia tanacetifolia - Purple Tansy. I was delighted to learn from Paul that we're growing it this year in our own gardens


Phacelia tanacetifolia - Purple Tansy is an annual and although it does self seed, apparently not prolifically so it's a good idea to sow annually and even successively, to prolong the bloom time which may be from late June to September.  It is most commonly used as a pollinator plant and is considered by some bee keepers to be the best pollinator plant ever! It also plays a role as green manure/ground cover, with an extensive root system and an ability to smother out other plants. We're looking forward to sowing more of this next year, perhaps in small patches or blocks scattered throughout the annual beds or in close vicinity to our annual production.

     A visitor to a Daisy, possibly Oxeye Daisy     
                                             

Having an abundance of blooms throughout the year is vital to attract beneficial organisms to our gardens, but ideally we would like to encourage them to reside and breed there. The surest and simplest way to attract and provide for a broad range of wildlife into our landscapes is to include (or preserve) a diversity of habitat. The edges between habitats will often present changes in air temperature, vapour, soil moisture, light intensity, and nutrient availability, encouraging growth of opportunistic species there. A mosaic of habitat is therefore a great way of welcoming wild allies into our landscapes. Broadly speaking, the habitats may be categorised as grassland, woodland and forest, hedgerows and scrub, heathland and wetland/aquatic. 

Including a diversity of plants within these habitats is also great, and taking this a step further, including a diversity of plant architecture.  Variation in plant form and height provides the perfect habitat for many invertebrates.  


Example of a polyculture showing diversity of plant architecture in Claire and Em's garden. 


You will likely find species that inhabit the high area of the tree canopy and others that reside in the mid and low areas. Other species prefer the heart of dense shrubs, while others hang around the leaves or on the bark with some species moving around and between all of these micro-habitats.  This variation of form and height also provides plenty of edge that can further attract more organisms. Having some gaps between the vegetation for low growing herbs and grasses will likely attract yet more invertebrate diversity.  The high number of invertebrates this type of planting scheme attracts will inevitably bring in birds and small mammals that will feed on them, while also appreciating the cover and diverse roosting and vantage points within the plant architecture. It takes a few years to start establishing, but it's a worthwhile investment of your time. 


Some photos of our Forest Garden showing the variation of plant forms and heights 



Interesting diversity in the herb layer at Claire and Emma's


Claire and Emma have areas of annual vegetable production and also an allotment, growing quality vegetables and herbs, and bringing a small selection of produce, plants, herbs and seedlings to their local markets. You can find out more about their work on their Facebook page, Nature's basket.

One of the plants that caught my attention was a patch of Salsola soda - Agretti, growing in the greenhouse. I hadn't heard of this plant before, but while researching it I learned that it's a succulant annual closely related to Salicornia europaea - Samphire and that it appears to be trending with some top chefs. Claire said she was experimenting with it this year, and had been harvesting the tips which were excellent in a stir fry, and may also be eaten raw. I found an article here with some more information on growing Agretti and with links to some tasty looking recipies. 


Salsola soda - Opposite leaf Russianthistle


Speaking of cooking, on my visit I had the pleasure of meeting another Claire, who together with her family owns and runs The Green Goat Cafe. They specialise in tasty street food inspired by their backgrounds and travels, and also cater for large events. Building strong working relationships with farmers and local food growers is important to The Green Goat, and they work closely with the local community to strengthen food education, cooking skills and also helping to raise money for local initiatives. 

I felt quite inspired after my visit, and heartened to meet people following their passions and putting out such goodness into the world! Diolch yn fawr, Claire and Emma, for your wonderful garden, and for sharing it so warmly :)




We have a webinar coming up on the 28th of November 2020 - 19.00 GMT+3, where we cover the basics of how to Design and Build A Forest Garden.  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


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

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




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.






Sunday, 2 August 2020

Heat Wave, Ducklings galore and a trip to Koprinka Dam - Week 20 - The Polyculture Project

Sweltering...with the temperatures reaching what is likely to be peak high of the summer, it's been wonderful to cool off by the Koprinka dam, a truly beautiful local spot. Back in the gardens, we have ducklings coming out of our ears (!) and trees full of fruits. Welcome to The Polyculture Project  - Week 20.


We're pleased to announce that broody duck number two has successfully hatched 9 ducklings! With 10 from the first duck, and a third clutch of eggs being incubated, we've never had so many ducks on site. Space is proving to be a bit of an issue, because we only have one cage available to offer protection while the duckings are small, and also from the males, who are pretty forceful with the females and apparently can be very aggressive to young ducklings. We have had to mix the 2 females and their broods, and there seems to be some occasional tension, with both mother ducks snapping at the other's offspring but nothing to worry about so far. Hopefully, the first batch can be released into the garden within a week or 2, freeing up some much needed space. 

Ducks eating Symphytum x uplandicum - Comfrey 'Bocking 14'. When we kept rabbits, they too would be partial to the occasional Comfrey leaf. The beautiful flowers of Comfrey are much loved by bees and the plant provides excellent ground cover. You can read more about this incredible plant here.


Common chicory - Cichorium intybus, a herbaceous perennial belonging to the dandelion family, Asteraceae. The pretty blue flowers attract a lot of beneficial organisms to the garden and can be added to the salad bowl, although they are somewhat bitter.


Vitex agnus-castus - Chaste Tree . This tree has an amazing history medicinally and has been used for thousands of years for its beneficial effect on the female hormonal system, the seeds being used to restore balance to the female reproductive system. Interestingly, this plant forms one of the ingredients of the legendary Moroccan spice mixture 'ras el hanout'.


Ras el hanout, a popular spice blend from North Africa, featurwa the dried berries of the Chaste tree. The dried berries are often used as a seasoning in their own right, and are commonly added to meat or fish. (image from https://www.chilipeppermadness.com/)


It looks like being a bumper year for pears. We had to take down an old pear tree last year in Aponia, the market garden, as it was suffering from fireblight that can spread rather quickly.  We're offering a range of Pear cultivars this season including summer, autumn and winter pears that have good resistance to diseases. You can place an order now for late autumn delivery.




We have a webinar coming up on the 28th of November 2020 - 19.00 GMT+3, where we cover the basics of how to Design and Build A Forest Garden.  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


The apples are also looking great this year. You can see available cultivars this season here
    

Rubus fruticosus cv. - Blackberry growing in the understory and ripening well but somewhat sour compared to the berries ripening in the light from the same plant.
 

Tanacetum vulgare - Tansy  growing in the home garden. A favourite of ours for a brew, apparently with  anthelmintic properties


We've been spending some time at the beautiful Koprinka Dam, a lovely spot to relax in the hot summer months. Construction started on the dam in the 1940's, and during the excavation of the site, the ancient Thracian city Seuthopolis was discovered. Despite this, the dam's construction went ahead and the city lies submerged under the water here. There has been talk over the last decade of 'raising the city' by means of a dam wall surrounding the ruins in the middle of the dam. 


We've been looking at some land around the dam. The soils here are sandy clay, very different to our soils just 14 km north but still great for growing forest gardens :)




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

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




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.