Sunday, 12 December 2021

Winding down and a Photo Exhibition - Week 27 - ESC Project - The Polyculture Project


The ESC project that we have been co-hosting with Green School Village is drawing to a close, and with it a sense of nostalgia as winter arrives in Shipka. The volunteer team have been absolutely amazing and we wish them well as they start to return home, or onto new ventures. They supported the community of Shipka in so many ways  - helping the elderly in their gardens, improving outside spaces, designing and building polycultures, coordinating the writing of a solidarity project to improve a sports club for the local youth and in their general cheerful attitude to help in whatever way needed :) From their arrival at the end of spring to their departure this winter, they team have experienced all four seasons in Shipka.


This week we have been working hard on preparing an exhibition held at the local mayor's office, preparations of which have been going on for sometime. A selection of digital and analogue photos taken throughout the experience are on display with the aim of disseminating the project and showing the wide range of activities completed. In the below photo you can see Ruxandra Brad, whose photography and graphic design skills were invaluable in getting the photos on the wall!


Some visitors to the exhibition


Ruxandra also created an info board for The Butterfly Polyculture that the ESC team planted out in the centre of Shipka in October. The graphic contains some basic information about what polyculture planting is, the function of the polyculture design (ie, to attract butterflies) and a little about each of the main plants featured, in both Bulgarian and English.


Markus and Rux creating The Butterfly Polyculture with Veska, the mayor of Shipka


The Info Board

Throughout late summer and autumn we've been collecting, drying and storing seeds from various gardens, vegetables that we've harvested and also from local people to add to a seed library that was gifted to the community of Shipka. The idea is that of a simple seed exchange - local growers can try to grow some different plants and in exchange bring a seed of their own to add to the stock. Many F1 hybrids are being grown now in the village, but lots of locals spoke with fondness about heirloom varieties of vegetables, and we were able to add some heirloom squash seeds to the collection. It was presented to the mayor and will be housed in the mayor's office and available for the whole village to access.


 Welcome to our Online Store where you can find Forest Garden/ Permaculture plants, seeds, bulbs and Polyculture multi-packs along with digital goods and services such as Online Courses, Webinars, eBooks, and Online Consultancy.  We hope you enjoy the store and find something you like :) It's your purchases that keep our Project going. Yuu can also find our full list of trees. shrubs and herbs for forest gardens on our website here 

 







To check our photo album of the volunteers' experiences see here. To see what seed's we have on offer from the Bionursery see here.




Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course 

Want to learn how to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes?  Join us for our Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course from May 1st to Sep 13th, 2022. 

We're super excited about running the course and look forward to providing you with the confidence, inspiration, and opportunity to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes, gardens, and farms that produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.

Regenerative Landscape Design Online Course

You can find out all about the course here and right now we have a 20% discount on the full enrollment fees. Just use the promo code
 RLD2022 in the section of the registration form to receive your discount. 

We are looking forward to providing you with this unique online learning experience - as far as we know, the very first of its kind. If you are thinking of reasons why you should do this course and whether this course is suitable for you, take a look here where we lay it all out. Looking forward to it!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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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Support Our Project 




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.
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Sunday, 5 December 2021

Permaculture Designs - Week 26 - ESC Project - The Polyculture Project

The ESC volunteers had the opportunity to take part in a Permaculture Design course organised by Green School Village during their six month experience. Last Sunday, the group presented their designs and this week we share the presentation of ESC volunteer Fanny Papon. Fanny designed the space for the roof terrace of her apartment in Paris.

Welcome to our Online Store where you can find Forest Garden/ Permaculture plants, seeds, bulbs and Polyculture multi-packs along with digital goods and services such as Online Courses, Webinars, eBooks, and Online Consultancy.  We hope you enjoy the store and find something you like :) It's your purchases that keep our Project going. Yuu can also find our full list of trees. shrubs and herbs for forest gardens on our website here 
 



















Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course 

Want to learn how to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes?  Join us for our Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course from May 1st to Sep 13th, 2022. 


We're super excited about running the course and look forward to providing you with the confidence, inspiration, and opportunity to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes, gardens, and farms that produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.

Regenerative Landscape Design Online Course

You can find out all about the course here and right now we have a 20% discount on the full enrollment fees. Just use the promo code
 RLD2022 in the section of the registration form to receive your discount. 

We are looking forward to providing you with this unique online learning experience - as far as we know, the very first of its kind. If you are thinking of reasons why you should do this course and whether this course is suitable for you, take a look here where we lay it all out. Looking forward to it!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Support Our Project 




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.
  • Donate directly via PayPal to balkanecologyproject@gmail.com or via FTX Pay






Saturday, 27 November 2021

Elaeagnus - Week 25 - ESC Project - The Polyculture Project





This week the ESC volunteers have been busy completing a Permaculture Design Course organised by Green School Village, as part of  their planned project activities. We're looking forward to seeing their designs at the end of next week and what they come up with. We'll feature some of them in next week's post, along with the wrap up of the ESC project.

This post is going to focus on one of our favourite plant genera, Elaeagnus. When we think about Nitrogen-fixing plants, many of us might think of Elaeagnus which contains around 60 species of evergreen and deciduous shrubs.  We're going to look at three of our favourite plants and at what might help us to decide which one to choose for any given design. For a closer look at how Nitrogen Fixation works see our previous post here.


Elaeagnus angustfolia - Oleaster, Russian Olive



Overview: A deciduous large shrub or small tree growing to approximately 7m high and 7m wide, it is the largest of the three Elaeagnus species featured in this post. Hardy to zone 2 it can tolerate part shade, salt and air pollution. It is drought tolerant with thorny branches although there are many named varieties some of which are thornless. Leaves are willow-like in appearance. Sweet-smelling flowers appear in June with yellowish-silvery fruits ripening in October. The plants begin to flower and fruit from three years old and are really tolerant of pruning. 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: Thorny habit makes this plant a great choice for hedges and tolerance to maritime exposure means it's a good plant to consider in coastal regions. The flowers are attractive to bees and other beneficial organisms so may be used as a companion plant. We have used this plant as an understory shrub on a south-facing edge in our forest garden and to take advantage of its drought tolerance, in a dry bed on the outside of the property.  In our experience, it is the most drought tolerant of the three species. Classified by USDA as being a high nitrogen fixer.


 Elaeagnus x ebbingei - Ebbinge's silverberry 


 

E. x ebbinge in autumn. In severe winters there may be a degree of leaf loss

Overview: A medium evergreen shrub that is a hybrid species typically growing to 5m high and 5m wide but  Hardy to USDA  zone 5. Can tolerate deeper shade than the other two species featured in our experience. It is drought tolerant with smooth branches and stems that are a reddish brown in colour. Leaves are dark green, often with a silvery appearance.  Flowers are scented and appear in the autumn with ripening fruit ready the following spring. Fruit production can be variable with this plant, possibly due to the fact it flowers at a time when there aren't as many pollinators about, but more likely due to the fact that we regularly trim the ornamental bushes in our home garden. As Elaeagnus x ebbingei flowers and fruits most freely on the current year's growth, if the plants are trimmed in the growing season, fruiting potential will be lost. 

The fruit of Elaeagnus x ebbinge


Uses: The tender and soft shoots make excellent biomass and are trimmed and applied as mulch under the productive plants in the forest garden. The dense form means you can harvest a good quantity from pruning. Flowers in the autumn provide late nectar/pollen to pollinators. Fruits are attractive red berries produced in the spring and are very pleasant when fully ripe. High ornamental value, and evergreen, which is useful when creating a privacy screen. Can be used in hedging for this purpose. The dense, shrub-like form provides nesting habitat for birds. Makes an excellent stand-alone ornamental.


Elaeagnus umbellata - Autumn Olive

 



Overview: A large deciduous shrub growing 4.5m high and 4.5m wide, hardy to zone 3. It
tolerates part shade and is very drought tolerant. Branches are often thorny while leaves are bright green, silvery beneath. Yellowish white, fragrant flowers, are produced in May-June attracting many beneficial organisms.  Round, silvery brown (ripening red) fruits appear in Sep-Oct, and it's often a battle between us and the birds as to who gets them first. Although quite fiddly to eat, they are delicious when fully ripe and are sometimes cultivated exclusively for their edible fruit. There are many named cultivars. Plants can fruit in 6 yrs from seed. Like Elaeagnus angustifolia, this species is considered weedy in the U.S. The species is classified by USDA as being a MEDIUM  nitrogen fixer

Uses:  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's a great hedging plant and is also fairly wind tolerant. A candidate for coastal regions as can tolerate maritime exposure. The fruit of E. umbellata is probably my favourite of all three plants and seems to reliably fruit prolifically. As the birds adore the berries, there is a significant increase in numbers to the garden when the berries are ripe.

Reliable yields from E. umbellata


Nitrogen Fixing Hedges

A Nitrogen fixing hedge supplies a significant biological source of Nitrogen and biomass, habitat for wildlife including a number of beneficial species, and makes an excellent living boundary/fence on the perimeter of a site or as a subdivision within a site.

The hedge below is composed of three or more different species of Nitrogen-fixing shrubs, and it's possible to use any of the above Elaeagnus plants, depending on the specifics of your site and preference.

Below is a design illustration of a mature Nitrogen fixing hedge composed of Caragana arborescens, Elaeagnus umbellata and Cytisus scoparius.  



Welcome to our Online Store where you can find Forest Garden/ Permaculture plants, seeds, bulbs and Polyculture multi-packs along with digital goods and services such as Online Courses, Webinars, eBooks, and Online Consultancy.  We hope you enjoy the store and find something you like :) It's your purchases that keep our Project going. Yuu can also find our full list of trees. shrubs and herbs for forest gardens on our website here 

 




Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course 

Want to learn how to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes?  Join us for our Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course from May 1st to Sep 13th, 2022. 


We're super excited about running the course and look forward to providing you with the confidence, inspiration, and opportunity to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes, gardens, and farms that produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.

Regenerative Landscape Design Online Course

You can find out all about the course here and right now we have a 20% discount on the full enrollment fees. Just use the promo code
 RLD2022 in the section of the registration form to receive your discount. 

We are looking forward to providing you with this unique online learning experience - as far as we know, the very first of its kind. If you are thinking of reasons why you should do this course and whether this course is suitable for you, take a look here where we lay it all out. Looking forward to it!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Support Our Project 




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.
  • Donate directly via PayPal to balkanecologyproject@gmail.com or via FTX Pay








Monday, 15 November 2021

Autumn Leaves - Week 24 - ESC Project - The Polyculture Project

This week has been all about leaves. Autumn leaves provide a valuable source of organic matter that can be used in our landscapes in many ways.  The ESC volunteers have been helping the Mayor to clear the leaves from the streets and taking some of them back to the crew house garden where they are being used to build the soil. We're going to look at three different ways to use leaves in the garden to help create healthier soils. But first, let's look briefly at the science behind the colours of autumn. 

Leaves get their green colour from their photosynthetic cells, chloroplasts, that contain light-absorbing pigments. These pigments respond to different wavelengths of light. You are probably familiar with the main pigment used to help plants photosynthesize -  Chlorophyll - but Chlorophyll is also assisted by the pigments Carotene and Xanthophyll. Carotene is responsible for the orange colour of the carrot while  'Xantho' is Greek for yellow. These two pigments are always present in leaves, unlike Chlorophyll which stops being produced in a response to the shortening days. It's commonly thought that leaves get their green colour in the growing season due to Chlorophyll reflecting green light, but regardless of where the actual reflective action goes on, it is clear that with Chlorophyll not being produced, the orange and yellow pigments of the Carotine and Xanthophyll become visible. The red hues that we see come from pigments called anthocyanins, which actually not all trees produce. There are many theories as to the role of  anthocyanins, the most widely accepted being that they protect the leaves from excess sunlight and help the trees to recover any last remaining nutrients before shutting down. In addition to the processes described above, trees also form a separation layer of cells at the bottom of each leaf to seal it from the tree. Once the layer is complete the leaf falls. This entire process is known as senescence and can be seen as a coded or programmed shut down before the death of the actual cell.


It's not essential for a grower to understand plant physiology and the scientific basis of how everything is working but it does also seem an inevitability. The book that we recommend delivered this knowledge in a way that only someone who has dedicated their life to trying to understand the complexity of plants and plant care can  - the brilliant Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon.




We're now going to look at 3 ways in which you can use leaves to create healthier soils. In each of the examples it is advisable to gather the leaves soon after they fall. This is in part because leaves contain Lignin, an important component of a plant cell wall which among other things enhances rigidity. This function can slow down decomposition and as the leaf falls from the tree or shrub, it often further dehydrates and toughens, reducing its ability to transmit nutrients into the soil as readily. If you gather the leaves and store them together, keeping them reasonably moist they will become hydrated and break down more quickly.


1. Leaf Mold


Autumn leaves are generally considered as a carbon rich material but most will still contain some nitrogen. It can take a year or sometimes more for leaf mold to have fully decomposed but it will then become a valuable addition to your soil.  It has excellent drainage and water holding capabilities and may be dug into the soil, applied as mulch in its semi-decomposed state and may also be used to create a potting mix. We have never tried this as we generally use sieved compost and river sand at a ratio of 1:1, but see no reason as to why leaf mold would not make an excellent alternative if your compost supply is thin on the ground. Simply gather the leaves using a rake and pile them into a designated compost station, preferably one with with open sides and top, allowing the air into the leaf pile. If it's dry you can add some water.

Leaves piled up and not mixed with other organic matter for leaf mold



Welcome to our Online Store where you can find Forest Garden/ Permaculture plants, seeds, bulbs and Polyculture multi-packs along with digital goods and services such as Online Courses, Webinars, eBooks, and Online Consultancy.  We hope you enjoy the store and find something you like :) It's your purchases that keep our Project going. Yuu can also find our full list of trees. shrubs and herbs for forest gardens on our website here 

 

2. Compost


If you have access to a lawn mower that can collect the trimmings, it's an excellent idea to mow over any autumn leaves on a lawn as this shreds the leaves which helps them to decompose more quickly and also adds a proportion of nitrogen to the carbon rich leaves. A word (or perhaps a few hundred) here on carbon to nitrogen ratios: although many elements are required for microbial decomposition, carbon and nitrogen are the most important and are the basics on which we build our compost heaps. The ideal carbon to nitrogen ration is generally accepted to be around 30:1 by weight. This encourages the best performance of the composting microbes that require carbon for energy and nitrogen for protein production. It's easy to become somewhat fixated on this ratio, but we have found over the years of building compost piles that keeping it simple and piling lots of carbon rich and some nitrogen rich organic materials in alternate layers works very well, especially if the dry materials are soaked, and the pile is kept light and fluffy during the build for good air circulation. 




In the above compost pile we mainly used grass clippings, straw and cow manure, but the more diverse your supply of organic matter a more diverse range of microbes should populate your pile resulting in a higher quality compost. If you are adding autumn leaves to your compost pile you may simply treat them as a layer of carbon rich materials, although it should be considered all of the materials we compost have both elements within them, just to a higher or lesser degree or ratio.


Ratio of Carbon to Nitrogen (C:N) in Common Compostable Materials
MaterialRatio of Carbon to Nitrogen (C:N)MaterialRatio of Carbon to Nitrogen (C:N)
Activated Sludge6:1Mustard26:1
Alfalfa16-20:1Newspaper812:1
Blood3:1Oat straw48:1
Bone meal3.5:1Onion15:1
Buttercup23:1Peanut hull meal11:1
Cabbage12:1Pepper15:1
Carrot, whole27:1Pigweed (Amaranthus sp.)11:1
Clover, red27:1Potato tops25:1
Cocksfoot19:1Purslane8:1
Cottonseed meal5:1Ragwort21:1
Fern43:1Sawdust, raw511:1
Fish scrap5.1:1Sawdust, rotted208:1
Garbage, green18:1Seaweed19:1
Garbage, raw25:1Sewage, fresh11:1
Lawn clippings, young12:1Slaughterhouse wastes2:1
Leaves (autumn)35 - 90:1Soybean meal5:1
Manure, farmyard (avg.)14:1Timothy grass58:1
Manure, chicken7:1Tobacco13:1
Manure, cow18:1Tomato12:1
Manure, horse25:1Turnip tops19:1
Manure, human6-10:1Turnip, whole44:1
Manure, pig6-1Urine8:1
Manure, poultry15:1Vegetables, non-legume11-19:1
Manure, sheep13-20:1Wheat straw128:1
Manure, steer25.3:1Wood. white fir767:1
Adapted from Robert Kourik - Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally - 1988


3. Mulch

Autumn leaves may be applied to all areas of the garden - directly onto productive beds or under trees or shrubs. It's fine to pile them up to around 50cm in height as the leaves will lose height with the rains and as the seasons progress. If you want to avoid the leaves being blown out of position in strong winds, you can soak them after laying them in position. Leaf mulch has insulating properties which can be very useful when applied to an Asparagus bed, for example, or an area where autumn planted crops such as garlic is growing, as it will create a micro-climate and reduce the chance of the soil freezing.

Pyrus spp. - Pear leaf mulch on a bed of Garlic planted in October

 Although leaf mulch can increase the acidity of soil, it shouldn't be a problem adding it to productive beds, especially if, like us, you add wood ash during the winter and other organic matter during the spring. Pine needles also have the potential to lower the soil pH, but in small quantities shouldn't cause major issues. If you have a larger amount you can always collect them separately and reserve for acid-loving plants such as Blueberries.



We always leave a certain amount of leaves where they have fallen to feed the trees and also sprinkle some on the more formal grassed areas, supplying nutrients to the lawn. It's also good to remember the old tried and tested ways - gather leaves into a huge pile and jump or fall into them, as demonstrated here by ESC volunteers Fanny and Markus :) To read the ESC crew's personal blog see here.









Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course 

 Want to learn how to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes?  Join us for our Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course from May 1st to Sep 13th, 2022. 

We're super excited about running the course and look forward to providing you with the confidence, inspiration, and opportunity to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes, gardens, and farms that produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.

Regenerative Landscape Design Online Course

You can find out all about the course here and right now we have a 20% discount on the full enrollment fees. Just use the promo code
 RLD2022 in the section of the registration form to receive your discount. 

We are looking forward to providing you with this unique online learning experience - as far as we know, the very first of its kind. If you are thinking of reasons why you should do this course and whether this course is suitable for you, take a look here where we lay it all out. Looking forward to it!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Support Our Project 




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.
  • Donate directly via PayPal to balkanecologyproject@gmail.com or via FTX Pay






References