Sunday, 7 February 2021

The Polyculture Project - Regenerative Landscape Designs - Daniele Rinaudo - Sheffield, United Kingdom

Last year we launched our first Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course. We had an amazing group from all over the world and have been encouraged and inspired by the excellent work the group produced throughout the course. During this 20 week course, it is our primary goal to provide confidence and inspiration to our participants to start building regenerative landscapes, gardens, and farms that produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.  Judging by the final design projects the participants completed at the end of the course it looks like we're on the right track and we're looking forward to our next course starting May 1st this year.
With permission, we'll be sharing some of the final designs from the course with you over the next few months. This week, we're starting with a design from Daniele Rinaudo based on the development of an existing project, Sheffield Fruit Trees, a social enterprise that Daniele is involved with.

Sheffield Fruit Trees – MOGS Site by Daniele Rinaudo

Sheffield Fruit Trees is a social enterprise fruit tree nursery. We grow a range of fruit trees, soft fruit and perennial edibles for sale and support local groups in setting up community orchards. The intention of this design is to develop our current main site on the MOGS plot of the Heeley & Meersbrook allotment site. This plot is where we grow all of our trees and plants for sale and where we intend to run workshops on tree-grafting and pruning etc in the future. This year we have cultivated 250 maiden fruit trees (apple, pear, cherry, plum, medlar, apricot), 50 soft fruit bushes and 30 herbaceous edibles as well as 100 or so trees remaining from last year's stock. Our intention is to grow at least 50% of our fruit trees as bare-rooted trees that have been budded instead of bench grafted. This needs to be reflected in the site design. 

Design Objectives 

The purpose of re-designing the site is: 

  • to increase growing capacity
  • to streamline our current irrigation, compost and growing systems
  • to increase soil health and biodiversity
  • to set the site up for more bare-root tree production – to make the site more accessible to customers and workshop attendees
  • for the site to be a demonstration site for tree growing and polyculture
  • to beautify the site and create a space beneficial for mental health

 Site & Survey 

The site is one of the 400+ allotment plots on the largest allotment site in Sheffield. It is located in the Meersbrook area of Sheffield surrounded by residential streets and Cat Lane/Hang Bank Woods. Along the North edge of the site runs a small watercourse called the Meers Brook. The plot was handed on to us by Meersbrook Organic Growing Soc. Who had been cultivating it for a number of years previously under the guidance of Darrell Maryon from Heeley City Farm.

The plot is well sheltered being surrounded on all sides by privet or mixed native (cratageus, ribes, corylus, fraxinus, ilex, prunus) hedges of at least 5ft in size. Our plot's orientation is close to being on a NorthSouth axis with the bottom of the slope being at the North end (unfortunately). 

Access is good – the main site gate is only 35m from our plot and vehicle tracks run straight past the gate. There is a car-park situated 50m in the other direction from the main gate.

 The site is long and narrow, measuring around 55m in length and just over 5.5m in width. The top of the plot (Southern end) is fairly flat for about 12m. Over the rest of the site there is an average slope of about 8%. This can be seen in the elevation data image below. 

Site Layout

Breakdown of site layout/elements: 

Water system/Irrigation 

Infrastructure – Greenhouse/workshop space, bike hangers and storage, compost bays, compost toilet, tool shed 

Nursery beds/production 

Productive Polycultures 

Support polycultures 

Micro habitats

Climate Survey 

The plot is at an elevation 101-107m above sea level. We are in a temperate region and classed as zone Cfb, hardiness zone being 8b.  First frosts tend to be towards the end of October and last frosts in April though they do happen in late September/May.  Average temperatures in Summer don't tend to be much above 20 degrees but the increasingly erratic weather patterns of recent years we have seen maximum temps of almost 40degrees. Rainfall is generally steady throughout the year with the average being no less than 9 precipitation-days per month. May is on average the driest month, with around 55mm of rain. The wettest months are December and January with 87mm/month, 13 days and 83mm/month, 13.5 days respectively. The yearly average is 833mm. 

Water harvesting/Irrigation 

Over the last 2 years of the project we have irrigated our plants with mains water provided on site. We have been using long hosepipes connected to the mains taps situated 30m away from the entrance to the plot. This is undesirable for a couple of reasons. One, the effort needed to use large hosepipe/reel. Two, water supply is only available March-November, which, although no issue in terms of irrigation, is awkward for other site tasks. Three, watering with rain water is more desirable for plant growth. 

With development of the project and an increase in capacity in mind I have tried to design the site to encourage less irrigation. The majority of our stock has previously been potted but we are moving away from this to a situation where at least half of our nursery stock is grown in the ground. This, coupled with use of support polycultures and mulches (both living and spent), will help reduce our irrigation needs. 

In order to calculate the site's water requirements I have accounted for the irrigation of 400 productive trees (maiden or 2nd year fruit trees, fruit bushes) and 50 support plants. I have catered for 28 irrigation sessions of 5L for each of these units. I feel this is quite generous. This equates to an estimated need for 57,000L of water per growing season.

Water Harvesting Potential

 There are a number of potential surfaces for collecting rain water. I have used 3 of these structures in order to calculate the volume of water we could harvest in a year – the greenhouse roof(1), bike/storage shed roof(2) and compost toilet roof(3). There is more potential for rainwater harvest through the other half of the pitched greenhouse roof and the shed roof but I haven't included these at this time for simplicity's sake. Surfaces 1, 2 and 3 (33msq, 3.6msq and 2.25msq respectively) provide a total of 38.85msq. With a run-off coefficient of 0.8 and an annual average rainfall of 833mm these surfaces would provide a potential of almost 26,000L of water for collection. This is close to half of the calculated water needs of the site. Remaining water will be provided by the mains water source. 

Water would be collected from the roofs in IBC's and water butts/bins via guttering. The system would be gravity-fed by the 1000L IBC's at the top of the site. A system of top and bottom inlets and outlets would allow for the water butts further down the slope to be filled after the first IBC but before the 2nd. This ensures water at the top and middle of the site. Overflow from the 2nd IBC would run into the wildlife pond. As shown below....

The Site Design 

The Polycultures 

Site Species Master List

If you would like to get in touch with Daniele you can reach him on, and on Facebook and Instagram (@sheffieldfruittrees).

If you would like to join the course this spring, you can find out all about what's included here, and right now we have a 20% discount on the full enrollment fees. Just use the promo code RLD2021 in the section of the registration form to receive your discount. The offer is valid until the 15th of March 2021.

In our next post, we'll be looking at a design by Carla Blackmar based in Ohio, United States.  Carla designed an Outdoor Classroom at an Elementary School.

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 


Design and Create Webinars - Forest Gardens, Urban Gardens, Permaculture, Regenerative Farming   

We're hosting a range of online learning sessions including how to create habitat to enhance biodiversity, how to design and build a forest garden, polyculture design software tutorials, regenerative farm, and landscape design, urban gardening and much more. If you would like to be notified when our next sessions are coming up please add your email below and hit subscribe and we'll be in touch.

You can also register for our online training, services, and products directly here.


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