Sunday 7 February 2021

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

It's been a great experience running our Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course where we cover how to Design, Build and Manage Polycultures for Landscapes, Gardens, and Farms. It's particularly rewarding getting to know the participants and their projects from all over the world and watching their ideas and designs grow and develop throughout the course and finally be presented to the group. 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 presenting a design from Daniele Rinaudo  based on the development of a social enterprise fruit tree nursery in Sheffield, Unified Kingdom 

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 at, and on Facebook and Instagram (@sheffieldfruittrees).

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.

Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course 

Want to learn how to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes?  Join us on our Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course. We 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.

You can find the course details here and at the moment we have a $350 ( 20%) discount for full enrollment to the course. Just use RLD2024 in the promo code  section of the registration form to receive your discount. 

Support Our Project 

If you appreciate the work we are doing you can show your support in several ways.

  • Become a member of the Bloom RoomA $70 annual or $7 per month subscription to our Substack provides you with access to live sessions, design tutorials, a members forum and more, see details here.

  • Make a purchase of plants or seeds from our Nursery or Online Store 

  • Joining us for one of our Practical Courses or Online Courses

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