Friday, 27 August 2021

Hosta flowers, Figs and Heirloom Squash - Week 12 - ESC Project - The Polyculture Project



The Hosta - Hosta spp. started flowering in the home garden this week, and with it brought a sense of peace in an otherwise hectic week.  The dense, basal leaves of this plant are striking and highly attractive, overlapping each other to form a spreading mound of foliage. A highly ornamental plant, it's perfect for shady borders, as grown here, but also for woodland gardens or shade gardens. It can be planted as an understory to a shrub layer, and we're planning to use this plant in the centre of Shipka when we plant out a shady area. Ground cover plants play an important role in the forest garden, protecting the soil, providing refuge for wildlife at ground layer, preventing unwanted plants from establishing and can provide some food such as berries or leaves.




A tomato ripening in the home garden. We haven't had many of those this year, and this one is huge, possibly weighing in just shy of a kilogram. The plant was given to us by a local elderly man, and we'll be saving the seeds to grow next year, share, and add to a seed bank that we're starting as part of the ESC project. To see what the volunteers have been up to, you can check out their personal blog here.



Another seed we'll be adding is that of this heirloom squash, which we call 'Victoria's Granny'. One of the participants of our past Polyculture Market Garden study, Victoria Bezhitashvili, gave us some winter squash seed that originated from her Granny in Belarus. Year on year they provide a reliable harvest of bright orange, tasty fruit, and we save seeds from the next generation every year too. To avoid cross contamination with neighbouring courgettes, sometimes we use rubber bands to protect the newly emerging male and female flowers, the next morning removing the rubber bands to pollinate the female flowers with the uncontaminated pollen from the male flower, and then protect the pollinted female flower by replacing the rubber band and tying a piece of wool or ribbon around the stem so that, rather like a piece of luggage at an airport, it can be easily identified and the seeds from that particular fruit saved.  We learned this from Real Seeds who have a wealth of great information on their website as well as quality seed.

In the below photo you can see the Victoria's Granny squash migrating into the forest garden area of the home garden, making itself at home on a Guelder Rose.



Here are some of the other plants in the wider polyculture



We've been harvesting figs from all the gardens and drying them on baking trays in the car. They take around 10 -12 hours to dry in a dehydrator and around 2 -3 days on top of the car dash board (parked in a sunny spot). Dried figs can be stored for six to eight months.





Figs must be allowed to ripen fully on the tree before they are picked. They will not ripen if picked when immature. A ripe fruit will be slightly soft and starting to bend at the neck. The fruit should be harvested gently to avoid bruising. Fresh figs do not keep well and can be stored in the refrigerator for only 2 - 3 days.  

A note on Fig reproduction and pollination, which is fascinating but not great news for fig loving vegetarians :)

What we call the fig fruit is actually a flower or to be more precise an inflorescence - a cluster of many flowers and seeds contained inside a bulbous stem. Because of this unusual arrangement, the seeds—technically the ovaries of the fig—require a specialized pollinator that is adapted to navigate within the fruit and here begins the story of the relationship between figs and fig wasps. 

The queen of the fig wasp is almost the perfect size for the job and enters through a tight opening in the fig called the ostiole.





Once inside, the queen travels within the chamber, depositing her eggs and simultaneously shedding the pollen she carried with her from another fig. This last task, while not the queen’s primary goal, is an important one: she is fertilizing the fig’s ovaries. After the queen has laid her eggs, she dies. Once the queen’s eggs hatch, male and female wasps assume very different roles. They first mate with each other and then the females collect pollen while the wingless males begin carving a path to the fig’s exterior. This activity is not for their own escape but rather to create an opening for the females to exit. The females will pollinate another fig as queens. The males will spend their entire life cycle within a single fruit.


Bad news for vegetarians thus being when you eat fig you probably eat wasp,  however, common fig types have all female flowers that do not need pollination for fruiting as the fruit can develop through parthenocarpic means. Black Mission, Brown Turkey, Brunswick, and Celeste are some representative cultivars. More from our Essential Guide - Dig the Fig here.



Would you like to learn how to  to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes, gardens, and farms that produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity? If so join us on our  Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course  next spring. 

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 use the registration form to sign up for the whole course or individual weeks or modules.

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.


Sunday, 22 August 2021

Waterways, Seed heads & Damsons - Week 11- ESC - The Polyculture Project


I imagine it's sounding like a broken record but the heatwave continues in earnest here. Most of our time is taken with watering the gardens and cleaning water channels, but every single time we do it, I count our blessings to have access to this diverted mountain stream.  Before designing your landscape, it's a good idea to map out where your existing water sources are and how available they are. You may be fortunate enough to have ponds, rivers and streams, wells or mains irrigation already on your site. In hot dry climates, such water sources will often be present in the winter, spring and autumn, but may be empty in the summer when you really need it so that is something to certainly check out.  Asking local growers that have lived in the area for a long time is a great way to determine whether your water source is perennial and also to discover the extremes of drought experienced on a site . Often at this time of year when we haven't had rainfall for months and extremely hot temperatures, the flow of the stream slows down, and by the time it arrives in Aponia, our market garden, it often has trouble reaching the third swale. Below you can see an image of Aponia, our forest garden, with the blue markings representing the water channels in the garden

.


The ESC volunteers have been helping to keep some of the local gardens irrigated too. Three times a week they have been watering the central park in Shipka, as well as helping some of the local elderly people with irrigating their gardens and other seasonal tasks. 

Tara and Ruxandra watering Baba Nedielka's crops


Keeping the Roses of Shipka hydrated :)

The end of August marks tomato canning season, although this year due to the slow ripening of our own crop, we will have to buy some from other local food growers to process. In the below image, ESC volunteers Ruhsar and Markus help a local family prepare their tomatoes to put in jars, followed by a water bath, to preserve for the coming winter months. You can check out the volunteer's blog here.


 
Walking around the forest garden means feasting again at the moment, and especially prolific this year are Damson - Prunus institia. These trees are numerous in Aponia, and make up a large part of our native late scrub woodland. They are perfectly adapted to our local climate and can tolerate the long, hot and dry summers very well. 





When we created the raised beds for the Annual Polyculture Study, we removed some of the saplings and planted them on the westerly edge of the property to create a screen and a boundary. Our prevailing wind on the site is north westerly, but the Damsons are resilient to this and do very well there.

The second flush of figs are ripening up in the home garden, the first being short and sweet back in late July. 


Fig - Ficus carica in the garden - 'Michurinksa 10'

The hot long summers here ensure a good reliable crop from these plants each year. From time to time when we have very cold winter the top growth dies back but in the spring new growth arises from the base of the plant and can produce a good crop of figs that same summer. 30-50 stems may come up in the spring and we found it good practice to remove at least 50% of the new growth before fruit sets and then thin down to no more than 8-10 of the best stems in the autumn after a harvest. For more information on growing Figs see our Essential Guide. If you're thinking of growing figs in your garden you can check out the cultivars we'll be offering in the nursery this season here.




The seed heads of Teasels Dipsacus sp. looking striking in the forest garden.  I love this time of year when autumn makes itself known and the dry seed heads reveal their geometric shapes. Below are the seed heads of Allium cristophii - Star of Persia, a beautiful purple allium that is highly ornamental. Thanks go to Ruhsar, who spent a whole afternoon deseeding several seed heads, resulting in a bountiful harvest of seed to sow in the spring.






Would you like to learn how to  to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes, gardens, and farms that produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity? If so join us on our  Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course  next spring. 

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 use the registration form to sign up for the whole course or individual weeks or modules.

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.



Friday, 13 August 2021

Southern Green Stink Bugs and Forest Garden Appreciation - Week 10- ESC - The Polyculture Project


The baking temperatures continue and with them has come the demise of most of the tomato plants in the home garden. Over the past few weeks my concern over the welfare of the plants has been growing along with the browning leaves and fruit that isn't ripening, and now - a week or 2 earlier than usual but at a critical point that the tomato plants can take little more assault -  the destructive Southern Green Stink Bugs  - Nezara viridula - have arrived, and are breeding abundantly on the tomato and bean plants. With no natural predators that we are aware of, it's a matter of manually removing them. They have a very effective defense mechanism of falling off the fruit or plant when disturbed, but having dealt with them for years, we've learned to position a jam jar underneath and catch them as they fall. 



Under attack from Stink Bugs in the third instar stage

It's generally been a disappointing year generally in the home garden for annual vegetables, probably in part due to the unsettled and unusual weather patterns, but also due to setting up the garden much later than usual and planned this year. The ESC volunteers are doing a great job in their home garden, and it's been a real pleasure watching them take control and manage the vegetable plot effectively. Their garden was planted out around a month earlier than the home garden, which might have made a significant difference.

The annual vegetable polyculture beds at the Crew house

On a brighter note the Forest Garden, Aponia has been an absolute pleasure this season.  This week we've been weeding some of the swales, and as it's high summer, spending a significant amount of time watering and counting our blessings in this heatwave to have a perennial water source to tap into and fill up the swales. Now that the grasses and native plants such as Hemlock have died back, the wild plum woodland is navigable again. It's been a pleasure to stroll through the woodland, plucking the odd plum from the branches and enjoying the cool shade provided. One of our volunteers, Markus, helped to clear an irrigation channel so we can divert the water through the woodland. The trees have adapted to our dry, hot summers and are pretty drought resistant, but it felt good to watch the dry land gratefully soak up the flowing water nonetheless.



The view from the woodland by the wildlife pond

Blackberry season starts around now, and the image shows fruits from a thornfree cultivar growing in the home garden.



I got to taste the first pear of the season the other day too - delicious :) You can check out what cultivars we are offering this autumn here.



Part of our ESC project will involve planting some polycultures out in a community space, and I've decided that I'd really like to see Chaste tree - V
itex agnus-castusis as one of the plants in our selection. It's a deciduous shrub with a thousand year old history as a medicinal plant and a great magnet for beneficial organisms. The prolific late summer/early autumn blooms provide great forage for bees, and it's really caught my eye over the last week or two as it's come into bloom.


Would you like to learn how to  to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes, gardens, and farms that produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity. If so join us on our  Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course  next spring. 

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 use the registration form to sign up for the whole course or individual weeks or modules.

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.


Monday, 9 August 2021

Eastern Walkabout, Göreme Valley, Cappadocia, Central Turkey

 I finally managed to exit Istanbul to continue my eastward journey, it's only been days since I left the city but the landscape I've arrived in makes it feel like a lifetime ago. Travelling somehow distorts time, turning days into weeks, weeks into years and when you arrive back to where you started, it all shrinks into distant memories.  Anyway, during this post, I'll be writing about Cappadocia, specifically the Göreme Valley, taking a look at some of the marvelous wild plants I've encountered and some of the local plantings around the settlements in the region.

One of the most striking features of Cappadocia is the bizarre shape of the land, specifically the world-famous "fairy chimneys".  The chimneys are a result of a geologic process that began millions of years ago when volcanic eruptions rained ash across the land. That ash hardened into tuff, a porous rock, which was covered by a layer of basalt. Finally, the long work of erosion sculpted the landscape in a fashion Gaudi and Dali would be proud to sign their names on. 

The land has been used as a residential area by humans throughout history, the rock being easy to carve, it provided excellent caves for people to shelter in. I stayed in a place called Göreme that has been a human settlement since at least 1800 BC, probably much longer, and features prominently in the ancient and classical history of Persia, Greece, and Rome (to name but a few).

Nowadays the town is a tourist hotspot offering hot air balloon rides that fill the skies at dawn, ATV trails, and horse and camel trekking. I wonder what the ancient people would make of it if they could magically teleport into the now? 

Although the land looks desolate, when you get into the landscape the plant diversity is quite impressive and 114 endemic species can be found in this region, mostly grassy steppe plants but also some tree species including Wild Almond and Hawthorn. 

I'm not sure of the species but I found a number of Hawthorn, Crataegus spp. with relatively huge fruits compared to the plants I'm used to seeing. The fruits that can be seen in the below photos were at least 2cm in diameter.  

Some of the plants are outstandingly beautiful but don't let their dainty and delicate facade fool you, these plants are some of the toughest on the planet, dealing with extreme heat and cold, wind, lack of water, and hungry herbivores. Many of these plants deal with this by hugging the ground, taking on a cushion-like appearance. They keep their leaves small, thick, and waxy and often have spines and thorns that take them off the salad menu for the majority of herbivorous mammals. My personal favorite was Acantholimon sp. possibly Acantholimon ulicinum (photo below). The genus name comes from the Greek akantha meaning a thorn. 

As you wander around the small valleys of Göreme or in the gorges of Ihlara or Soganlś you will find a wealth of edible plants including Juglans regia - Persian WalnutVitis vinifera cv. - GrapePrunus armeniaca ​- ApricotCydonia oblonga - Quince and vegetables growing in the gardens and allotments. At first, I was surprised to see productive plants growing in the area and even more surprised to see how healthy and vigorous the plants were. I have since learned that the volcanic tufa soil is extremely fertile and the porosity of the soil soaks up rainfall and stores the water deep in the soil where the plants can access it. Many of the vineyards and orchards, included those photographed below, are not irrigated at all.

 For vegetable production, a guano produced by the local population of Rock Pigeon Columba livia is also mixed with the soil making it possible to cultivate a wide range of vegetables that are grown in small gardens. The below photo on the left was taken in Pigeon Valley a short drive away from the center of Göreme, where many Rock Pigeon Columba livia reside. The photo on the right is of a store in the town where the owner, Faruk, is growing tomatoes in wicker baskets filled with tufa soil, guano, and sheep manure. He waters the plants every few weeks, changes the growing medium every 2 or 3 years, and gets a decent annual yield of tomatoes that ripen in August.

As with pretty much every village, town, and city I've visited in Turkey, in Göreme special care and attention is given to street plantings in the central areas. This included a large diversity of evergreen trees, deciduous broadleafs, climbers ground covers, herbs, and a variety of fruit and nut trees. One species I was really pleased to see was Morus nigra - Black Mulberry that had the most delicious fruit. Unlike the Morus alba - White Mulberry , the fruits of Morus nigra - Black Mulberry have a tinge of sourness and are juicy to the point that the purple juice explodes out of them when picking and eating. The juice will stain your fingers, clothes, and the pavement beneath the tree, as you can see in the below image.

Another interesting observation was the Vitis vinifera cv. - Grape, growing up the pine trees. Much of the fruit was growing high in the canopy and not really a problem with the pine still being young. 


That's all for now, during the next post I'll write about a wild polyculture I came across during a short hike in Pigeon Valley. It provides a wonderful example of a biodiverse, multilayered polyculture consisting of productive and fertility plants, that yields a succession of fruits and flowers throughout the year. I also found wild Mistletoe growing in Willow trees in the valley.

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

Would you like to learn how to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes, gardens, and farms that produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity? If so join us on our  Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course next spring. 

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 use the registration form to sign up for the whole course or individual weeks or modules.

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

Check out our range of seeds, tubers and cuttings available all year around - delivery worldwide.

http://www.thepolycultureproject.com/store/c2/Grow_your_Own_Polyculture_.html

Check out our range of trees, shrubs , herbs and bulbs for Forest Gardens 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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.


Resources 


Plant inventory for the region : https://eko.kapadokya.edu.tr/en/activities/cappadocia-plant-inventory/  Thank you kingha_fetyko  @kingha

The History of Cappadocia : https://taskonaklar.com/blog/the-history-of-cappadocia/

For more on the ecology of Cappadocia see here

Birds, Wildlife and History  http://www.cappadociaexplorer.com/en/detay.php?id=38&cid=48