Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Akebia Quinata, Grape Juice and a Spiral - Week 21 - ESC Project - The Polyculture Project

 

This week the Akebia Quinata fruits opened, revealing their seeds within the tropical yet other-worldly looking fruits. It was fun to present the fruits to the ESC crew and watch their surprised expressions, especially when they learnt that you can eat the white seed containing flesh. The outer purple skin is theoretically edible, but doesn't taste good in our opinion, although we've only tried it raw and I've heard that it's more palatable cooked. Although the edible white flesh is small in quantity and fiddly to eat, the taste is divinely sweet, although not chocolate like at all. The association with chocolate is likely more related to the sweet smelling purple flowers that cover the vine in early April. We save the seeds for growing new stock and also seed packs from our bionursery.

Akebia is a climbing vine or a ground cover. It comes into leaf in early spring and shortly after leafing is adorned with beautiful purple flowers. It's fast-growing and has created an incredible high cover providing much needed shade in our yard in the summer months. 

We planted it beside one of the vines in our yard but can't recommend this combination as the Akebia growth will eventually strangle the Grapevine as it matures and the Akebia, while not being pruned every year, is starting to dominate the arbour and reducing the light the vine receives and very few grapes grow in this area now.


This week with the ESC crew we extended and made improvements to a central spiral feature in the central community garden area.

 The volunteers have been helping to maintain this garden throughout the summer, and it was nice to finally lay the stones into the spiral as this completed one of the first tasks that was started on back in the spring. We waited until the autumn so that the soil was nice and moist, making it easy to lay the stones and ideal conditions for incoming plants.

Before

After
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 

 

The area is in pretty deep shade in the summer and also under pine trees so it may be acidic. We selected the following plants to fill out the space; 

Mentha spp - Mint  We were given some divided plants by a local elderly lady and there are already several established plants doing well in this area. Borderline hardy to zone 6/7, the flowers attracting butterflies and bees and they grow well in the shade. 

Ajuga repans - Bugle  is an evergreen perennial hardy to zone 3 that makes an excellent ground cover plant, forming a mat of glossy edible leaves. The flowers are favoured by bees and the dense mat formed by the plants provide shelter for many beneficial organisms. It can grow well in the shade.

Spotted Purple Nettle makes excellent ground cover, quickly forming a dense mat. Hardy to zone 3, it can tolerate deep shade and it's flowers attract a wide range of beneficial organisms. 


From L top clockwise - Ajuga, Lamium & Mentha


A full day was spent this week harvesting grapes and processing them into juice. After a week of heavy rain the sugar content was significantly lower which actually resulted in a juice of perfect sweetness.

One the grapes are picked you lay them on a plastic sheet or a yoga mat (!) and use a hose to wash them down. 

The 'wash down' pose

Next step is to put entire bunches of washed grapes through the mangle, which as the name suggests crushes the grapes, and catches the juice and pulp in a large plastic barrel, known locally as a 'bidon'.



Once the plastic container is full, start moving the pulp over to the press for a final squeeze. We ran the juice through a sieve to remove any solid parts. Then the juice is ready for bottling up.





By the end of the day we were all feeling a bit giddy - must be all that grape juice ;)




Since we have never had much success with winemaking thus far, we tend to always make a lot of grape juice and freeze it. This year we tried to store some in jars as well, creating a vacuum seal using a water bath.


The leftover material consists of skins, pulp, seeds, stems, leaves, and other residue. This was removed from the press and placed directly onto newly created garden beds. It makes excellent mulch as it is nutrient dense and acts as a slow release fertilizer. We covered the material with autumn leaves to avoid attracting wasps to the area.



Thanks to the ESC crew for some of the photos used in this blog. You can check out the ESC volunteer's personal blog here.  




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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
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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!

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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 :)


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Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Seed Saving, Heavy Rain and Plants for Autumn Colours - Week 20 - ESC Project - The Polyculture Project

This week the weather has been more like something experienced in Wales with cool temperatures and significant and persistent rainfall, quickly turning a pleasant transition into autumn into a quick dash inside to the warmth of the stove.


 Many of the end of season garden tasks have yet to be completed and the high winds have ripped some of the Sweet Chestnuts off the branches before they are fully ripe. We've spent a lot of time this week gathering up soggy walnuts from the muddy ground and drying them out inside by the fire.


The ESC volunteers made the most of the one dry morning and harvested the majority of the sun loving annual vegetables. There are still leeks, carrots and chard in their garden which can be harvested a little later on, so long as we continue to avoid frosts. The green tomatoes have since been processed into a tasty chutney, using spices brought from Istanbul to flavour.


It was a bumper harvest of squash again this year, grown from an heirloom seed we have named, 'Victoria's Granny'. The original seed came from a previous participant of The Polyculture Project, Victoria, who was given them by her grandmother in Belarus. Year on year they reliably produce enormous quantities of the most delicious tasting winter squash. As part of our ESC project, Misha from the Green School Village came up with the idea to start collecting some of the local heirloom seeds grown in Shipka and to create a seed library for the local community to use.  We've been sorting through what seeds we have as a base stock for the library, and also saving seeds from the tomatoes gifted to us by some of the local elderly people. Once the weather improves we will be asking local food growers to donate some of their favourite seeds to the library. 

Seed saved from a local variety of tomato

Translating the names into Bulgarian

The wet weather means that many of the plants suddenly seem to have developed their autumn colours with speed. Cool and windy conditions will encourage the leaves to drop, signalling the official start of the nursery season. Here are three of our favourite trees and shrubs for autumn colours that we are offering this season.

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 

 

Rhus typhina - Stag's Horn Sumach

Overview: Hardy to Zone 4. Rhus typhina is more commonly known as Stag's Horn Sumach due to the branches being reminiscent of a stag's antlers. This interesting plant architecture is revealed once the leaves have fallen in the autumn and the tree is dormant. It is a large suckering deciduous shrub that can grow up to 8m, the red-hairy stems with large pinnate leaves turning pretty shades of red and orange in the autumn.   It can grow in a wide array of habitats and can thrive in dry and poor soil, making it a great choice for these conditions. Can also tolerate wind quite well. 


Mespilus germanica - Medlar 

Overview: Hardy to zone 6. Medlars are ornamental, flowering trees with pretty white blossom, really attractive autumn colours with different hues of red, orange and yellow and delicious late autumn/winter fruit that should be bletted before eating. They tolerate most soils and are most comfortable if planted in a sunny and sheltered position but also do well in partial shade.  A perfect candidate for the outer edge of a woodland garden and able to tolerate moderate wind. For a more detailed look at this plant see our Essential Guide to Growing Medlars.




Aronia melanocarpa cv. - Black Chokeberry

Overview: Hardy to zone 4.  Aronia is a deciduous Shrub growing to 2.5 m by 3 m. An attractive fruit bearing shrub that grows well in partial shade, making it a good option for the forest garden. Tolerates most soils and can handle moist conditions. The berries are edible  but should be fully ripe before being eaten, meaning that they are often still on the plant by the time the leaves turn a very deep red in the autumn. 






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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, 2023. 

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
 RLD2023 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!


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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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Saturday, 16 October 2021

A Butterfly Polyculture and Planting a Productive Hedge - Week 19 - ESC Project - The Polyculture Project


As part of our ESC project we are maintaining and developing community spaces. The centre of our town, Shipka, was fairly recently developed to include a main plaza with a stage where numerous events take place throughout the year, particularly in the summer months.  Surrounding this area is a green space with several beautiful mature deciduous and evergreen trees, such as Horse chestnut - Aesculus hippocastanum, Linden - Tillia sp-  and Fir - Abies sp. Recent renovations to the park have included making pathways, planting more trees and installing new play equipment for children. It has a relaxed yet formal feel to it. We had an idea to design a polyculture for the park that will attract a range of butterflies, add a splash of colour to the area and appeal to children.





Type of Polyculture: Perennial - Amenity
Main Function: To attract butterflies in the central community garden near a child's playground
Secondary Function: To be aesthetically pleasing

The plants we selected were; Buddleia davidii - Butterfly bushPhlomis russeliana - Turkish Sage, Lavandula angastafolia - LavenderOriganum vulgare - Oregano and Echinacea purpurea - Echinacea. In a small design exercise, one of the ESC team, Ruxandra, was to illustrate the design and consider the following criteria when thinking about plant selection and placement:
  • The main function  - to attract butterflies throughout the summer months, so we're looking for overlapping and extended bloom times to maximize the butterflies' visits to the polyculture.
  • Hardy to zone 6 or lower
  • Drought tolerant
  • Low maintenance
  • Predominantly sun-loving plants
The ESC crew have played an active role in supporting the community by weeding and watering the existing plants in this area, a task that is usually carried out weekly by the local mayor's team. By planting polycultures in an area of the town that is regularly irrigated, we ensure that the young plants will receive the care they need to establish over the coming season, and except for a prune once a year to keep the desired shape, can be pretty much left to thrive and grow into an attractive feature in the central park/community space. 


Ruxandra chose to place the Oregano on the northerly aspect, as it can tolerate more shade than the other plants.


 The mayor loved the design and illustration and we'll be planting out the polyculture in the coming weeks. Here's a short overview of each of the plants featured in the Butterfly Paradise polyculture.


Buddleia davidii - Butterfly bush 


Overview: Buddleia is a deciduous shrub growing to 3m by 2m at a fast rate. Hardy to zone 4. It's often found on embankments or rocky riversides. It prefers full sun, can tolerate drought and blooms from July - October. Plants flower mainly on the current year's growth so a hard pruning in spring will encourage better flowering. Butterflies are highly attracted to the blooms, especially Fritillaries.




Phlomis russeliana Jeruselum/Turkish Sage 


Overview: Turkish Sage is a  is an evergreen shrub growing to 1.3m by 1.5m at a medium rate. It is hardy to zone 5. Often found on dry, rocky terrain or hillsides, it prefers full sun, can tolerate drought and blooms from May - September. It's possible to deadhead the flowers and create another cycle of growth and therefore extend the blooming time. It makes a great ground cover plant as it's leaves form quite a dense cover. 




Lavandula angastafolia - Lavender


Overview:  Lavender is an evergreen shrub growing to 1.2m by 1m at a slow rate. It is suitable down to zone 5 and is often found on rocky hillsides. It prefers full sun, can tolerate drought and blooms from June - August. It's known for attracting wildlife and grows very well in our region, which is one of the world's top producers of Lavender oil. In the below photo  Lavender forms part of this polyculture in the home garden along with Vitis vinifera cv. - White Grape, Zanthoxylum simulans - Szechuan pepper and Cytisus scoparius - Broom.



Echinacea purpurea - Echinacea, Coneflower


Overview: Echinacea is a perennial growing to 1.2m by 0.5m at a medium rate. Hardy to zone 4. It is often found on dry fields or wasteland. It prefers full sun, can tolerate drought and blooms from July - August.  The blooms start off fairly flat in shape, but once pollinated they form more of a cone shape shape as the seeds within develop. Butterfly wise, Painted Ladies and Swallowtails are among the frequent visitors to the flowers.




Origanum vulgare - Oregano


Overview: Oregano is a perennial growing to 0.6 m by 0.8m at a medium rate. It is hardy to zone 4 and is often found on dry grassy areas. It prefers full sun, but can tolerate some shade. It's able to handle drought and blooms from July - October.  The blooms are small, delicate and purple and attract incredible interest to butterflies, particularly the Common Blue.




A second polyculture we've been working on this week is on a small plot that we're developing into a forest garden at the crew house. Last week we sheet mulched an area for a boundary hedge and this week we planted it out. 

Type of Polyculture: Perennial - Infrastructure
Main Function: To provide a screen/boundary/privacy in the summer months
Secondary Function: To produce some edible fruits

The plants we selected were; Elaeagnus umbellata - Autumn Olive, Cornus mas - Cornelian Cherry and Chaenomeles speciosa - Japanese Quince. Our main considerations for this polyculture were:
  • The main function - to provide a screen throughout the summer months. We wanted plants that hedge well and can grow to 1.8m in height to provide privacy
  • Hardy to zone 6 or lower
  • Production of some edible fruits 
  • Drought tolerant species 
  • Sun loving
  • Tolerant of pruning
Here's a short overview of the plants featured in this polyculture.

Elaeagnus umbellata - Autumn Olive

Overview: A large deciduous shrub growing 4.5m high and 4.5m wide and hardy to zone 3.
Tolerates part shade and is very drought tolerant. Branches are often thorny with leaves that are bright green and silvery beneath. Yellowish white, fragrant flowers, are produced in May-June, followed by rounded silvery brown (ripening red) fruits in Sep-Oct that are edible. Nitrogen fixing. This plant is considered weedy in the U.S.



Chaenomeles speciosa - Japanese Quince

Overview:  A thorny deciduous or semi-evergreen shrub usually growing to about 2m tall and generally exhibiting a rounded outline, but can be variable in form.  Hardy to zone 4. The plants establish a very dense crown with a tangled jumble of branches which are either spiny or with spurs. The flowers come before the leaves and are usually red, but may be white or pink. The fruit is fragrant and looks similar to a small apple although some cultivars have much larger pearish shaped fruits. 




Cornus mas - Cornelian Cherry

Overview: Growing at a slow - medium rate, C.mas is a small tree or deciduous shrub growing up to 5 m in height and 5m in width. Hardy to zone 4.  A early flowering plant that slowly grows to form dense hedging that provides habitat, and often deep within the hedge, some fruit which birds enjoy. Plants grown from seeds make particularly great hedging plants. 

Cornus mas in late winter/early spring. It produces one of the first flowers to appear in the garden in late February


The Benefits of Propagating from Seed: When we first started growing shrubs from seed it was pleasantly surprising to see  how quickly they establish. In our experience with growing Cornus mas and some nitrogen fixing shrubs, seeds germinating in the spring can establish well and be ready to plant out in the autumn of the same year (subject to species hardiness and, of course, the weather conditions in a given year). The following spring after autumn planting, we practice formative pruning to encourage the shrubs to become denser and by the third summer after sowing, we've recorded growth of up 80cm high and 60cm wide (specifically for Elaeagnus angustifolia).  The growth we have witnessed is from our own stock have, in some instances, outperformed established 6 year old plants we have growing in the garden, purchased from a commercial nursery.

When propagating from seed you have the advantage of selecting the strongest seedlings.  Another significant reward is that you are promoting genetic diversity within your populations, something you are not likely to find in the majority of cloned nursery stock.

Cornus mas grown from seed planted into the hedge


It's important to think about spacing when planting a hedge. As we plan for each plant to spread in width to around 1m, we planted our shrubs 1m apart from each other, to allow for 50cm growth either side from the centre of the plant.


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 

 


Ruxandra and Hekim parting the sheet mulch layers


Ru planting a Japanese Quince

Established Cornus mas and Chaenomeles speciosa shrubs, blending well together in the home garden


The ESC team were given a tasty local cultivar of Strawberry by a local elderly resident who they have been helping, and these were planted into the bed as a ground layer. We will hopefully harvest some fruit from them until the shrub hedge matures and shades them out which generally reduces fruit production, but they should create a decent ground cover for the hedge. We will also be planting some Alliums bulbs or possibly some annual garlic into the bed to take advantage of the current light levels.




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, 2023. 

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
 RLD2023 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

https://www.nmnhs.com/butterfly_areas_bg/
https://monarchbutterflygarden.net/butterfly-plants/