Permaculture Projects

Plums Galore, Growing Paulownia Trees for Shade/Mulch and some Forest Garden Plants

Week 15 - The Polyculture Project

It’s been my kind of summer so far, not too hot, lovely sunshine, heavy rainfall just when it’s needed and lots of plums. :-)   

Here’s what we’ve been up to in the gardens last week.

But first just to let you know we’ve revamped our Online Store where you can find Forest Garden/ Permaculture Plants, Seeds, Cuttings, Bulbs, Rhizomes and Polyculture Multi-packs along with digital goods and services such as Online Courses, Webinars, eBooks, and Online Consultancy and finally we’ve added a Bulk Fruit and Nut Tree order form for Farms, Orchards, Nurseries, and Large Regenerative Landscape Projects. If there is anything in the store you would like to see but is not there, please let us know. We hope you enjoy the store and find something you like :) It’s your purchases that keep our Project going. Thank you. Enter Our Store Here.

Paulownia Trials

It’s been a while since I posted the most recent photo of our Paulownia tomentosa – Foxglove Tree trees that we grow in the centre of our vegetable beds to provide shade, mulch and round wood for use in the gardens.

I cut the trees to ground level in early May (see our previous blog post here) below you can see photos of the stool after 3, 5 and 9 weeks growth.  The beetroots planted in the beds are appreciating the shade and are some of the first to mature and overall seem to be in better condition to beetroot sown in other areas of the garden in full sun.

The regrowth is exceeding my expectations with the highest plant over 2 m tall in just 3 months. Misha thinned and lifted the trees this week to provide some mulch for the beetroots growing underneath and to allow more light to reach the ground. The below photo shows before and after thinning and lifting the plants in a section of the bed.

About 8 years ago in the home garden I planted a small area with six 1 year old Paulownia tomentosa – Foxglove Tree saplings and let them grow for 3 years before the first cut, after which I’ve been cutting this little patch of Paulownia every year in the spring for the last 5 years and the regrowth still comes back strongly. As you can see from the below photo, I thin the regrowth from each stool to two of the straightest stems and lift all of the lower leaves and branches to encourage vertical growth. I’m growing a few Lonicera periclymenum – Honeysuckle that tolerate the shade under the trees that I use as mother plants for our nursery stock.
The oldest and largest  Paulownia tomentosa – Foxglove Tree we have in the gardens is a plant I grew from seed 9 years ago and planted into the forest garden in Aponia. The tree has established well reaching at least 12 m tall and 6 m wide before the wind took the top out last Autumn. In the below photo you can see the regrowth from this season reaching up high into the sky. I should think the regrowth will also be damaged by the autumn winds but we’ll see.


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

We’re hosting a range of webinars 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 more. If you would like to be notified when our next webinar is coming up please add your email below and hit subscribe and we’ll be in touch. You can also register here  for our upcoming webinars.

Forest Garden Plants

Hibiscus syriacus – Rose of Sharon has started to flower and will continue to flower right up until early Autumn. These compact shrubs make great under story plants for the forest garden and can also be used as hedging plants.
Levisticum officinale – Lovage  is a great under story herb flowering profusely and attracting a range of beneficial insects. If you are looking to harvest the leaves for culinary purposes it’s best to cut back the flowering growth to the ground to promote fresh regrowth.
I have Lythrum salicaria – Purple Loosestrife  planted around the 1000 L rain water catchment tank. The plant can be invasive in wetlands but behaves very well in the gardens. The pink/purple flowers  blooms throughout the summer months and are attractive to range of wildlife.  You can see Rubus fruticosus cv. – Blackberry ‘Reuben’ in the background of this photo. This primocane (fruits on first year growth) cultivar is very compact compared to other Blackberry cultivars, and the first fruits have already ripened tasting delicious.
Our crab apple is full of fruit this year. The apples are quite sweet but very small with the largest being around 6 cm wide. I’m not so keen on the taste of these apples but they make an acceptable nibble and in previous years when we have had pigs and rabbits that are a much appreciated part of their diet. Crab apples are great to grow as pollinator partners to enhance cross pollination with other apples trees due to their prolonged flowering period and reliability to flower each year.

Plums and Apricots

I noticed a gap in fruit production from our gardens in July about 5 years ago so I planted some early season plums as well as a number of Apricot cultivars to fill the void.  This is the first year we are receiving fruit from the plum cultivars ‘Czar’ and ‘Karlovska Afazka’  and an Apricot ‘Early Kishinevska’ has provided a few handfuls too. The  Prunus spp. – ‘Czar’ tree photographed below is one of the earliest culinary plums in the season. The tree can also grow in partial shade so it’s a good choice for the forest garden. The plums are great tasting, well worth the wait :)
Prunus spp. – ‘Karlovska Afazka’ was planted 3 years ago and is absolutely packed with fruit this year.

Atraxia – the Perennial Polyculture Trial Garden

We’ve been chopping and dropping in the perennial polyculture beds probably for the last time this season. We only chop and drop the plants around the young trees and shrubs and leave the spaces between the plants to grow wild. Here are Tobi and Christina chop and dropping around the Cornus mas – Cornellian Cherry and Elaeagnus umbellata – Autumn Olive in one of the perennial polyculture trial beds.
The spacing between the Cornus mas – Cornellian Cherry and Elaeagnus umbellata – Autumn Olive is 2 m and the plants are planted in the center of a 1.3 wide raised beds. To see how we established the raised bed see our previous post here.
Shahara watering the corn seedlings sown into a raised bed about 4 weeks ago.

Market Garden – Aponia

The produce is starting to ripen in the market garden with Kohlrabi, Beetroot, Potato, Kale, Beans and Courgettes coming along well and the first of the Basil and Tomato starting to ripen. As we arrive in the garden on Monday morning the first job is to inspect the Brassica crops for pests such as Pieris brassicae – Large White eggs and larvae and more common this time of year the Cabbage Bug – Eurydema oleracea.

We had a tray of Leeks – Allium porrum ‘Bulgarian Giant’ left over from the late spring sowings. I’m not sure whether they have spent too much time in the flats and whether they will develop well but I thought we’d try them in a shady spot and see how they get on. Here’s Shahara planting out the Leek seedlings approx 25 cm apart in little nests made into the mulch.
Here’s a shot of the marvellous team in the market garden

Garden Wildlife

What I believe to be Micrommata virescens – Green Huntsman Spider protecting her young on the underside of a Kohlrabi leaf. Rather than chasing after their prey, these spiders wait for passing invertebrates and then pounce on it.  Hence the “Huntsman” name – see here for more info.
Identified hairy larvae found in the deep shade under a tarp.
Unidentified larvae on Verbascum sp.
That’s all for this week!

Paul Alfrey

Hi I'm Paul, Originally from the UK I moved over to Bulgaria with my family 12 years ago and set up the Balkan Ecology Project. Prior to that, I worked as a freelance Arborist in the UK for 15 years. Balkan Ecology Project is a family project run by myself, Sophie and our two boys Dylan and Archie, and supported by the amazing volunteers we have hosted here over the years. We aim to develop and promote practices that provide nutritious affordable food while enhancing biodiversity and work to achieve this by: - Researching, designing and implementing systems on the ground - Providing working examples of our designs at our sites open for the public to visit - Providing quality education and training to aspiring growers and landscapers - Providing consultancy and design for landowners and farmers across Europe - Practicing an open source policy, whereby we disseminate our results freely and share all aspects of our work - Growing, selling and promoting the use of plants and plant communities that have high ecological and nutritional value Our activities currently include: Biological Plant Nursery, Educational Courses, Local Land Stewardship, Polyculture Research, Market Gardening​, and Consultancy and Design.

One Comment

  1. I have researched Pauwlonia for this exact function so I am very happy to see your success in Bulgaria. We live in Greece and from what I have read Pauwlonia would do well here too.
    One thing has kept me from going ahead and ordering seed; according to some youtubers Pauwlonia has an agressive suckering habit. Especially when coppiced like shown here. Could you comment on that?

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