Permaculture Projects

Hazelnut Harvest, Broken Branches, Wild Flowers and Forest Garden Plants

Week 19 - The Polyculture Project

It’s been a lovely week here in Shipka – although quite windy, and the plants and soils dry out very quickly, so this week we’ve been irrigating the gardens as much as possible.  We’ve also continued with invertebrate surveys and soil tests and processing some of the harvests from the gardens. 



Hazel  – Corylus spp. Yields

We are growing around 7 different cultivars of  Corylus spp. – Hazelnut  among the different gardens. I planted the first cultivars in the Market Garden – Aponia three seasons ago  and they have been producing nuts for the last few years. This year I have started to record the yields of the various plants hoping to identify the cultivars that are best suited for our gardens for future plantings.

‘Ata Baba’

The below image shows the planting locations of various Hazel cultivars in Aponia, namely ;

  1. ‘Tonda Gentile Romana’
  2. ‘Ata Baba’
  3. ‘Barcelona’
  4. ‘Badeovidim’

There were only nuts on the Ata Baba and Badeovidim cultivars this year. The nuts of these cultivars  look very similar to each other both being Filberts (Corylus maxima) although the Ata Baba nuts are slightly larger and the Badeovidim are more frequently clustered in 4 or 5 husks as opposed to the Ata Baba that cluster in 2s and 3s  shown below.

I harvested nuts from 2 trees of Ata Baba and 2 trees of Badeovidim, weighed and photographed the nuts.

Here are the records for this year

Corylus spp. – Hazel Records 2019 – Aponia
No. Year Planted Botanical Cultivar Harvest kg Fruit Notes Notes Harvest Period
1 April 2015 Corylus avellana Tonda Romana n/a no fruit this year – previous years have been fruitful Mid August
2 April 2015 Corylus maxima Ata baba 0.210 Mostly 1 or 2 husks per flower
some 3
no signs of Nut Weevils – Balaninus nucum Mid August
3 April 2015 Corylus avellana Barcelona n/a tree on left of below image FTGL for stakes – no fruit since the planting out
tree on right no fruit this year or since planting out – very tall plant
Early September
4 April 2015 Corylus maxima Badeovidim 0.200 Mostly 2 or 3 husks per flower
some 5 and one 6
Nut Weevils – Balaninus nucum destroyed 3 or 4 of the nuts Mid August

There were signs of the Nut Weevil – Balaninus nucum on 3 or 4 of the Badeovidim nuts as shown below but none on the Ata Baba nuts.

We’re offering a range of cultivars including the above mentioned ‘Ata baba’ from the nursery this year . You can find out more about the plants we have on offer here

Wild Flowers In The Gardens

Saponaria officinalis – Soapwort grows wild in the meadows and woodland edges in and around the gardens. It’s an attractive plant with a long blooming period throughout the summer.  As its common name implies, it can be used as a very gentle soap and has historically been used to clean delicate textiles. We encourage it in the gardens and I have found it makes an excellent ground cover in dry sunny spots.
Another wild growing beauty that makes a great ground cover is Salvia verticillata – Lilac sage.  This herbaceous perennial forms expansive clumps and flowers from spring through to late summer and is much visited by pollinators. Although in the Salvia genus I am not aware of any culinary uses for this plant


Phronensis –

We established this new forest garden in April 2019 with the help of our amazing Design and Build a Forest Course participants. This week we have been taking soil surveys in the garden with the aim to track the health of the soil over time and see how our planting schemes and management plans affect soil health. Here are Lea and Eva working through the soil heath cards from Northern Rivers.

The garden design, species list and planting scheme.

The primary purpose of the garden is to produce round wood for fence posts, light construction wood, and stakes and pole wood for the market garden with secondary purposes to provide fruits and nuts in the under story and a range of habitat to support wildlife.

Since we established the garden in the spring I’ve mowed the pathways 4 times (approx once every 2 or 3 weeks taking approx. 20 minutes per cut), we’ve pulled weeds growing through the mulch around the newly planted trees twice (that’s 48 mulched plants that takes 3 or 4 people about 45 – 60 minutes per weeding session) and this week we have watered the plants for the first time this season  following the initial plant out.  Here you can see the third row of Paulownia tomentosa – Foxglove Tree and Alnus cordata  – Italian Alder trees planted on contour and establishing well.

We’ve also added the pond and finished off the raised beds in the south end of the garden.  If you don’t include the raised beds, this seems to be quite a low maintenance garden.

Forest Garden Plants

It’s been a great year for plums, perhaps a bit too good as quite a few plum trees around the area have been snapping out limbs from the weight of the fruit. The photo below is of a Prunus insititia – Damson  on the southern border of the garden. Two limbs snapped out making it easy pickings for Eva and Simon that collected about 10 kg of the plums for pies and jams.

Prunus insititia – Damson  fruits from our fallen branches

Here is Misha picking green beans in the market garden. These beans are a local cultivar from a friend of Misha’s in a neighbouring village. The plants seem to like it in the garden and have been very productive so far and are great tasting both raw and cooked.

It’s that time of year when the wild Rubus fruticosus cv. – Blackberry generously present themselves to the animals. What with all the rain we had this season the wild berries are plump and juicy. Personally I prefer the taste of the wild blackberries to the cultivated ones, although a new cultivar ‘Reuben’ that I’ve been growing for a few years is pretty close. Here are some black berries growing up a small apple tree we have in Aponia. Next week the apples should be ripe and you can pick and eat the blackberries and apples right from the same spot. An excellent combination fresh as well as baked in a crumble :)


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.

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