Permaculture Projects

Starting a New Garden, Propagating Currants, Forest Garden Fruits and the Last Week of the Project

The Polyculture Project - Week 25

Last week was the closing week of the Polyculture Study for this season  – and what a season it’s been thanks to all of the awesome people that have joined us this year.  We’re so grateful that people from all over the world participate in the project with such enthusiasm and help us on our quest to develop and promote practices that provide food and other resources while enhancing biodiversity. Thank you so much to the crew of 2019, it’s been an absolute pleasure.



The Polyculture Study Crew of 2019

Ronan Delente – Michael Krack – Leonie Steinherr – Ben Peirson – Lilly Clark – Martin Votava – Amy Brangwyn – Eileen Wylicil – Tobi and Christina.Ruchel – Karo Castro-Wunsch – Kiki Ami – Maria Cruz – Shahara Khaleque – Jolanda de Rooij – Paul Vdsande – Simon Leupi  – Eva Goldmann – Ryan Sapsed – Rowan Brooks – Joana de Melo Sampaio

and special thanks to the core team who have been with us from the start to the finish of the season;

Mihaela Tzarchinska  – Philip Varionov – Lea Valfigueira

So here’s what we’ve been up to in the gardens in our final week.



A New Garden – Prokopê

For the last week of the study we started work on a new forest garden – Prokopê, carrying out soil surveys, topography surveys and a preliminary botany survey on the plot. Here’s the plot
We always begin development of a new garden with a simple soil analysis to see what condition the soil is in. We are using the Northern Rivers Soil Health Card for these tests, with some small modifications. Here are Misha, and Joana taking the base soil surveys on the plot with Philip recording.

Lea and Ben making a topo survey of the plot and pegging out five contour lines across the area in order to establish irrigation channels, bed layout and plant spacing.

As you can see from the below photo there a is quite a slope on the Northern border of the plot. We measured the elevation fall from the top of the slope to the bottom and found a 2.95 m drop. We have access to flowing water from the higher ground via a stream and it will be interesting to learn what potential we have for hydro energy based on this elevation difference.  In the past, locals would use water power for wood turning and metal works.


I made a quick survey of the existing trees and shrubs on the site. Common to all of the plots around here Prunus spinosa – Sloe and Rosa canina – Dog Rose are present growing among the grasses.

In the hedgerow we have a Carpinus sp. Hornbeam and Ligustrum vulgare – Privet  growing under Cornus mas – Cornellian Cherry


Crataegus – Hawthorn growing under a Field Maple

There are also a number of young Juglans regia – Persian Walnut  and one large Walnut tree and a few Acer campestre – Field Maple

I also photographed the herb layer for autumn flowering plants and will carry on with botany surveys in the following seasons to get a fuller picture of the herb and bulb diversity on the site.



Propagating Currants – Hard Wood Cuttings

We have been pruning and propagating Ribes nigrum cv.- Blackcurrant and Ribes rubrum cv. – Red currant  this week. For pruning currants it’s good to remove approx. 1/3 of the older stems from the shrub anytime during the Autumn or Winter. Usually you will find 2 or 3 good hard wood cuttings from the pruned stems. The hardwood cutting should be this years growth and are easy to identify by the lighter colour. Ideally the cuttings should be 30 cm  long but shorter and longer cuttings will also work. The older stems can be cut into smaller pieces and left on the surface of the bed unless the pruned material is diseased in which case it should be removed from the area.  Here are Joana and Ryan taking the cuttings

We prepared a space in a raised bed for the hardwood cuttings, clearing the weeds, digging a 30 cm deep trench and soaking the ground well. We then removed all of the lower leaves from the cuttings and placed them in the trench approx 15 cm apart, watered well and pulled the soil and compost back into the trench to cover the cuttings leaving approx 5- 10 cm of the cuttings exposed. If the cuttings are well watered during dry periods, this time next year the cuttings will have developed roots and can be dug out and transplanted into their permanent positions. Hardwood cuttings from currants is one of the easiest methods of propagation. If you are propagating different cultivars don’t forget to label them well.



Forest Garden Fruits

One of our Elaeagnus umbellata – Autumn Olive  shrubs has gone all in with fruit this year.  Elaeagnus umbellata – Autumn Olive are small but very tasty and my personal favourite of all Elaeagnus spp.

We’ll probably try a jam this season, just need to work out a fast way to remove the seed.

Rubus fruticosus cv. – Blackberry ‘Reuben’are still flowering, fruiting and ripening. I’m very pleased with this cultivar and will be planting more of it in the gardens. It works well in the under story of a lifted fruit tree as the erect growth of the blackberry finds support on the lower limbs of the tree and there is no need to build support frames for the plants. The below photo shows the fruit ripening among the lower branches of a plum tree.

Sedem telephium – Orpine is flowering, a great bee plant for the end of the season.

It’s been an odd year for our Cornus mas – Cornellian Cherry. with the fruits ripening in late September. The tree was in flower by late February as usual but in previous years the fruits were ripe by the end of August. It’s packed full of fruit this year, perhaps this has delayed the ripening.

Mahonia aquifolium – Oregon Grape berries. An excellent shrub for deep shade providing an early source of nectar and pollen for bees and tasty little berries in the Autumn.


The crew




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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