Permaculture Projects

The Polyculture Project Week 2 – 2020

Spring in the Gardens, Early Pollenisers, Pruning Grapevine and some Forest Garden Plants

It’s been a cold week here in Shipka with snow and winds delaying some of the outdoor crop plantings we had planned. We’re still preparing orders for our final deliveries of the season next week and if the weather warms up we’ll finish the new shrub and tree plantings and push on with the annual gardens.

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

Spring slammed on the brakes early in the week with a flurry of snow and sub-zero temperatures for a few days. It’s stopped snowing but it’s still plenty chilly out there.

Mahonia aquifolium – Oregon Grape in flower. These are great plants for shady areas and in the understory of a forest garden. They can spread quite fast via layering in some soils but can easily be controlled via pruning with the biomass used for mulch. Our plants seem to stay where they are in our garden.


I managed to photograph four species of pollinators feeding on the flowers within a few minutes. Mahonia aquifolium – Oregon Grape is a great plant for attracting pollinators early in the season and features in our early pollenizer polyculture that you can find out more about here.

Here you can see how we use  Mahonia aquifolium – Oregon Grape along with a selection of other plants in our Early Polleniser Polyculture. We’re offering all of the plants in this polyculture from our online store that you can find here.

Early Polleniser Polyculture
Wild Hyacinth – Hyacynthus sp. blooming in the gardens. Exquisite volatile organic compounds :) 

the bees agree…

A range of fruit and nut trees and shrubs from the nursery potted up for our Spring Plant Sale/Open Day that is unlikely to take place this year. Maybe we’ll do a drive-by plant sale.


Phlox subulata – Moss Phlox a sun-loving ground cover with cheerful pink blossom on display in early spring. The plant can spread to form an evergreen cover in hot and dry spots around the garden. Plant out young plants approx. 40cm apart and they should form a decent cover in a few years.


Hippophae rhamnoides –  Sea Buckthorn  is one of the first deciduous plants to leaf out in the spring in our gardens. A hardy shrub/tree native to Europe, provides an abundance of highly nutritious orange berries in the autumn. A member of the Elaeagnaceae family, the plant associates with Frankia bacteria to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. Hippophae rhamnoides –  Sea Buckthorn can withstand strong winds, tolerates drought, thrives in nutritionally poor soil and its thorny branches makes this an ideal plant for a windbreak or hedging.

Pruning the Grapevines

I normally prune the grapevines in mid-Feb so we’re running a bit late this year. Last year we had some disease on the vines so this year I pruned out a lot more of the new growth and second-year-old growth  to leave fewer buds that should have more resources, less stress and therefore more resistant to attack. We’ll see.

Here’s a short video that Archie made last year on grape pruning and using the prunings for hardwood cuttings. It’s easy peasy. Loads more on Grapevines if you are interested in a previous post The Very Fine Grapevine – The Essential Guide to Everything you Need to Know about Growing Grapes

Formicidae – Wood Ants (Formica rufa – I think)  busy as usual. We have 4 colonies in the market garden each one approx 1m wide and 50 cm tall. If our current belief system regarding the age of things is correct, these little creatures have been on the scene for at least 92 million years. The dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago and us hominids have only been strutting our stuff for 6 million years with the very latest edition Homo sapiens mere noobs at just 100,000 years old. Much to learn from these OG’s
Kale and Rocket (background) microgreens in the sunroom. 100’s of little plants growing in 25cm wide 45cm long and 15 cm deep trays.
Zanthoxylum piperitum – Japanese Pepper Tree trunk looking pretty sinister



New Daily Video Series from Dylan and Archie

Dylan and Archie have been posting daily videos on what they are up to in the gardens.

Here’s a few from last week


Good luck everyone and wishing you well.

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Back to top button