Permaculture Projects

The Polyculture Project – Week 7 2020

Slow Worm, Spreading Ground Covers and a Grapevine Polyculture

It’s been a busy week here at the project and we are delighted to have started our very first Regenerative Landscape Design – Online Interactive Course. We met the participants on Saturday evening and are looking forward to getting to know everyone better and to share our knowledge over the next 20 weeks on how to Design, Build and Manage Polycultures for Landscapes, Gardens, and Farms that can produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.

So here’s some photos from our forest gardens and what we’ve been up to in gardens this week.
The majority of plants in our home forest garden are all bursting into leaf now apart from
When moving an old compost pile the boys found a few Slowworm – Anguis fragilis. They are very welcome in our gardens and help to keep the slug populations low. Dylan has been making profiles for the animals of our gardens and you can find his profile on Slow worm and other reptiles in the gardens here.
Slow worm probably settled in the piles from October for their winter period of dormancy, called brumation (similar to hibernation of warm-blooded creatures). They do this to ensure survival during the coldest period of the year when food sources are scarce. They were still quite sleepy from winter dormancy so we moved them under some log piles until they’re ready to venture out into the Spring
I cut down a Prunus persica – Wild Peach  tree about 4 years that grew up next to a wildlife pond. The tree was dropping most of its fruit in the pond and turning the water eutrophic and it was too large to transplant. We always leave the stumps in the ground when we fell trees, as they can provide great habitat to a number of invertebrates and saprophytic fungi.
One such invertebrate that requires rotting stumps to complete their lifecycle is the endangered European stag beetle – Lucanus cervus. One of the biggest terrestrial beetles in Europe,  the larvae feed on the rotting wood for three to five years below ground before emerging as adults. I’m not sure whether they are using this stump but we always come across male and female beetles during the summertime in the gardens.
Juglans regia – Persian Walnut in flower over in Ataraxia. The Catkins are the male flowers and have been dispersing 100 s of 1000s of pollen grains over the last week. The female flowers are much smaller and if they manage to receive the pollen and the pollen manages to fertilise the female flowers a walnut will start to form. Some walnut fruits are already visible as you can see in the second photo.

Spreading Ground Covers

This patch of Symphytum tuberosum – Tuberous Comfrey is spreading beautifully under our Elaeagnus angustifolia – Russian Olive plants that we are growing as windbreak for our home garden. The plants spread via seed and form vast carpets of cover. To get a patch going you can plant out 5-8 plants approx. 50 cm apart and they should start forming carpet cover within a few seasons. The plant’s roots and shoots are much smaller than Symphytum x uplandicum – Comfrey but they produce a fair quantity of biomass especially this time of year when they are in flower.
Fragaria x ananassa – Strawberry in flower. We have these growing under our fruiting shrubs and tree for ground cover. We don’t get too much fruit from them when grown for ground cover but they make a great cover and very attractive to bees. We’re growing strawberries for fruit in other areas of the garden where they have more space, richer soils, and can get plenty of light and water. We’ve also introduced some Wild strawberries in the garden from a nearby forest in the mountain.

Grapevine Polyculture

Our Vitis vinifera cv. – Grape and  Vaccinium corymbosum cv. –  Blueberry experimental polyculture we planted out in Ataraxia with the polyculture study crew last spring is coming along well. You can find out more about the polyculture here.  In the below photo you can see the Hemerocallis fulva – Orange Daylily fringe that should be flowering around June. Much of the plant is edible and quite tasty and is a versatile plant that succeeds in many soils. The beautiful edible flowers are also attractive to a variety of insects especially butterflies.
Here’s the planting plan of the polyculture
You can find a whole lot more about growing grapes in our previous post The Very Fine Grapevine – The Essential Guide to Everything you Need to Know about Growing Grapes
That’s all for this week!

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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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