Permaculture Projects

The Polyculture Project 2020 – Week 8

Garlic, Dill and Carrot Polyculture, Three edible layers in the Forest Garden and some new Allium Species

It’s been lovely to have some decent rain last week, to soak the soils, fill up the water tanks, and give the plants that vibrant green sheen. The rain, followed by warm sunshine, has everything growing profusely and the fruits are swelling on the shrubs and trees.

Sophie and the boys planted out one of our raised beds with garlic in the winter. We plant out garlic about 10 cm apart in rows and can fit four rows spaced approx. 20cm apart in each bed. We leave a little extra space between rows for sowing other crops.
In mid-March, Sophie sowed Dill seeds in between one row of garlic and a mix of carrot and spring onion seed in another row, and we also transplanted early cabbage seedlings into the middle row. The cabbages will get big, but by the time they need the space, we’ll have harvested the garlic around them, likewise the carrots. The dill we are already using and we’ll keep cutting it to prevent it from going to seed (which it likes to do very quickly in our climate). When all the garlic has been removed next month Sophie plans to plant some young leeks in the available space. It seems to work quite well so far The soil is very good in the beds and we added another 25 L of compost per m2 before sowing the garlic so there is plenty of feed for the plants.
In the forest garden, we’ve been experimenting with some new  Vaccinium corymbosum cv. – Blueberry cultivars. Here we have Vaccinium corymbosum cv. – Blueberry  ‘Patriot’ planted beside Elaeagnus x ebbingei – Ebbinge’s silverberry with Allium ursinum – Wild Garlic flowering in the background at the base of the shrub. The Elaeagnus x ebbingei – Ebbinge’s silverberry can be considered the Upper Canopy layer here with the Vaccinium corymbosum cv. – Blueberry as the shrub layer and Allium ursinum – Wild Garlic as the herb layer. We’ll be planting some ground cover to fill the spaces between these plants (probably try some Alchemilla mollis – Lady’s mantle) and adding so more Allium species (see below) into the area for year-round herbaceous cover.
and here’s a photo from the other side starring Allium ursinum – Wild Garlic with the Vaccinium corymbosum cv. – Blueberry and emerging Rubus idaeus cv. – Raspberry shoots in the background.
I never fail to appreciate the beauty and patience of Crab Spiders – Thomisidae but also can’t help but feel a little annoyed with them as they use the flowers to attract insects for their benefit.  Here’s one lying in wait on Lunaria rediviva – Perennial Honesty flowers for some unfortunate invertebrate assuming they are about to tuck into some sweet nectar, instead are about to be tucked into!
The Allium nursery is doing great and within the next few weeks, we’re looking forward to witnessing our new arrivals to the garden in full flower for the first time.
Here are the emerging inflorescence of Allium atropurpureum – Dark Purple Onion (right) and Allium amplectens – Narrowleaf onion on the left
Allium giganteum grows wild in Afghanistan, Pakistan and northwards into Russia but has become a common resident to ornamental gardens across the world. The plant has large edible bulbs, I’ve not tried them before but I  assume they taste of Onion :)
Salvia officinalis – Sage starting to flower. Within a week they will be smothered with all sorts of bees, wasps, butterflies, moths and beetles.
I found this larva on the underside of a Schisandra grandiflora. I’m quite certain it is Amphipyra pyramidea – Copper Underwing Moth (thank you to Kostas Christofidis for the I.D). The larvae are minor pests of Apple and Pears and feed mainly on broadleaved forest trees and shrubs but very rarely in quantities that are disruptive.  Copper Underwing Moth has also been known to feed on Kiwi and I think Schisandra spp. are related to Kiwi. This beauty will soon head to the soil to pupate, emerging as a  Moth in July.
Morus alba – White Mulberry fruits developing nicely. This is a self-seeded tree that we’ve been encouraging to grow for the last 12 years. The fruits ripen white and are sweeter fruits than the other Morus alba – White Mulberry trees we have in the gardens. Probably perfect for drying which is something we’d like to get into at the project as we have so much excellent fruit that we cannot possibly consume, give away or sell, particularly from the Mulberry trees.

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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