This week, we are taking a look at some ground cover plants, experimenting with pruning Raspberries and thinking a bit more about beneficial insects and how we can categorise the kind of support they provide us with in our gardens. We also have some glad tidings to share from our feathered friends….welcome to The Polyculture Project – Week 18.
We’ve been experimenting with pruning the raspberries at different times of the year in order to try and prolong the fruiting period. The raspberries we did not prune from last season are producing their final crop (photo on the left) and the raspberries we did prune are just starting to flower (photo on the right). We’re finding pruning half of the raspberries in the autumn is an easy way to get fruits from late May through to October.
While on a road trip with my brother in the Rhodopes mountains 4 or 5 years ago, we came across a small landslide where several upturned plants lay. I rescued some of the plants from the pile and planted them under the relatively deep shade of a mature cherry tree in the home garden, seeing as the plants had come from a shady mountainside.
5 years later, one plant, in particular, has done extremely well, that is Circaea lutetiana – Enchanter’s nightshade.
Circaea lutetiana – Enchanter’s nightshade
Circaea lutetiana – Enchanter’s Nightshade makes excellent ground cover in a woodland area. You can see the ground cover below the cherry tree in this photo, where C. lutetiana has established itself well while not being overwhelming. This is probably because it is growing alongside other plants that prevent it from overtaking, including Dewberry – Rubus caesius. C. lutetiana is often considered a weed, but what’s great about designing layers in a polyculture, is that when grown with other plants, the ability of a plant to spread and monopolise the area is greatly reduced.
Circaea lutetiana growing with Rubus caesius
Rubus caesius – Dewberry, another excellent plant for ground cover. One plant can grow to around 1m in width, thereby covering quite a large area. Lots of beneficial insects are attracted to the blooms, and the fruits are palatable and can be used to make preserves.
We are always encouraging Heracleum sphondylium, commonly known as Hogweed, in our gardens. The plants grow at the base of fruit trees, among our Rubus idaeus cv. – Raspberry. patch and in wild strips and islands throughout the gardens. Part of the Apiacea family, this plant can grow up to 2m long, with hairy, ridged hollow stems. It’s an excellent plant for animal fodder (the pigs and rabbits love the leaves), biomass production, and for attracting beneficial insects that feed on the pollen and nectar and use the hollow stems to overwinter.
Hypericum perforatum – St Johns Wort is flower in the nursery. A herbaceous perennial that giving the correct conditions will spread forming a very attractive drought tolerant ground cover. The plant has a long history of medicinal use and has established a place in modern medicine as a treatment for depression.
We’re thrilled to announce the first clutch of eggs have successfully hatched! The little ducklings not even a day old made a bee line for the pond and spent a happy hour diving into the depths before we moved them, and mother, safely into their house and secure area We’ve lost very small ducklings before, so this year we’d like to try and protect them until they are a few weeks old and big enough to roam the gardens. For more on our work and gardens, and a video of the ducks, you can follow us on Instagram.