Permaculture Projects

The Polyculture Project 2020 – Week 22

Tomatoes, Southern Green Stink Bugs and Fennel Flowers

The tomatoes are really coming thick and fast now, and I have yet to taste a tomato as delicious as the ones grown here in Bulgaria. With a slice of local goats cheese, a few basil leaves and a dash of olive oil, you have a lunch fit for a Thracian king!

Tomato – Solanum lycopersicum – growing in our polyculture Zeno. I believe this is a popular Bulgarian cultivar ‘Giant Rose’
Unfortunately, for the last 3 years the tomatoes have been affected by the persistent predation of the Southern Green Stink Bug – Nezara viridula. 
Life Cycle of Nezara viridula, taken from Topics in Subtropics
The young are easier to spot being black, but the only real way that we have found to deal with them is to manually remove them which is quite time-consuming. Stink bugs are on the menu of pest predators we have in the garden but they don’t seem to be having an impact on these bugs.  According to UC- IPM   predation can be enhanced for short distances from plantings of nectar plants such as alyssum and others as long as the flowering of these plants begins early in the season (April–June). We’ll try introducing some more support plants within the tomato planting that flower during that period
On the left you can see the young, probably just at the 1st instar stage of development, but already causing problems, and on the right a damaged fruit. 
Chinese Lantern – Physalis alkekengi growing in the home garden. This decorative herbaceous perennial grows well in the shade and produces tasty fruit very rich in vitamin C. The plants produce papery bright-orange calyxes that develop around the ripening fruit earning the plant its common name Chinese Lantern.
The plants spread quickly to form an attractive and dense ground cover in a shady area, as you can see in the below image taken from the forest garden section of the home garden. These plants are around 3 years old.
The view from another part of the home garden, on a late summer’s evening:)
We’re well and truly into Blackberry season now, and the image shows fruits from a thornfree cultivar growing in the home garden. It’s anthocyanin, a plant pigment and powerful antioxidant, that gives blackberries their dark colour, and it’s this that has been shown to have numerous beneficial health effects, with reportedly useful roles in dementia and cancer protection.  The good news is that some studies have shown that blackberries have one of the highest antioxidant contents per serving of any food tested – good to muse over while enjoying them in the garden :)



Fennel – Foeniculum vulgare about to burst into full bloom


The flowers of Fennel attract an astonishing amount of organisms to the garden and we’re always quite amazed by the sheer volume of visitors. In particular, a variety of flies seem to visit the blooms, including Hoverflies – (Syrphid flies/flower flies), which are in fact very valuable pollinators as well as pest predators. Some species produce larvae that feed on aphids and other soft-bodied insects. The adult female hover fly will find a location where aphids are present and lay her eggs nearby. When the caterpillar like larvae emerge from the eggs, they move along the plant surface, lifting their heads to grope for prey, seizing them and sucking them dry.  A single larva can consume hundreds of aphids in a month.  Hoverflies are reported to be excellent at detecting and attacking even low numbers of aphids. Check back next week for some images, as I hope to capture the activity during this week.

We’ll end this post with an update on the ducks – it’s quite unbelievable how quickly they’ve grown, and 2 ‘batches’ of ducklings have now been introduced into the garden.  The final ‘batch’ still requires the safety of the cage for now, as they are just 1 week old, but mother and babies are doing very 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.

One Comment

  1. I have been advised that the seeds , if germinated, of thornless selected cultivars of blackberries revert to the wild type of thorned bushes, which are classified as noxious weeds here.

    Do you know if this is fact for all selected thornless varieties?

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