Permaculture Projects

The Polyculture Project 2020 – Week 23

High Summer in the Forest Garden

There’s a hint of autumn in the air this week. Although the temperatures have been above 30°c at the time of writing this blog, there has been a cooler feel to some of the nights, and the evenings are definitely drawing in.

Still no significant rainfall, since the end of June however we’re fortunate to have a perennial water source which reaches our garden and all the other houses in the village via channels diverted from a mountain river.

 Raised beds laid out on contour with sunken pathways in the home garden

Flood irrigation is generally used when a stream from a river can be diverted into the site and is what we predominantly use on our sites. We have designed all of our garden layouts based on the use of flood irrigation, positioning access and earthworks to distribute water across the site and slowly sink into the soils.  We’ve found between is very effective, with the pathways doubling up as irrigation channels. not only does the water sink into the soils but capillary action also draws water up into the raised beds. According to some reports, 90% of plant death following planting is the result of not enough water, so having your irrigation plan and system in place on site before planting makes a lot of sense and is absolutely essential if you are planting on a large scale or running a commercial activity.

Last week I mentioned fennel flowers stealing the show in regards to their ability to attract organisms, many of which are beneficial for our landscapes, particularly in terms of pest predation and pollination support. Here are a few photos of some of the visitors.
Here Fennel the red husks of Zanthoxylum piperitum  in the background
Once the Zanthoxylum piperitum – Japanese Pepper Tree fruits have opened and shed their seed and it’s a good time to harvest the red husks. They are easy to dry in a paper bag left on a window sill for a week or so and than placed into glass jars for storing. Pop the husks into a pepper grinder for a delicious spice on pretty much any savoury dish. Caution – a little goes a long way :)
This week the figs are coming thick and fast.  I was planning to harvest some today, cut them in half, and put them on a metal baking tray placed inside my car, with the windows slightly open for circulating air.  The fruits generally take a day or 2 to dry and ready for storing (depending on outside temps/humidity etc). Our weather forecast shows we may have a few cloudy days on the way, so we’ll hold off for now. This is a very simple but also a very effective method, with the added bonus of being able to reposition the car occasionally to follow the sun’s trajectory :)
The essential guide to growing figs will give you a good overview of growing and maintaining the plant, and for a list of cultivars that we’ll have available this season see here. We have started taking orders now for autumn delivery.
Tagete sp. Marigolds are one of the support species we use extensively in our annual vegetable production beds. They self seed and tolerate drought pretty well, as well as attracting a steady stream of visitors. The flowers also make a decent cuppa.
What summer would be complete without the obligatory Sunflower photos?!

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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