Permaculture Projects

The Polyculture Project 2020 – Week 26

Turning Season and Grapes Galore

Summer has slipped effortlessly into autumn, and although we’re still without any rain at all, the nights are getting chilly and what’s left of the annual production is now finishing up. Thoughts are turning to autumn planting and nursery work – welcome to The Polyculture Project – Week 26.

We’ve been gorging on grapes all week, which are incredibly sweet this year due to the low amount of rainfall. To maintain the plants, we usually water each vine weekly with a couple of large watering cans (around 20L of water). Other than that, the vines require little attention from us during the growing season, except to pluck these fine fruits when ripe and enjoy :) For our essential guide see here. We also offer a range of cultivars from our bionursery, so check out our selection here.

Reuben is known as the first primocane blackberry that produces fruit on the current year’s growth. Although the immature fruit shown in the photo is unlikely to ripen this year now, the pretty flowers will keep blooming right through until October and are a great for attracting beneficial organisms to the garden.
The turn of the season well represented by these sunflowers. We leave them to provide a tasty snack for a variety of bird life, whose snacking inevitably means a few seeds are scattered into the soil which then germinate the following spring and develop into very strong plants.
Leaving herbaceous plant material to remain over winter, specifically plants with hollow stems, is a great idea as it can provide nesting and shelter sites for beneficial organisms that will emerge from the stems in the spring and start to provide the pest predator support in the gardens from the very beginning of the growing season.  The below photo includes some excellent plants growing throughout our gardens that attract a host of pest predator organisms and also have hollow stems.  Eutrochium spp. – Joe Pye weed, Anthriscus sylvestris – Cow parsley, Angelica sylvestris – Wild Angelica, are some other hollow stemmed herbs.
An update on the ducks – it’s quite unbelievable how much they have grown recently. They have now all developed their mature plumage, and fairly soon will be adult size. It’s going to be interesting a)trying to get them into the cage at night, and b)seeing how they will all fit into it!
The whole family together.  A noisy bunch!
We’ve been experimenting with pollarding and coppicing biomass plants. There are a number of trees and shrubs, Paulownia tomentosa being one, that can be planted solely for biomass production within a polyculture where the biomass can be chopped and dropped directly around neighbouring plants. Such plants should be left to grow for at least 3 years and cut to ground level in the spring of the 4th year. Depending on the species selected, it’s possible to cut back the new growth from these plants 3 – 4 times a years. This makes a great source of mulch for a polyculture, right where you need it.
Regrowth of Paulownia stools in our garden. The tree was 3 years old when we cut it down to ground level last year. This year we’ve cut it back 5 possibly 6 times already, and you can see how much more biomass has been produced, despite it being mid September. These trees are mulch machines!
Some of the other plants we have been experimenting with include Rhus typhina, Robinia pseudoacacia and Ailanthus altissima.  Fraxinus excelsior and Tilia cordata are also promising for cooler and wetter climates, but can get quite large so should not be too tightly packed into a productive polyculture.
Juglans regia – Persian Walnut, a tip bearing cultivar in the home garden
The Walnuts harvest looks to be bountiful this year. In some cultivars, Walnut fruits form on the tips of the new seasons growth on other cultivars the fruit is formed on the lateral shoots. Lateral bearing cultivars bear fruits on lateral buds of shoots and are generally of higher productivity than terminal and intermediate bearers due to the larger number of fruit buds on these plants, whereas terminal or tip bearing cultivars bear fruits on the tips of the shoots. For more information on Walnuts see our essential guide here. For more information on the cultivars we’re offering this season, see here.
Walnut Cultivars Available This Season

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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