Permaculture Projects

The Polyculture Project 2020 – Week 27

Walnuts, Bulbs from the Allium Nursery and Persimmons

It’s truly a relief to move into autumn following the hottest and driest summer I can remember here. It’s a pleasure to be in the gardens again and witness the last flurry of activity before the winter sets in.  

This week marks the peak of walnut season! Once they start to drop we take a long stick and gently hit the branches. As you can see in the image below, most of the nuts have been released from the husks and need just a slight bit of encouragement to fall. Of course you can always leave them to drop on their own, but it makes for more efficient harvesting to collect the nuts in one go.

A walnut from the tree in the volunteer house garden. Possibly the best tasting walnuts in town!
Walnut trees produce the chemical juglone, which is exuded from all parts of the plant. This chemical can inhibit the growth rate of nearby plants, a phenomenon known as negative alleopathy. You can see our previous blog post here which provides a table of plants that are tolerant to juglone. The lists were compiled from published sources and are based on observation under various settings, but few plants have actually been experimentally tested for sensitivity to juglone. The plants highlighted in green in the table are species we have personally observed growing seemingly unhindered in and around the under story of Juglans regia.  
We are offering some great cultivars this season. You can check out what’s on offer here.
Last week we finished our first online Regenerative Landscape Design – Online Interactive Course, although it’s not a wrap yet, as the participants will be using the knowledge that they gained and the exercises that were completed throughout the course to put together a final design project. We’re really looking forward to seeing the designs and hope to share some of them on here with you in November and December. A massive thank you to everyone who took part – it’s been a great 20 weeks, and we look forward to seeing your final designs in the coming  months!
We are already looking forward to next year’s course that will start on the 1st May 2021 – if you are interested you can register here for the full course before 1st December with promo code EARLY2021 and receive a 20% discount,
I was amazed but delighted to find a few ripe Japanese Persimmon – Diospyros kaki this week. The fruits are significantly smaller than usual – probably due to the very dry and hot summer experienced here this year. Ordinarily the fruit ripens in November – December, and we often have to pick it when it’s hard and soften the fruit indoors on the windowsill. This is the first time I have picked it ripe from the tree, a somewhat messy experience as the fruit is so very soft when ripe. Absolutely delicious though!
Persimmon prefers full sun, but can tolerate light shade. This tree is growing next to, and partially under, the walnut tree forementioned. You can see the two trees together in the below image. The main trunk of  the Diospyros kaki – Japanese Persimmon is approximately 5m away from the main trunk of the Juglans regia – Persian Walnut, and both trees are thriving so far. We may need to lift the lower limbs of the Walnut in the future to make some space, but otherwise they both appear quite comfortable. For a list of Persimon cultivars on offer this season see here.
The Allium nursery has come full circle! From planting out the first bulbs last autumn to now harvesting baby bulbs to offer to our customers this season. All the species we planted and now offer are edible, attractive to beneficial insects, flower at various times throughout the year, and root at different depths.  See below for a more detailed profile on A.atropurpureum –Ornamental Onion.
Allium atropurpureum or Ornamental Onion, is a perennial bulb with flower stems growing to 1m in height.  Native to the Balkan region and although quite tolerant of different soil types, heavy clay soils should always be avoided with Alliums. They really seem to thrive in open, sunny positions in well drained soil. A.atropurpureum is fairly drought tolerant and can tolerate quite low temperatures (USDA hardiness zone 7-10).  It’s striking tall drumstick-like appearance brings a unique quality to the garden, and the flowers are an unusual maroon colour, blooming in May – June.
Uses: This Allium didn’t get the common name Ornamental Onion for nothing, and it’s highly valued for its aesthetic qualities. It can be grown in a sunny border in a polyculture in the herb layer, and may also be grown with roses as it is thought to play a helpful role in pest control. It shouldn’t be grown with legumes, but can be grown with carrots and beetroots, making a good guard on the outer edges of an annual vegetable bed.
Edibility: The bulbs are reportedly edible, although we haven’t tried them yet.  The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, and are best when young and before the plant flowers. Flowers can be used as a garnish on salads. Although no specific mention of medicinal uses has been seen for this species, members of this genus are in general very healthy additions to the diet and are thought to reduce cholesterol and improve circulation.
Biodiversity: Lots of dark wine red nectar-pollen rich florets, making a large characteristically Allium shaped pom-pom that forms on the end of a long stem. Known for attracting bees, butterflies​/​moths, birds and other pollinators, and stands out due to its height.
Propagation: Bulbs should be planted 10cm deep in the autumn for emergence the following spring.  Once clump forming, can be divided in the spring.

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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