Permaculture Projects

Mulching Trees, Sowing Seeds and Oppressive Heat

European Solidarity Corps Permaculture Project – Week 4 2021

The dramatic change in temperature started with the new week, and I really can’t recall ever experiencing such humid conditions here, most likely a result of the heavy and significant rainfalls of the previous two weeks and sudden rise of temperature by around 15 degrees C. This week we welcomed Fanny from France to the group, and with our ESC volunteers back from Wake Up festival, we started the week by sowing some kale, beetroot and carrot seeds.


Fanny sowing carrot seeds
With the soil moist and warm and hot sunny days that followed, it only took a few days for the kale seeds to germinate, shortly followed by the beetroot. The carrots haven’t shown up yet as expected, but they will likely be making an appearance by the end of next week.
Here’s a table providing the minimum and preferred soil temperature for a number of crop seeds and the estimated time it takes the seeds to germinate. For a more detailed look at this see our previous blog post here.

 Minimum and Preferred Temperatures for Common Crops

Germination Temperatures for Field Crops and Herbs Germination Temperatures for Vegetables
Species Minimum (°C) Preferred (°C) Days to
Species Minimum (°C) Preferred (°C) Days to
Grains Bean 8-10 16-30 6-8
Triticum aestivum
4 20 Beet 4 10-30 4-6
Hordeum vulgare
3-5 20 Cabbage 4 7-35 4-6
Avena sativa
5 20-24 Carrot 4 7-30 6-8
Brassica napus
7 15-20 Cauliflower 4 7-30 5-7
Forage Crops Celery 4 15-21 7-9
Medicago sativa
1 25 2-6 Corn 10 16-32 10 -12
Birdsfoot Trefoil
Lotus corniculatus
1 26 Cucumber 16 16-35 3-6
Red Clover
Trifolium pratense
3 25 4-6 Aubergine 16 24-32 6-8
Sweet Clover
Melilotus officinalis
1 18-25 4-6 Lettuce 2 4-27 3-5
White Clover
Trifolium repens
5 18-20 4-6 Onion 2 10-35 6-8
Fescue Grass
Festuca spp.
3 13-18 Parsnip 2 10-21 14-17
Dactylis glomerata
4 18-20 Pea 4 4-24 6-8
Phleum pratense
4 18-22 Pepper 16 18-35 8-10
Herbs Pumpkin 16 21-32 4-6
Ocimum basilicum
18 21-24 3-5 Radish 4 7-32 4-6
Mentha spicata
18 20 -24 10-15 Rutabaga 4 16-30 4-6
Petroselinum crispum
4 10-30 13-16 Spinach 2 7-24 5-7
Levisticum officinale
16 21 10-20 Squash 16 21-35 4-6
Summer Savory
Satureja hortensis
18 20 14-21 Tomato 10 16-30 6-8
Allium schoenoprasum
16 21 14-21 Swiss Chard 4 20-23 4-6
Trigonella foenum-graecum
16 21 3-5 Turnip/Rutabaga 15 18-21 3 -6
Celeriac 15 18-29 14-21
The moist weather seems to have caused powdery mildew to appear on the leaves of some of the Hazel saplings. I thought perhaps the age of the plants might be a contributing factor to their susceptibility, but the same condition was also observed on some of the leaves of more mature plants. We’ll keep an eye on them to see how this develops.
After the cherries finish and as the Raspberries come into peak early summer production, a fresh round of plants break into bloom.  The below photo is of a south-facing border, and this week, two of the plants in the polyculture captured my attention. Purple Loosestrife – Lythrum salicaria and a ‘Reuben’ and Rubus fruticosus cv. – Blackberry cultivar we have been growing for a few years.
Rubus fruticosus cv.
Purple Loosestrife is a very ornamental plant attracting welcome pollinators such as butterflies and bees. A very hardy plant, tolerating temperatures down to at least -25°c. It can be grown in a pond or as a wetland plant but may also be very invasive, so care should be taken when planning planting schemes.
Purple Loosestrife – Lythrum salicaria
The ESC crew have been a massive help in the gardens this week as we race to cut all the biomass in the gardens and mulch the young trees with it before the dry season starts. It’s intense work in our current temperatures, and we’re starting to create a new rhythm of meeting at 6am to start activities before the sun becomes powerful, which at the moment seems to be as early as 8am.  Many of the trees in our gardens on the East side of Shipka are predated upon by a local herd of goats, and we’re in the process of looking into securing a larger area of land in one spot that can be fenced off to give establishing trees and shrubs a chance to mature.
Target area we are working on amalgamating in order to fence and develop a 3 ha world-class example of a regenerative landscape.
It’s a frustratingly slow process, but the vision is to publicly demonstrate regenerative practices that feature both local and ancient cultivars of fruit and nut trees, the incredible native biodiversity of the region and beautiful polycultures that provide resources for people while enhancing biodiversity.
Here the crew helps out in our garden Ataraxia. We slash the existing biomass, predominantly grasses, that will compete with the young trees and shrubs for water in the coming summer months and drop the cut matter directly onto the beds to build the quality of the soil. The trees are mulched with straw and this is topped up with the chopped organic material

We’ve been looking at how to attract Beneficial Organisms into the gardens this week during our  Regenerative Landscape Design – Online Interactive Course.  All organisms are beneficial, at the very least all organisms past, present and future decompose to nourish something else, but when we speak of beneficial organisms we are speaking of those organisms that provide clear and present benefits, specifically to our polyculture activity. Beneficial organisms, or Borgs as we prefer to shorten it, are a very decent group of organisms that make great partners in the polyculture landscape offering, as the name implies, benefits to our activity of growing the stuff we need. They seem to be happy to carry out these duties providing we supply (or at the very least donʼt destroy) suitable living conditions for them, i.e habitat. The benefits these organisms offer come mainly in the form of increasing the productivity of our crops via Pollination Support, protecting our crops from pests via Pest Predation and providing fertility to our crops via their roles in decomposing organic matter and supplying nutrients, Fertility Provision. Some plants make excellent Borg magnets, and definitely in the top 10 is Lovage – Levisticum officinale.

This Loveage plant in the home garden grows among Raspberries and underneath a young Cherry tree. Borgs flock to the umbels long before the blooms actually emerge
In the below photo you can see the Raspberries that grow next to the Loveage. The crew have really enjoyed gorging on them this week :)
Fanny and Tara tucking in :)
For more info plants for Borgs , check out our previous post  Five of Our Favourite Plants to Attract Beneficial Insects
The ESC Volunteers have started a new blog recording their experiences and reflections in Shipka. While we are hosting the volunteers and their activities include supporting us in the gardens, they are also getting involved with projects around Shipka, and going to be helping some of the elderly people in their gardens, while learning from them valuable skills in annual vegetable production.
While on the topic of vegetable production, we’ll end this week with a look at just how much Zeno, our annual polyculture planted back in week 1 has grown. The photos were taken 9 days apart, and you can see the plants’ response to the wet weather followed by 30+degrees c temps. So far all the plants look healthy which is encouraging.

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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