Permaculture Projects

A Bee’s Nest, Mulberry Harvest and Dewberry

European Solidarity Corps Permaculture Project – Week 5 2021

We started the week continuing on our mission to get the biomass cut in Aponia before the dry season begins and the grasses start to compete with the cultivated plants and trees for water. In the below photo you can see Fanny, standing by the Biomass Belt which is a support polyculture designed to be cut and applied to neighboring Comfrey beds, that in turn provide fertility to nearby large cultivated beds. From 2015 – 2019 inclusive these beds housed annual vegetables grown as part of our Market Garden Study. Nowadays they are largely empty, although some of our nursery stock currently resides there. In the future, these beds will become an extension of the forest garden.

Fanny standing by the Biomass belt. The predominant species is Miscanthus x giganteus

Markus was scything an area near to the Biomass Belt when he discovered a bee’s nest, probably a ground-nesting bee, combined with an ant’s nest on the ground. Thankfully the bees didn’t seem too upset by the disturbance and we left the area alone, scything around it. It’s great to see beneficial organisms like this in the garden and shows the value in leaving large areas of a landscape untouched. Afterward I realised it would have been better to have left the area alone completely, but as we need to bring the water into the garden soon, we wanted to clearly identify and clear the water channels in the garden. The grasses were almost as tall as some of our volunteers in places!

A Bee and Ant nest combined

A large limb snapped out of our 8 year old Paulownia tree this week, due to the high winds experienced during a thunderstorm. The branches from the fallen limb were used in a stick pile in the garden, providing a different habitat type for beneficial organisms to visit and possibly breed in. Having a variety of habitat types in the garden encourages a wide range of creatures to take up residence.

The Paulownia tree with a limb snapped out
Our beloved 3 -legged cat Scutch on a log pile in the home garden
In woodlands, dead and decaying wood is a natural occurrence and provides essential habitat for lots of wildlife within this ecosystem. Log piles mimic fallen trees and provide shelter for hibernating small mammals and insects, worms and grubs. You will also see a succession of interesting fungi emerge over the years and within four or five years (depending on the wood and the size of the log) you will have a pile of rich soil. Toads are particularly fond of log piles as they retain moisture and often attract slugs that toads dine upon. Piles of deadwood, logs, leaf litter, and dead vegetation are also very popular with hibernating and breeding insects, beetles, woodlice and ladybirds in particular.

Shaking the Mulberries off the tree and watching them rain down into the net is always a pleasure. This year the White Mulberry – Morus alba fruit was particularly sweet and abundant. One of our ESC volunteers Rushar is trying out making fruit leathers with them. You can find out more about how the ESC project is going on the volunteers’ personal blog. and more on this incredible tree in our Essential Guide to Growing Mulberry


The Dewberry – Rubus caesius is forming a very dense mat underneath the cherry tree. Dewberry is a low growing shrub native to Europe and found in the under-story of woodland. The plant, once established, spreads readily via rhizomes making it an ideal ground cover choice as can be seen in the below photo.


Another little shady spot in the garden with Ivy and Ajuga reptans  growing in the ground and herb layers. Little nooks and crannies like this in the garden fill me with joy :)

Finally for this week, a clip of a beautiful Scorpion fly – Panorpa communis (I think) that we observed in the home garden this week.

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.


  1. Sad to see a cat free in the food forest.
    As a top predator who knows what wildlife is killed or maimed by this cat

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