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THE END OF THE POLYCULTURE STUDY 2018, AQUATIC PLANT PROPAGATION AND NUT HARVEST.

The Polyculture Study 2018 has now officially come to a close for the year, and we will be publishing the annual report and results by December.  Once again we have been supported by a truly amazing team of people, without whom, the study would simply not be possible. This year we have been able to work on two trials across two gardens, as well as developing a plan for a new garden Eudaimonia that we’ll establish next year. So, our heartfelt thanks go out to ;Victoria Bezhitashvili, Angela Rice, Malcolm Cannon, Elise Bijl, Alex Camilleri, Daniel Stradner, Emilce Nonquepan and Ezekiel Orba.
Registration is open for next years study, so if you would like to join us visit here to find out more and to register
So here are some photos of what we’ve been up to in the gardens these last weeks,

Forest Garden

Fruits in the Autumn light are one of my favourite spectacles in the gardens. These Mespilus germanica – Medlar  will be ready to eat by the end of November. These along with Diospyros kaki – Japanese Persimmon are great winter fruits.

The Castanea sativa – Sweet Chestnut are excellent this year with plenty of triple nut husks. My neighbour informed me a few years back that if you want to grow Sweet Chestnut from seed you should wait for a bumper year when the tree is full of triple nut husks and select the middle nuts for sowing. These will produce the finest trees, according to Kiril, and I must say his trees are some of the best I’ve seen. The seedlings I reared using this method a few years ago are doing pretty well. As a side note, all sweet chestnut seeds should be sown when ripe. If you let them dry out they will not germinate.
Here we have an old apple tree with Hazelnut – Corylus avellana ‘Tonda Gentile’  in the under story. The hazel harvest is over now but even in the partial shade of the old Apple this three year old shrub is starting to produce some good quality nuts.  The old apple tree is one of my favorite producing delicious red juicy apples in late November. Unfortunately I do not know the cultivar.
It’s been a great year for Juglans regia – Persian Walnut  which is surprising given how wet the summer was this year. Usually wet summers encourage Walnut blight (a bacterium Xanthomonas sp.) For more info on Walnuts check out our previous blog The Essential Guide to Everything you Need to Know about Growing Walnuts – Juglans regia
We planted a few Juglans nigra – Black Walnut  in the gardens this year. Black walnuts have incredibly hard shells but are worth the extra effort so we’re looking forward to trying those in a few years time.
I found this wonderful Wolf Spider – Lycosidae while shoveling compost. These spiders are unique in the way that they carry their eggs. The egg sac as seen below is a silken globe attached to the spinnerets at the end of the abdomen, allowing the spider to carry her unborn young with her.

Biomass plants

One year old  Paulownia tomentosa – Foxglove Tree and Miscanthus x giganteus – Giant Miscanthus   grown from a rhizome last year in the garden beds. You can see why these plants are great for biomass production. To get a sense of the growth rate, the wooden stake you can see on the bottom right is at least 1 m tall. The Miscanthus x giganteus – Giant Miscanthus makes a pretty good low windbreak too, I’ll see how well it maintains wind protection during the winter.

Aquatic Plants

I like to propagate aquatic plants in the Autumn, there is not really an optimal time to propgate these plants but I find them easy to deal with when they are larger with plenty of shoot growth. We are using the plants from our existing ponds to populate 2 new ponds. You only need a few plants to start off with as aquatic plants tend to grow very fast, and quickly fill out. In fact removing a 1/3 of the plants is necessary after a few years otherwise they can form a complete blanket cover in the water body. The aquatic plant biomass makes excellent mulch even when they are full of seed (the seed will not germinate in terrestrial habitat) For more on plants that are great for producing mulch check out our previous blog – How to grow your own mulch.

Sagittaria sagittifolia – Arrowhead is a flowering plant in the family Alismataceae, native to wetlands in most of Europe from Ireland and Portugal to Finland and Bulgaria. These plants are extremely easy to propagate this time of year and you can also harvest the tubers which can be cooked and taste a little like potatoes but crunchier.

Sagittaria sagittifolia – Arrowhead are great for providing a later source of nectar/pollen for bees and other pollinators flowering right through September.
I also divided the Typha latifolia commonly know as Bull rush clumps for relocation to our pond in Ataraxia. Another edible aquatic plant that has several edible parts that can be harvested for food during any season. I found this great web page about the edibility and other uses of this amazing plant

If you would like to create a forest garden and gain some practical hands on experience join us this Spring. We’ll be covering site surveying, landscape design software, installing access, beds, irrigation channels, planting tree, shrub, herb and ground layers and making a small wildlife pond. All in 3 days! And plenty of follow up material to take away with you to digest slowly.

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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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