Just one week to go before the arrival of our 2019 Polyculture Study team and we’re getting ready and looking forward to another productive year in the gardens.
I’ll be posting updates each week here on what we’ve been up to and Archie will be managing our Instagram account uploading short videos of our activity every few days so if you would like to see what’s happening there your can join the page here. Meantime we’ll kick off the season here with some observations from the early spring .
Our Corylus avellana – Hazelnut plants have been flowering for the last 5 weeks and with the unusually warm and dry spring I expect a decent yield from the 4 year old plants. In the photo below you can see the fully open male catkin empty of pollen and the inconspicuous spider like female flower that is red when fresh but now withering. For a shed load more info on Hazels check out our previous blog The Amazing Hazel – The Essential Guide to Everything you need to know about Hazels
Prunus cerasifera – Cherry Plum are ridiculously full with blossoms this year. This is a 7 year old plant, grown from seed from local wild plants, that I have been trimming back from a pathway the last few years . The result is this wall of blossom. These plants are great for wildlife hedges providing abundant pollen and nectar resources, dense growth suitable for nesting birds such as tits and tasty plums from late June – Late September, depending on the plant.
Prunus armeniaca – Apricot blossoming, so looking forward to these fruits in Early Summer . The fruits from this plant should ripen around the second week of June.
Corydalis bulbosa – Spring Fumewort is one the first plants to emerge from the winter around here and one of my favourite spring ephemerals. The hedgerows and woodlands are littered with these bulbs that are general isolated plants but sometimes they form clumps of 5 or 6 plants as pictured below.
After a few warm days here Vinca minor – Lesser Periwinkle did not waste any time getting their flowers out much to the appreciation of the bees and other pollinating insects. This plant makes an excellent ground cover and if planted out approx. 30 cm between plants can create a thorough cover within 2 seasons.
Tulipa sp. – Tulip find their way through the cover and as you can see in the below photo a Tanacetum vulgare – Tansy that has just starting it’s spring growth easily holds its own among the cover. Vinca minor – Lesser Periwinkle is certainly one of the most effective ground cover plants and has the added advantage of being evergreen.
Forsythia europaea, a plant from the olive family Oleaceae, are native here in the Balkans. We have a Forsythia in the garden that I purchased from a nursery here about 8 years ago and it grows well and flowers profusely each year. It surprises me how I never notice bees or other pollinators attracted to the plant but it could be that the nursery plant I bought was the popular garden cultivar Forsythia x intermedia . I’ll try and take a look at some the native wild plants that are often growing by the high way road sides to see if they have any pollinator action. I did find this ladybird on one of the branches.
Rubus idaeus cv. – Raspberry emerging. If you leave some of last years stems uncut they will provide the first fruits in June. The new growth coming from the base of the plant will fruit in late September.
Zanthoxylum piperitum – Japanese Pepper Tree a native to E. Asia – N. China, Japan, Korea. has very unusual bark with large spines (thorns) developing as the plant matures. The branches and leaves also have these spines albiet smaller which leads me to believe it is probably vulnerable (or was at some point) to some mammalian herbivore in its native range. The leaves and fruits are very strong tasting making an excellent spice so whatever may want to eat it must have a pretty tough palate.
Sophie got the seedlings going this winter , sowing 6 cultivars of tomatoes (see below) and basil for our Zeno polyculture trial.
T1 Solanum lycopersicum Tigeralla
T2 Solanum lycopersicum Ukranian purple
T3 Solanum lycopersicum Chocolate pear
T4 Solanum lycopersicum Alicante
T5 Solanum lycopersicum Yellow pear
T6 Solanum lycopersicum Rozova magia
The rest of the plants for this polyculture will be sown in the coming weeks in trays or directly in the ground. you can find out more about this Annual Vegetable and Herb polyculture here.
For those of you that follow the blog you are probably aware that I am somewhat fond of the marvel that is Symphytum x uplandicum – Comfrey ‘Bocking 14‘
This week whilst digging up a large order of cuttings for The Forest Farmers, (a start up Regenerative Agroforesty design project in the Netherlands) I found yet another reason to show this plant some love. As the plants mature around the 4th or 5th year the crown center begins to rot and this decomposing material seems to be very attractive to the red worm Eisenia fetida ,our native composting worms. This may be one of the reasons we are observing increased soil fertility around our comfrey plants i.e the castings from these worms are highly fertile.
Polyculture/Regenerative Landscape Design Webinars
This season we are going to be running live interactive sessions hosted on Zoom to discuss in more depth and answer any questions related to polyculture/regenerative landscape design .
On April 13th UTC 9.00 am I’ll be hosting our second live webinar with Q&A on How to Design and Build a Forest Garden. If you would like to join us you can book your place here
The session will be around 2 hours long and will include :
- Overview of the Design – Design Goals and Objectives
- Starting Point – How we approached the design of this landscape
- Rationale – Why we laid out access, water, drainage, and planting locations where we did
- Species Selection – How and why we selected the various species
- Technical Discussion – Software and tools we used
- Closing Questions and Answers
- Access to design spreadsheets and databases including a number of unique species lists.
The participation fee will be €30 (or the equivalent value in the currency of your choice). I hope to be able to share my experience and attract people that are interested in polyculture design in order to build a network of designers and practitioners while raising some funds to help support and develop our project’s activities.
If you would like to take part you can sign up for a webinar here and we’ll get back to you once we have a fixed date.
We’re super excited to start what we hope will become a regular activity to engage more people around the world. If you are interested in other webinar topics drop a comment below on what you would like to see.
Video clips from the Gardens
Archie and his friend Mitko will be making short videos of what we’re up to in the gardens this year and posting them on our Instagram Account. Here are the first two videos.
If you enjoyed this post please leave us a comment and a like and even better share it with your friends on social media. The more our articles are shared the more likely they are to appear in search engines and the further we can reach people with our message and grow our project. Thank you.
Registration for our April course is now open with 15% discount on accommodation and food fees when you register as a group (2 or more).