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Pest Control in the Garden, Cutting Comfrey and a new Forest Garden – Ekpyrosis

Week 10 - The Polyculture Project

Another wet but warm week here in Shipka.  May and June are the wettest months here and the native plant growth at this time of year is phenomenal.  We do quite a lot of chop and drop and weeding at this time of year, to allow light and space for the cultivated plants to grow, and to utilise the incredible amount of biomass produced for mulch and compost material. This week we’ve also been keeping an eye on potential pests (looking at pest control ) making a June botany survey and preparing the site for a new garden we’ll be designing and building.

This week we’re pleased to be joined by Maria.

Pest Control in the Market Garden – Aponia

Our chief strategy to deal with pest and disease in the vegetable gardens is to reduce plant stress levels as much as possible. We aim to achieve this by well timed planting out, providing adequate irrigation and building healthy soils with diverse microbiology to nurture the plants. Other steps we take are to try many cultivars and stick with the ones that perform best, grow our own plants from seed and only select the healthiest seedlings (for some species we save seed from the best performing plants). We also plant in polycultures to make it more difficult for pests to locate our plants and we introduce various habitats in the gardens for pest predators such as hedgehogs, birds, snakes, lizards, frogs, toads, ladybirds, wasps, mantids and beetles.
Finally, we practice manual pest removal for certain pests such as Cabbage White eggs, Brassica Bug adults and every few years snails. Our aim with pest and disease organisms is not to entirely eliminate them but to reduce them to a point where they do not make significant damage.  This week we have been on the look out for the Cabbage White eggs. We also collected a bucket full of snails, much to the delight of our ducks.  These are the eggs of the common butterfly  Cabbage White – Pieris rapae – a pest that can do considerable damage to all Brassica crops.
Cabbage White Eggs, Pieris rapae
Always good to see a nice diversity of organisms during a pest hunt including various species of nesting spiders. Spiders can be considered generalist predators and will eat beneficial insects as well as pests therefore we encourage and welcome them in the gardens!
nesting spiders pest control
Spider pest control
The population of ladybirds, seen here on Rubus idaeus cv. – Raspberry,  are high in the gardens and they do a good job of controlling the aphids.
Ladybird pest control
Thanks to Victoria Bezhitashvili, who joined us for the study last year, we have a general record of some of the pests and diseases in the vegetable garden. You can find Victoria’s observations here.
Lettuce planted under garlic have done well in a somewhat shady bed next to the hedgerow. Both of these plants have been pest free. We harvested the lettuce a little too late as they were starting to extend a flowering stem. Rather than pull them out of the ground we cut them at the base so perhaps we will get some extra harvest from the regrowth.
Garlic and Lettuce

Paulownia Coppice Trials

The Paulownia tomentosa – Foxglove Tree I coppiced a few weeks back is ready for thinning already. After cutting the plant to ground level many shoots emerge from the stool. We remove all but one of the new shoots to provide shade to the sun sensitive plants planted below. The single stemmed plant will be cut in 2 years time to provide stakes and fence posts and the cycle begins again.  It’s amazing how fast these plants grow. The photo on the far left shows the stool 2 weeks ago, the middle photo is the same stool 2 weeks later and the photo on the far right shows the stool with the  regrowth thinned to one stem.
We have the Paulownia trees planted 1.5 m apart running along the centre of the raised bed and have Beetroot and Kohlrabi planted under the plants.
As well as the phenomenal rate of native plant growth this time of year our Symphytum x uplandicum – Comfrey ‘Bocking 14’ plants are equally impressive.
Misha and Philip cut back the Symphytum x uplandicum – Comfrey we have growing along the water channel. We’ll let it decompose for a week and apply it to the new vegetable beds as mulch.

Ekpyrosis – A new Forest Garden

Next week we’ll be hosting our second course of the year where we will be designing and building a Forest Garden on the below plot of land. There is a wonderful diversity of plants already established on the site including various trees and shrubs in the boundary hedging and shrubs such as Rosa canina – Dog Rose emerging from the mixed species meadow.
Before we start the development of a new garden I like to make a record of the existing plants as our intention is always to integrate out cultivated plants into the existing wildlife. Here are some photos of the flora on the plot taken by Cassandra.
Here are Lea, Maria and Ronan surveying the plot in order to find the contour lines
The contour line pegged and out  across the plot. Thanks Misha for the photo

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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.

One Comment

  1. Are there bad lady beetles, I have been told there is a bad variety, we had a whole lot & I was told they were the bad kind so eradicated them then had an influx of aphids & ants?

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