Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Polyculture Project - Market Garden Study - Update 3

The last few weeks have seen a dramatic drop in temperature, plenty of rain and some cold winds. We have carried on regardless and are making good progress with the study.

Monday morning in the garden saw a chilly temperature drop of 18 C and strong northerly winds.

Work in the vegetable garden included erecting supports for beans and tomatoes and preparing seed nests for beans and squash.

Seed Nests 
To facilitate better seed germination we make seed nests in the mulch. The mulch is pulled back and a slight depression is made in the soil. 2 hand trowels of seedling medium (a mix of 50% sieved compost, 50% river sand) are placed into the depression, and large seeds such as beans and squash are sown 2 per nest and watered in.

A seed nest at the base of  a bean pole. 

Bean tripods going in

Although not ideal conditions for sowing and planting, the poor weather was punctuated with warm sunny spells so we decided to sow all the beans and squash into the seed nests and planted out the kale, chard and kohlrabi.  When planting out we use approx 200g (two hand trowels full) of a compost supplied to us by Dimo Stefanov from Wastenomo.eu. Dimo and his team make their compost from the by-products of the lavender and rose oil distilleries in the valley.  He also supplies great vermi-compost that we use for our potted plants in our plant nursery.


Comfrey Harvest No 1. 

We are growing comfrey as part of our fertility strategy in the market gardenWe're using a fast growing hybrid Symphytum x uplandicum 'Bocking 14' - Comfrey in our gardens and this year have started to record how much biomass we can harvest from our beds.  For more information on these super plants and how to establish and manage a patch see our previous post here.

Symphytum x uplandicum 'Bocking 14' - Comfrey  

In late April we  made the first comfrey cut of the year, weighing in at 23.60 kg from a 13 m2 bed. After weighing we chopped the material and compressed it into a 120 L barrel weighted down with heavy stones. We'll leave this for 2 - 3 weeks resulting in a liquid concentrate that can be diluted 15 to 1 with water, and used on the crops at flowering/fruiting time.


Marika and Ute weighing the Comfrey

We allowed the comfrey to flower for approx 14 days before we cut the plants seeing as the bees were so into the flowers. The plants were also host to many other invertebrates and we took care to shake the plants out onto the bed before placing them into the barrel.

Kata, Charlotte and Alex cutting the plants with hand sickles in the background and Ute and Marika weighing the plants and chopping them into smaller pieces.

After the comfrey plants were cut, we chopped and dropped any weeds coming up in between the plants, and mowed between the beds and in the surrounding area, applying approx four full mower bags of trimmings onto the surface of the bed. This will provide a feed for the plants. We're hoping to get a further four cuts this year.


13 m2 Comfrey Bed before and after.


Work in the Forest Garden

In the forest garden we've been weeding some of the swales, mulching trees and shrubs, cutting back vegetation away from the access paths and adjusting irrigation channels and paths. 

Canopy, shrub and herb layers are filling out nicely in the forest garden. 

We were looking into preparing beds this week and demonstrated a simple but extremely effective sheet mulching technique to establish a key hole bed in the under story on the north side of the swale. We'll plant up a range of shade tolerant herbs in this bed in the autumn. 

Straw mulch going on following a layer of fresh vegetation, cardboard and compost. 

Dawn Chorus 

Team member Ute being a keen naturalist invited everyone to observe a dawn chorus to coincide with the International Dawn Chorus day. We arrived at the garden at around 5.30 a.m and it was truly amazing to listen to the melodic chatter of the bird community in and around the garden. Some of my favorites included Golden Oriole and Nightingale.

You can read more about the singing birds of Shipka in Ute's Blog here


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