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Olduvai III: Catacylsm
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Forest Garden Plants – Ground Cover Plants for Deep Shade

Forest Garden Plants – Ground Cover Plants for Deep Shade

Ground cover plants play an important role in the forest garden, protecting the soil, providing refuge for wildlife at ground layer, preventing unwanted plants from establishing and can provide some food such as berries or leaves.

Ground covers are easy to establish and can be very easy to manage. During this post, we’ll take a look at some of our favourite ground cover plants with a focus on those that are suitable for deep shade. We’ll provide an overview of the plants, how they are used, the wildlife they can attract, and how to propagate the plants.I’m defining deep shade here as those areas of your garden that receive two – three hours of direct sunlight each day. This may be areas on the north sides of buildings and walls (in the northern hemisphere) and under dense tree canopies.

Bugle –  Ajuga reptans

Overview: Bugle – Ajuga reptans is a dense, mat-forming ground cover, spreading to 0.6m at a medium rate. It is in leaf all year, producing pretty blue-violet flowers from May to July on spikes that rise above the foliage at a height of around 30cm. The foliage can block the light from weeds inhibiting their growth. The plant is hermaphrodite and pollinated by bees and other insects. Easily grown in average, medium moisture and well-drained soils.

Uses: Excellent ground cover for large and shady areas. They spread freely with runners and establish themselves in areas that provide the optimum environmental conditions, ie, fertile well-drained soil in partial to deep shade. Medicinally, Bugle has a long history of use as a wound herb, helpful in stopping bleeding.

Biodiversity: The flowers are highly attractive to bumblebees, some songbirds and other beneficial insects.

Propagation: Through divisions if the plant becomes too crowded.  Also easy to propagate with seeds.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Polyculture Trial – Apple Polyculture vs Monoculture

Polyculture Trial – Apple Polyculture vs Monoculture

How Do they Compare in Terms of Costs, Soil Health, Biodiversity, Production and Time?

I’m so looking forward to the spring to meet our Polyculture Study crew and get back into the gardens. This season we’ll be shifting our focus to perennial polyculture experiments and forest garden yields.

During the last few weeks, I’ve been working on a new perennial polyculture trial that we’re aiming to start this April. It’s a long term comparative study looking at the input and outputs of growing an Apple tree in polyculture vs monoculture.

Thank you Simon Leupi for your feedback and suggestions on the study design, and to Chris Mallorie for discussing the trial with me, and working on the organic fertility and pesticide protocol.

During this post, I’ll present the trial garden and trial design, cover what we will record, and take a look at some of the shortcomings of the study.

So, let’s start with a look at the garden where we’ll be growing the trials.

Trial Garden Overview

Location: Shipka, Bulgaria, Southeast Europe

Köppen Climate Classification – Dfc borderline Cfb

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5b (conservative) – 7a (risky)

Latitude: 42°

Elevation: 565 m

Average Annual Rainfall: 610 mm

Prevailing Wind: NW & NE

Garden Area – 352m2

Garden Location on our Project Map – See here

We’ll be growing four trials on the plot as seen in the below image. We chose this plot as each trial will more or less experience equal environmental conditions. There is a very mild slope on the site from N – S and no slope W-E.

The plant we chose to feature in the trial is Apple – Malus pumila ‘Red Cap’

Here’s some info on this cultivar

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Polyculture Market Garden Study–Results From Year 4–2018



In this post you will find an overview of the trial garden and the polycultures we are growing, a description of what we record and the 4th year results from the trial. You can find results from previous seasons here.

First of all we’d like to say a huge thank you to the team of volunteers that joined us for the study this year and that make it possible for us to carry out our experiments and research. It was a pleasure to work together with you. Thank you Victoria Bezhitashvili, Angela Rice, Malcolm Cannon, Elise Bijl, Alex Camilleri, Daniel Stradner, Emilce Nonquepan, Ezekiel Orba and Chris Kirby Lambert.

It was a great a mix of people from all over the world including university students, a crypto fund manager, ex-nintendo web editor and market gardeners. Thank you all for your valuable input, it was our pleasure to host you and we look forward to seeing you again some day.

The Polyculture Study 2018 Team


Location: Bulgaria, Shipka
​Climate: Temperate
Köppen Climate Classification – Dfc borderline Cfb
USDA Hardiness Zone: 5b – 7a
Latitude: 42°
Elevation: 565 m
Average Annual Rainfall: 588.5 mm
Prevailing Wind: NW & NE
Garden Name: Aponia – Polyculture Market Garden


The six longer beds in the left hand corner of the photo on the right (the Aceaes) are the trial beds, the focus of this study.You can find the location of the Polyculture Market Garden on google maps here (labelled as Aponia on our Project map)

Garden area: 256.8 m2
Cultivated beds area: 165.6 m2
Paths: 50 cm wide – 91.2 m2
Bed Dimensions – 23 m x 1.2 m  Area – 27.6 m2 per bed
Number of beds: 6

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

5 HA Polyculture Farm Design–Suhi Dol Revisited


Paul Alfrey from Balkan Ecology Project shares with us his observations and thoughts in regards to a visit he made to a farm he designed and how it slowly developed into a polyculture of fruit trees, aquaculture and vegetable gardens. 

Last week Dylan and I set off on a road trip to discover the flora and fauna of the North East of Bulgaria. Our first stop was to Catherine Zanev ‘s farm in Todorovo, North Bulgaria. As those of you familiar with our project may recall, this was a farm I designed in 2013. I had not visited the place for some time and was very excited to see how the plans had emerged into reality.

Catherine’s goals for the plot were to create a polyculture farm with focus on producing fruit for juicing, to include vegetable production for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) scheme and to experiment with dye plants. The design was complete by 2015 and implementation began that year.

The 5 ha polyculture plot Suhi Dol on the right, locally practiced intensive monoculture farming on the left

The design concept for Suhi Dol was to create an agroforestry system of “Belts” that are comprised of mixed species fruit trees, soft fruits and nitrogen fixing shrubs planted in “Rows” under-storied with support plants, herbs and perennial vegetables. Between the rows are the “Alleys”. The Alleys have potential to be used for growing hay, cereals, vegetables, herbs or rearing pasture raised poultry such as chickens or turkeys. Integrated throughout the belts and around the perimeter are various beneficial habitats to enhance biodiversity. The designed system is an elaboration of Alley Cropping and is based on tried and tested models of our small scale forest garden systems scaled up.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Perennial Polycultures-The Biomass Belt: Fertility Without Manure



We’ve been looking into fencing our plots, and how to meet fertility demands of the establishing perennial crops such as fruits, nuts, herbs and perennial vegetables without relying on animal manures and imported compost, and have come up with a polyculture that may meet both of these needs that we call the biomass belt.


The biomass belt is a perennial polyculture dedicated to growing mulch and fertilizer fodder that can apply to annual and perennial crops. It’s a very simple closed system that can quickly provide a supply of nutrient dense liquid fertiliser or nutrient dense mulch material as well as valuable habitat.


The polyculture is composed of mineral accumulating comfrey in raised beds, Nitrogen fixing ground cover sown into the pathways and a Nitrogen fixing hedgerow. Local native herbaceous annuals and perennials are also encouraged to grow within the hedgerow.

Illustration by Georgi Pavlov - www.georgipavlov.net
Illustration by Georgi Pavlov – www.georgipavlov.net

The comfrey is grown in raised beds for biomass and can be cut from 4 – 7 times each year with the material being used to make liquid fertiliser or used directly as mulch. The deeply rooted comfrey mines nutrients deep in the subsoil that would otherwise wash away with the underground soil water or remain inaccessible to other plants. Some of these nutrients are relocated within the comfrey leaf biomass. As the biomass is cut and applied as the mulch or converted into liquid fertiliser, the nutrients are delivered back to the top soil and again accessible to crops and other plants.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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