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Forest Gardening and the Promise of Tasty Veg

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This week most of the ESC team went off to a training session in Sofia to meet other volunteers taking part in various projects around Bulgaria, and also to gain a deeper understanding of what their role involves. Meanwhile, back at HQ, Marco stayed to help in the gardens, and we got a lot done with a central focus on watering, or at least, preparing the garden to receive the water. With temps at around 30 degrees C every day and no promise of rain in the coming week, we have now officially started our dry season, during which it’s possible to see up to 3 or 4 months with no rainfall.  We are fortunate to be able to access water from a local mountain river that brings water into the gardens of many local food growers. You can see an image of the west side irrigation system below with the points in red marking the diversion points.

In order for the gardens to get maximum efficiency from this incredible resource, we have designed all of our garden layouts based on the use of flood irrigation, positioning access and earthworks to distribute water across the site and slowly sink into the soils. We’ve found using raised beds laid out on contour with sunken pathways between is very effective, with the pathways doubling up as irrigation channels. not only does the water sink into the soils but capillary action also draws water up into the raised beds.

The water coming into the home garden

The channels in Aponia, the forest garden need clearing annually, and Marco has done an amazing job with that this year. From now on we should be able to bring the water in weekly.

Whilst clearing the channels in the late scrub area of the garden, I found this beautiful Leopard Slug – Limax maximus hiding under a plank of wood. I believe it’s one of the largest species of slug in the family Limacidae, the keeled slugs.

The ripening berries of the Rowan – Sorbus aucuparia . It’s an excellent small tree seen growing here in the lower canopy of the forest garden. The berries are a good source of nutrition for birds and it’s highly ornamental.

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Below you can see the nuts forming in a Hazel tree in Aponia. When we speak of Hazel we are generally referring to two species, Corylus avellana and Corylus maxima. The two species produce slightly different shape nuts and take different growth forms.  Corylus avellana produces Hazelnuts and Corylus maxima produces Filberts. There are 14–18 species in the Corylus genus, but many of the European cultivars we have nowadays are Corylus avellana, Corylus maxima or the result of hybrids between these two species.

 

Over at Katelepsis, the volunteer house, the annual vegetables are really taking off this week. The tomato plants are flowering and some of the first fruits are forming. We’ve mixed and swapped plants with neighbours and friends, so there should be an interesting diversity of fruit coming from many different cultivars. It’s also the first time that we’ve grown Leeks with any success, so we’re really looking forward to them. The cultivar is ‘Bulgarian Giant Leek’ and they really live up to that name, as we’d never seen a leek as big before arriving here. The first beans are ready for harvesting, and this week should herald the arrival of the first courgette of the season ;)

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