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Southern Green Stink Bugs and Forest Garden Appreciation

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The baking temperatures continue and with them has come the demise of most of the tomato plants in the home garden. Over the past few weeks my concern over the welfare of the plants has been growing along with the browning leaves and fruit that isn’t ripening, and now – a week or 2 earlier than usual but at a critical point that the tomato plants can take little more assault –  the destructive Southern Green Stink Bugs  – Nezara viridula – have arrived, and are breeding abundantly on the tomato and bean plants. With no natural predators that we are aware of, it’s a matter of manually removing them. They have a very effective defense mechanism of falling off the fruit or plant when disturbed, but having dealt with them for years, we’ve learned to position a jam jar underneath and catch them as they fall. 

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Under attack from Stink Bugs in the third instar stage

It has been a disappointing year generally in the home garden for annual vegetables, probably in part due to the unsettled and unusual weather patterns, but also due to setting up the garden much later than usual and planned this year. The ESC volunteers are doing a great job in their home garden, and it’s been a real pleasure watching them take control and manage the vegetable plot effectively. Their garden was planted out around a month earlier than the home garden, which might have made a significant difference.

The annual vegetable polyculture beds at the Crew house

On a brighter note the Forest Garden, Aponia has been an absolute pleasure this season.  This week we’ve been weeding some of the swales, and as it’s high summer, spending a significant amount of time watering and counting our blessings in this heatwave to have a perennial water source to tap into and fill up the swales. Now that the grasses and native plants such as Hemlock have died back, the wild plum woodland is navigable again. It’s been a pleasure to stroll through the woodland, plucking the odd plum from the branches and enjoying the cool shade provided. One of our volunteers, Markus, helped to clear an irrigation channel so we can divert the water through the woodland. The trees have adapted to our dry, hot summers and are pretty drought resistant, but it felt good to watch the dry land gratefully soak up the flowing water nonetheless.

The view from the woodland by the wildlife pond

Blackberry season starts around now, and the image shows fruits from a thornfree cultivar growing in the home garden.

I got to taste the first pear of the season the other day too – delicious :) You can check out what cultivars we are offering this autumn here.

Part of our ESC project will involve planting some polycultures out in a community space, and I’ve decided that I’d really like to see Chaste tree – Vitex agnus-castusis as one of the plants in our selection. It’s a deciduous shrub with a thousand year old history as a medicinal plant and a great magnet for beneficial organisms. The prolific late summer/early autumn blooms provide great forage for bees, and it’s really caught my eye over the last week or two as it’s come into bloom.

Photo of Paul Alfrey

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.

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