Paul Alfrey

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since Sep 25, 2009
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Recent posts by Paul Alfrey

Hi All

We've just launched a brand new Regenerative Landscape Design Online Interactive Course - How to Design, Build and Manage Polycultures for Landscapes, Gardens, and Farms.

We're super excited about running the course and to provide you with the confidence, inspiration and opportunity to start building regenerative landscapes, gardens, and farms that produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.

You can find out more about the course in the link at the bottom of this post to see if it tickles your fancy and if you'd like to take part we are currently offering a 20% discount to the first 10 people to enroll. Register with promo code 1st102020 to take advantage of this offer.

We are looking forward to providing you with this unique online learning experience, as far as we know the very first of its kind!

Thank you and we look forward to hearing from you.
4 years ago
Would you like to learn how to design and build a forest garden?

Our Design and Build courses are exactly that. We start with the design and end with the build. In this particular course we will be designing and building a forest garden from scratch. (see below for the design site specifications)
for more info and registration -
We'll start by surveying the design plot to establish climatic conditions, water harvesting potential, soil properties, basic botanical survey and a topography survey. Based on the initial survey we will select a range of plants for our forest garden and using landscape design software will create 2D design for the area.    For the build part of the course we'll be establishing the access, irrigation and planting beds for the area. We will then plant out the canopy, shrub, herb and ground layer of the forest garden and on the final day build a wildlife pond within the garden.  We aim to balance field work and hands-on practicals with the essential  theory in order to provide you with a solid foundation to start designing and implementing your own projects. We'll introduce the fundamentals of regenerative design to you within an organised and structured framework and will provide a wealth of material for you to take away and  study in your own time.

Why take this course?

​​You will experience hands on, step by step experience of how to design and build a forest garden.
You will learn from an experienced team at an established site where you can interact with the course material on the ground.  
Enjoy our unique location which is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and recharge in the tranquility of rural Bulgaria. Although the course is active the relaxed atmosphere cannot help but be absorbed.
We provide a range of post-course resources so you can explore in depth in your own time the details and theory behind what we cover during the course. We love to hear from past participants of our courses and are open to providing feedback and support for your future or ongoing projects.
The profits we generate from our courses are used to purchase land with high ecological value currently under threat from intensive agricultural development. Once under our stewardship, the land is managed with respect for its inherent value and vital ecosystem support.

Where you will be?

The course is hosted in the town of Shipka on the foothills of the Central Balkan Mountains in the Rose Valley, Bulgaria.   The area boasts high levels of biodiversity, beautiful countryside and historical sites of global, cultural and scientific significance. Sessions will be split between the lecture room, out in the wild, our 12 year old home forest garden composed of over 400 species of plants, our four year old market garden site and our perennial polyculture research fields.  Our site provides a good example of small scale. low cost, intensive ecological design and includes examples of rainwater harvesting, gray water reed beds, wildlife ponds, multiple composting facilities and small scale plant nursery, forest gardens and more.  We practice various methods of biological vegetable production including guild planting and crop rotation, and rear pigs, chickens and rabbits from this property.

If traveling from abroad perhaps you would like to extend your stay in the region? There is plenty to do including hiking, biking, paragliding, various wildlife tours and archaeological excursions, or you could just soak up the timeless vibes of rural Bulgaria. If you would like to extend your stay please get in touch with the owners of your accommodation option

Course fee €200
Accommodation and food: from €60
**Early booking and group discount available**
Location - Shipka - Bulgaria

Hope to see you !!
5 years ago

We're super excited to announce The Polyculture Project, a research project dedicated to developing and promoting practices that provide nutritious affordable food while enhancing biodiversity. With your help we hope to expand and excel our experiments with various regenerative/permaculture practices and publish our records with aim to supply solid empirical data for the community. Please check out our crowdfunding campaign and if you appreciate our work please donate and share the campaign page that you can find here.

What are we doing?

We'll be running a 3 year study in our first perennial polyculture research garden to find out the following:
How productive are fruit and nut trees/shrubs and perennial vegetables when grown in polycultures?
What are the best plants to grow for mulching these polycultures?
What are the best trees to grow for nitrogen fixation within the polycultures?
How does polyculture growing influence soil fertility?
How does polyculture growing influence biodiversity?
What are the costs in time and money of growing in polyculture?

You can find an overview of our perennial polyculture trial garden here  -

Rewards for our Donors

€5 - €49 - We’ll send you a pdf. copy of our “Essential Guide to Growing Fruits and Nuts ” - and you will be credited as a project sponsor on our website and in all of our publications (print and digital). You'll also receive biannual updates from the project.
€50 > - A generous offer from the fine folks of Permaculture Magazine - Get 10 permaculture books, worth £130 for just £25 (+ postage)  and all of the above.​
€200 > - 25% discount from our courses or events  and plant and seed orders over €200 (not including postage)  from 2018 - 2020 and all of the above.
€350 > - Join the project for a week from July - October and get involved in the day to day running of the project. We’ll provide accommodation to you for 5 days, as much as you can eat from our gardens and a personal tour from the project leaders of the various trial gardens and all of the above.
€1000 or more  -  Have one our research gardens named after you or in a name of your choice. Your chosen name will appear on the entrance of the garden, in all future publications, a dedication in our "Polycultures" book expected to come out in 2020  + all of the above.

Why is this project necessary?

A ton of great work has been achieved by the pioneers of permaculture and regenerative design  but in order to achieve wider spread adoption we need to overcome  a fair criticism leveled at the movement, that being the lack of supportive evidence and of working models.  
Research and experiments for industrial farming are well funded by the companies that produce machinery, seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. They tend to look for data they find useful to sell their products and grow their business. It seems we can't rely on governments or institutions to provide unbiased research or ask questions that relate to localizing food production or beautifying our landscapes  as they depend on the money from these companies to prop them up. But we can undertake this research ourselves.
Our experiments and study will provide clarity and help advance the widespread legitimacy of our community and practices.  
We are but one of many organisms that share this planet and our goal is to develop and promote practices that provide nutritious affordable food for us while providing habitat for a wide diversity of other organisms to flourish, something our current food systems are falling very short of.  

Please donate what you can and help us build a research center dedicated to permaculture and regenerative practices.  

5 years ago
We have a great course lined up for late summer. You'll be working in small teams of 4 - 6 people to survey and design real plots of land and in larger groups to carry out practicals such as earthworks and wildlife pond building. With a good balance of field work, hands-on practicals and theory and exercises, the course aims to provide a solid foundation to start designing and implementing regenerative landscapes  

Early booking discount until July 15th
6 years ago

Hazel is a multi purpose champion of a plant that is super easy to grow, produces delicious nuts, pliable wood that can be crafted into a variety of products, provides early fodder for bees and an encouraging spectacle when flowering during the mid winter.

What more can I say.... a plant so good people started naming their daughters after it.

To view this post with tables , photos and diagrams go over to our blog here -

Hazel - Corylus spp,

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 produce Hazelnuts and Corylus maxima produce 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. This post we will focus solely on these popular nut producing species.

The leafy bracts that envelope the nuts are the easiest way of telling the species apart.

During this post we'll take a close look at these versatile plants, including how and where to grow them, growing them in polycultures, how they can be used in agroforestry systems, coppicing hazel, and we'll look at some of my favourite hardy productive and disease resistant cultivars that we are offering from our Bionursery.


Latin name - Corylus avellana, Corylus maxima
Common name - Hazel, Hazelnut, Cobnut, Filbert, Spanish Nut, Pontic Nut, Lombardy Nut.
Family- Betulaceae

History -  Pollen counts reveal that Corylus avellana was the first of the temperate deciduous forest trees to immigrate, establish itself and then become abundant in the post glacial period. Humans have been enjoying hazels since prehistoric times and it is thought by some that hazelnuts provided a staple source of food before the days of wheat.  Evidence of large-scale Mesolithic nut processing, some 9,000 years old, was found in Scotland and Hazels have been used extensively across the temperate zone throughout all civilizations.

Corylus avellana - Common Hazel

Description - Corylus avellana - Grows as a small tree or large shrub commonly reaching heights of 5 m with a 5 m spread, but sometimes can reach twice that height and takes a tree like form. The leaves, that open in late April and May and fall in November, are almost circular with double toothed edges and a short pointed tip. The leafy bracts are shorter than the nut.

Description - Corylus maxima - Grows as a large shrub 6 m high with a 5 m spread. Resembling C.avellana but with young grey twigs, glandular and bristly leaves that are wider, longer catkins and leafy bracts that are tubular and closed twice the length of the nut. The nuts are also longer than C. avellana    

Both species are monoecious . The male flowers are encased in catkins that brighten up the landscape in the winter. The female flowers are tiny red tassels that emerge from buds on the stems.  

Sexual Reproduction - As mentioned above the plants are monoecious, producing male and female flowers on the same plant.  The male flowers are held in catkins that form during the previous summer and open in the dead of winter and flower through to early spring. There are around 240 male flowers in each catkin and these produce the pollen. Give the catkins a flick in late February to see a small cloud of pollen erupt. Contrary to the wonderful spectacle of the male flowers, female flowers are almost invisible unless you are actively looking for them. They are tiny individual flowers, visible only as red styles protruding from a green bud-like structure on the same branches as the male flowers.
A wind pollinated plant, the pollen from the catkins blows to reach the female flowers. If successfully pollinated and fertilized the female flower will grow to become  1- 4 nuts C. avellana  or  1 - 6 nuts C.maxima .

Growing Range - Corylus avellana is native to western Asia, north Africa and most of Europe, from from British Isles eastwards to Russia and the Caucasus, and from central Scandinavia southwards to Turkey. Corylus avellana is native to the Balkans and Asia Minor but is widely naturalised elsewhere.

Both species are pioneer plants found in a range of habitats. As a component of ancient forests they prefer moist lowland soil and are often found growing in the shade of deciduous trees, especially oak. They can be found in hedges, meadows and pastures, on the banks of streams, waste places, abandoned plantings, the edges of woods, on steep slopes and by paths and roadsides. Hazel grows naturally up to altitudes of 700 m

Hazelnut-producing regions of the world are all close to large bodies of water, which moderate the climate. About 70% of the world’s hazelnut production comes from the black sea region of northern Turkey. Italy produces about 20% of world production. Spain, France, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and the United States produce most of the rest.

Hardiness USDA - Corylus avellana – Zone 4-8
                             Corylus maxima – Zone 5-8

Ecology - Hazel flowers are an important source of pollen for bees and other pollinators. The pollen-bearing catkins can be available to pollinators from as early as late January - late March. Hazel leaves are used as food plants by the larvae of various species of Lepidoptera. The nuts are used by dormice to fatten up for hibernation and in spring the leaves are a good source of food for caterpillars, which dormice also eat. Hazel nuts are also eaten by woodpeckers, nuthatches, tits, wood pigeons, jays and a number of small mammals.

Where to Plant

Climatic limitations  - Both species crop best in areas with cool, moist summers and mild cool winters or in maritime climates. Areas with high summer temperatures are not ideal although good cultivar selection can improve results. Areas with extreme winter cold can also be problematic. The shoots of the plants are hardy to -29 C (-20 F) although winter temperatures below -10 C (-13 F) during the flowering period may damage the male flowers reducing the likelihood of fruit set that year.    
The plants will not grow well in tropical or sub tropical climates and require a winter chilling period of 800 - 1200 hrs below 7 C (45 F) which is similar to apples.

Soil - Hazel tolerates a wide variety of soils from calcareous to acid, loam to clay and prefers soil that's well drained and fairly low in nutrients; overly rich soil gives plenty of leaf growth at the expense of flowers and nuts. Hazels will not grow well in water logged and peaty soils. Shallow soils will restrict the growth and height of hazel.

Location - If growing for nut production in cold climates you should avoid planting in frost pockets, and in hot climates avoid windy sites. Hazelnut trees also cannot tolerate excessive heat or a long dry season. A sheltered area with a reliable source of irrigation is essential in hot climates.

Pollination - Hazels are wind pollinated. As mentioned above cold weather (-10 C and under) during the flowering time can destroy flowers and reduce fruit set. Heavy rain during the time where pollen is being released can also suppress the amount of pollen carried in the air and moist conditions destroys pollen viability.  

The plants are in theory self fertile meaning the pollen from the male flowers can pollinate and fertilize the female flower that will go on to form nuts. However, the blossoming times of the male and female flowers do not always coincide and for this reason it is recommended to plant 2 or more different cultivars to increase the likelihood of pollination occurring. Wild growing hazel nearby will serve as good pollinating agents for most cultivars and there are many cultivars that work well together to ensure fuller cropping. There are some cultivars that absolutely require pollinating partners so research your cultivars well  A good rule of thumb for how many pollinator plants you need to support you main cropping cultivar is 1 to 18. On sites where wet weather is common during the flowering period this can be increased. The pollinating partner should be a maximum of 45 m away and upwind from the main cropping plants.

Pollen is released from the male flowers in bursts across a 4- 6 week period in January - March. Interestingly, the pollen germinates as soon as it reaches a receptive flower but the fertilization process does not take place for another 4-5 months in June. Once fertilized the female flowers develop nuts very rapidly with 90% growth occurring within 4 - 6 weeks.            

Fertility, Irrigation and Care

Fertility - On good soils hazel will not need fertilisers. On poor soils, planting out with 30 L of compost (applied to the surface) and mulching well with straw and repeating this each spring for 4- 5 years will provide a good boost to growth. Planting nitrogen fixing companions can also be very effective.

Irrigation - In cooler climates such as the UK irrigation is not necessary. In warmer climes with hot summers and long periods without rain, applying 30 L of water per tree every 3-4  weeks without rain and mulching well is very effective.  

Weeding - Mulching plants with a 10 -20 cm deep mulch each spring and pulling weeds that start to grow through in the summer is good practice especially when the plants are young.

Pruning -  When planting out single stemmed whips it's good practice to prune the top down to 45 cm to encourage lower branching. We don't prune our Hazels but there is a tradition, as with most fruit trees,  to pruning to achieve an open centered goblet shaped bush.  If you are growing plants that sucker, suckering growth should be removed to keep the stems clear and the crown less congested.

A classic pruning example practiced in commercial hazel orchards

If you are going to prune than it's important to know that female flower (that will form nuts) are produced from buds on growth from the previous seasons growth. For optimal nut production you should aim to have plenty of previous years stems  at least 15-25 cm long.  

I read an interesting comment regarding a traditional method to increase nut production called 'brutting'. This involves prompting more of the trees' energy to go into flower bud production, by snapping, but not breaking off, the tips of the new year shoots' six or seven leaf groups from the join with the trunk or branch, at the end of the growing season. I'll be trying this on a few of our plants this year.

Harvesting - The nuts are fully ripe when the husks begin to yellow and can be picked by hand. Nuts will naturally drop over a 4-6 week period. It's important to not pick before they are ripe as they will shrivel and do not keep well.

Layering and Stooling

Propagation - We have grown hundreds of hazels from locally gathered seed and this is a very easy and reliable method to propagate these plants. Most of our seedling stock we use for coppice plants and hedging plants. For nut production we use cultivars as they generally fruit within the 3rd and 4th year after planting and you know what kind of nut you will end up with.

Seedlings can take up to 6 or 7 years to produce nuts and you never know what they will be like. Saying that, we have some great nut producing seedlings that we propagated from local plants. They appear to be more resistant to the cold and have been providing a reliable crop each year even after bitter cold late winters.

Another great way to propagate hazel, including cultivars that are grown on their own roots, is by stooling and layering. Stooling involves heaping soil at the base of the plant, leaving it for 12 months and then dividing the rooted stems.  Layering is burying the stems in the soil for 12 months and cutting them off the main plant once the stem has rooted. Hazels that are grafted onto their own roots will send up suckers. These suckers can be dug out in the winter and planted on. The suckers can be a nuisance and will need cutting back to promote better production. Corylus colurna - Turkish hazel is often used as a rootstock providing non-suckering cultivars and a deeper rooting habit. Cultivars on Corylus colurna rootstocks are often very vigorous.

Potential Problems

Excessive Heat: Hazelnut trees cannot tolerate excessive heat or a long dry season. They are especially sensitive to drying in windy conditions.

Cold injury:  Although a very hardy plant, when growing for nut production the trees are vulnerable during the flowering period in early - late winter. Temperatures below -10 C (-13 F) during the flowering period will damage the male flowers and destroy the pollen reducing the likelihood of fruit set that year. Because not all catkins elongate at the same time, crop damage usually is minimal if there is only a brief cold spell.

Insect/Pest: Grey squirrels are major pest of hazels. Nut weevils - Balaninus nucum can destroy the maturing nuts. Beetles lay eggs in the immature nuts. The eggs hatch into maggots that eat the maturing nut and bore out of the shell to pupate in the soil where they overwinter before hatching, mating and laying more eggs in the next crop. Clearing up the fallen nuts is good way to control this pest. Running chicken under the hazels in September can also disturb the pupae in the soil.  

Nut Weevils - Balaninus nucum Photo from -

Disease:  In the US this species is affected by Eastern Filbert Blight (EFB), which is caused by the fungus Anisogramma anomola and is fatal to trees. However EFB can be controlled by a variety of management strategies and does not present a major threat to the species as a whole.
Bacterial Blight - Xanthomonas campestris pv. corylina causes leaf spotting, dieback of branches and in worst cases death. Trees under stress are most susceptible.  

Suckering - Hazels can sucker profusely and the suckers need to be cut back to allow an open crown and avoid congestion. There are cultivars that do not sucker, generally those grown on the Corylus colurna root stocks.

Allergies: The pollen of hazel species are often the cause for allergies in late winter or early spring,

Hazel Uses

Beyond the nutritious delicious nuts hazels can be used for a variety of purposes.

Wood  - Hazel is almost as well known for coppicing as it is for its nuts. The poles from coppice (known as 'wands') are long and flexible and have traditionally been used for wattle fencing, thatching spars, walking sticks, fishing rods, basketry, pea and bean sticks and firewood. The wood is soft and easy to split but not very durable (See Hazel Coppice below).

Adding value to the coppice material

Oil -  The nut oil is used as edible oil and contains 65% of a non-drying oil that can be used in paints, cosmetics etc.

Animal Fodder - The twigs can be used to feed rabbits and goats all year around and the leaves are very palatable to cattle.

Leaves - Leaves contain on average 2.2% N. 0.7% K and 0.12% P and when applied as mulch make a great fertilizer. The plant has potential to be grown as chop and drop component in a polyculture system.

Hedging - Hazel makes a great hedge taking well to trimming and providing a dense screen. Nut production is not as high as when grown as free standing plants but some nuts can be harvested from the hedge. The plants are also tolerant of wind and a 2 or 3 row windbreak can be set up where alternate rows are coppiced on a 7 year cycle.

Bee Fodder - Hazel is an excellent source of early forage for bees providing a source of pollen from February through to March. We include hazel in our Early Polleniser Polyculture, a polyculture dedicated to providing an early source of pollen/nectar to a wide diversity of pollinating insects.

The Early Polleniser Polyculture

Medicinal uses - The leaves are used in allopathy: their effect is to stimulate circulation and bile production, and they are used for liver and gall disorders. Hazelnuts are rich in protein, monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, manganese, and numerous other essential nutrients.

Other uses - The finely ground seeds are used as an ingredient of face masks in cosmetics.

Hazelnut Yields

Hazelnut trees can produce a few nuts when they are 2 or 3 years old, but they are not considered commercially productive until 4 years of age and reach peak production from years 10 - 15.  Mature orchards can produce 1 -3 metric tons per ha. An orchard can remain productive for about 40–50 years if managed well and kept free of disease.

Yield per mature tree Yield per acre
4050 m2 Yield per Ha
10000 m2
Average Production   3-5 kg 880-1760 lbs 1-2 tonnes
Max Production 11 kg 2640 lbs 3 tonnes

Example of Coppice -
Hazel Coppice

Hazel coppice has been practiced extensively in the past and still provides an excellent source of valuable wood especially if you are adding value with wood crafting.

Contrary to what you may expect, coppicing the hazel can extend the life of the plant considerably with some well managed coppices being centuries old.

Hazel can be grown on various coppice cycles for a supply of poles ('Wands') that are used for a variety of purposes as listed above. A 7 - 10 year rotation is often practiced and is planted out at a rate of 1500 - 2000 plants per ha (spacing is 2.2 - 2.6 m between plants).
In the 7th - 10th year the shoots should be 4-5m long and can be cut at any point during the year apart from August but is usually carried out in the winter. If you cut the coppice in the summer, leaves from the wood make an excellent cattle feed or mulch.  Regrowth will quickly reestablish and is vulnerable to browsing from wild and domestic animals. After the first few coppice cycles, regrowth will be fast but after 15 years it will decline.  If a hazel coppice is not well managed i.e cut at regular intervals for 40+ years  it will die back.

How much wood can be harvested? - A site with 1500 plants per ha can yield 20 tonnes of dry wood or 40 m3 of wood per ha per cycle.

Hazel coppices are often combined with standard trees to make a two storey forest. Sweet Chestnut is a classic combination in the South of England. Oak is also very commonly grown  with hazel at a rate of 30 - 100 standard trees per Ha. Too many standard trees will shade out the hazel.    

Hazel (in the middle) with standard Sweet Chestnut trees in the background

Hazel Polycultures

Hazels are excellent plants for use in polycultures. They are tolerant of shade so suitable in the under storey, are not very nutrient demanding or competitive and are relatively compact and easy to manage. They tolerate pruning very well and can be used for chop and drop plants grown between fruit trees or in hedgerows. If nut production is sought after they should be given a prime position but can still accommodate a range of productive and useful plants around them.

We have used hazel in various polycultures including living hedges, main crop contour plantings and habitat polycultures.

Here's an example of a design with hazel planted in a polyculture hedge.

I included hazel in a mixed species living hedge I designed for Permaculture Orchard - Orehite Ranch - Veslec

We'll be planting out Hazel in our new trial garden - Ataraxia, where we are growing it along with asparagus, currants, wild garlic and various bulbs in 1.5 m wide beds.

Here's a short list of ground cover and bulbous plants that we observe growing well with hazel.

Bellis perennis - Daisy
Primula vulgaris - Primrose
Scilla bifolia - Alpine Squill
Trifolium repens - White Clover
Corydalis bulbosa - Spring Fumewort
Galanthus gracilis - Snowdrop

Agroforestry Potential Of Hazels

There is great potential for hazels in agroforestry systems. Traditionally, in Europe, hazels were grown in a silvopasture system with sheep grazing the pasture beneath the trees, this has an added benefit of controlling suckering growth. Hazel has also been grown with vines and in Kentish orchards gooseberries and currants were traditionally inter planted with young hazel.

I've included hazel in a few agroforestry designs the most recent being a 30 ha pastured poultry system where we're using hazel amongst mulberry planted on contour.


Being shade tolerant the trees are good candidates for use in an under storey. In deep shade the plants will not produce a significant yield of nuts but they can be used for coppicing or mulch production. In partial shade they can still produce good yields.

Hazelnut cultivars - Hardy and Resistant to Major Pests and Diseases

There are hundreds of hazel cultivars throughout the world, not to mention the hybrids, American and Chinese species or the Trazels, Filazels and Hazelberts (perhaps a topic for another post).

Most cultivars belong to Corylus maxima but there are many Corylus avellana and many grafted onto Corylus colurna rootstock. When selecting cultivars for your garden there a few things to consider.

flowering times - to avoid cold damage in the winter choose a late flowering cultivar
suckering behaviour -  to avoid pruning work or perhaps if growing for mulch or biomass this could be desirable
size and vigor - to select the right size plant for your garden  
pollinator partners - to facilitate larger and more reliable yields

Hazel Cultivars from our Bionursery

Below you can find profiles of some excellent cultivars that we have on offer at our Bionursery.

We are currently offering cultivars at ​​ €5.3 per tree with 10% discount for orders over 20 trees. We also have 2nd year Hazel seedlings for hedgerows, biomass, pollinating partners etc for €4 per plant.

Looking for a supply for your orchard and farm?  For larger orders please send us an email and we will provide you with a quote.

Corylus avellana - 'Ata Baba'
Fruit - Round medium size fruits of 1.4 g grouped in clusters of 3 or 4 . Ripen in mid August
Pollination - Self fertile
Hardiness - Full hardy withstanding temperatures as low as -34 C
Disease Resistance - Corylus colurna root stock which has a high resistance to the main European pests attacking hazelnut crop
Form - Bush variety, very vigorous multistemmed and flowering early towards the end on December

Corylus avellana - 'Ran Trapezundski'
Fruit - Great tasting large oval fruits with thin shells that ripen at the end of July
Pollination -  Not Self fertile - Pollinated by Rimski, Bademoviden and Atta Baba
Hardiness - Full hardy withstanding temperatures as low as -34 C
Disease Resistance - Corylus colurna root stock which has a high resistance to the main European pests attacking hazelnut crop
Form - Bush, medium vigor, multi stemmed, fruits abundantly.

Corylus avellana - 'Rimski'
Fruit - Large rounded nuts about 2.7g. Thin shell. 67% fat content. The fruits ripen in mid August
Pollination - Not Self fertile - Pollinated by Bademoviden and Ran Trapezundski
Hardiness - Full hardy withstanding temperatures as low as -34 C
Disease Resistance - Corylus colurna root stock which has a high resistance to the main European pests attacking hazelnut crop
Form - Bush variety. fast growing, multi stemmed with an upright crown.

Corylus avellana - 'Tonda Gentile'
Fruit - Excellent flavour, med - large round nuts of 2.5g with a thin shell
Pollination - Not Self fertile - Pollinated by Rimski, Bademoviden and Ata Baba
Hardiness - Full hardy withstanding temperatures as low as -34 C
Disease Resistance - Corylus colurna root stock which has a high resistance to the main European pests attacking hazelnut crop
Form - Moderate growth rates and can be grown as single stemmed trees

Corylus avellana - 'Cosford'
Fruit - The nuts have hard shells.100 g of fresh nuts contains 13 g protein, 61 g fat, 13,7 g carbohydrates and 3.5 g fiber. They mature in late September.
Pollination - Self fertile, a good pollinator for many other Hazels, a good choice if you are starting your own nut orchard.
Hardiness - Full hardy withstanding temperatures as low as -34 C
Disease Resistance - Generally disease free
Form - Bush variety. fast growing, multi stemmed with an upright crown.

To order some hazel cultivars for delivery this winter contact us at

We can provide tracked and recorded delivery to anywhere in Europe

Keeping in Touch

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While researching for this article a major resource was Volume 2 No 2, 3 and 4 of the excellent Agroforestry News, a quarterly publication from Martin Crawford - Director of Agroforestry Research Trust. I highly recommend subscription to this journal as essential reading for all who are interested in temperate tree crops and agroforestry.

Would you like to join us for our Regenerative Landscape Design course in Sep 2017?

Regenerative Landscape Design Course

We offer a range of plants and seeds for permaculture and forest gardens from our plant nursery including a new range of fruit and nut cultivars well suited to natural gardens. Delivery to all over Europe available from Nov - March

Seeds for Forest Gardens and Permaculture

Balkan Ecology Project Bio-Nursery

Martin Crawford - Agroforestry News Volume 2  - Number 2, 3 &4
Hazel Ecology -
Hazel Flowers -
History -
Cultivation -
6 years ago
Trees are the bee's knees, and I'm pretty fond of bees too

Trees are an important, stable source of food for bees and other pollinators providing thousands of flower heads all in one place.

I could go on and list their other virtues but the fact you're on my blog leads me to assume that  you already have a pretty good appreciation of both trees and bees so let's get straight to the point of this post and find out which trees attract bees.

Bees from our Garden

The good news is there are trees that provide nectar and pollen for bees pretty much all year round. Better news is that most of them are very easy to grow and suitable for growing in a wide range of conditions including small and large gardens and in the wild.

You can view this post with photos and tables from our blog here -

I've put together five lists of trees that you'll find below;

Trees for Bees that also provide fruit or nuts
Nitrogen Fixing Trees for Bees
Ornamental Trees for Bees  
Master list including all of the above in alphabetical order
Master list including all of the above in order that trees flower
Indicated on the lists are when the trees are in flower, what they offer the bees, i.e pollen, nectar or honey dew (see below for honey dew description), and whether and when the trees offer fruits, nuts or other wildlife foods. I've also included a link to plant profiles of trees that we stock in our bio nursery. You can find details of a bee tree multi pack below that we are offering from the nursery this spring.  

Trees for Bees that also provide fruit or nuts

Nitrogen Fixing Trees for Bees

Ornamental Trees for Bees  

Master list including all of the above in alphabetical order

Master list including all of the above in order that the trees flower

It's no coincidence that flowering and bee activity are triggered by warming temperature, During long cold winters in locations at high altitude or regions of high latitude, plants will not follow the sequence as illustrated below. In our gardens at approx. 580 m above sea level on the 42nd parallel north, the below table is an accurate representation, although there is a lot of variation within the month.

If you know of a tree or shrub that is great for bees and is not on the above lists please share it in the comments section below. Also if you see any mistakes in the list, I'd really appreciate it if you could let me know also in the comments section below.

Honey Dew

If you have ever parked your car under a tree and arrived back to find it covered in a sticky substance, you have come across honey dew. You have the sap-sucking psyllids or aphids to thank for this.

An aphid feeds by inserting its straw-like mouthpart (proboscis) into the cells of a plant and draws up the plant’s juices or sap. Most aphids seem to take in from the plant sap more sugar than they can assimilate and excrete a sweet syrup, honey dew, that is passed out of the anus.

For many other insects including ants, wasps, and of course the bees, this is a valuable source of food. Ants harvest it directly from the aphids, bees generally collect it from where it falls.

Ant drinking "Honey Dew" - I could not find the original source of this photo to give credit

Check out our previous blog here where I profile a polyculture design dedicated to bees and other pollinators

Polyculture for Pollination Support

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Click here to order our Bee Tree Multi-pack - One of each of the below trees Price includes delivery to anywhere in Europe

Albizia julibrissin - Silk tree Alnus cordata - Italian Alder Caragana arborescens - Siberian Pea TreeCercis siliquostrum - Judas TreeCornus mas - Cornellian CherryHibiscus syriacus - Rose of SharonLigustrum vulgare - Privet Koelreuteria paniculata - Golden Rain TreePaulownia tomentosa - Foxglove TreeRobinia pseudoacacia - Black Locust Tetradium danielii - Korean Bee Tree

Trees for Bees Multipack

Would you like to join us for our Regenerative Landscape Design course in Sep 2017?

Regenerative Landscape Design Course
6 years ago
Balkan Ecology Project have a great course lined up for late summer. You'll be working in small teams of 4 - 6 people to survey and design real plots of land and in larger groups to carry out practicals such as earthworks and wildlife pond building. With a good balance of field work, hands-on practicals and theory and exercises, the course aims to provide a solid foundation to start designing and implementing regenerative designs.

Early booking discount until July 15th
6 years ago
Hi All

We have an excellent course lined up this summer!! and there are just 8 days to go for the early booking discount so if you're interested it's time to register.

click below for  details
7 years ago
Hi All

We're extending our Polyculture Project to include experimental perennial polycultures. Our aim is to develop models that are low cost to establish and maintain, can produce healthy affordable nutritious food and will enhance biodiversity.

To view this post with photos, illustrations and tables follow the below link

This spring we'll be including the Early Polleniser Polyculture as presented here. The design aims to provide pollination support for farms and gardens, yields of nutritious fruits and nuts, valuable nesting sites for endangered native bees, and spectacular flower displays to shake off the winter blues

As the title suggests the primary purpose of the Early Polleniser Polyculture is to provide an early source of pollen/nectar to a wide diversity of pollinating insects. The majority of the plants in this polyculture bloom when there is little other sources of nectar/pollen available. This encourages pollinating insects in and around our gardens to fulfill their vital role when the crops (particularly fruit trees) start to flower in the early spring.

The polyculture also provides a source of produce in its own right and with proper cultivar selection and plant care, should provide high yields of nutritious fruits and nuts as well as habitat for a wide range of wildlife and pollinators.

The Early Polleniser Polyculture

Before we go any further I'll quickly clarify the meaning of the term Polleniser.

A polleniser (sometimes pollenizer, pollinizer or polliniser) is simply a plant that provides pollen. The word pollinator is often mistakenly used instead of polleniser, but a pollinator is the biotic agent that moves the pollen, such as bees, moths, bats, and birds. Bees are thus often referred to as 'pollinating insects'.

Bee (Pollinator) and flowering plant (Polleniser)

Flowering Period

All species included in the polyculture apart from Trifolium repens - White Clover, flower during the months of January - March and provide valuable pollen or nectar forage for bees and other pollinators during this period.

Early Polleniser Guild species in flower

Design Considerations

Design Goals -  As well as pollination support, wildlife habitat and fruit production the design goals include
For the polyculture to be functional on marginal sites i.e shady areas, low fertility soils, areas exposed to wind. The early polleniser guild is primarily a support polyculture with the primary function of providing main crops with pollination support so we may not want to allocate the most productive land to it.
That the polyculture should have relatively low time/cost inputs. Once established the polyculture should require little to no external fertility and approx. 5-7 hrs of maintenance per year in the late autumn. (not including harvest times). Maintenance and management of this polyculture is further discussed below.  
That the polyculture can be of use on a small and broad scale. The design presented above represents one unit and can work well "stand alone" in any garden. Multiple units of this polyculture can also be used in orchards and farms to provide better pollination coverage for the crops. (see layout options below)

Light and Aspect  - All of the plants included tolerate some shade or utilise light when other plants are not in demand of it. The polyculture can therefore be positioned on marginal areas with lower light levels whilst still serving a purpose, however if you would like to obtain maximum pollinator attraction and a higher yield of fruits and nuts, choose a site with at least 6 - 8 hrs a day and orientate from east - west.

Water - Optimal irrigation is a key to healthy and productive plants. This polyculture is not well suited to semi wetlands and areas with a high water table and will not thrive in very dry areas with no access to irrigation. In dry climates irrigation will be essential but selecting a position for the polyculture that maximizes the absorption of rainfall will help considerably and can be achieved by planting on contour and using simple earthworks to keep rain water around the root zones of plants.

N.B. All of the plants are relatively drought tolerant but the fruiting plants will not be high yielding without proper irrigation.

Access - Access from within the polyculture is required for pruning, weeding and harvesting. Two 50 cm wide paths running within and parallel to each other provide this access. The periphery of the polyculture should also be accessible from the outside.  

Pollinator Habitat - Native bees are very important pollinators and are some the most endangered species in our ecosystems . Including habitat for the bees to nest as well as providing good quality forage is essential,  accordingly this polyculture includes bee nesting habitat, but having other such habitat around a site is recommended.

Species Selection - Our plant selection takes into account the following;
Climatic compatibility with the site
Drought tolerance
Shade Tolerance
Early nectar/pollen provision
Other benefits to wildlife and production for humans
Flowering periods that do not have significant overlap with crops on the site.  
Shrub species that respond well to regular pruning/coppicing  

Proximity to crops - Bees will forage where high quality food is available and presumably shorter foraging trips are both safer and more energy-efficient for all bees. Studies show that Honey Bees - Apis spp. will forage many kms away from nesting sites. Bumblebees - Bombus spp. and most solitary bees will typically forage much shorter distances, according to some reports 100 m - 800 m.

Given that there is little consensus within studies of pollinator foraging behaviour, it's difficult to state how far from the crops and to what density this polyculture should be used to achieve the best pollination results. As a presumptive guide, in areas where suitable forage and nesting habitat is lacking assume a beneficial radius of 100 - 300 m  and in areas where there are lots of established early forage and nesting sites assume a beneficial radius of 500 m - 1000 m.  You can never really have too much early pollinator forage available, but you can have too little. Priorities of budget and time, and the crops that are being grown are other factors that will guide unit quantity and crop proximity decisions.

It's worth noting that plants are in competition for pollinators attention and for this reason the flowering period of the plants in the polyculture do not overlap significantly with crop plants.

Location/Layout  -  The polyculture unit presented above can work well as a stand alone unit in any garden. Multiple units of this polyculture can also be used in orchards and farms to provide better pollination coverage for the crops. Below you can find three suggested layouts for the broad scale application of this polyculture 1.Border, 2 Island and 3 Alley.

1.Border Layout - The polyculture can be planted on the inside of a fence or outside of a track to form a "wrap around" for the entire orchard/market garden etc. or for subdivision boundaries within a site.  Being composed of shade tolerant plants the polyculture will, to some extent, function regardless of aspect. Each unit as pictured above can be repeated to form a border planting.

2. Island Layout -  The island layout intersperses the units around the site. For already developed sites the islands can be positioned in difficult to access nooks and corners, shady spots and areas of marginal value, or on the periphery of crops that will benefit the most from enhanced pollination.      

3. Alley Layout - The alley layout entails planting the polycultures in an alley cropping or orchard system at intervals among the main crops. For example, an apple and pear orchard may have every 10th row composed of early polleniser units.

So lets take a closer look at the species involved and the management and maintenance tasks required for this polyculture

The Polyculture Components

I've divided the  polyculture into 5 main components based on the purpose that each component serves.

Fruiting Trees and Shrubs
Ground Cover
Early Flowering Bulbs
Fertility Plants
Pollinator Habitat

1. Fruiting Trees and Shrubs - The Polyculture Components

The fruiting trees and shrubs component include Cornus mas and Corylus avellana in the upper canopy, and Chaenomeles speciosa and Mahonia japonica in the lower canopy/shrub layer and are the main productive units in the guild. With good cultivar selection these plants can provide yields of excellent fruits and nuts.

Cornus mas - Cornelian Cherry

Species Overview - Cornus mas is one of my favorite plants. The hum of the bees under our Cornus mas trees on a sunny day in late winter is just one of the reasons I love this plant.  It's a  medium sized hardy tree and an excellent polleniser producing a bounty of flowers rich in nectar from Feb - March. The plant is self fertile and the flowers go on to form wonderful grape shaped fruits in late summer delicious when fully ripe.

Four seasons of Cornus mas from our home garden.

Uses: Excellent fruit when ripe and great for making cordial or syrups. Nutritional analysis indicates that Cornelian cherry juices are rich in various essential elements and might be considered as an important dietary mineral supplementation. There are some fabulous cultivars available with larger sweeter fruit.
The seeds can be roasted, ground into a powder and used as a coffee substitute and a small amount of edible oil can be extracted from the seed.  A dye is obtained from the bark and the leaves are a good source of tannin. The wood is very hard, it is highly valued by turners and has a history of use for tools, machine parts, etc. We use the twigs to feed rabbits and goats all year around.

Biodiversity - One of the earliest trees to flower, attracting a wide range of pollen and nectar feeding invertebrates from Feb - March. We often see great tits, blue tits and long tailed tits in our trees during the winter. I'm not sure whether they are feeding on the buds, dried fruit  or perhaps the invertebrates sheltering under the bark and crevices.

For more on this plant see our Cornelian Cherry plant profile

Corylus avellana - Hazelnut

Species Overview - A fast growing deciduous shrub with rounded leaves, producing yellow male catkins in the early spring followed by delicious edible nuts in the autumn. Typically reaching 3–8 m tall but may reach 15 m.

Corylus avellana  - Hazelnut

Uses: One of the finest temperate nuts eaten roasted or raw. The wood from hazel is also commonly used. Soft, easy to split but not very durable it is mainly used for small items of furniture, hurdles, wattles, basketry, pea sticks etc. The tree is very suitable for coppice. The twigs can be used to feed rabbits and goats all year around   The nuts also contain 65% of a non-drying oil that can be used in paints, cosmetics etc. The finely ground seeds are used as an ingredient of face masks in cosmetics.

Biodiversity - The pollen-bearing catkins can be available to pollinators from as early as late Jan - late March. Hazel leaves provide food for the caterpillars of many moths. Hazel nuts are used by dormice to fatten up for hibernation and in spring the leaves are a good source of food for caterpillars, which dormice also eat. Hazel nuts are also eaten by woodpeckers, nuthatches, tits, wood pigeons, jays and a number of small mammals.

For more on this plant see our Hazelnut plant profile . We also have a range of excellent cultivars available

Chaenomeles speciosa - Japanese Quince

Species Overview - A thorny deciduous or semi-evergreen shrub native to eastern Asia, usually growing to about 2 m tall and generally exhibiting a rounded outline, but is somewhat variable in form. The plants establish a very dense crown with a tangled jumble of branches which are either spiny or with spurs. The flowers come before the leaves and are usually red, but may be white or pink. The fruit is fragrant and looks similar to a small apple although some cultivars have much larger pearish shaped fruits. The leaves do not change colour in the autumn.

Chaenomeles speciosa - Japanese Quince

Uses - The fruits don't make great eating and are generally extremely hard but following a cold spell I found the Japanese Quince softened enough to squeeze like a lemon, and the juice being very acidic makes them an excellent alternative to lemon juice. Another plus for this fruit is that they have a delicious and somewhat addictive aroma that lingers around for a few days resembling that of pineapples, lemons and vanilla. We leave the fruits in the car or around a room to act as a natural air freshener.

Biodiversity - The flowers are attractive to a wide range of pollen and nectar feeding invertebrates from March- April, sometimes in February. With regular pruning the shrubs become dense providing suitable nesting habitat for birds such as wren - Troglodytes troglodytes, chiffchaff - Phylloscopus collybita and robin - Erithacus rubecula. The diets of these birds include some common vegetable pests and can help keep pest populations in check.

For more on Chaeonomeles spp. see our previous blog article here.

Mahonia aquifolium - Oregon Grape

Species Overview - A great little shade tolerant evergreen shrub growing to 1 m tall by 1.5 m wide that can cope with most soils and thrive in shady spots where many other plants succumb. It is resistant to summer drought and tolerates wind. The plant produces dense clusters of yellow flowers in early spring, followed by dark bluish-black berries. Once the plant gets going it's very vigorous and produces many suckers.

Mahonia aquifolium - Oregon Grape

Uses -  The small purplish-black fruits can be used to make jelly or juice that can be fermented to make wine. The inner bark of the larger stems and roots of Oregon-grape yield a yellow dye; the berries give purple dye. The holly-like evergreen leaves are sometimes used by florists to add to bouquets. It makes a great under story shrub for densely shaded areas.

Biodiversity - Excellent early-flowering nectar source for bees and bumblebees.  The nectar and pollen may be taken by blackcaps, blue tits and house sparrows. Berries are eaten by blackbirds and mistle thrushes.  Good caterpillar food plant.

For more on this plant see our Mahonia aquifolium plant profile

Fruiting Trees and Shrubs - Unit Management

The table below indicates the quantity of trees and shrubs per unit and some information on how to establish and maintain this component of the polyculture.

Planting scheme for Fruiting Trees and Shrub component

2. Ground Cover - The Polyculture Components

The ground cover plants include Primula vulgaris and Bellis perennis, both herbaceous perennials with low growing and spreading habits that over time should form large patches of cover under and around the shrubs and trees. A ground cover can prevent unwanted plants from moving in and protects the soil from erosion.

Primula vulgaris

Species Overview - A herbaceous perennial, loving cool, damp banks and glades, and thriving in coppice woodland where they can form a stunningly attractive carpet. They like wet soil best, with lots of shade in the summer. The drier and hotter the climate, the more they need shade. Summer drought is not a big problem as long as they get plenty of moisture in autumn and the first part of the year.

Primula vulgaris - Primrose ground cover under a Cornus mas in our garden

Uses: Both flowers and leaves are edible, the flavour ranging between mild lettuce and more bitter salad greens. The leaves can also be used for tea, and the young flowers can be made into primrose wine.

Biodiversity - Primroses are one of the earliest spring flowers. They may be found flowering in warm sheltered nooks as early as the end of January, although most flower from March to May. Because they flower so early in the year, they provide a vital source of nectar at a time when there are few other flowers around for insects to feed on such as adult Brimstone butterflies which have hibernated over the winter and often emerge on warmer winter days.

For more on this plant see our Primula vulgaris plant profile

Bellis perennis

Species Overview - An abundant, small, low-lying herbaceous perennial plant with white flowers with yellow centres and pink flecks, that appear most of the year, except in freezing conditions. The plants habitually colonise lawns and grassland.

Bellis perennis - Daisy growing in our lawn

Uses: May be used as a potherb and young leaves can be eaten raw in salads or cooked, noting that the leaves become increasingly astringent with age. Flower buds and petals can be eaten raw in sandwiches, soups and salads. It is also used as a tea and as a vitamin supplement. Medicinally, the plant is known for its healing properties and can be used on small wounds, sores and scratches to speed up the healing process. The spreading habit of the plant makes it a good ground cover option.

Biodiversity - A valuable addition to grassland areas managed for wildflowers and wildlife attracting a good deal of attention from pollinators when little other forage is available.

For more on this plant see our Bellis perennis plant profile

Ground Cover - Unit Management

The table below indicates the quantity ground cover plants per unit and some information on how to establish and maintain this component of the polyculture.

Planting scheme for ground cover is mixed patches of the species between the shrubs and trees

Run out of room here - for the full post see
7 years ago
Hi All

Encouraged by high yields and high levels of biodiversity that we have been recording in our home gardens we have extended our research to look at how we can provide nutritious affordable food whilst enhancing biodiversity in polyculture market gardens. We are delighted to be offering a unique opportunity to take part in this study. Would you like to join us?

To view this post with photos and full details go to

What are we doing ?

We are undertaking a multi year study of market gardening growing herbs, vegetables and perennial fruit and nut polycultures. The study aims to compare our polyculture plots with conventional organic plots, record levels of biodiversity in the gardens and look at set up and running costs (in terms of finances and time) and outputs in terms of produce and income.

Diversity of high quality biologically produced food from our polyculture gardens

The approach we take to market gardening goes way beyond "organic". We design biological systems that rely on the native ecology to function as opposed to external manufactured inputs, and as a result our gardens service not only our needs but the needs of other organisms too.

click here to view our results so far

Permaculture/Polyculture Market Garden @Balkan Ecology Project

What will you be doing ?

You'll be working closely as a team producing food from the market garden for yourself, local markets, and a food co-operative and will be recording all aspects of the process including how long it takes to develop, maintain and manage the associated costs, the fertility requirements, the returns in produce weight and income derived from the sale of the produce.

Our Polyculture Market Garden - photo by Huma

Spring 2017 we will also begin development of a new experimental garden growing perennial polycultures providing fruits, nuts, vegetables, biomass, timber and wildlife habitat. We'll install a gravity fed irrigation system, wildlife/irrigation ponds, living fences of native species, several habitat features for current species on site, and 6 trial beds that will house 4 perennial polycultures, designed to be highly productive and wildlife enhancing.

Perennial Polycuture Trial Garden

Click here for the Garden location (labelled as  East Side Trial Garden on our Project map)

We are planning to record all aspects of the project including observed levels of invertebrate diversity, weather data and soil analysis. We’ll be looking closely at inputs i.e set up/running costs, fertility/water requirements and time, and outputs i.e produce, income, soil fertility and invertebrate diversity.

The aim of the trials is to test the ecological and economical viability of growing these polycultures in market gardens and farms in order to meet the following needs/wants:
production of high quality, high value food
cash crops from secondary/ tertiary polyculture partner species
improvement of soil fertility
provision of biomass for use as mulch
timber supply for use as vegetable supports and larger round wood material for farm infrastructure
enhanced levels of biodiversity

Some of the resident wildlife from our permaculture market garden.

Click here for month by month activities.

Why should you take part ?

?This is an excellent opportunity if you are considering starting a garden and/or are interested in ways to provide affordable healthy food whilst increasing biodiversity.

As a participant of this study -
You will gain valuable insight into what it takes to actually run a market garden. As well as the practical skills you will develop, we'll dedicate time each week to covering essential theory including site design and implementation, plant propagation, polyculture management, basic botany, record keeping, harvesting, irrigation, marketing and advertising, and budgeting/financial planning.
Enrollment to the 6 month program entitles you to participate in courses and training events that take place during the program.
You will be contributing to an area of research where little information exists i.e the productivity of polycultures and associated biodiversity dynamics.
This study will be published online and freely available to all for future reference and you will be credited accordingly.
You will be spending time in a truly unique area of the world, working as part of a dynamic team of fellow enthusiasts in an inspiring environment.

2015 team in the gardens  

Where will you be?

?The project is based in the town of Shipka, Bulgaria on the foothills of the Central Balkan mountain range in the Rose Valley. It's an area of high biodiversity, beautiful countryside and historical sites of global, cultural and scientific significance. The project site is located on an abandoned piece of agricultural land on the western outskirts of the town that we call the Paulownia Garden. See Map for Paulownia Garden Location.

Shipka Town - home to Balkan Ecology Project

You'll also be learning from our existing garden, a 10 year old residential property with a highly productive and well established forest garden composed of over 400 species of plants. Our central garden is a good example of small scale intensive ecological design and includes examples of rainwater harvesting, grey water reed beds, wildlife ponds, multiple composting facilities and hosts a small plant nursery. We practice various methods of biological vegetable production including guild planting and crop rotation, and rear pigs, chickens and rabbits from this property.
7 years ago