best practice, greenpeace, open farm | 05.10.2016

Ecological farming in the vegetable garden: biodiversity at its best

Greenpeace Bulgaria runs open farm days for Bulgarian farmers at ecological farms around the country. The second event of the series took place on 2 September in the Varna region of north-east Bulgaria. Konstantin Yanev, the owner of a permaculture vegetable farm in the village of Oreshak, opened his farm gates to share his experience as a pioneer of ecological farming. The farm visit concluded with an open discussion about ecological farming solutions. Topics discussed included how increasing biodiversity could boost soil fertility and improve pest control, as well as how these solutions could be scaled up.

Konstantin admits that when he first started his garden, the farming practices he applied were conventional, not ecological. The more he learned however about the different interactions and processes that occur in the ecosystem, the more he started considering what other cultivation methods were available that did not deplete the natural environment but actually supported and restored it.

Photo: Ivan DONCHEV /Greenpeace
Photo: Ivan DONCHEV/Greenpeace

The ecological gardens in Oreshak now represent a good example of what biodiversity and balance on a farm look like. The variety of crops and their cultivars is astonishing – there are 50 different varieties of tomato and 15 different varieties of basil; and those are just a few of the examples, as the farm maintains its own seed bank.

When it comes to maintaining soil fertility, Konstantin applies several farming techniques – he uses raised container beds to plant the crops; mulching; compost fertilizer; and also fertilizer derived from Californian worms.

When it comes to controlling pests, Konstantin is very careful to choose the varieties he plants – he combines different types of crops to increase their resilience. During the hottest months of the year, between June and September, the crops are also covered with a net shade, which reduces stress caused by the heat of the sun and thus reduces the chances of various diseases and pest infestations developing.

Copyright: Ivan Donchev
Photo: Ivan DONCHEV/Greenpeace

The visit to Konstantin’s garden triggered enormous interest among producers and hobby farmers in the Varna region – there were almost 40 visitors who came to listen to the fascinating stories about soil health and diversity from seed to plate. This open farm event was a great opportunity for farmers in the region to meet, exchange experiences and improve their knowledge about ecological farming.

Photo: Ivan DONCHEV/Greenpeace