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A Smallholding in Bulgaria - Tips and Hints

 

Orchards

Orchards are common in Bulgaria and there is an excellent variety of fruit grown.

You could mix this with vegetables and herbs growing underneath the trees and this also copies the natural ecosystem. This type of orchard takes some years to plant but is extremely productive and has the added benefit of needing minimum maintenance. Simply cut back plants which are over zealous and lay down thick straw for winter to protect them. You'll find that the leaves from the trees provide good mulch for the plants below and the plants themselves are established before the trees burst into life. All you then have to do is walk through your orchard gathering fruit and vegetables and herbs as you go.

 

The Weather

Learn how to predict the weather from clues around you. Clouds can provide a fairly accurate forecast for the coming few hours. Wildlife and domestic animals can often sense impending weather changes. Even aches and pains in your joints can be from a drop in atmospheric pressure. Listen to old wives' tales. they are not all true but often it's surprising how correct they are.

Be creative

Let your imagination go. You could even grow your own wheat in sufficient quantity to make bread. Other ideas are to build a clay oven where you can use pieces of wood which are too small for your log burner, in which you can make your own bread. Even a carp pond, usually considered only ornamental, is a cheap and good source of protein. Local Bulgarians would not usually dream of buying fencing but use wood from their own plot.

Always do what is the most appealing to you as in that way you'll get more enjoyment out of all the work.

Tips and Hints

- Watch what your neighbours are doing; they know the seasons, what grows well and are a great source of information
- Zone the land, so that things you need all the time are close to the house
- Money. There will be investment before return, so make sure you have enough money behind you
- Be realistic about the size of property you can manage. If you are a first-timer and have a very large plot, then set out only part of it to start with
- Have some areas as "wild" areas, this will reduce the workload


The Smallholding Year

Spring
Prepare your veg beds and plant seeds
Clear new beds
Harvest any wild greens
From the polytunnel broad beans and asparagus

Summer
Lots of tomatoes and peppers
Don't forget to water!
Order your wood ready for winter
You'll have a glut of some vegetables at this time, so get in touch with your neighbours and see if you can do some exchanges
Great time for soft fruits from your orchard - after you've cut back any invasive plants under the trees

Autumn
Harvest crops
This is the time to be making rakia or wine
Cover plants under the trees in your orchard with straw
You'll have plenty of fruit, vegetables and other crops so make the most of them

Winter
Put compost around your fruit trees
Repairs and maintenance time
Collect any firewood from your land
Plan for the following year



The local Bulgarians will be a mine of information for you and they will be more than willing to help and teach you the ropes and give "hands on" training.

 

Because of the low purchase and start up costs in Bulgaria to obtain suitable land and property, you may find that once you have sold your property at home, you have plenty left in the bank to support the establishment of your smallholding: perhaps even retire on the money in the bank and just enjoy a rich and fulfilling self supportive lifestyle.

If you're thinking about setting up a smallholding, then go for it - but do your research and plan carefully, especially the financial side.

Don't plan for self-sufficiency straight away but look longer term.

Once you've got the hang of it you might even enjoy it so much that you decide to expand and start selling your produce!