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Fruit Tree Guild Video

See fruit tree guilds in zone's 1-3.

Fruit Tree Guilds

Polyculture or the growing of many different plants in a given area is a popular permaculture principle. Fruit tree guilds are a specific polyculture technique used to improve fertility, confuse pests, and attract beneficial insects, as well as provide increased yields.
Plum, elderberry, yarrow, chicory, red clover, shasta daisy, parsnip, plantain

Plum, elderberry, yarrow, chicory, red clover, shasta daisy, parsnip, plantain

I’ve grown my fruit and nut trees in guilds with understory plants that help my trees. When I first started into permaculture, the idea that plants could help each other, thereby eliminating the need for fertilizers, pesticides, and outside inputs really captivated me. I have since grown my own guilds with varying degrees of success. For me, it hasn’t been a panacea of perfection, where I no longer have any maintenance to do, because my helper plants are doing all the work. They have certainly helped, but I’m not sure how realistic it is to expect to plant a fruit tree guild with a grafted high value fruit tree, and then not have to do any work to get quality fruit. I think this can work with mature ungrafted varieties planted in appropriate microclimates, but in my experience, grafted varieties require a little more work. Also, it is not easy to establish good working guilds. In Gaia’s Garden, a book I love by the way, Toby Hemenway has diagrams of perfectly planted guilds in concentric circles. I don’t think it’s practical, nor economically feasible for most of us to plant this precisely, not to mention the constant maintenance to keep the guild in balance. I think it is more practical to mix the seed of the plants that you want to grow under and around your tree and sow the seeds. Mother Nature will determine what grows where.
Plum, comfrey, alfalfa, clover, chicory, milkweed, oregano, yarrow, autumn olive

Plum, comfrey, alfalfa, clover, chicory, milkweed, oregano, yarrow, autumn olive

Having said all that, that doesn’t mean I don’t like to grow my trees with guilds, I certainly do, and I think Gaia’s Garden is a fantastic resource for what plants to put into your guild and why. Below are some of the plants that I’ve put into my guilds:
Mulberry, goumi, comfrey, alfalfa, chicory, milkweed

Mulberry, goumi, comfrey, alfalfa, chicory, milkweed

Alfalfa- Nitrogen fixer, attracts beneficial insects with flowers. Easy to seed. Autumn Olive- Nitrogen fixing small tree. Berries beneficial to wildlife. Invasive. Chicory- Nutrient accumulator, blooms from June until frost. Grows and seeds itself rampantly. Can get a bit tall, so you have to cut them back around your trees if they’re short. Chives- Pest deterrent. Can get overtaken by taller guild members. Clover- Nitrogen fixer, attracts beneficial insects with flowers. One of my favorites, easy to seed. Garlic- Pest deterrent. Plant in fall from bulbs. Goumi- Nitrogen fixing shrub. Produces nice berry. Good for wildlife. Not invasive like Autumn Olive. New Jersey Tea- Nitrogen Fixing shrub. Can grow in shade. Oregano- Pest deterrent, flowers bring in beneficial insects. One of my absolute favorite guild members. Plantain- I never sow this, but it comes on its own. I welcome it as it is a nutrient accumulator. Russian Comfrey (Not True Comfrey)- True comfrey produces seed, which can overtake your guild in time. Russian comfrey grows tall and vigorously from root cuttings. I love comfrey as it is a fantastic nutrient accumulator that produces flowers for a long duration. I plant one comfrey root per fruit tree. Do not plant more than one as it will take up too much space in the guild. Yarrow- Also one of my favorites. Produces the tiny flower that predator insects like. Is also a nutrient accumulator that looks beautiful.
Pear, goumi, alder, comfrey, oregano, chicory, yarrow, alfalfa

Pear, goumi, alder, comfrey, oregano, chicory, yarrow, alfalfa

Fruit Tree Guild Installation Part 2

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Last year, I prepped and installed some of my fruit tree guilds. I had planned to install the following guilds around my zone 2 fruit trees. As with most plans, they did not go exactly according to plan. I had trouble getting some of the plants and seed, and I decided to plant more chicken friendly edibles, as these trees are inside the chicken paddocks. Having said that, my original plan was good, so I am listing it below, in case you might want to copy it. The important thing is that you install ample nitrogen fixers, nutrient accumulators, pollinator attractors, and pest repellants. Nitrogen fixers are the most important part of the guild.

Fruit Tree Guild

Apple “Dwarf”

Shrubs: (1) elaeagnus x ebbingei

Groundcover: chives, horseradish, parsley, oregano, parsnips, garlic, daikon, dutch white clover

 

Cherry “Dwarf”

Shrubs: (1) elaeagnus x ebbingei

Groundcover: chives, horseradish, parsley, oregano, parsnips, garlic, daikon, dutch white clover

 

Pear “Medium Rootstock”

Shrubs: (3) Russian Olive, (3) Sunchokes

Groundcover: chives, oregano, camas, bee balm, dill, yarrow, chicory, daikon, dutch white clover

 

Nectarine “Medium Rootstock”

Shrubs: (3) Russian Olive, (3) Sunchokes

Groundcover: chives, horseradish, parsley, oregano, parsnips, garlic, daikon, dutch white clover

Fruit Tree Guild

 

What I ended up with listed below

Apple “Dwarf”

Shrubs: (1) goumi

Groundcover: chives, garlic, dutch white clover, chicory, daikon, dill, alfalfa

 

Cherry “Dwarf”

Shrubs: (1) goumi

Groundcover: chives, garlic, dutch white clover, chicory, daikon, dill, alfalfa

 

Pear “Medium Rootstock”

Shrubs: (3) goumi

Groundcover: chives, dill, yarrow, chicory, garlic, dutch white clover, daikon, alfalfa

 

Nectarine “Medium Rootstock”

Shrubs: (3) goumi

Groundcover: chives, garlic, daikon, dutch white clover, dill, yarrow, alfalfa

Pear Tree Guild

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Fruit Tree Guild Installation Part 1

Tuesday 9-18-2012

So it has begun. I have started to implement my permaculture design. The first order of business was to do something about the monoculture fruit trees in my zone 1 garden area. I have dwarf apples and cherries, and medium root stock nectarines and pears. I had them as most do with mulch circles and grass outside of that. I want the zone 1 orchard to be more of a food forest, polyculture, and chicken forage all rolled into one.

 

Most of my supporting plant species are best to be planted in the spring, but my living mulch, Dutch white clover, can be planted in the fall. I decided to get the beds and clover installed this fall, to be followed by the rest of the plantings to go in early spring.

 

The plant communities are below:

Apple “Dwarf”

Shrubs: (1) elaeagnus x ebbingei

Groundcover: chives, horseradish, parsley, oregano, parsnips, garlic, daikon, dutch white clover

 

Cherry “Dwarf”

Shrubs: (1) elaeagnus x ebbingei

Groundcover: chives, horseradish, parsley, oregano, parsnips, garlic, daikon, dutch white clover

 

Pear “Medium Rootstock”

Shrubs: (3) Russian Olive, (3) Sunchokes

Groundcover: chives, oregano, camas, bee balm, dill, yarrow, chicory, daikon, dutch white clover

 

Nectarine “Medium Rootstock”

Shrubs: (3) Russian Olive, (3) Sunchokes

Groundcover: chives, horseradish, parsley, oregano, parsnips, garlic, daikon, dutch white clover

 

How to Install

1. Remove the grass.

Bed Prepped, ready to be planted

2. Add at least 4 inches of good compost.

 

3. Calibrate your spreader to apply 10 pounds of lime per 1000 square feet.

 

4. Mix 1/10 of a pound of clover seed per 10 pounds of lime. This will seem like not much seed, but this is actually on the heavy end of the seeding range for clover. One pound of clover seed should cover 10,000 square feet broadcast spread. I put the lime in the spreader, weigh it, and then put the proper amount of weighed clover seed, and then mix it together with gloved hands.

 

5. Spread the seed/ lime mixture throughout the areas you want to cover.

 

6. Add straw for a mulch covering. This will aid in germination.   

Mapping Zone 1 Fruit Tree Guilds

Friday 9-7-2012

Currently I have (15) fruit trees in my zone 1 garden. These trees are planted in typical fashion with mulch circles underneath, and no supporting species whatsoever. I decided to connect my trees to create the space necessary to add my supporting species. This will create shapes and curves more in tune with nature, with the added benefit of not having to mow in between trees. These supporting species will provide beneficial insect habitat, pest repellant, nutrient accumulation, nitrogen fixation, and mulch.

 

In order to achieve the pleasing lines I would like to have for my fruit tree guilds, the first thing I do is paint it out with turf marking paint. I can tell you from 11 years of experience as a landscaper that designs on paper rarely follow exactly the installation in real life. Designs are a good guide, but usually practicality and experience will alter even the most well thought out designs. If you are designing planting beds, zones, or any garden areas, a turf marking wand and some paint is a worthwhile investment.

 

Zone 1 Fruit Trees and supporting species to add   

Apple (Dwarf): Russian Olive (1), Chives, Horseradish, Parsnips, Garlic, Oregano, Daikon                                               

 

Cherry (Dwarf): Russian Olive (1), Chives, Horseradish, Parsnips, Garlic, Oregano, Daikon                                             

 

Pear (Medium): Russian Olive (3), Sunchokes (3), Chives, Oregano, Camas, Bee Balm, Dill, Yarrow, Chicory, White Dutch Clover, Daikon                                                                                                                                  

 

Nectarine (Medium): Russian Olive (3), Sunchokes (3), Chives, Horseradish, Parsnips, Garlic, Oregano, Daikon