If you have been around the gardening world for any length of time, you are probably familiar with the term Permaculture which means “the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.” In simple terms, permaculture is when a group of plants are actively working together to make each other better and more productive. If a permaculture is healthy and thriving, it is very low maintenance. It’s also usually full of perennial plants, so it’s a one and done planting.
A fruit tree guild is just a bite-sized portion of this concept. The guild usually has 4-6 plants in it:
- The Fruit Tree or Bush
- Ground Cover
- Chop-and-Drop Mulcher
These plants will all work together to make each other stronger and more productive.
Dual Purpose Plants
Depending on the plants that you select, most of them have a dual (or three or four) purpose. Take a look at Thyme for example. Thyme is a wonderful herb to use in the kitchen and medicinally, it’s also a low lying ground cover to keep in moisture, and a pollinator attractant when it flowers. Another example of a dual purpose plant is Garlic. Stone fruit trees are often plagued with peach tree borers, which overwinter in the soil around the trunk and wreak havoc on the tree trunk in the spring. Planting a ring of garlic about 4-6″ out from the trunk in the fall, deters the borers from taking up residence in the soil, which means they won’t be there in the spring or at least not as many! Then, of course, you harvest the Garlic around July 4th to use.
Maximize Your Growing Space
Many people think that they need a dedicated place to put a fruit tree or berry patch and once it’s there, then you can’t do anything else with that space. Honestly, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. If you leave a fruit tree by itself and don’t do anything with the area around the base, or worse, put a plastic “bark ring” around the trunk, you are just setting the tree up for root rot, pests, inadequate pollination and strangling weeds. By planting a guild, you are maximizing your growing space, keeping the tree healthy, and ensuring a harvest for many years to come.
Guilds are beautiful and most are front yard worthy! In a portion of our front yard (approx. 10’x15′ space), we have a peach tree and apricot tree with a huge Russian sage bush between them, a blueberry bush hedge in front of those, strawberry plants, and a black raspberry patch with Rudbeckias all in amongst.
If you have been wanting to plant a fruit tree, recently planted one or have had one for a long time, it’s never too late to implement a guild!
For an easy to use guide, check out the Fruit Tree Guild guide that I put together: