The more I guild, the more lonely the unguilded trees seem to me. In particular, my Asian pear was looking very bare.
Selecting plants for a guild can be pretty simple or pretty involved, whichever way you lean. I can go either way depending on what free resources I have available.
When I guilded the plum tree recently, I mentioned a couple of the purposes for guilding. They are some of the most basic of the things you want to include. If you want to take it to the next level, though, I’ve got a longer list for you, sourced from Nabhan’s Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land, via Michael Phillips’ book, The Holistic Orchard.
Here we go:
- Nutrient pumpers: penetrating roots that bring K, Ca, et al, from the subsoil up to the surface. Comfrey, dock, and dandelion are among them; think plants with long taproots.
- Mycorrhizal accumulators: some plants’ root systems provide sugars which host fungi which in turn help boost the growth of the plant. Lavender and thyme and ironwood are examples.
- Soil enrichers: Plants which produce lots of nutrient-rich leaves that fall or are cut down and used to “mulch in place.” The swiss army knife of permaculture, comfrey, is again a good choice. With an N-P-K ratio of 1.8-.5-5.3, it won’t rob the soil of nitrogen as it breaks down like straw or leaf mulch. Stone fruits, pears, and apples need nitrogen for strong growth. The potassium in comfrey makes it a very good choice for fruit trees because potassium is needed for good bud and fruit development. Comfrey is also a good source of calcium and trace minerals.
- Weed suppressors: Plants which cover the surface of the soil and shade out weeds without hogging all the nutrients. Peppermint, comfrey, velvet bean, etc.
- Disease suppressors: Papago pea for Texas root rot, mints for pea leaf curl, or chives for apple scab.
- Insectary plants: These give nectar, shelter, and homes for beneficial insects. There are many lists. Here is one.
- Rodent ridders: While there is no silver bullet, every little thing helps. Try red squill (Drimia maritima) which repels some rodents and is toxic to rats; and daffodils, which voles find distasteful.
- Nectar & pollen producers: Keep your friends closeby for pollinating purposes. Plug in your zip code at this website, Pollinator Partnership, for an extremely thorough and informative list of pollinator plants for your ecoregion within the U.S..
- Insect pest confounders: Some flowers are just so potent, they mask the scent of the target of the pest. Hide what you want to protect by planting buffalo gourd, desert lavender, or wild oregano.
Many plants do double or triple duty in more than one category, which is a good thing because I don’t think I want to find nine different plants for each guild, thank you stacking functions.
For my pear guild, I went simple.
More daffodils (rodent ridder, insectary plant, and nectar and pollen producers) –they are coming out our ears over here, free daffs that need dividing and moving into sunnier spots.
Chives–(repels slugs)I had a window box full of them. I’m submitting this photo to the dictionary to accompany the entry for “root bound.”
Mystery perennial flower–(Insectary, nectar & pollen) This came from a mixed packet of flowers one of my children selected from the seed display at the home center. I can’t remember which one this was, but I think it was pretty.
I plan to add some comfrey later.
I think it looks a lot less lonely.
I’m going to try to guild all the fruit trees. I have apples, more pears, a cherry, and also blueberry bushes yet to guild.
Are you getting your guild on?