Working out guilds for fruit trees can feel like a complex business. It can be challenging to work out the best combinations of plants if you are trying to establish a new productive garden, improve an existing orchard, or boost the yield of an existing fruit tree. Working out the most beneficial combinations of plants is one of the services I can provide as a permaculture garden designer.
Fruit tree guilds are designed around specific trees and for specific sites. The guild plants are all specifically chosen to aid the fruit tree, keep it healthy, and make sure that it is productive as possible. Guilds can be merged together to form a forest garden, or work as stand-alone systems in a smaller garden around single trees.
The individual plants in fruit tree guilds are chosen for a range of different reasons. If you are familiar with the basics of companion planting then you will be aware of how plants can be carefully chosen to maintain fertility and help with wildlife attraction and pest control.
But it is also important to remember that as well as choosing plants for their ecosystem functions, plants in a guild can benefit not just the fruit tree, but also us. They can themselves provide a wide range of yields. Each plant included should have as many different functions (within the system and to humans) as possible.
Certain fruit tree guild plants are well known in permaculture circles. But in addition to using these better known plants (comfrey is perhaps the best known), it is also worthwhile making sure that you develop a better understanding of plants in your area and get to know their uses and benefits. The more you know about plants, the better able you will be to combine them in beneficial ways, to improve the yield from your space.
If you would like help to develop guilds around your fruit trees, please get in touch. Remember, there is no ‘ideal’ guild – and you need to plant for place, and for the specifics of your location and your own needs.