Beyond the Generic Permaculture Fruit Tree Guild

Comfrey in an apple tree guild.

I have written before on this site and elsewhere about creating fruit tree guilds. And this topic is one of the things I am asked about most frequently. It is also, perhaps, one of the things in permaculture most frequently misunderstood. There is a lot of information out there and unfortunately, much of it can be misleading, if not downright wrong.

People often search the internet, hoping to find the perfect apple tree guild, cherry tree guild, or plum tree guild, for example. Though they are familiar with the concept of this sort of companion planting, they do not realise that a guild that works well in one location might not work as well in another.

Many of the plants I use in my own fruit tree guilds in my forest garden here in Scotland are not the best choices for many other areas. In fact, some plants which I include perfectly happily are invasive in some regions. The Elaeagnus ssp. I use are just one example.

The right plants for a fruit tree guild very much depend on your location, and the specific conditions (and specific wildlife including pest species) present where you live. While there are some permaculture ‘staples’ like comfrey which can be beneficial for many reasons and in many settings, the best guilds are those which combine particularly beneficial non-native plants within a planting scheme which predominantly utilises plants native to the area.

Tomorrow, I will share a more in depth case study than the usual concept designs I share, which gives some examples of guilds for an orchard in Vermont. But I just wanted to focus today on the importance of never just following generic examples, and always designing for a specific place.

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