Making a Guild

gratefulgardener3300February 1, 2008

i just finished Gaia's Garden and was completely inspired. I have read about PC before but thought that it was for someone with many, many acres. Anyways, I want to plant some trees and shrubs and groundcovers together (which is a guild if I'm not mistaken) but I'm a little unclear as to what to put with what. Can it be any tree with any shrub? What should I be focusing on when I try to create my guild? Any help or direction would be greatly appreciated.

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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)


as a guild is more or less a fancy word for companion planting, you could do some research along those lines to determine what might best suit your needs, for me i've found trees in particular to be none too fussy about what you grow under/around/near them.

one thing that may work is! as it may get shady sweet potatoes might do the trick for you, they'll help improve the soil as well, and if you keep the whole shebang well mulched, the tubers will from just below the surface of the soil, and the trees will benefit greatly from the mulching especially if you use spoilt hay type mulches.


Here is a link that might be useful: len's garden page

    Bookmark   February 2, 2008 at 1:55PM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

I don't really understand the guild thing, either.

I do know that some plants produce a toxin that prevents other plants from growing in their root zone. It's called an 'allelopathic effect'.

The Virginia Coop Ext. Service has this to say about it at their site [ ]
"Allelopathy involves a plant's secretion of biochemical materials into the environment to inhibit germination or growth of surrounding vegetation. Allelopathy enhances tree survival and reproduction. Some plants that produce allelochemicals can be used in production as cover crops to control weeds. Researchers are presently attempting to breed crops and landscape plants that are allelopathic to weeds.

"Allelochemicals are metabolic by-products of certain plants that, when introduced into the environment, cause growth inhibition by affecting physiological processes such as respiration, cell division, and water and nutrient uptake. Symptoms of "allelopathic effects" include leaf wilting and yellowing, or death of part or all of a plant."

The most famous of those plants is the Black Walnut, but there are others. Here is a list of at least some of them:,1785,HGTV_3609_3668106,00.html

Other plants do very well together which, as Len said, is commonly called 'companion planting'. They often stimulate each other, or one stimulates the other to better growth. Just google 'companion plants', or a specific plant, like 'tomato companion plant'.

Most plants that aren't one or the other are just neutral, and cause no problems OR benefits (known, at least).

Just make a list of what you'd like to have around, then check them out as to which plants they like or don't like.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2008 at 11:54PM
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zengeos(5 Maine)

The site I have been referring to when planning this coming year's garden, is here:

They seem to have one of the more extensive lists and explain how certain plants benefit each other or, in some cases, hinder each other.


    Bookmark   February 16, 2008 at 11:57AM
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seraphima(z4 AK)

Guilds are small man-made ecosystems, with each plant adding some factor to make the whole group grow better.

First, you might select a food bearing plant such as an apple tree, and plant other perennials and annuals with it to help it grow. Chives will keep ants away from the apple tree, while comfrey will collect nitrogen, and provide a mulch several times a growing season (you whop it down, and spread it on the ground, then letting the plant grow up again.) the flowers on the chives, apple and comfrey attract bees and provide nectar for their honey. You might want to plant a climbing nasturtium to grow up into the tree and provide edible flowers also.

Another example of a guild is the Three sisters- corn, beans, and squash planted together in hills. The corn provides stalks for the beans to climb, the beans are nitrogen-fixing and provide nitrogen for the other plants. The squash shade the ground and make winter or summer squash for eating also. Some people add in other plants early or late in this guild, such as edible weeds, fast-growing plants like radishes, or a cover crop to be turned under in late fall.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2008 at 10:55PM
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strawboss(NV zone 6)

Remember to think outside the 'plant box' when constructing your guilds. A pile of stones for lizard habitat, upturned piece of broken crockery to invite toads, a small drip emitter on sandy soil to make a drinking fountain for butterflies, a small container that holds some of the same water as a drinking spot for the lizards living in the stones, etc. count as well!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 10:58PM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

And don't forget a clay mud puddle for the wild bees! They use the mud to seal their egg chamber from predators.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2008 at 5:11PM
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zengeos(5 Maine)

Great suggestions Sue, Sera and Strawboss.

Personally, I have a blank slate of a backyard area about 60 x 125 I plan to use permaculture gardening techniques in, with another area 25 x 50 I will continue using more *conventional* gardening practices in this year, converting to permaculture next year or the following year. Photos are below, if interested in giving your suggestions.

Here is a link that might be useful: my back yard

    Bookmark   March 20, 2008 at 9:01AM
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I have been doing quite a bit of research since I first posted and have been learning by leaps and bounds. I wouldn't mind giving some ideas for your yard. I looked at your pics but it was hard to get a clear picture of your yard (in my head). Maybe it was the snow? If you could send me an email with a drawing and measurements to help me out a little I would like to try and draw you something up. Also include the types of plants you would like to include and any special areas you had planned for your yard.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2008 at 10:44AM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

I too have been working with guilds in a small urban garden in eastern PA. There are so many things that go into a guild, and the idea is so cutting edge, that you are free to experiment. The idea is to mimic a natural ecosystem. So there is a lot that would go into the relationships between the plants. Yes, allopathy and chemicals exuded by roots would play into it, as would the physiology of the roots (how they are shaped and how they function (tap roots vs. fibrous roots, for example). Another variable is the kind of soil the plants like. Plants with similar soil requirements will grow well together simply because the soil makes both plants happy. But then you have to worry about at what point harmony becomes competition.

One suggestion in Gia's Garden is to study natural ecosystems and use them as a guide. Fortunately for me, I spend a lot of time in the wild and I am familiar with how different plants grow. I tried to create natural guilds based on plant combinations I have seen in the wild, and guess what?!--2/3 of the plants in the guild survived and 1/3 did not. So go figure.

So far, mint and raspberries coexist in my yard. The mint is invasive and competes, but I vigorously weed it out every year. The raspberries seem to be self seeding and the self seeders seem to be doing better than the ones I planted. So I'm letting them stay for a while and see how they get along with their new neighbors. A rose and apple have been growing well together but the rose is way too big for my yard and has to go!!! Blueberries and knick-knick are doing well but no berries on the knick-knick so it's a relatively lackluster section of the garden. My japanese maple and sweet fern love each other, but sweetfern is only good for puportedly medicinal tea which I have had and it tastes yucky. I still like these two plants together, they look great. I got the sweetfern from a native plant nursery, they are very hard to find but I love mine!

I highly recommend a crab apple for a suburban guild. Regular apples are a dime a dozen, but crabs smell nice and look nice and have great fruit. Plus they can be pollinators for other future apple trees. I love Dolgo, but it's not the one I have in my yard. The one I have is strictly for show, and it's not very showy!! Time will tell, it's still a toddler. I would also recommend a pie cherry tree. I've grown them in other spots in PA and they do very well and are not a common fruit to be found in the store. I didn't grow them because in my close urban situation I would have my neighbors complaining about squirrels and other vermin dragging the fruits around as they do my tomatoes! The mint seems to hide the raspberries so far from the birds. The bunnies go after my blueberries.

Any type of herbs are a joy for the understory and seem to make nice companions as long as they are not heavily shaded and the soil isn't too acid. My problem is I like some acid loving plants but mixed in with non-acid plants. So I kind of baby my acid lovers, which isn't really "permaculture."

That's the sum total of my experience so far with guilds in PA. If I had the space I would definately experiment with some nut trees like hazelnut or hickory, (not walnut though unless I was a masochist), and cherry trees and apples. Missing my north country roots I might plant sugar maple and dream of my grandkids making maple syrup. Maybe a scented witch hazel which isn't native but is related to our native one. This is also mostly decorative and perhaps medicinal though. If I only had the space I would do many more berries!! I hope to add some alpine strawberries this year, if I can find them. I tried the regular ones but I really do not have the space, they were a pain.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 12:35PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

I say go with regular apples, so what if they are a dime a dozen, you will not be likely to eat the crab apples because it takes so much work, a long lasting apple like arkansas black will do you well for making pies and apples sauce, and even eating fresh straight off the tree. they aren't as pretty, but looks aren't everything.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 2:33PM
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alexander3_gw(6 Pennsylvania)

> I got the sweetfern from a native plant nursery, they are very hard to find but I >love mine!

lpinkmountain, where is this nursery? I live in Bethlehem Township, not too far from you.


    Bookmark   June 19, 2008 at 11:26PM
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zengeos(5 Maine)

Oops! Srry I dropped off the face of the planet for a few months, but I was inundated wit Wintersown plants to find spots for, nearly 1000 square feet of new garden beds, major weeding of flower beds...which are impossible right now...sigh.

Anywho....I just keep expanding my sheetmulched beds. I planted 3 or 4 elderberry plants, 3 blueberries, and several Juneberries, along with apples and grape. I haven't guilded the blueberries, grapes, or apples, but plan to prep tem for that in the Spring...except planting garlic which I will plant out this Fall, of course. Successful companions have been peppers with onions, especially, my tomatoes were seriously damaged by major thunderstorm activity and rain the last several weeks has attracted countless slugs to eat things. Crows are pecking at my cukes, squash and zucchini, but I ope to still get a crop out of them. A volunteer squash is invading the lawn from the copost bin, with nearl a half dozen squash already 6+ inces across and more coming on!

I am loving Borage! Sooo many bees have come to my garden to pollinate things because of the borage. They like the borage better than the bee balm!

Tomatillo are fun plants to grow, they fruit profusely and aren't nearly as susceptible to blight as tomatoes, which have come down with a bad case of blight since the major storm 2 weeks ago.

My garlic was mature about the same time the rains came,but the rains ave prevented me from harvesting it....I finally went ahead anyways a few days ago. Mixed results, but overall I'm pleased.

I have loads of peppers, many are large enough to pick now! Purple Beauties really are beauties!

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 10:46PM
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