Designing a Fruit Tree Guild 

Create a thriving and productive mini ecosystem that supports your fruit tree by designing a fruit tree guild – a permaculture technique in which a group of plants are chosen to complement and support a central plant. 

Guilds are a great way to make the most of under-utilised space in the garden and to obtain a diverse yield. Whether your garden is small or your property vast and rambling, the space under and around your fruit trees is valuable real estate.

Designing a Fruit Tree Guild
By thoughtfully designing your mixed plant guild below your fruit trees you will naturally reduce root competition that could otherwise detract from your fruit trees’ success.

What are the benefits of a fruit tree guild?

Being mindful with what you plant there can bring many benefits to the fruit trees, to your other garden inhabitants and to yourself.

A guild can bring higher yields and an abundant harvest as it adds nutrients, attracts pollinators, stabilises temperatures and controls pests and diseases. By creating a little food forest of mutually beneficial plants below your fruit trees you can obtain a bountiful mixed yield, while at the same time, reducing the amount of work you need to put into it. Win win!

More sophisticated than conventional companion planting, a fruit guild is a whole ecosystem on its own, a veritable food forest dedicated to mutual growth but with particular focus on making sure the individual parts work together to ensure that the central plant thrives. If done well, they can provide so very much, for very little input.

permaculture guild
Making sure you have a range of plants of different sizes, including suppressor plants and living mulch your fruit trees will have an ongoing source of nutrients.

The basic parts of a successful guild:

  • Insect attractors (such as borage or flowering herbs).
  • Nutrient accumulators (such as dandelions or nasturtiums).
  • Mulch makers (such as comfrey).
  • Nitrogen fixers (such as beans or peas).
  • Suppressors (such as strawberries or pumpkins).
peaches off the fruit tree
Nutrient accumulators are plants with deep roots which reach down into the subsoil to bring nutrients back up.

Want to know more about how to plant guilds?

In Issue #23 of Pip Magazine, our article on guilds reveals the many benefits of using guilds in your garden, the key steps involved and what you should plant to:

  • Produce higher yields from your fruit trees;
  • Attract potential pollinators;
  • Encourage beneficial insects to deter unwanted pests;
  • Reduce or eliminate the need for store-bought fertilisers and improve soil structure.
  • We also offer advice on how to plan your guild and what supportive plants to use.

You can access this article online here as part of our digital subscription offering, or subscribe to the print version of Pip Magazine here

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