By Carly Hatfield
A Guild is a type of companion planting, taken from the techniques often used in permaculture gardening and utilized specifically in fruit tree production. These ideas and practices can be used to attract beneficial insects and pollinators, improve the soil profile, increase the fertile nutrients available to surrounding plants, and deter pests and disease issues. A customized guild can be implemented in every garden no matter the focus of harvest; whether it be fruits, vegetables or just a stunning colorful display garden.
Our Carriage House garden utilizes a fruit tree guild since we feature many fruit tree varieties that act as the focal point or anchor of our gardens such as Apple, Cherry, and Pear. Also a few varieties of fruiting bushes such as Blueberries and Raspberries and even a few varieties of Hazelnuts are featured in the carriage house garden. These specimens are as beautiful as they are functional and require some thoughtful observation to get the most out of them and their harvest.
To attract beneficial insects such as praying mantises, spiders and ladybugs one could plant carrots, dill and parsley. These aggressive insects will act as natural guards, feasting on the annoying pests we all despise while saving the gardener a headache. Parasitic wasps and Lacewings also are attracted to Yarrow which acts as an accumulator of phosphorous. Why work against mother nature when we can work with her and reap the reward of a healthy harvest?
Helpful pollinators plants such as Bee Balm, Borage, Comfrey, Dill and the many gorgeous varieties of Allium serve a function as well as an aesthetic. These plants provide nutrients for the busy bees, butterflies, bats and other helpful wildlife that would be difficult to live without.
Accumulators are used to improve the soil by making unavailable nutrients such as Potassium, Calcium and Sulfur process in such a way that they become accessible for surrounding plants to use. Plants with long taproots can reach deeper into the soil and bring up nutrients to enrich the top layer of soil for the shallower rooted plants to utilize. Planting nutrient accumulating plants simplifies the maintenance of a garden.
Nitrogen fixing plants harness nitrogen from the air and convert it into useable fertilizer; making nitrogen available to surrounding plants. Planting beans and peas can help a gardener utilize the useful nitrogen that is ever abundant in Earth’s atmosphere. Lupine and Clover are a very pretty and practical addition to any garden guild, as these attract pollinators and are also nitrogen fixers.
Pest repelling plants can confuse insects with their strong odors that mask the scent of the targeted delight that the pest is after. A useful plant in this regard is Allium because of its strong onion odor. It is also beneficial for pollinators and can act as a weed and grass suppressor. Lavender’s strong scent can ward off codling moths which are known to be harmful to Apple trees. Many people use the common Marigold to repel beetles and even larger wildlife such as deer because of their strong fragrance and bitter taste. Aphids are attracted to Nasturtiums so reliably that they will often leave many of our favorite edibles alone almost completely.
Suppressors are often useful groundcovers like strawberries, which prevent weeds and hold moisture in the soil while acting as a pollinator and provide food for humans and wildlife. Rhubarb, red clover and peanuts are capable of the same functions.
The benefits of implementing a guild, companion planting systems and permaculture practices are never ending, so if a reader is out there with some other helpful information; please share your knowledge and comment below. There are always exceptions to this idea of companion planting and nothing will ever be fool proof when gardening, so never give up even when a seemingly guaranteed idea does not hold up well.
Thanks for reading!