I’m quite fascinated by the idea of guilds, working with nature…mimicking nature in terms of naturally occuring companions and using “insectiary” and “pollinator” and “biodynamic accumulators”. I have no doubt there is something to this in regard to helping plants better face the conditions and stresses they face from disease to pests and environmental stressors …but I am also very science oriented and I’m hitting a brick wall looking for established evidence for these things as much sense as they seem to make on the surface. After reading Fukuoka’s “One Straw Revolution” and digging into other aspects of modern alternatives such as “No Dig” I am hungry for more …I want cutting edge alternative farming practices…I feel very strongly that there are many more profound things to be discovered in this general area of horticulture/farming, but that many are not turned on to it and those that are haven’t done their homework. Anyone that knows of science based cutting edge alternative practices…please send them my way. I have started in the past few years planting more insectary, weed suppressors, pollinators and ‘biodynamic accumulators’ and made several realizations about everyday practices such as trying to eradicate weeds…I have an aweful mix of perennial weeds here, so if anyone would want and need to get rid of weeds, it is me…but I have realized that I may want to leave some of those “weeds”… those burdock taproots that penetrate my clay soil and allow drainage and eventual routes for worms and other biota to get between layers of soil and nutrients to be exchanged upward and downward into the soil …all the while using a no dig approach. I am gradually convincing myself as I gather information, that soil does NOT need to be turned in order to mix it, the natural life of the soil will do that in a whole variety of ways if I just drop the variety of nutrient on the surface. I am also learning that much of what is present and which we regard as being in the way or unwanted is actually essential to our goal …even the things which seem most evident to us as improvements we have made/are making are actually detrimental. Ther’s so much desertification throughout the whole globe, if you doubt that, you can go look on google maps and see it up close in detail in (almost) real time …it’s quite scary. I thought when I discovered mulch that I had taken a huge leap…but I now am realizing the “mulch” I need, is the mulch that is needed everywhere…it is more plants !! of all different kinds , shading the earth from the beating drying sun.Daylillies and comfrey and yarrow and a thousand other things growing and storing water and shading the earth…like a sponge. Instead we have pavement and dead dry lifeless soil …it’s no wonder there’s gobal warming and climate change…the earth doesn’t even resemble what it looked like a few hundred years ago. It’s baking in the hot sun because there’s no greenery to absorb that energy and shade the ground.
Michael Phillips new book Mycorrhizal Planet delves into the soil food web relationships that are mediated by funguses, check out Elaine Ingram as well. I’m less certain of certain permaculture ideas like aromatic plants confusing pesky insects, but certainly dynamic accumulators, nectar plants for bees, are proven parts of the guild concept.
Issue with some gardening concepts is they are not based on science. Companion planting is really just a myth and can be ignored with proper spacing. Organic only matters when it is your practices as by the time you harvest food the pesticides are not going to affect anything but people still want to look for organic anyway. If you want to look up how to maximize plants/food look up food forests. These people who plant food forests have learned how to maximize food. They will do something like plant a tree and under that tree is something like strawberries or asparagus so you have two layers of food growing.
According to my kid at an ag school in California, the latest term is “regenerative agriculture.” I started a small orchard on my subdivision lot. Learning to build tree guilds and still removing grass from clay soil.
Above are two guild template documents I’ve saved from the web.
Here is a link about a cherry guild that I recently found. I’m not convinced that cherries can be grown without sprays in my climate no matter what other plants I grow around them. You have to take this kind of information and use some critical thinking and be realistic about your expectations.
This book is apparently the best selling “agriculture” book on Amazon currently, so I could definitely see it being the new buzz terminology. Restoration Agriculture https://smile.amazon.com/dp/1601730357/ref=cm_sw_r_apan_glt_i_8XK44RP5F2JDC08Q1E3E?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1
A telling review from Amazon "Good book but is basically a rehash of the 1929 classic Tree Crops by J. Russell Smith which is publicly available from a dozen sources. Actually in many ways Smith’s book is better because he actually conducted research and correspond widely with others and didn’t just showcase his own farm, which is what Shepard basically does. Shepard is also heavy on the personal opinion and light on the practical advice. It is not a bad book, but I would get it from a library if you can, or just read Tree Crops. I sure regret dropping $25 on it! It sure doesn’t contain much in the way of instruction. More than a few times he says to go read other peoples books to figure it out. It comes off as lazy to me. "
Currently I’m looking at Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway. It’s pretty dense reading but packed with info.
i got many ideas from permies.com and check out Stefan Sobkwiaks permaculture vids as well on youtube. its mostly common sense once you learn the basics . i started mine in woodchip mulched rows and planted stuff in layers. biggest tress to the north working down to groundcovers to the south so you optimize the light and get minimal shading. i have fruits, nuts, medicinals and N. fixers. rhubarb is better in permaculture than comfrey and you can eat it and compost the leaves. it handles shading much better than comfrey and is easy to spread from root cuttings. its not a exact science and planting something is better than planting nothing. research the plants ypu want to use and figure out where on your property that plant id most likely to prodper. even difficult dry and infertile spots can grow something. siberian pea shrub and seaberry are good choices. mulch, mulch ,mulch! mulch will convert any bad spots over time. i put down 3in. on all my rows every spring. once its all filled in with the plants i put in there ill stop mulching. in the meantime it adds to the soil life.
You have a good perspective on this. Thanks for the advice on Rhubarb, a plant that I love even though it can get monstrous. It still spreads much more slowly than Comfrey. Mulch ! My god, I have almost no soil so I add anything I can. I have a forest farm, and the diversity of fungus around is amazing. The mycorrhizae consume wood chips almost as fast as I can spread them. Slowly feeding all the plants as well as building a great sponge for holding moisture. With more dry spells and droughts it’s a good investment. I’m looking to add twenty cubic yards of chips this year if I can get them.
tree arborists and the local D.O.T ground crews should all be your best friends. most are happy to have a place to discard their mulch. you can never have enough. ive put down so much mulch over the last 6 yrs. i rarely have to water anything. our 2020 drought was the worst in half a century. many orchards lost trees and berry bushes. i didnt loose any of my 60+ varieties of fruits and nuts.
Thanks for the tip. I’ve been trying to crack into the yard of a local arborist who has 20 years of wood chips dumped out back. Literally hundreds of cubic yards, but he’s not really interested. I told him he’s sitting on a gold mine. I do get a bunch when the county solid waste chips their brush pile once a year. It’s a very big pile,but it goes fast. I’ve also signed up (it’s free) on a website that tries to connect arborists to homeowners who want chips https://getchipdrop.com/ , but so far no luck there.
I have wondered about the potential hazard of importing pests or disease, and found this Wood Chips as Mulch. Apparently there is some risk, but I’m letting the stuff age a bit now before I spread it. I notice that the nature moves in to start digesting quickly, so I think any disease issues would be removed.
Check out chipdrop for local, natural, and free sources of mulch
the arborist chips gotten in summer have alot of leaf matter. if you leave it in a high pile it will get rained on then get very hot as it composts. ive had some piles steam after a rain. leave it like that for a week then flatten the pile. you’ll notice the color of the inside of the pile turns a whiteish gray. im pretty sure nothing can survive in there after its gone through that process. 3 days after the pile is dropped off you cant stick your hand in there for more than a second. you want to speed up the process. dump some N source on top then water in.
U tube has a few good permaculture experts. Such as stephen from canada. Very humorous. Or the savanna institute from Wisconsin. Or simply some agroforestry articles
Great advice. If I get fresh chips (rare here) I will set them up that way. The chips I seem to find most often are aged, but can still heat up a bit. I look for active fungal networks ,usually white and stringy if they are growing strongly. The tree roots love the nutrients that are left by the fungal growth, and a strong culture will digest or neutralize any plant pathogens. Well, except for ‘honey fungus’, Armillaria, which is a tree parasite. So altogether heating up a pile is the best practice.
I checked out the links above… guild examples… good info… but I did not see goumi listed in any of the fruit tree guilds or nitrogen fixer list.
I like to plant a goumi with each apple tree… I started 3 new apple trees 3 years ago on a long bordeless raised bed and they are planted in a string like this…
Apple goumi apple goumi apple.
They have all done so well… especially the one in the middle that has a goumi on each side… it is especially stout and healthy looking.
I think from here on out when I plant a fruit tree… I am going to add a goumi to each side of it… they are covered in blossoms early spring smell so good attract pollinators and produce some nice very early red berries to eat.
I want to add comfrey and rhubarb… walking onions garlic chives.
I have raspberries blackberries strawberries in this bed too… in between other fruit trees… Che peach apricot 2 jujube and the 3 apples.
Are there other nitrogen fixers like goumi that produce a berry that is good to eat ?
I can’t grow autumn olive here… on my States No No list as very invasive.
Has anyone here ever actually made the change from plants on display… to true food Forest type permaculture making full use of ground covers for mulch.
Plants on display… would be a nice length of borderless raised bed with fruit trees berry bushes, etc… planted in the bed… and that bed covered in something like wood chip mulch… kept nice and weed free.
I have a really hard time NOT keeping mine weed free… which is a lot of work… and really instead of having true permaculture… I have plants on display.
I need to really get past that to using ground covers… to hopefully out compete the weeds … including some to do nitrogen fixing… some to grow and use as chop n drop… composting in place.
White and red clovers
Peas… snow and snap
Has anyone here actually made that transition?
Actually started out with fruit tree and perhaps shrub layer plantings in a nice clean weed free mulched bed… (plants on display)
And successfully transitioned that to where the ground was covered in living mulches… or food producers…clovers, vetches, alphalfa, peas, beans (nitrogen fixers) and others… herbs… tyme oregano bee balm, lemon balm, walking onions, chives, garlic chives, strawberries etc.
It would seem ideal to stop fighting weeds and instead just plant ground covers you want that can out grow the weeds and at least become the majority of what covers the ground.
Has anyone taken it that far yet ? Success ?
I have strawberries, arctic raspberries, creeping thyme and box huckleberry currently in ground or planned this year. Those should mostly choke out the weeds once well established. I may also include dewberries as they were exceedingly precocious in my little raised bed.
seaberry, buffaloberry, siberian pea shrub. they can grow on very poor soils and are drought tolerant… buffaloberry is a cousin to A.O and goumi but not invasive.
We’re in process of removing all grass from suburban lot. Front strip contains peaches/nects and jujubes. Middle layer is some native bushes (flame acanthus, turk’s cap, salvias), goumi and blackberries. Ground cover is about 50% now with strawberries, yarrow, bee balm, mint, oregano and daylilies. Plan to add some bush beans in spring.