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Mature Cherry with added guild

 
Posts: 103
Location: Far Northern California Coast, Far South Pacific Northwest
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Just learned about tree guilds a bit over two years ago. As I have many things on my plate it takes me a bit longer than most to really dive in. Instead I wade around in a topic for awhile, dip a bit and then jump in. Just like swimming!

In my searches there isn't a whole lot of info about starting guilds under mature fruit trees. The only young tree we have is a nectarine that is fighting a fungal leaf infection and we had thoughts to pull it, so I didn't want to start there. (She's made it thus far, neem oil may have done the trick, fingers crossed as leafs are popping right now).

So I had this old cherry. All our fruit trees were neglected for years with broken branches, overgrowth from bad pruning and Himalayan blackberries surrounding them. I'm not sure if that had any affect or not on the roots.

First I wacked the grass down as low as I could get it and raked the trimmings around the tree. Then I laid down the decomposing wood chips mixed with some compost and surrounded it with bricks we have a pile of from a chimney removal. First I just planted garlic and daffodils, scattered some kale and lettuce seed. At this point my husband hated it. More to mow around he said. Less to mow I said. After a couple months of it looking like a ring of wood chips he asked if my experiment was a failure so we walked over and I showed him the beautiful baby garlic and daffodil leaves starting to reach for the sky. Six months later it was love for us both. Ended up putting quite a few artichokes there after my seed packet got wet and sat...didn't have any space for them elsewhere. Also put sweet peas, a cucamelon, basil and ground cherry over there. The ground cherry and the basil were the biggest ones in my yard by far. The lettuce and kale did great under the shade of the artichokes. Plantain popped up on the inside edge. A few dandelions made their way.

A bit half hazard but the first year was a success. Even the cherry looked happy until it realized we cut down her pollinator. She'll have a new mate here in a few weeks. I'm excited to see what seeds decide to love their place this year and what surprises the birds brought. Think I'm going to add some radish over there for the shade.
How did it turn out? I'm attempting my plum right now, another mature tree. Currently has some green onions, garlic and a wild Iris under it. Planted some peas to add green mulch in a couple months.

Anyone else guild a mature tree? Any reason not to?


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Posts: 379
Location: Central Indiana, zone 6a, clay loam
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Those guilds look gorgeous, Melonie! I bet the trees are happier for it.
I have started working on a guild near our Pear tree. She's on her way out, but still very beautiful and providing habitat for the birds. So far, just a young American Persimmon to the East, some Cranesbill Geranium, Tall Nettle, and Walking Onion. We put some Winecap mushroom bits from the garden near the Persimmon, we'll see if they take off. Hopefully we'll add some more plants this year!

I am not aware of any reason not to do this. The only issue I could think of is putting too much mulch directly around the trunk of the tree, which could cause fungal issues. I'd think as long as that was avoided and there was still good airflow through other guild members, it would be a wonderful influence for the tree.
Here's a great video about guilds for mature trees you might dig. It's what inspired me to start one around our Pear.
 
Melonie Corder
Posts: 103
Location: Far Northern California Coast, Far South Pacific Northwest
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You reminded me that I also scattered some wine cap spawn in there a few weeks back. Fingers crossed that takes! Excited for the video link, thank you!
 
pollinator
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Location: Chicago
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Thanks for sharing this project and pictures!  I have been struggling with plum plus curculios in my cherry and plum trees and wondering about companion plantings to ward them off. Given your success growing garlic by the cherry, I think I will see if thg his might work.
 
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Did you have any problems disturbing the tree roots when planting? That would be my main concern when transplanting things. Less issue with seeds.
 
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That guild looks great! When my wife and I bought our place it came with an old cherry tree that hadn't been taken care of and was surrounded by grass. There was an old planting bed next to it with some old roses and some bulbs but it was taken over by grass. Over the last 4 years I've done a lot to improve this area. The grass is all gone for one. But I also integrated the cherry tree into a hugelkultur hedgerow that runs by the cherry (about 3 feet out from the trunk of the cherry). My goal has been to transform this area into a mini-forest. Lots of native plants including 5 young evergreen huckleberries. But lots of other plants including some native veggies and some non-native plants.

The cherry seems so much happier now. It produces tons of cherries and has been putting on a lot of growth. And my family and I just love hanging out in this area.

I'm still adding some additional plants to this area. Really focusing on adding more native vegetables and native groundcovers. But the area is doing great and the cherry tree is very happy now.

Here are a couple pictures. One is looking northeast with a couple branches of the cherry tree off on the left side of the photo--this one was taken right when I first started improving this area. The other photo was taken last summer looking southeast from the north side of the cherry tree which you can see on the right side of the picture.
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Taken in winter 2016/2017 from south side of the cherry looking towards the northeast. Cherry tree is off to the left of the picture.
Taken in winter 2016/2017 from south side of the cherry looking towards the northeast. Cherry tree is off to the left of the picture.
cherry-tree-last-summer.jpg
Taken in summer 2020 from north side of the cherry looking towards the southeast. Cherry tree is on the right side of the picture.
Taken in summer 2020 from north side of the cherry looking towards the southeast. Cherry tree is on the right side of the picture.
cherry-tree-in-bloom.jpg
Taken in spring 2020 from the south side of the cherry looking northwest. This shows the hedgerow--it has filled out a lot more since this picture was taken.
Taken in spring 2020 from the south side of the cherry looking northwest. This shows the hedgerow--it has filled out a lot more since this picture was taken.
 
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Location: Western Washington
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I've been doing the same around my old trees. It makes sense to garden/start a guild there, because then you're constantly putting more fertility resources and water down. I put cardboard, woodchips, and compost down in a ring around my old apple trees and left a spot for a beehive and a spot for meditating

Under one tree I have rhubarb, a silverberry shrub (for nitrogen, fruit, and pollinators), a black currant, mint, lemon balm, strawberries, and annuals. It's a great way to grow shade tolerant things too (my property has almost no shade)
 
Melonie Corder
Posts: 103
Location: Far Northern California Coast, Far South Pacific Northwest
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Thanks for sharing this project and pictures!  I have been struggling with plum plus curculios in my cherry and plum trees and wondering about companion plantings to ward them off. Given your success growing garlic by the cherry, I think I will see if thg his might work.


Yes, garlic is a great companion. I let most of mine drop the bulbils, hoping it can reproduce on it's own this year... I saw signs of life a few weeks ago but my hens got in there. Not sure if any young things survived.




Did you have any problems disturbing the tree roots when planting? That would be my main concern when transplanting things. Less issue with seeds.


That is one thing that I worried about when I couldn't find info. I finally thought it was worth the risk. The initial bed only had the Daffodil and Garlic planted around the perimeter and I ran into no roots. Then most things added through the spring were small so I didn't need to dig down much, just planted in the mulch above the soil line. In mid-summer we harvested our first meat birds. We wanted to use the remains as fertilizer but also have two dogs so they had to be buried. I dug a hole the size of a five gallon bucket between the two largest artichokes and ran into no roots.

We are on a lake bed and I'm rather stingy with the water from our shallow well. Our trees probably all reach deep for the groundwater, I've never watered a tree here once it's established. That said, when I recently started my mature Plum guild I moved a wild Iris that sprung up in my annual garden and did accidentally cut a root about the size of my thumb about two feet from the trunk. In the future I will only dig deep further from trunk until I get more soil built up at least.


James Landreth wrote:I've been doing the same around my old trees. It makes sense to garden/start a guild there, because then you're constantly putting more fertility resources and water down. I put cardboard, woodchips, and compost down in a ring around my old apple trees and left a spot for a beehive and a spot for meditating.

Under one tree I have rhubarb, a silverberry shrub (for nitrogen, fruit, and pollinators), a black currant, mint, lemon balm, strawberries, and annuals. It's a great way to grow shade tolerant things too (my property has almost no shade)



I didn't think to add that I've had to water this guild zero times. None, nada. It probably helps we are in an old lake bed. I've never heard of Silverberry, berries are my jam! I'm going to look into it, thanks!
 
Melonie Corder
Posts: 103
Location: Far Northern California Coast, Far South Pacific Northwest
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Daron Williams wrote:That guild looks great! When my wife and I bought our place it came with an old cherry tree that hadn't been taken care of and was surrounded by grass. There was an old planting bed next to it with some old roses and some bulbs but it was taken over by grass. Over the last 4 years I've done a lot to improve this area. The grass is all gone for one. But I also integrated the cherry tree into a hugelkultur hedgerow that runs by the cherry (about 3 feet out from the trunk of the cherry). My goal has been to transform this area into a mini-forest. Lots of native plants including 5 young evergreen huckleberries. But lots of other plants including some native veggies and some non-native plants.

The cherry seems so much happier now. It produces tons of cherries and has been putting on a lot of growth. And my family and I just love hanging out in this area.

I'm still adding some additional plants to this area. Really focusing on adding more native vegetables and native groundcovers. But the area is doing great and the cherry tree is very happy now.

Here are a couple pictures. One is looking northeast with a couple branches of the cherry tree off on the left side of the photo--this one was taken right when I first started improving this area. The other photo was taken last summer looking southeast from the north side of the cherry tree which you can see on the right side of the picture.



Thank you for sharing! They do seem to perk up when given some growing friends and your guild looks amazing!  A small food forest is my goal as well. Curious about your evergreen huckleberry? I recently got a couple young ones but in the past at work we've had no luck transplanting. Any tips?
 
Daron Williams
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So far all my evergreen huckleberries have survived without any issues. All the ones I got were fairly small to start with. 4 inch pots give or take. They transplant the best when small. I did transplant some 1 gal potted ones too though without issue but they weren't root bound and top growth was fairly small. They're also forest plants so make sure to give them a lot of wood chips or other mulch. I also tend to put some old logs near them when I can.
 
Melonie Corder
Posts: 103
Location: Far Northern California Coast, Far South Pacific Northwest
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Daron Williams wrote:So far all my evergreen huckleberries have survived without any issues. All the ones I got were fairly small to start with. 4 inch pots give or take. They transplant the best when small. I did transplant some 1 gal potted ones too though without issue but they weren't root bound and top growth was fairly small. They're also forest plants so make sure to give them a lot of wood chips or other mulch. I also tend to put some old logs near them when I can.



Thanks, I brought them home with a little of their native soil. They will be mixed against Pine and Tan Oak, planted under old pines once winter is over.
 
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So delighted to see this thread! If all goes through, we'll be moving in a few weeks from our city lot to a small farm of about five acres and some mature trees. Just last night I was brainstorming ideas of what to plant around these trees to make guilds. I will borrow from ideas here. So appreciate all the comments!
 
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I see people plant all these plants under fruit trees and it used to drive me nuts. Now I just raise my eyebrows and sigh. How do you harvest the fruit without damaging all those plants? I can see having a low carpet of herb but dodging plants I’m nurturing, just seems tricky. Also, picking up the “drops” will be a challenge under all that foliage and the drops may even damage those plants.
I see people get so excited about guilds around fruit trees and I just don’t get it. I know what they are for, but have only read about one woman who planted a guild that cured a bug problem - and the plants weren’t even listed! So no copying! Are there more combos that really work?
 
Posts: 31
Location: Southern Sweden (USA zone= 7a)
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I guess you could call this section of my forest menagerie a guild, or not... it is something that just happened.

When we bought this place (Southern Sweden) it was mostly an unpainted canvas in regards to plants and trees, aside from a small grove of wild sour cherries and a small grove of mature birch, oak, ash, linden and elm. Over the past 11 years since, we have planted many varieties of bushes and trees in addition to regular gardening herbs, veggies and flowers.

After spending a couple of years renovating the adobe house (making it liveable), we moved on to gardening when I stumbled upon info about permaculture. After 20 years of trying various styles and trends of gardening this really hit home for me. After much reading and viewing of YouTube videos, I became committed.

Focusing on the 'observation' aspect I had noticed that a small Elder (Sambucus nigra) bush was growing under and within inches from the trunk of the wild cherries. It was almost invisible as a separate entity when not richly decorated with flowers or berries. This was no doubt planted by a bird while sitting in the cherry tree above. Also under the cherry trees was a wonderfully thick patch of 'stinging' nettles and a number of raspberry plants, another possible start from the avian neighbors. Everything seemed to be growing really well, within what I would have considered a tight space for anything other than the cherries with their overarching canopy.

I cleared away most all of the weedy quackgrass (Elymus repens), and some of the brushy understorage of dead branches, planted some Turkish cap's lillies and Sweet flag, mostly for additional color through the summer season, fenced it in and made the area part of the forest habitat for our four Orpington hens and rooster. It offers great protection against the numerous raptors in the area. Nine years have passed and this area is fabulous. First picture following.

It yields an incredible abundance of cherries, elder flowers and elderberries and numerous raspberries annually. The hens eat the lower hanging elderberries and most of the raspberries and strawberries that have encroached upon the area, as well. They get treated with cherries as well, whenever I'm in this part of the garden. They love'em more than anything else, I think. That was the plan. I harvest most of the rest for wine production, as well as for pies, jams, cordials, drying and whatever other desserts fit our fancy.

A few years after this site became a thing, more cherry trees sprung up from roots nearby (approx.10m/30ft) and as I am always digging up other Elder tree saplings from the bird plantings, I decided to emulate that first natural guild. In the following two years I added to this new area; three currant bushes (Ribes rubrum), a jostaberry (Ribes x nidigrolaria) and then planted a 6m/20ft row of Autumn raspberries (Rubus -var.'Golden Queen') followed by a row of  Purple Chokeberries (Aronia prunifolia). Everything has been growing well and is quite fruitful. However,this summer the Jostaberry died at the end of its ripening berry crop, for unknown reasons. Fortunately, I started another plant from it two years ago, which seems to be thriving at the foot of a Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia). This second guild group is the latter picture.

April Virginia...In reference to your posting.... I haven't had any problems with picking berries from these or our other areas in regards to understory plants. My planting scheme largely, is not to focus on getting every last berry/fruit. We have an abundance of everything with many trees and shrubs of the same and differing varieties to fulfill our needs and that of the other animal life. We now have an incredible diversity of wildlife in and around our property that I feel, is largely a result of our work to naturalize the place. In the last six years we have noted mink, martens, foxes, deer, neighbors cats (of course), hedgehogs, and approximately twelve or more bird species, most of which were not observed here during our first two or three years here. Additionally many of the bird species are nesting on the property in addition to hedgehogs, which is a plus for pest control. As I speak, I can attest to seeing hundreds of ripe black mulberries lying on the ground earlier today. Que sera sera. I've already dried two kilo, froze one kilo, made 10 pints of jam and one pie. Those trees, we have four, are so abundant with fruit even friends and relatives occasionally stop by to pick. However, it is tricky sometimes picking cherries from my old four-footed antique ladder. Moving it in and out and around the trees that continue to get taller where some cherries remain, just out of reach from me leaving more for the thrushes to feast on.

I guess it's time for me to start thinking about building that three footed orchard ladder similar to what my grandfather had back in the 1950's.






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pollinator
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I do wonder about access for picking, too.

What has worked for us under our cherries is to leave gaps between the guild plants, so that the woodchip mulch is visible. Makes for places to put human  feet and ladder feet. We also use a 3 legged orchard ladder rather than a 4 legged stepladder, which is much easier to position. And a fruit picker on a pole, for sneaking in through the branches.

Sometimes the understorey plants do get a bit trampled, but they usually recover, and bulbs are done and died back by the time we are harvesting.
 
R Laurance
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I agree, Kevin.

The same goes for my sites, albeit I'm a bit shy on the woodchips, using more straw, rotted woods and weed/grass cuttings mostly to give insects more habitat to feed the hens and give them an activity in searching. The small gaps are quite handy. Our wild cherries are actually quite open so it doesn't offer to much challenge to pick as long as I can maneuver a foot placement for the ladder. Hence, my need to build a good orchard ladder offering that ease of placement and maneuverability within the branches.

The bulb underplantings have, as you said, died back at the time of fruit/berry harvests, but in other underplantings I have also used strawberries as a cover crop. They too have already been harvested (by me or the hens) by the time of tree picking and though they may get a bit trampled they are very durable and prolific to the point of almost becoming a weed, which negates any abuse they may suffer. Strawberries are extremely easy to remove without digging if the desire or need to do so comes around.
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