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Brandon Greer
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I am ready to build my first guild and I think I want to start with figs because my neighbor has them on his land and so I know they grow well.

I'm looking at a few guild plans online and none of them are for figs but I wonder if simply changing out the different elements of the plan with things which I like and that are similar in purpose (ground cover, bush, tree etc) if I will achieve a moderately successful result? Or is each element chosen specifically and not replaceable?

And can anyone make some recommendations as to what might grow well with figs? Please also include what the particular purpose of your suggestion is...That'll help me wrap my ahead around how this all works. It's been a very confusing undertaking for me honestly!
 
Blake Wheeler
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Location: Kentucky 6b
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The idea of a guild isn't set in stone, it's just grouping plants that can be of benefit together. You're on the right track. Like a bush underneath the fig that requires a little less light, thus the fig leaves shield it. Groundcover to hold in moisture....you get the idea.

I can't honestly say about figs, they don't do particularly well here. Actually have a Chicago hardy fig that may have been killed off from some unseasonably cold weather we got.

Not sure how much use a guild would be to the actual tree though. Figs are drought tolerant as is, and I'm not aware of particular pest pressures they would face. Not to mention they're not pollinated by bees (flys or small wasps I think) so bring in pollinators isn't much of an issue either. The guild in this case would serve more to benefit the other plants and cram more into less space I would think.
 
Brandon Greer
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Location: 1 Hour Northeast Of Dallas
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Blake Wheeler wrote:The idea of a guild isn't set in stone, it's just grouping plants that can be of benefit together. You're on the right track. Like a bush underneath the fig that requires a little less light, thus the fig leaves shield it. Groundcover to hold in moisture....you get the idea.

I can't honestly say about figs, they don't do particularly well here. Actually have a Chicago hardy fig that may have been killed off from some unseasonably cold weather we got.

Not sure how much use a guild would be to the actual tree though. Figs are drought tolerant as is, and I'm not aware of particular pest pressures they would face. Not to mention they're not pollinated by bees (flys or small wasps I think) so bring in pollinators isn't much of an issue either. The guild in this case would serve more to benefit the other plants and cram more into less space I would think.


Thanks for the reply. That's actually good news because figs aren't really my favorite. I only chose it for the reasons you mentioned. I'd really rather go with peach or plums.

 
Brandon Greer
Posts: 270
Location: 1 Hour Northeast Of Dallas
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I'm using the image below to help as my guide. This template has really helped my wrap my head around this idea.

According to the image attached, I've listed each element below. Most of the elements are still question marks for me. Hopefully, someone can offer some advice. I would prefer to choose thing which not only serve their purpose in the guild but are also edible:

Tree: Peach or Plum
Accumulator: Comfrey (everyone else suggests it so it seems like a no-brainer)
Bulbs: Garlic and Onions
Bee Attractant: ?
Berry: ? Would strawberries, blueberries be acceptable here? If so, it's an easy choice but I have a feeling it's more complicated than that.
Nitrogen: ? Would prefer something edible like a perennial bean or pea.
Pest Repellent: ?

 
Blake Wheeler
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Location: Kentucky 6b
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I'm still working this stuff out myself, so keep that in mind, but a few suggestions:

Be careful with bee balm and mint, they spread like crazy. If you can somehow contain the roots you'll be alright, but doing so under a tree could be problematic. With that said, I've planted bee balm a few places, waiting to see how it turns out. My mint I planted in a buried metal ring to contain it. Both are great, and bee balm can be used for tea as well.

For the ground cover I'd use clover. Two birds, one stone as you get nitrogen fixation with it, not to mention bees love it. The apple tree will also help shade it too as clover can suffer in the full heat/sun of summer, at least where I'm at.

I know you can use nasturtium under the apple as it supposedly repels the codling moth, which can be an issue come fruiting time. If you do buying the vining variety and plant it near the base of the tree. It's annual, once again in my zone, but the vine should also shade the bark of the young tree to help minimize sun-scald.

When I get to it I intend to ring my trees in garlic. Both to curb grass and it should somewhat repel pests. Then there's the edible thing lol.

For shrubs, I use goumi, as it's less invasive, but I didn't plant mine under the trees. It can grow quite tall (12ft) and given that I chose semi dwarf trees (18ft) I didn't want it interfering. Not to mention I didn't want to deal with pruning it back. I'll have all the pruning I care for with trees alone. I chose currants and gooseberries. They stay relativist compact, 5 or so feet tall and wide, are something I can't just go out and buy (actually have no clue if I'll even like them, and being a natural understory shrub handle shade well. There's also the thorns to keep larger animals away. Not really something I see being an issue, and it's probably being overly optimistic but that's how I'm justifying it.

I've shyed away from blueberries solely because they need acidic soil, something I don't have. Rather than having to worry about keeping ph In check I figured I'd just avoid the issue entirely. If you do go for the blueberry make sure the tree works in acidic soil. Strawberries probably would work, but I've just put mine in a raised bed. I've heard they buildup nematodes in the soil so I made sure to place them somewhere I can quaranteen and rotate out every so many years

Comfrey is an easy choice. Plus once you establish it getting more is as simple as cutting some root and planting it. It's also a solid bee plant.

Just realized you weren't using Apple lol. Was giving advice based on the picture. With that said, the info should work with either peaches or plums. I actually have several plums and haven't gotten around to brainstorming for them yet. The peach I have was more a "it's on sale at lowes" afterthought as we tend to get last frosts that can kill off the blossoms. I had a peach tree when I bought the property that did well, but a windstorm brought down a good sized wild cherry right onto it lol.

I've also used Siberian peashrub, bush hazelnut, and beautyberry. The peashrub fixes nitrogen, puts out loads of flowers the bees love, the pods are edible, and is dried on the plant produce seeds chickens apparently love. Once again, I didn't plant it under any trees as it can get quite large. Imagine the trees set in a square pattern, implanted it in the middle. The hazelnut was a "why not" thing. They grow so slow I doubt I'll ever get anything from them. Beautyberry I chose for two reason, the berries look like purple pearls, adds a splash of color in fall. They're edible,mbut bland, apparently even birds want nothing to do with them lol. The big thing, apparently the crushed leaves can be used as a very effective mosquito repellant.

I also have seaberries, a nitro fixer that makes apparently delicious juice. Wolf berries, nutrient dense berries. Then elderberries, for making wine, juice, jam and the juice from the berries is shown to be quite effective for helping combat the flu.
 
Brandon Greer
Posts: 270
Location: 1 Hour Northeast Of Dallas
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Wow thanks for the wealth of info! I've reread a few times and it will take a bit to sink in.

I have a few follow up questions (I'm sure I'll have many more after I fully understand your post):

1. For the berries, I've never heard of currants and gooseberries etc., so I'm not sure if they will be something I like. If it's all the same, I'd prefer something more familiar. Are there any other common berries that would work okay growing under the tree? Blackberries (one of my favs) come to mind.

2. Seaberries as a nitrofixer sound like a real winner since they'd add an additional berry plant in addition to fixing nitrogen. Is the amount of nitrogen they provide up to par with some of the legume options?

3. For the bee attractant, would borage be the better option? Or is there another option other than the examples shown on the diagram that would work better?

4. For ground cover, the diagram doesn't show that so I hadn't really thought about it. Will the clover just fill out the areas in between the bushes and stop at the grass inhibitor barrier? Also, is the clover perennial?

5. For insect repellent, are there any that stand out as more effective? Aside from chives, dill and cilantro, I can't think of any herbs which would be very useful in my everyday life. So if none of them are any good at repelling insects, then I'd just go with any plant that repels insects the best.

I'm sure it goes without saying but I forgot to mention before, I would like as many perennials as possible.

 
Blake Wheeler
Posts: 166
Location: Kentucky 6b
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1) No prob, like i mentioned, I just put them in on a whim, not sure how they'll turn out myself. Blackberries can work. With that said, most domesticated cultivars call for full sun. All the wild ones I ever find here grow under trees and in edge environments though, something a guild emulates. So I see no reason why they wouldn't, they may just produce a few less berries depending on how much they're shaded. Be careful to keep them from clumping up too much or they can get out of hand, just the tip of a shoot touching ground and you'll get a new plant (not really a bad thing). I'd look for an erect, thornless variety otherwise you'll have to provide support for the canes. Beyond that theres yearly maintenance cutting away dead canes which will overwinter pests if you leave them, easy enough to tell, just cut away the brown, brittle ones. You can also buy primocane or floricane varieties. Primocan will fruit on first year canes, floricane will produce on second year canes. Really a personal preference but there may be a bit a variety in berry quality. Primocane tend to produce a first year crop a of little different quality than the canes second year crop.

2) Not sure how the seaberries stack with nitro fixing. For that matter I'm also not sure if any studies have been done that compare the two. With that said, the amound of nitrogen fixed will vary and I doubt theres a scientific way to quantify it. Nitro fixing also depends on the variety you choose having the proper symbiotic bacteria in the soil (the guys that fix the nitrogen in the first place). When you buy your nitrogen fixers look for an inoculant or a "nitro-coating" both provide the right bacteria. Keep in mind seaberries have fairly healthy thorns on them. The variety I bought (leikora or star of altai, can't remember) get about 8ft tall. They also need a male plant to produce berries, so you'll need at least two. Autumn Olive or Goumi are also other options that fix nitro. I've given the reasons I chose goumi over autumn olive, but I threw both seaberry and goumi in the mix. Not sure if you have any black walnuts on the property (they're everywhere here) but goumi and autumn olive can both grow near/under walnut

3) That I'm unsure of, don't have any particular experience with borage. I've went the variety route with my bee attractants. Beyond the myriad flowering plants I've sowed a large portion of my field in wildflowers (an annual/perinneal mix I bought at Lowes), in addition to clover already on site, and various other landscaping flowers I have throughout the place. The way I see it, its a "build it and they will come" philosophy. This is honestly my first growing season with everything, so I'm waiting to see how it plays out. If it doesn't work I hope to get a hive in the future anyway, and since I've still got 3 years before anything really starts to bear I should have time to get it figured out.

4) The clover depends. Red clover is biennial, be reseeds easily. White clover (what most people think of) is perennial. I'm unsure about yellow clover. White spreads by rhizomes and will fill an area in nicely and if you buy the right strains will stay at a nice low height (maybe 8"). Red clover, which farmers plant in pastures around here gets taller (maybe 1.5 feet) and has more of an upright plant growth, versus spreading across the ground. Personally I'd go with white (dutch white being popular). It'll probably spread into the grass some, depending on the thickness of the grass anyway, but it's not a bad thing. Most of my "lawn" is actually clover lol…but it wasn't exactly cared for and manicured by the previous owner (I found an above-ground swimming pool, and random car parts buried in my back yard lol). Most commercial lawn mixes add a bit of clover as it's just good for the grass. Once again, make sure you buy the nitrocoated clovers. Maybe not necessary, but it'll insure you get nitro-fixation going.

5) Truth be told, on the insect repellant thing I'm not really sure. Keep in mind they just "repel" they don't "stop". A bug hungry enough will just plow on through anyway. They only really repel bugs from themselves, they just help "mask" other plants. Think mosquitos and citronella, yeah it technically repels them, but I bet you've been bit while hiding behind a protective barrier of citronella candles and torches before too. I personally find the "repellant" claims a bit optimistic myself. My bug strategy once again (like my bee strategy) relies on variety. I've got a mix of plants beneficials love, I let some areas in my back field grow wild (habitat), I've placed feeders out to encourage birds in the area for a dayshift patrol, and I'm putting out a bat house to hopefully bring in a nightshift patrol. Given the proper variety of habitat nature should see to itself and balance the problem out. Naturally though, you have to have a few pests to bring predators, its more about keeping things at an acceptable level.

Pretty sure I've listed nothing but perennials (don't want to skim back through lol) as that was my focus as well. I'm not to keen on having to constantly plant, so I've skipped over annuals as well unless they easily selfseed or bring something to the table I can't get elsewhere.
 
Blake Wheeler
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Location: Kentucky 6b
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Oh, almost forgot about Honeyberries (or haskaps). If you're really set on blueberries, these may fill the niche. Basically it's a relaitve of honeysuckle that grows in a bush form. The berries look like oblong blueberries, and are supposed to taste somewhat similar. I've set several out (they need the proper pollinator based on variety) and you can get them from 3ft to 6ft tall, partial shade to full sun. I found they had enough flexibility among the different varieties to fit different areas where I wanted to put edibles. For example, on the south-east of my house, front yard, I have a moist area shaded by a hickory. I needed a plant that could tolerate the shade (it'll get enough sun as it sets) that didn't look too outlandish for a front yard, that also didn't grow high enough to block my view down the road as I pull the car out. Well, I found a honeyberry that maxes out at 3 foot tall that fit the bill perfectly.

If you're wondering, I bought my plants from Stark and burnt ridge nursery mainly. I've heard bad reviews about Burnt-Ridge's shipping (boxes arrive beaten up, damaged, etc.) but I had absolutely no issues, adn they had everything packed satisfactorily. Not to mention they had things I couldn't find elsewhere, and LOW prices if you plan on buying in bulk. You can get sea berry, goumi, autumn olive all cheap ($3 a plant) though the improved varieties (what I bought) cost more. Only issue I had with Stark (apart from price lol) was a pear I got came with little to no roots. Basically had the first 2 inches of a cut-off tap root when it arrived…looked like a sad little twig. Figured it wouldn't survive the winter, but it's starting to bud out finally, even though it is lagging behind severely it made it.

Truth be told you may have waited too late in the season to get every specific variety you want, and may need to wait til the fall season. Better to have a plan in place first though. I'll also say I think fall is hands down a better time to plant. Planting in the spring you may have to water the new plants as they get established depending on how dry your summers get. Winters, being wetter on average, give the roots a chance to establish before the heat and drought of summer roll around. Not to mention you can plant everything then take a few months break lol.
 
Blake Wheeler
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Location: Kentucky 6b
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Something else that just came to mind, not sure if you listen to podcasts, but there's a great one that just may help you out. A guy named Jack Sperko does one called "the survival podcast". It's focus is on prepping and modern survivalism, but the guys a huge permaculturist. Many of his shows touch on permaculture. Also, he's located in the Dallas/Fort Worth area so he can bring some regionally specific info for ya. I've been listening for a while now and it's been very helpful. Great way to find out about new plants, different uses for plants, etc. Every so often he'll do a show covering permaculture basics for ya and even does call in shows where he'll answer listener questions. Something to keep in mind.
 
Brandon Greer
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Thanks again for the follow up info. I found another drawing/diagram which I've attached. Is this layout another way of doing a guild or is it just another way of looking at the same layout?

Assuming it's the same, it looks like I've overlooked a layer.

Since I was wanting a dwarf or semi-drawf, I assume I just skip the canopy layer and just start with the Low Tree Layer.

So then the Shrub layer is what we've been discussing most, with low bushes. The root layer I guess would just be the very edge and maybe some type of annual carrots or potatoes or whatever. The ground cover, we decided clover would work best. It seems I've just overlooked the herbaceous layer.

So if my shrubs are just an arrangement of the following: Beneficiary Insect Plant, Berry, Mulch, Nitrogen, Pest Repellent, would the herbaceous layer be arranged the same way just one row closer to the outside edge? I hope this question makes sense. I think in very linear terms so I'm trying my best to organize and compartmentalize everything, so I can understand it and implement it.

 
Blake Wheeler
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Location: Kentucky 6b
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Yeah I see where you're going. That's the issue with permaculture, it's very non-linear. That's why they offer PDC design courses because people have a hard time seeing the whole picture and breaking away from linear thinking.

The diagram itself doesn't necessarily show things as they are. It can work that way, but it's not necessary to start with the tallest in the middle working outside to the shortest. It depends on the plants of course. Plus, when you build enough guilds, they tend to merge into a super guild of sorts. Each guild isn't really an island in and of itself, there's an ebb and flow if you see what I'm saying. I think the diagram just shows the different parts, with relative sizing for the sake of making a confusing idea a bit more palatable.

I too skipped the canopy layer as I didn't have room. However, neighboring properties had larger trees close enough to the fence line I could somewhat use them to my benefit. I planted pawpaws, a natural understory tree that appreciates dappled shade, under the canopy of a hickory and maple that overhangin the fence. Would have loved to have some pecan trees, but the real estate just wasn't there. I may have been able to, but then I couldn't work around not shading out things that's needed the sun. Honestly I'm not dealing with root vegetables either. Beyond not wanting to dig them up, I had a field of thick grass to contend with. It was tough enough clearing enough space for the trees. Also, I'm sure dandelions will move in, especially with the trees as small as they are now,and their taproots will help to break up the soil like any root crop would. As the trees mature and start to shade the area I may tackle the grass and hopefully it'll be easier then. I tend to jump in head first with things and didn't want to overwhelm myself on this one.

The way I think of the herbaceous layer is any plant without a woody stem that dies to the ground in winter. With that said, most of the benefical insect plants, mulch plants, and pest repellents ARE the herbaceous layer. Most herbaceous plants will provide mulch in there own way too. When they die back in the winter that part will fall to the ground, mulching (to a small degree) and putting organic matter back into the earth. You kinda have to look at all the things plants are capable of then you'll see they often fit more than one use. Take comfrey, it's a mulch plant, dynamic accumulator, and it's part of the herbaceous layer. Or clover, it's a groundcover, attracts bees and other beneficias, and it also fixes nitrogen. Or any deciduous tree for the matter, it shades the soil, it's leaves condense water vapor that returns to the earth below it (aiding the plants underneath), drops leaves in the winter for mulch, and of course provides fruit or nuts. Trying to find one plant to do one specific role and plugging it into the system gets mind numbing really.

Nature will fill a void if you leave it, and often the thing you leave out will show up, whether you're aware of it or not (like my dandelion example). It can be a good thing or bad thing, and if there's something you don't want, you'd be well advised to put something you do want there before the unwelcome guest shows up. I've finally won the battle against honeysuckle, and except for a few holdouts that pop up I've almost defeated poison ivy (violently allergic). I initially had to use some pretty stout herbicide, that apparently you need to be licensed to buy (against it, but also against ending up in the hospital). Once I got it manageable I removed the things favorable to their growth and planted other things that won't potentially kill me lol.

The best way to tackle the issue is to not overthink it. Plug things in that bring something to the table you want, then let nature do the rest, it's got much more experience with such things lol. I'd do this with cheaper things (not trees) as they may not all survive, but the ones that do made it because something about the place you put them was right.

Keep in mind most things people consider weeds ARE beneficiary insect plants, and tend to be pioneer species that improve the soil. They're weeds because they show up to repair disturbed ground (ie stuff we people messed up). There's a reason you don't see too many dandelions or plantains in pastures but people wage war to keep them out of their lawn. Guilds seek to mimic nature. Nature will eventually get there, but it takes time we don't have. The guild is basically a way to jump start the process, with things we want, then we let nature take over. That's why they tend to be low maintenance as we're really just pushing things in the direction that they want to go in the first place.
 
Brandon Greer
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Thanks again. Thanks to your info, I feel like I got a pretty good understanding and feel a bit more comfortable getting started.

I was reading that planting trees is best done in the fall. Is that right?

When should I start preparing the area? I have a pretty good source for compost, so I just plan to get it started by bringing some of that in. Do I just plant everything else the same time I put the tree in or should I get something else in the ground before the trees are put in?
 
Douglas Crouch
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Here is my article on the principle of diversity which covers guilds in the Introduction to Permaculture book from Mollison.
https://treeyopermacultureedu.wordpress.com/chapter-2-3-or-the-11-design-principles-from-the-intro-book/diversity-guilds/


I like to mix and match based on function and apply a pattern. i rely on what i can easily propagate or have laying around my nursery in the moment.

tree planting is usually done during fall or late winter. depends as always on your climate and your desires around summer management, irrigation, and if you are planting bare root or not. You can get nitrogen fixers going on the outside of guild and i put everything in at once unless i am planting into tough rhizominous grasses in which i sheet mulch heavily for a period, usually 6 months, then drop the plants in. no fun weeding.
 
Blake Wheeler
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Brandon Greer wrote:Thanks again. Thanks to your info, I feel like I got a pretty good understanding and feel a bit more comfortable getting started.

I was reading that planting trees is best done in the fall. Is that right?

When should I start preparing the area? I have a pretty good source for compost, so I just plan to get it started by bringing some of that in. Do I just plant everything else the same time I put the tree in or should I get something else in the ground before the trees are put in?


I personally feel planting is best done in fall. Either way, the trees have to be dormant. Spring works, but it brings a few issues with it. With that said, the idea of fall and spring is a bit different when planting. I put my fall trees in in late November, something I personally would consider winter. Planting in spring you may have to irrigate the trees during summer, which are still trying to establish. Once the tree gets established its capable of seeing to its own needs assuming you used varieties suited to your area. Planting in fall you get the increased rainfall that late fall and early winter bring, saving you the time of doing it yourself. The roots will grow, though the plant is dormant, and you'll end up with a stronger root system than a tree planted in spring. Assuming you can handle the anticipation of staring at sticks in the ground all winter.

I prepared the area the day I planted. Basically dig a hole about 1.5-2 times the size of the roots spread and plant. Make sure the graft joint is above the soil surface or you'll kill the tree (you'll know it when you see it). I added no amendments to the soil. One, it's unnecessary to fertilize, etc. when the tree is dormant, and they'll advise you not to. Two, enriching the area around the roots encourages the roots to stay where they are as opposed venturing out, which can lead to a tree becoming somewhat root bound much as if you grew it in a pot. I'm sure opinions differ on it, but I stayed clear of enriching the planting hole. Instead, in the spring I top dressed compost in a ring probably 3 foot wide around the tree (basically dump compost, maybe lightly take in, then mulch).
 
Brandon Greer
Posts: 270
Location: 1 Hour Northeast Of Dallas
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I appreciate all the help!

Douglas Crouch wrote:Here is my article on the principle of diversity which covers guilds in the Introduction to Permaculture book from Mollison.
https://treeyopermacultureedu.wordpress.com/chapter-2-3-or-the-11-design-principles-from-the-intro-book/diversity-guilds/


I like to mix and match based on function and apply a pattern. i rely on what i can easily propagate or have laying around my nursery in the moment.

tree planting is usually done during fall or late winter. depends as always on your climate and your desires around summer management, irrigation, and if you are planting bare root or not. You can get nitrogen fixers going on the outside of guild and i put everything in at once unless i am planting into tough rhizominous grasses in which i sheet mulch heavily for a period, usually 6 months, then drop the plants in. no fun weeding.


Great reading on your article! Thanks!

On the illustration you attached is shows plants sitting down at the bottom of the swales. Wouldn't this be a problem for most plants since the water sits there for quite awhile (at least it would in my clay soil!) after a rain?
 
Douglas Crouch
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the schematic is for an individual tree terrace rather than a swale. It does capture some water but being a small 2 meter round feature doesn't allow for extra water buildup like swales. i used this technique originally in new zealand where we had heavy clay soils. I do it all the time in portugal but its more sandy loam. it helps to get a planting base for your guilds and the mulch and top soil not to build. can put an extra bump like in the picture for really wet sensitive crops. never had die off that i know of from this technique yet.
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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When you choose your blackberries, be sure to get an allegedly thorn-less variety. I have a 25 foot stretch of wild blackberries that top 5 feet high. I would NOT wish to wade through them to prune or harvest from a dwarf tree. :O
 
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