I've been reading up on guild plants for fruittrees. My question is when should i begin planting? My peach trees are where i want to begin. Planted in January, two year old trees, i think. About three foot tall. Mulched with grass, oak leaves, pinestraw, charcoal, peat moss, and a few rotting pieaces of firewood lying around it.
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
posted 2 years ago
I would say "The sooner, the better."
Since you say the trees were planted in January, I'm assuming that you live in a mild winter climate. The tree's roots will begin spreading out soon, looking for food/water. You want to get the guild plants started early, otherwise you risk damaging the tree's roots if you begin digging planting holes near the tree.
I feel that the best time is now. The guild roots will encounter the tree roots, and their relationship will begin early. They will give and take, without trying to out compete each other. Makes for a better symbiotic relationship if they grow 'with' each other.
Plant them togather at the same time, you are already 2years behind. That said plant them with the mature height spacing. So for a mature height of 12ft and 3ft they should be 6ft-7ft away from each other.
In the mean time you can also plant some closer support species with the expectation that you will kill them or nature will take care of them, I like daikon radishes, they are wonderful annuals. dutch clover are also good nitrogen fixing ground cover, don't be afraid of the mint or onion family either.
posted 2 years ago
I have radish, onion seeds and several varieities of herb seeds. I'll have to sort through when i get home and see what all i really have. i believe i have some yarrow, fennel and dill.
There are a lot of things to bear in mind, but they all come down to a question of succession. As you seem to have realised, a guild is not something that exists in climax isolation (a common mistake that you seem to have spotted!).
If your shrub and groundcover layer needs shade, especially if you are in a hot climate, you may have to wait to plant those layers when the canopy has matured. The time that will take depends on your rootstocks. If it doesn't (it's shade tolerant, not shade-requiring), you can get on with it. You can plant shorter-lived perennials that will die back as the canopy closes (several books have charts giving useful lifespans of woody perennials), or short-lived, even annual, climbers such as beans that will provide shade to your shade-loving plants during the growing season. Woody nitrogen fixers such as Eleagnus species should be planted now.
In the interim it's definitely worth planting interim intercrops, perhaps nitrogen fixers, as S Bengi suggests. Mushrooms can also be grown in woody mulch, provided it's no more than a couple of months old.
Ok i had a fee thoughts and wanted to get some feedback. Since my trees are still young, not fruiting, and without a canopy, would planting guilds now still not hurt the tree as in everything competing for energy and nutrients? I was thinking of planting watermelons and cucumbers amongst my trees to help shade out grass and retain moitsture longer and sow peas etc in the fall until the trees are more established. My only thing is that i don't know if doing that would be good or bad either with regards to robbing nutrients and energy from the soil and taking away from the trees.
I am guessing that cucurbits might not be a problem, because you would plant them outside the root zone of the trees, and they spread their vines out under the tree and cover the soil. The nutrients would be coming from the soil close to where the cucumber is planted. I would like to try it myself this summer on a planting that I will do this spring. I was also planning to try sweet potatoes. If anyone has more experience with this, we'd appreciate hearing it.
posted 2 years ago
Yes i've mulched fairly heavy about four foot around each tree so grass shouldn't be a problem nearby. I just was wondering if planting close to the tree now since they are so young would harm their progress so i was thinking cucumbers, melons, peas etc would be beneficial in surrounding areas for now with providing shade out grass and leave behind organic material to compost in place.
I find I can plant peas at the interface between the mulch layer and the soil. Their roots should help feed the fungal layer developing in the mulch and add more than you take away harvesting the peas. I am having good results with potatoes between my peach trees. I had peaches for the first time last year. Because I get peach leaf curl if they get wet when blossoming which is happening now I have them in a hoop house as an overstory for my raspberries. I have been mulching with grass from my field and carpet but I now have a chipper so I can more effectively use my spent vines and prunings. Carpet on top of the mulch discourages the raspberries and plums from sending shoots up in the pathways. Not so much of a problem in an open guild but mine is for production and sale. The plums serve as posts for my raspberry trellis and give me a crop between the spring and fall raspberries. The raspberries will put on leaves while the plums are blooming and then bloom while the plums put on leaves so my pollinators have steady food sources. I have 2 naturalised annuals by happenstance that contribute to my guild. The first one is a low ground cover that is starting to cover the mulch in the rows and bloom now but dies when temperatures reach 75F. The second is a giant woodland orchid that grows 6 to 8 feet tall and shades my loganberries and protects them from sun scald. They store water in their trunks so when the dry season comes on I can trop them down for mulch.
There will be more pictures of this as I try to fill out my Qberry Farm project thread.