Bed Gardening, Fruit, Gardening, Herbs, Vegetables

Using Plant Guilds in Your Garden

I don’t know about you, but it’s cold out here on the east coast! Still, the seed catalogues are rolling in, and the Llama and I are itching to start planning this year’s garden. If you want to do some experimentation in your garden this year to get better yields and more permanent gardens, think about giving plant guilds a try.

Guild Basics

Companion planting is when two different kinds of plants are placed near each other for the betterment of both. For instance, garlic planted next to roses will keep pest insects away and prevent disease in the roses blooms. Guilds build on the concept of plants supporting themselves through their innate qualities, and take it a step further by incorporating multiple kinds of companion plants that all support each other.

The ability to create guilds is an incredibly useful tool for gardeners, particularly those of you who have limited space to grow. Not only do the plants support each other for the betterment of the whole, but guilds also represent what is called a “stacking” function. Stacking means that you can multiply the overall production of by integration several components in one place, which also saves space.




Putting the Pieces Together

Guilds are often named after a key component plant. Let’s look at a favorite type of guild for many gardeners: the apple tree guild. Apples are a popular fruit tree in gardens because of the delicious fruit they produce. As the key piece of a guild, they are useful because they grow tall, leaving lots of room underneath for other plants. They also offer protection to delicate seedlings, and allow filtered sunlight in through their branches. Now, you’ll want to keep pests away from the base of your apple tree, so it would be a good idea to plants a circle of daffodils just under the edge of the tree’s crown, which are known to repel pest insects. To attract beneficial insects to pollinate the apple blossoms, you could plant edible flowering herbs like bee balm or borage. Comfrey at the base of the tree would be an excellent weed suppressor, nitrogen fixer, and eventual compost and mulch provider.


Common Guild Types

They are all kinds of guild out there, but here are a few of the more common guilds. You can use these for convenience, or spend the time to create your own. Feel free to modify these examples to fit your location by substituting plants that do the same work but thrive in your area.

Oak Tree Guild

  • Oak tree – nut producer for animals
  • Comfrey – ground cover, nitrogen fixer, and composter
  • Borage – flowering, edible herb
  • Strawberry – edible weed suppressor


Bee Guild

  • American linden or basswood  – flowering tree
  • Rose apple – flowering, edible shrub
  • Lovage – flowering, edible herb with deep roots
  • Mint – flowering, edible herb
  • Daffodils – early source of pollen


Fruit Tree Guild

  • Apple, pear, peach, cherry, apricot, or nectarine – food producing trees
  • Hazelnut – food producing shrub
  • Daffodils – beneficial attractor, and pest repeller
  • Strawberry – edible weed suppressor


Three Sisters Guild

  • Climbing beans – edible, flowering vegetable
  • Corn – edible, provides support for beans
  • Pumpkins – prevents weeds from growing




Finally, while the above examples are a great way to get you thinking about what guilds might interest you, you aren’t limited to just a few designs. Take a little time to research companion plants that seems interesting to you and build your own guilds. Feel free to experiment with colors, shapes, and the plants that work best in your landscape. You can always change and modify your design from year to year!

If you’re looking for organic, heirloom seeds, let me recommend Botanical Interests. They have a mission to educate and wonderful products as well!

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