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Fruit Tree Guild: Guide to the Basics + Example Plantings

Fruit Tree Guild: Guide to the Basics + Example Plantings

If you are interested in permaculture, chances are you have come across the idea of a fruit tree guild.

If you are new to permaculture, the fruit tree guild is definitely something you need to learn about as it is a key component of the permaculture philosophy. 

What is a fruit tree guild? A fruit tree guild is a very useful ancient technique for creating a supportive, flourishing mini-ecosystem by planting mutually beneficial species around the fruit tree. Fruit tree guilds consist of multiple layers that are usually made up of climbing plants, shrubs, and edible plants.

What’s more, you can not only have stand-alone fruit guilds, but you can also link them with other trees and fruit bushes and form a little food forest.

Therefore, in today’s article, we are going to cover some of the most important questions and benefits of fruit tree guilds and go through some examples as well. 

Fruit Tree Guild Purpose

People that haven’t encountered fruit tree guilds before might be wondering what’s the purpose of having one.

The main goal of fruit tree guilds is underplanting a certain fruit or nut tree with specific plants that are naturally compatible with the tree.

These plants are usually multifunctional and highly useful as they might have the ability to attract beneficial insects, fertilize, suppress grass, repel pests, and much more. 

How Big Is a Fruit Tree Guild?

Fruit tree guilds often vary in size as not all people have the same amount of free space.

For instance, if you have several acres of space, you could even develop a tree guild with a 70-foot tall nut tree as the central element.

However, if you have very little space in your backyard, you can use a berry bush or a dwarf fruit tree as the center planting.

Fruit Tree Guild Benefits

Having a fruit tree guild comes with quite a lot of benefits. First off, fruit tree guilds are known to reduce root competition and suppress grass.

Aside from that, they also improve the condition of the soil and increase nutrient levels in it. They also balance fungal populations and attract beneficial insects. 

Fruit Tree Guild Layout

One thing you need to keep in mind is that there is no universal layout that works perfectly for all guilds. Some fruit trees may work better with different plants.

Plus, you need to design the guild specifically for your particular location and climate. You should also take access into account, meaning you need to make pathways throughout your fruit tree guild.

Ideally, you should consider the root forms of plants and plant them closer to the tree as they won’t compete with the central element for nutrients and water. 

Can You Grow Vegetables Under Fruit Trees?

In short, yes, you can include vegetables in fruit tree guilds.

There are many vegetables, such as onions, garlic, and leeks, that can work perfectly as suppressors and pest deterrents in fruit tree guilds. 

What Should I Plant in the Fruit Tree Guild?

Beginners often get confused when it comes to choosing plants for fruit tree guilds. Therefore, in order to make this simple, we need to divine the potential plants in certain categories.

The plants you can include when creating a fruit tree guild need to be able to suppress grass and weeds, attract beneficial insects, and repel the damaging ones. 

Additionally, a tree guild also needs accumulators and nitrogen fixers. Some of the most commonly used plants that work great with most fruit trees are chives, chicory, garlic, onions, leeks, dill, and dandelions.

Also consider plants that will attract beneficial insects and pollinators to the area.

In the following sections of the article, we created a couple of layouts for the most common fruit tree guilds. 

Fruit Tree Guild Examples

There are many great examples of fruit tree guilds, but one of the most common ones is the apple tree guild.

However, if you have the necessary components to create a guild, there are many other possibilities to choose from, such as peach or cherry tree guild. 

Apple Tree Guild

The most important benefits of an apple tree guild are maximizing apple yields and the productivity of the understory as well as reducing the number of imported mulches and fertilizers. 

Apple Tree Companion Plants

  • Garlic, leeks, and onions (suppressing weeds and grass)
  • Coriander, fennel, and dill (attracting beneficial insects)
  • Chives (repelling damaging insects)
  • Chicory and dandelions (accumulating)
  • Goumi berry, sea buckthorn, and peas (nitrogen-fixing)

Peach Tree Guild 

In order to get the perfect tree guild, it is essential to do some research on the mature size and growth pattern of the tree.

Therefore, for the peach tree guild, the ideal companion plants might be a bit different than those of the apple tree guild. 

Peach Tree Companion Plants

  • Strawberries (suppressing weeds and grass)
  • Cosmos (attracting beneficial insects)
  • Garlic, marigolds, and lemongrass (repelling damaging insects)
  • Chicory (accumulating)
  • Red clover (nitrogen-fixing)

Cherry Tree Guild 

Before thinking about the companion plants for this guild, you need to find the right type of cherry tree for your climate.

Once you have done that, go through the companion plants carefully and design your guild based on your preferences. 

Cherry Tree Companion Plants

  • Strawberries (suppressing weeds and grass)
  • Coriander and chocolate lilies (attracting beneficial insects)
  • Chives (repelling damaging insects)
  • Feverfew (accumulating) 
  • Licorice (nitrogen-fixing)

Fig Tree Guild 

The following guild construction was developed for the White Adriatic fig tree.

While this guild is similar to the previous ones in some ways, there are specific companion plants that work better with the fig tree. 

Fig Tree Companion Plants

  • Onions and leeks (suppressing weeds and grass)
  • Cosmos (attracting beneficial insects)
  • Parsnip and oregano (repelling damaging insects)
  • Goji, chicory, and purslane (accumulating) 
  • Acacias (nitrogen-fixing)

Pear Tree Guild 

Creating a pear tree guild is in most ways pretty similar to creating an apple tree guild.

Even though you can make almost the same guild, we will list some different companion plants so you can choose which ones suit you better. 

Pear Tree Companion Plants

  • Garlic and onions (suppressing weeds and grass)
  • Dill (attracting beneficial insects) 
  • Scallions (repelling damaging insects)
  • Dandelion (accumulating) 
  • Crimson clover (nitrogen-fixing)

The Bottom Line

As you can see, creating a fruit tree guild can be quite simple and yet very effective when you consider some of the layouts above.

However, there are many alternatives for these plants that could work perfectly in some of these tree guilds. 

Therefore, you can do some deeper research and find some plants that will work better with the fruit tree you have chosen.

All in all, fruit tree guilds are very beneficial for many reasons, and if you are getting interested in permaculture, they are a great place to start.