How To Create a Fruit Tree Guild

Planting a fruit tree is a wonderful way to begin your journey towards a bountiful garden. Fruit trees will look lovely and provide some shade while also providing a yield of fresh fruit as well as leaves that are useful as biomass in your garden. It is important, when you plant a fruit tree, that you take measures to ensure that the tree remains happy in its environment. Of course you should be sure to place your tree where it will thrive. But you can also help a tree to do well by planting companions to your tree that will help it in a number of different ways.

If you planted a fruit tree over the dormant season, or are about to plant a new tree, now is a good time to think about sowing and growing the plants that will act as a 'guild' for your tree. The plants in the guild will largely fall into three categories:

By YaquintaDynamic Accumulators

This first category helps the fruit tree by drawing nutrients to the vicinity of the tree's roots, making them available in the soil so the tree gets all the things it needs to thrive. Dynamic accumulators include plants, such as lupins or legumes, that are nitrogen fixers. Planting these nitrogen fixers near a fruit tree will, in the longer term, mean that there is plenty of nitrogen in the soil in your garden. Deep rooted plants such as comfrey, borage and yarrow will also help by drawing nutrients from deep in the ground where the trees roots do not reach. Employing a chop and drop system then returns those nutrients to the topsoil.

Deterrents and Grass Suppressants

By Paul MoonSome plants will help fruit trees by deterring pests that could harm your tree. Plants in this group include alliums and some herbs. Wild garlic or ramsons will thrive in shade, deter pests and also serve another function – by spreading beneath the tree, they will help suppress the grass. When grass grows beneath a fruit tree it will compete with the fruit tree's shallow roots. Daffodils and other spring bulbs can also suppress grass, though they are poisonous, so take care not to confuse these with your food crops.

Beneficial Attractants

The third category of 'workers' in the fruit tree guild are those plants which aid the tree by attracting insects, birds and other wildlife which will help to pollinate blossoms and retain a healthy and biodiverse ecosystem. Bee balm, chives, and a variety of flowering plants will attract bees and other pollinators. Certain plants will also attract predatory insects which will eat pests that could otherwise damage your tree.

Creating a fruit tree guild will make it easier for your tree to thrive and will also benefit your whole garden by increasing biodiversity and helping all the creatures that live in your garden.