Companion / Guild planting

Various plants can be planted around the fruit tree which help it to grow even better, give more production and has various other benefits. This is called companion planting or Guild planting. A fruit tree guild is the building block of an edible forest garden.

This lovely idea was given to us by Newquay Community Orchard and we now hope to do this around every fruit tree planted in the orchard.

Good companion plants help deter pests, attract beneficial insects and pollinators, provides more pollen & nectar for bees, and also help the plants grow to their full potential.

Companion plants can help conserve moisture and keep weeds down; they can also be used as living mulches that are cut back and allowed to decompose around tree root zones for added nutrients.

Some companion plants have long taproots that reach deep within the soil and pull up valuable minerals and nutrients that benefit all the plants around them.

Not only useful but also aesthetically pleasing to the senses.

The following plants include apple tree companions that deter pests and enrich the soil when cut back and left as mulch:

Companion planting at Newquay Orchard

  • Comfrey
  • Nasturtium
  • Chamomile
  • Coriander
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Basil
  • Lemongrass
  • Mint
  • Artemisia
  • Yarrow
  • garlic
  • Daffodil, tansy, marigold and hyssop also deter apple tree pests.

When used as an apple companion plant, chives help prevent apple scab, and deter deer and rabbits; but be careful, as you may end up with chives taking over the bed. Dogwood and sweet cicely attract beneficial insects that eat apple tree pests. Dense plantings of any of these apple companion plants will help keep weeds down.

Guild planting can also help you ensure that good levels of the nutrients all plants need are in the soil and available to the roots, especially nitrogen. The family of plants known as legumes, which includes peas and beans, has a symbiotic relationship with a certain bacteria in the soil that allows them to ‘fix’ nitrogen from the atmosphere on their roots. This nitrogen also helps plants nearby to grow strong and healthy. Acacias planted near to fruit trees are another example of a guild that boosts nitrogen uptake.

An example of a guild working through time to improve nitrogen levels in the soil, is if you are trying to revitalize a piece of poor quality soil, perhaps one that has been used in intensive agriculture. When damaged bare soil is left exposed, the first plants that will colonize it are weeds such as white clover and dandelion. The former can fix nitrogen, while the latter has deep roots that break up the soil and access nitrogen and other nutrients lying further down in the soil profile. Allowing the weeds to grow helps bring nitrogen levels up towards the surface. You can then slash and mulch the weeds so that the nutrients are retained in the soil.

 

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Post written by: Elise Langley