After months (or has it been years?) of planning, I installed my first “permaculture guild” this weekend. It is not, strictly speaking, a Toby Hemenway-style “food forest” guild, because only one item (the oak) is even marginally edible. However, I followed many of his basic principles and added one other: all the species are native to my area or are slightly aesthetically-selected varietals of local species. Here’s the result. Or perhaps the beginning, since this will really take 50 years to get into shape. 🙂
When planning a guild, you need to think in layers and functions. Here’s how I’ve addressed them in this guild, which draws on the Oak Openings found in SE lower Michigan and NE Ohio:
- Overstory layer: Oak tree
- Shrub layer: White and blue false indigo – will get up to 3′ tall and wide
- Groundcover layer: Canada anemone and Pennsylvania sedge
- Nitrogen fixers: White and blue false indigo and non-native Dutch white clover (seed not sprouted yet)
- Insect feeders: Butterfly weed
- Biomass: I did plant some non-native seeds (flax and borage, which are also good for insects), though I’m sort of wishing I hadn’t now. I will plant mullein seed in a few weeks when it becomes available – the first mulleins are just starting to bloom now.
Because this planting is so small, I don’t have an understory (small tree) layer or a vine layer. Eventually, I expect this guild to expand to this entire corner of the yard, and I’ll add serviceberries, New Jersey Tea shrubs, maybe buffalo berries, and some more flowers (blazing star, culver’s root, and thimbleweed).