Cherry Tree Guilds

Cherry Tree GuildsToday I almost finished soil work and guild plantings around each of the cherry trees–still 1/3 to do around the second tree.  First I aerated the soil with our garden fork to a five foot radius around the tree. (The soil was already covered with mulch from last fall-wood chips, cut grass, sea weed, and dead leaves.)  Then I put down newspaper or cardboard along the outer half of each circle, and covered it with compost.  I planted the companion plants for each cherry tree guild.  Guilds are plants that work together so that each does better than if they were planted alone.  In this case, the primary focus is the health of the cherry tree.

The plants I used and their functions:

  • Comfrey is a nutrient accumulator–its roots go deep and bring up calcium and other vital nutrients, and then the leaves can be cut several times a season, and used as mulch. It also attracts pollinators and other beneficial insects.  It can be used in herbal medicine. It was recommended to plant it at least four feet from the trunk.
  • Chives accumulate nutrients, deter pests, are anti-fungal and attract pollinators… They bloom at the same time as the cherry will, and are also a culinary herb.  I had enough to do two per tree.
  • Oregano is an aromatic pest confuser, is anti-fungal, can take some foot traffic, and of course is a culinary herb.
  • Thyme is another insect pest repellant and culinary herb (my favorite.)
  • Chamomile accumulates nutrients, is anti-fungal, and attracts beneficial insects..
  • Rhubarb is another perennial food, and can be cut in place for mulch.
  • At the outer edge of the circle around the Lapins Cherry, I also planted a row of annual kale.  The cherry tree won’t reach that far for a couple years, so it works okay.  I mulched them with egg shells, which I understand will deter kale eating pests.
  • That guild also got one Sweet Cicely plant, which attracts beneficial insect predators to kill insect pests. Plus I hear it tastes like licorice/anise.
  • The other tree guild also got Lemon Balm, and maybe a Bee Balm plant–I haven’t planted it yet and I’m deciding if it will get too big–if so, maybe it will go nearby.  The Lemon Balm was from the plant swap, and attracts pollinators and repels ants and flies.  I just read that it will spread.  Bee Balm attracts pollinators.
  • Between all the other plants, I planted Red Clover seeds–they are a nitrogen fixer, and this variety is best for a fungally dominant soil.  It is a good ground cover to keep weeds away, easy to walk on too. I put some straw mulch on the seeds to get them started, but I think I will add wood chips over it all.

Later in the fall, I plan to add daffodils in a ring about 2 feet from the trunk, to deter munching pests.  I also ended up designating two paths into the tree for each circle–so I can get to the center easily.  Once again, I end the day with sore muscles, but so happy.


3 thoughts on “Cherry Tree Guilds

  1. Hi Myke, I came across this article as I am preparing to plant cherry tree guilds. Given it’s been a few years since you planted them, wanted to see what you discovered over time and how your trees have grown over these years. Any additional piece of advice to newbies? Thank you! Elena

    • Hi Elena,
      Great to hear from you. The trees have grown–we got one cherry last year, lol, so hoping they will bear this year. Of the companion plants, I eventually pulled out a lot of the red clover because it got too tall to manage easily under dwarf trees. In our location, we are susceptible to powdery mildew and if the plants were too thick, that added to it–the comfrey, the bee balm and the clover all seemed to get it. I switched to smaller white clover. So I do less “chop and drop” of the comfrey, and try to cut it before any mildew gets in, and put it in our compost pile instead of in place. I moved the lemon balm to a spot where it wouldn’t spread out of control. It has been great to get chives, oregano, and thyme to harvest for the kitchen. Oregano also seems to spread out of control, but since I use it for cooking, I just pull it up if it gets to be too much, or give it away. The chamomile and sweet cicely didn’t survive. Last year was the last year I could plant kale around the trees–too much shade now, but it worked for a while. We’ve also added winecap mushrooms to the beds, and it is always fun when those pop up. Best wishes on your trees!

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