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.

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The Chamomile & Me

From the Introduction to my new book, Finding Our Way Home:  A Spiritual Journey into Earth Community:

When I was a young adult I became intrigued with the use of natural herbs for healing. I read how particular flowers and leaves and roots were able to address different ailments of the body. I purchased herbal products in the local food coop, and steeped them in teas when I didn’t feel well. I learned, for example, that chamomile tea was calming during a time of stress. Then one day, with a group of peace activists protesting outside a nuclear weapons facility, someone pointed out to me a chamomile plant growing wild by the side of the road.

wild-chamomile

[Photo by Lazaregagnidze via Wikimedia Commons]

It was tiny, easy to overlook, with tight yellow-green berry-like flowers. Its feathery leaves branched out over a stony patch of ground.

I suddenly felt the connection. Chamomile wasn’t merely something I bought at the store. It was a plant that grew by the side of a road. Something in those chamomile flowers could ease my stress. We were related to each other in a deep, essential way—physically, chemically. And not only chamomile. I understood in that moment I was not separate from any of the plants or animals or people on the earth. We were all one, all interconnected. Something in me woke up.

But if we were one, why did we lose our awareness of our connection? What broke us apart? And more importantly, what could bring us back together? Standing outside that nuclear weapons facility, the contrast could not feel more devastating. If we truly felt our interconnection, how could we even imagine such destruction? Somehow, we had become lost, we had become divided—from the plants, from the earth, from other human beings, from the Mystery binding all of us together. How could we find our way back to each other?

…Without experiencing our connection, we cannot begin to address the dangers facing us in our time.

I invite you to join me on this journey into earth community. I offer stories from my own path, and stories from others who have helped me to find the way. Along this winding road, I had many teachers. Human teachers, to be sure, but also a red bird, a copper beech tree, a piece of bread, a common mushroom, my cats. I have not reached the destination, but I have come to understand a sense of the direction we must travel. We must cultivate deeper relationships with our fellow inhabitants of this planet, both human and non-human. We must understand that the Divine Spirit is here with us as well, not separate, but present in each being, and present in the larger reality of which we are a part.