My takeaway from the Online Permaculture Design Course this week is the use of guilds. Guilds are groups of plants and/or animals that work together. Often, a guild contains a central element such as a specific tree and then other elements are gathered around it to assist the central plant or animal. The goal is to assemble components that help each other in some way. The more ways components help each other, the more likely the guild will work out. Look for large numbers of connections between elements.
One interesting element to use is comfrey. It works as a good green manure by using its deep roots to pull minerals up to the top layers of soil. Comfrey really needs balancing with other composts though, because it breaks down into a sludge instead of a nice granular compost.
Another useful element is fennel. Depending on the variety, it can be used as a herb or a vegetable. It attracts predatory wasps. Dill also attracts predatory wasps. Dill, of course, is a popular herb. Predatory wasps will help out with pest problems in fruit trees.
Also, rosemary, lavender, and rue work well near fruit trees to confuse pests with smells that prevent them from noticing the fruit tree.
I really want to give the guilds mentioned in class a try. A lot of plants we often use together in the kitchen also grow next to each other very well. I’ve never tried to grow potato and peas together, but I’m going to now.
Also, I need to try the guild of tomato, basil, lettuce, and nasturtium. I had never heard of nasturtium before, so I had to look it up. The nasturtium flowers have a peppery taste, and the young leaves are also edible. Nasturtium is so easy to grow that it is considered a weed in many warm regions. However, nasturtium is a great addition to salads. Guess what is going to be in my salads this year!