mulch donut or permaculture guild?

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Boris Kerzner

May 12, 2022, 4:54:39 PMMay 12
to Philadelphia Orchard Group
Hi, I was hoping for some advice / perspective.

Last fall, I planted four fruit trees (all between 5 and 9 feet tall) and lay wood chips around them. In early spring, I raked back the wood chips, planted comfrey cuttings, and seeded white clover underneath the fruit trees in the hopes of establishing little permaculture guilds underneath each tree. Fast forward to today. Some of the white clover is coming up, but most of the comfrey cuttings have not. The trees, in the meantime, look a bit stressed, due to the exposed dry ground around them. (The soils here are definitely well-draining.) Also, since the ground around the trees is exposed, some small weeds have started to come up.

So I'm kinda wondering if I should give up on establishing the guilds for now and replace the wood chips around the trees to keep in the moisture. Perhaps establishing these guilds makes more sense for larger, more leafed-out trees, that can already provide some of their own shade? So wait a few years and then try again?

I really appreciate your thoughts in advance.


Phil Forsyth

May 12, 2022, 4:59:54 PMMay 12
to Boris Kerzner, Philadelphia Orchard Group
I'd definitely recommend maintaining a mulched circle around your fruit trees regardless of the addition of companion plants.  For newly planted trees, the 3-3-3 rule is recommended: 3 feet wide, 3 inches deep, and a 3" gap between the trunk itself and any mulch.  

Comfrey and most other companion plants will grow happily though a layer of mulch, although you wouldn't be able to seed clover in the mulched area.  Remember that the tree roots will extend even beyond the canopy of the tree, so companion/guild plants can be planted well beyond the base of the tree.  

Phil Forsyth, Co-Executive Director
Philadelphia Orchard Project
Pronouns: he/him

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