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What is a Plant Guild?

Technically speaking, a plant guild is “a beneficial grouping of plants that support one another in all their many functions,” and “support animals and humans for all their food, medicine, and utility needs.”

Ok, but…what exactly does that mean and, more importantly, how do you create a guild that is right for your food forest or permaculture project?

Enter three plant experts and permaculture designers, Wayne Weiseman, Daniel Halsey, and Bryce Ruddock, who have it all figured out and are in the mood to share.

“Each niche, yard, lot, or field has a long list of potential plants that will thrive there, and it is our task to define them, and design an ecosystem to support our and nature’s abundance,” write the authors.

Their book, Integrated Forest Gardening: The Complete Guide to Polycultures and Plant Guilds in Permaculture Systems is the first of its kind and will be of immeasurable benefit to permaculturalists of all abilities for years to come. A comprehensive book about plant guilds that answers specific questions like how to actually configure a guild, how to select the plants, what function each plant serves, and more.

Called “a rich feast of nature love” by Peter Bane (publisher, Permaculture Activist), Integrated Forest Gardening benefits readers of any scale.  Whether you are a permaculture designer and professional grower, or backyard gardener completely new to the concept of permaculture, you’ll find a wealth of information along with extensive color photography and design illustrations in this detailed guide to developing what is most basic to any permaculture system—plant guilds. Read Chapter 1 in the excerpt below.

Award-winning author Toby Hemenway believes, “Integrated Forest Gardening fills a major gap in the canon of permaculture books.”

“No longer is this subject mysterious and daunting,” writes Hemenway. “In this book we now have specific instructions for designing and installing multispecies plant groups. Chapter 7, which describes fifteen guilds and their plant members, is a golden nugget worth the price of the book alone.”

The idea of being able to take this book and replicate its principles in one’s own community, whether that be on a rural farm, or in a town or city, is exactly what the authors envisioned when they set out to write it. Their hope for this book is to cause a ripple effect, encouraging more people to embrace the vast potential of our plant world.

“Plant guilds are not limited to a few simple functions. You have ample opportunity to design and develop diverse guilds that focus on specific modalities: animal foods, oils, fibers, medicines, spices, endlessly. You might embed yield functions in a broad services guild, or you can design based on a particular theme that meets basic needs. Experiment, explore, ask yourself, What do I need for my family’s sustenance? Proceed from here.”

For more from the authors, check out their permaculture month where they answered questions submitted by readers. Learn about water harvesting ditches known as swales, the research behind plant guilds, and notes on implementing plant guilds based on differing water requirements:

Are Swales Right for You? – Wayne Weiseman Plant Guild Research and Development – Bryce Ruddock and Daniel Halsey

Integrated Forest Gardening: Chapter One


How to Design Swales for Optimum Water Flow

May has arrived! The birds are chirping, flowers are budding, and it’s time to officially celebrate Permaculture Month.Throughout the next few weeks, we are putting our pioneering permaculture authors to work for you in our “Ask the Experts” series. If you are looking to become a better permaculturalist, there’s still time to participate. Submit your questions here.Today’s topic is […] Read More

Radical Ruminations of a Home Gardener

The editors here at Chelsea Green are constantly seeking out what’s new and important in the world of sustainable living. As part of an occasional blog series, our editors are sharing what they’ve been reading, researching, or just plain pondering. Below Senior Editor Fern Marshall Bradley daydreams about the coming growing season and reflects on some radical gardening ideas inspired by Maine farmer […] Read More

Not Level? No Problem. How to Build a Greenhouse on a Slope

Have you ever considered building a greenhouse on sloped terrain? It may not seem like the “perfect spot,” but as permaculture designer and farmer Shawn Jadrnicek points out, a sloped site for a greenhouse offers a bonus that a level site does not—the ability to use gravity to harvest rainwater.In his groundbreaking new book, The Bio-Integrated Farm, Jadrnicek offers in-depth information […] Read More

Ask the Experts: Submit Your Permaculture Questions Now

Attention all growers, food-lovers, and green-living enthusiasts, we are once again celebrating Permaculture Month by putting our pioneering permaculture authors to work for you.Chelsea Green is proud to publish and distribute some of the most recognized, and award-winning, names in permaculture, and we’re making several of them available to our readers to answer any and all […] Read More

Hands-On Learning: School of The New American Farmstead

This summer, twelve of our authors (plus Chelsea Green’s own President and Publisher) will be leading hands-on intensive courses at Sterling College in Craftsbury, Vermont.These workshops, classes, and certifications will inspire you, equip you with marketable skills, and provide you with new perspectives on integrated, community-centered farming and food production.Engage your SensesThe hands-on courses will […] Read More
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