Garden & Agriculture Archive


What is a Plant Guild?

Monday, August 4th, 2014

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

Putting Grasslands to Work

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

This year’s annual international conference of the Savory Institute will be held in London the first week of August, and will feature two Chelsea Green authors – Courtney White (Grass, Soil, Hope) and Judith Schwartz (Cows Save the Planet) along with Joel Salatin whose books Chelsea Green distributes.

The conference theme — “Putting Grasslands to Work” — will focus on ways in which holistic management can improve soils, increase nutrient density, sequester carbon, and reverse desertification. In other words, have grasslands do the work of healing the planet.

“The age of Holistic Management is upon us. There is an undeniable need for humans to honor the complexity of the natural world,” notes the conference website. “We’ve seen a new awakening among people to embrace living in harmony with their environment.The movement has reached critical mass and is exploding all around the globe.”

White and Schwartz will take part in a two-part panel discussion about the untapped potential of soil. As both authors point out in their respective books, soil can be seen as a way to solve some of our most intractable environmental problems.

“I don’t mean to come across as naive, or to suggest that we can throw some cattle and compost on the ground and go on wasting and polluting as before. But neither am I willing to be paralyzed by despair, nor take refuge behind that barricade of indifference, no matter how tempting at times. I know how bad things are. But we’ve got to start somewhere. Soil restoration can be done anywhere: one watershed, one community, one abandoned field. At whatever scale, attend to the needs of the soil, and the ecological cycles will begin to get back in sync.,” writes Schwartz in the introduction to her book.

As White notes in the prologue to his book, “Here’s the really exciting part: if land that is bare, degraded, tilled, or monocropped can be restored to a healthy condition, with properly functioning carbon, water, mineral, and nutrient cycles, and covered year-round with a diversity of green plants with deep roots, then the added amount of atmospheric CO2 that can be stored in the soil is potentially high. … soils contain about three times the amount of carbon that’s stored in vegetation and twice the amount stored in the atmosphere. Since two-thirds of the earth’s land mass is grassland, additional CO2 storage in the soil via better management practices, even on a small scale, could have a huge impact. Grasslands are also home to two billion people who depend on livestock—an important source of food and wealth (and culture) to much of the earth’s human population. Both these animals and their human stewards could be mobilized for carbon action.”

And mobilize for action is what the Savory Institute conference is about. Check out their website, and if you’re in London the first week of August, be sure to stop by for information and inspiration.

25% off Essential Books for Homesteaders

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

In this age of rapid change, how can we best adapt to sustain our food systems and regenerate our land?

Drawing from time-tested holistic techniques our authors show homesteaders, farmers and growers of all sizes how to remain resilient.

Whether you grow veggies and herbs on your balcony, intensively garden a half-acre on your homestead, or make a living off the land, we’ve got a book (or two) for you. Now through July 31st SAVE 25% on books for your homestead or small farm. 

Our books and authors never skim the surface – they think in systems and farm holistically, applying the wisdom of letting nature do the heavy lifting and giving the skills to empower you.

We hope you’re having a busy and abundant growing season!

Happy reading from the folks at Chelsea Green Publishing

P.S. Don’t forget to look at our full list of sale books here: www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/sale


Discount codes do not combine with other offers—our books already on sale for example. Free shipping for orders $100 or more is applied after the discount is applied. (U.S. Orders Only). International orders can be placed by phone (802-295-6300) or email.


Homesteading Books: 25% off until July 31st 

The Resilient Farm and Homestead
Retail: $40.00
Sale: $30.00
Keeping a Family Cow
Retail: $19.95
Sale: $14.96
The Resilient Gardener
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $22.46
The New Cider Maker's Handbook
Retail: $44.95
Sale: $33.71
From the Wood-Fired Oven
Retail: $44.95
Sale: $33.71
The Sugarmaker's Companion
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $29.96
The Gourmet Butcher's Guide to Meat
Retail: $49.95
Sale: $37.46
The Small-Scale Dairy
Retail: $34.95
Sale: $26.21
The Small-Scale Poultry Flock
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $29.96
Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking
Retail: $40.00
Sale: $30.00
The New Horse-Powered Farm
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $29.96
The New Organic Grower
Retail: $24.95
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The Holistic Orchard
Retail: $39.95
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Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $22.46
Market Farming Success, Revised and Expanded Edition
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $22.46
Raising Dough
Retail: $19.95
Sale: $14.96
Farms with a Future
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $22.46
You Can Farm
Retail: $35.00
Sale: $26.25
The Organic Seed Grower
Retail: $49.95
Sale: $37.46
The Grafter's Handbook
Retail: $40.00
Sale: $30.00
The Winter Harvest Handbook
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $22.46
The Organic Grain Grower
Retail: $45.00
Sale: $33.75
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond Vol. 1
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $22.46
Compact Living
Retail: $14.95
Sale: $11.21
The Moneyless Manifesto
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $18.71
The Log Book
Retail: $12.95
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Farm-Fresh and Fast
Retail: $24.95
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Seed to Seed
Retail: $24.95
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Organic Seed Production and Saving
Retail: $12.95
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Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties
Retail: $29.95
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Holistic Orcharding with Michael Phillips
Retail: $49.95
Sale: $37.46
Preserving with Friends
Retail: $34.95
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Natural Beekeeping with Ross Conrad
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $18.71
Year-Round Vegetable Production with Eliot Coleman: DVD
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $29.96

~~ Coming Soon: Available for Pre-Order ~~

Integrated Forest Gardening
Retail: $45.00
Sale: $33.75
Farming The Woods
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $29.96
Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $29.95

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Un-Coop your Poop: Everything you Need to Know about Chicken Tractors


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NEED MORE? Take a look at our list of sale books 

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For a list of all our sale books – more than 60 on sale for 20% off or more—take a look at the full list here.



Dried Tomato Recipes: Enjoy Your Harvest All Year Long

Monday, July 7th, 2014

As your tomatoes start ripening on the vine this season, think ahead to how you want to preserve your summer harvest and enjoy it all year long.

Here are a few versatile dried tomato recipes that are easy to make and don’t require freezing or canning.

For more recipes using traditional preserving techniques like salt, oil, drying, cold storage, vinegar, and fermentation, read Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning by the Gardeners & Farmers of Terre Vivante.

Tomatoes Dried Naturally

  • Tomatoes
  • Almond oil (or another mild oil)
  • A clean rag
  • Drying apparatus
  • A glass jar

Tomatoes are by far the vegetable most often preserved by drying in various forms.

We prefer to use the ‘Beefsteak’ variety, a pulpy tomato with fewer seeds.

Peel the tomatoes. (If this poses a problem, soak them for a few seconds in boiling water.) Cut them lengthwise (from bottom to top) into slices approximately 1/4-inch thick and remove the seeds. Place the slices on a clean rag to absorb the juice. Oil the dryer screen lightly, preferably with mild almond oil, so that the slices will not stick. When the slices are dry on one side, turn them over; they will be hard when dry. Store the tomatoes well packed in a glass jar.

To use, pour one cup of boiling water over one-half to three-quarter ounces of dried tomatoes per person, and leave them to soften for a few minutes. Add a teaspoon of olive oil, season to your tate, and serve with a purée or a grain dish. We also add these tomatoes to grains or vegetables that are nearly done cooking.

Odile Angeard, Cognin

Stuffed Dried Tomatoes in Oil

  • Tomatoes
  • Parsley
  • Garlic
  • Anchovy fillets (optional)
  • Fresh basil leaves (optional)
  • Oil
  • Drying apparatus
  • A glass jar

I dry my tomatoes in a solar dryer, cut in half and seeded (easily done with a small spoon). When the tomatoes are dry, stuff a little finely chopped parsley and garlic between the two halves. If you like, add an anchovy fillet, or a basil leaf. Place the reassembled tomatoes in a jar and cover with oil. These are delicious added to a salad during winter.

Anonymous

Sun-Dried Tomatoes in Oil

Variation 1:

  • 4 lbs. tomatoes
  • 1 lb. coarse salt
  • Oil
  • Drying apparatus
  • Gauze
  • A clean, dry cloth
  • Glass jars

Choose very ripe, small, oblong tomatoes. The Italian variety “Principe Borghese’ is an excellent drier, as are many smaller plum or “paste” tomatoes.

Cut the tomatoes in half, place them on a tray set in the sun, add salt, and cover with gauze to protect from insects. During the day, turn the tomatoes over twice; at night, bring them inside to protect from moisture.

A few days later, when you see that they are very dry but not totally dehydrated, remove some of the salt with a clean, dry cloth. Put the tomatoes into jars and cover them with approximately three-quarters of an inch of oil over the tomatoes, coming up to three-eights of an inch below the rim. Close the jars tightly and store them in a cool place. In Italy, tomatoes preserved in this manner are eaten as hors d’oeuvres, with no additional preparation.

Marie-Christine Martinot-Aronica, St. Dizier

Variation 2:

  • Tomatoes
  • Vinegar
  • Hot peppers, mint leaves, or whole garlic cloves (optional)
  • Oil
  • Drying apparatus
  • A glass jar

Choose tomatoes that are firm and completely intact, preferably plum tomatoes. Cut them in half lengthwise. Allow them to dry on trays in the sun, bringing them in whenever it is humid, and in at night to avoid dampness. When they are dry, soak the tomatoes in warm vinegar for twenty minutes. Drain and put them in a jar, alternating layers of tomatoes with one or two hot peppers, mint leaves, or whole cloves of garlic. Press well to allow any air to escape, and then cover with oil. These tomatoes will keep for a very long time. We eat them as hors d’oeuvres or with rice, pasta, meat, or fish.

Babette Cezza, Vergt

Fermentation Fun with Sandor Katz

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Here in our home state of Vermont, summer is in full swing – verdant hills of green, blue lakes and ponds, and the sound of folks out and about in the great outdoors hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, fishing, and … fermenting?

OK, maybe fermenting is best for folks looking for some indoor activities in between outdoor activities. In that case, we have the perfect itinerary for you.

Vermonters and visitors alike will have multiple chances to see the fermentation revivalist himself – Sandor Ellix Katz – at multiple stops in Vermont throughout the month of July. Come see why Michael Pollan calls Katz “The Johnny Appleseed of Fermentation” and why his latest book The Art of Fermentation was a New York Times bestseller and won the prestigious James Beard Foundation Book Award for Reference.

Katz kicks off his Vermont tour with a two-week intensive workshop at Sterling College up in Craftsbury. As of this writing, there were two slots remaining in this credited course (four continuing education credits). The course is part of the college’s continuing education program of two- and four-week courses that offer learning opportunities that complement the college’s focus areas.

This class will offer an in-depth overview of the art and science of fermentation. Expect to learn the basics of how to ferment almost anything. Over the two weeks, attendees will make a wide variety of fermented foods and beverages, including: fermenting vegetables in many variations; beverages from seasonal fruits; kombucha, kvass, water kefir, and other lightly fermented tonic beverages; sourdough, porridges, and grain-based beverages; Asian bean ferments including Tempeh, Natto, and Dosa; yogurt, kefir, basic cheesemaking, and kishk (a Middle Eastern ferment of yogurt and bulgar wheat); and others, based upon the interests of participants. Participants will have a unique opportunity to begin fermentation projects as a group and see them through to completion, with the benefit of observing, tasting, and discussing them as they progress over several weeks.

During his two-week stay, however, Katz will venture south to Barre for a public talk at the Aldrich Public Library in Barre at 6 PM on July 16.

After his course ends, Katz will make his way from Craftsbury to Tinmouth where he’ll be the keynote speaker on July 20th at SolarFest, an iconic summer event that celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

He then heads back north to Shelburne Farms for an evening talk (open to the public) on July 21 from 7-9 PM, followed by two full days of workshops on July 22 and 23 (pre-registration required).

During the two-day intensive at Shelburne Farms, you’ll learn how to make fermented vegetables (kimchi!), beverages (including a fruit-based wine), dairy products (yogurt, cheese, sour cream, kefir, etc.), grains, legumes, and starch. The two-day program includes lectures, demonstrations, and a hands-on element.

So, catch Katz one, twice, or a few times if you can.

New Books from our Publishing Partners

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Changing the world is no light undertaking. It takes a village to spread the word about sustainable living, and at Chelsea Green Publishing we partner with like-minded publishers and writers around the world to bring their books to a wider readership in the United States.

One of our strongest partnerships is with Permanent Publications, a forward thinking publisher in the UK that produces the best of permaculture media and publishes the influential Permaculture magazine.

Here’s an update on our latest selection of books available from Permanent Publications:

 

Permaculture Kitchen- This is a cookbook for gardeners who love to eat their own produce, and for people who enjoy a weekly veggies box, or supporting their local farmers’ market. It’s the ultimate introduction to economical, seasonal, and delicious cooking.

Edible Perennial Gardening- If you long for a forest garden but simply don’t have the space for tree crops, or want to grow a low-maintenance edible polyculture, this book will explain everything you need to know to get started on a new gardening adventure that will provide you with beauty and food for your household and save you money.

Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture- This completely revised and updated edition is a straight-forward manual of practical permaculture. This book will be most beneficial if you apply it to the space where you live and work. Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture is suitable for beginners as well as experienced permaculture practitioners looking for new ideas in moving towards greater self-reliance and sustainable living.

Earth Users Guide to Teaching Permaculture- This fully revised and updated edition contains a wealth of technical information for teaching permaculture design and includes new findings in emerging disciplines such as regenerative agriculture. The Earth’s Guide to Teaching Permaculture is of key relevance to teachers and students of architecture, landscape design, ecology, and other disciplines like geography, regenerative agriculture, agro-ecology, and agroforestry, as well as permaculture design. With advice on teaching aids, topics for class discussion, extensive reading lists, and tips on teaching adults, this book is bound to be an invaluable friend to the experienced and novice teacher alike.

And from one of our other long-time partners, Slow Food Editore, check out Slow Wine 2014.

For the third year running, Slow Food International offers an English-language edition of their guide to Italian wines whose qualities extend well beyond the palate. Slow Wine 2014 doesn’t simply select and review Italy’s finest bottles. It describes what’s in the glass, but it also tells you what’s behind it: namely the work, the aims, and the passion of producers; their bond with the land; and their choice of cultivation and cellar techniques—favoring the ones who implement ecologically sustainable winegrowing and winemaking practices.

 

Low Maintenance Perennials for Your Garden

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

It’s Perennial Gardening Month, so what better time to be introduced to low maintenance perennials suited for gardeners of all interests and abilities. Perennials are remarkable plants that, once established, can be harvested for years, some even decades, with little effort on your part.

In his book, Perennial Vegetables, permaculture and plants expert Eric Toensmeier profiles more than 100 of the best veggies you can plant to help turn your landscape into an edible Eden. In the excerpt below, Toensmeier provides an overview of a couple key plants to consider growing in your backyard.

Meet the tender perennial goldenberry and the self-seeding annual ground cherry. Their unique flavor is sweet, slightly nutty, reminiscent of a tomato, and a bit musky—the perfect addition to any gardener’s table.

Happy perennial planting!

Ground Cherry and Goldenberry by Chelsea Green Publishing

Permaculture Q&A: Month in Review

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Throughout May, in honor of Permaculture Month, our authors were on call to answer permaculture related questions submitted by our readers. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Here’s a recap of all of our author responses. We hope this information and advice inspires you to get your hands dirty and use the principles of permaculture design in your own backyard.

Permaculture Q&A Series

 


Ben Falk, author of The Resilient Farm and Homestead, talks about the importance of harvesting and cycling nutrients. Read more …


Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia’s Garden, talks about soil structure and explains how permaculture is based on the replication of patterns found in nature. Read more …


Eric Toensmeier, author of Paradise LotPerennial Vegetables and co-author of Edible Forest Gardens, discusses how to handle invasive grasses and the best plants for shady spots. Read more …


Toby Hemenway(Gaia’s Garden) and Eric Toensmeier (Paradise LotPerennial Vegetables) discuss the business side of permaculture. Read more …


Michael Judd,author of Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist, reveals his special recipe for blueberry soil mix that imitates the plant’s natural forest edge habitat. Read more …


Wayne Weiseman, co-author of Integrated Forest Gardening, explains what swales are and what questions to ask to determine if they are right for your landscape. Read more …


Daniel Halsey and Bryce Ruddock, co-authors of Integrated Forest Gardening, discuss the research they and others have done on plant guilds and how to implement these guilds based on differing water requirements. Read more …

 

Get Hip to Hemp: It’s Hemp History Week

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

It’s that time of year again — Hemp History Week. A time when we hemp enthusiasts celebrate this versatile crop that has been kept from being planted in U.S. farm fields due to an outdated and misguided Federal policy – created in the 1930s.

Ah, but change is in the air this 5th annual Hemp History Week. The federal Farm Bill signed into law earlier this year will allow hemp crops to be planted for the first time in more than a half century. Well, sort of. The crops must be for research only, not commercial, and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency has to allow seeds to be imported.

One step forward …

Here at Chelsea Green Publishing – now in our 30th year as a book publisher – we are proud to be a supporter of this year’s Hemp History Week. We published our first book about hemp in 1997 (Nutiva founder John Roulac’s book, Hemp Horizons).

We returned to the promise of hemp — environmentally, agriculturally, and economically — with investigative journalist and goat farmer Doug Fine and the publication of Hemp Bound: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution. In this book, Fine introduces readers to a variety of innovative hemp applications from riding in a hemp-powered limo to testing hemp-based building insulation.

Join Hemp History Week

To learn more about Doug’s book and just how hemp could be the next billion-dollar plant that’s going to change our diet, restore our soil and wean us from petroleum, check out this post. And, test your hemp history knowledge with this Hemp Quiz. To find a Hemp History Week event near you, check out Hemp History Week’s event page.

Fine kicked off Hemp History Week with a Q&A as part of the Firedoglake Book Salon, and we’re hosting a Hemp History Week Book Club on Wednesday. RSVP here and get a discounted copy of Fine’s book and join the hemp revolution.

Hemp History Week (June 2-8, 2014) is an industry-wide education initiative of the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) and Vote Hemp designed to amplify support for hemp farming in the U.S.

Check out this video – “It’s Time to Grow” — from our friends at Hemp History Week.

 

Permaculture Q&A: Plant Guild Research and Development

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

As Permaculture Month comes to an end, we wanted to share some final questions posed to our permaculture authors from our readers. Today, Daniel Halsey and Bryce Ruddock, authors of Integrated Forest Gardening, discuss the research they and others have done on plant guilds and how to implement these guilds based on differing water requirements.

For answers to questions about soil preparation, design patterns, swales and more, browse these previous posts from the “Permaculture Q&A” series:
Are Swales Right For You?
Michael Judd’s Blueberry Soil Mix
Permaculture: An Economic Perspective
Eric Toensmeier on Aggressive Grass and Partial Shade
Toby Hemenway on Soil and Natural Patterns
Ben Falk Talks Nutrient Cycling

Michelle from IL asks:
How much formal research, if any, has been done on guilds to understand how they work and why they work?

DANIEL HALSEY: Formal research about plant guilds requires a literature review of many studies that in aggregate contribute to the knowledge of how plants interact with each other and support or deter each other’s growth. We must also define what a plant guild is. That and the assembly of guilds has been the focus of our book, Integrated Forest Gardening.

A plant, like insects, animals, and fish has a number of guilds. An insect for example has a predator guild including all the other insects that eat it. The plant will have a herbivore guild consisting of the group of insects or animals that eat it.

When we talk about an apple tree guild, we are referring to all the plants we use in the guild to support the apple tree. When we assemble these apple tree guilds, we can choose from many plants, but the needs of the apple tree ecology is what we are trying to fulfill. Thus we surround the apple tree with nitrogen fixtures, nutrient accumulators, aromatic pest confusers, soil builders, and hopefully beneficial insects and organisms. Each group of ecological functions and services provided by plants are also guilds, because they supply the same service. So you choose from a nitrogen fixing guild, a beneficial habitat guild, and soil cultivator guild. The word in front of “guild” describes what kind of guild it is.

As far as the efficacy of plant guilds, the research has been done by numerous and well-known individuals focusing on a specific ecological function or service. Much of the strategy has come from years of observation, study, and written in books by Robert Hart, Bill Mollison, Patrick Whitefield, and Dave Jacke. You can also read books by Dr. Elaine Ingham to find out about soil life and the interactions and importance of soil organisms to plants, among many other researchers.

On the other hand, some of the research articles can also be quite specific, but applicable, such as with Dr. Nicholas Jordan (University of Minnesota) who has researched canadian wild rye and its facilitation in restoring soil organism populations in agricultural fields and entomologist Dr. George Heimpel.

Many times when you are looking to find a definitive answer to a question, the pieces to the puzzle come from many different boxes. We tried to assemble those pieces in our book Integrated Forest Gardening: The Complete Guide to Polycultures and Plant Guilds in Permaculture Systems.

Anna from New Mexico asks:
Dry climate in high altitude. There are some areas where I can collect more run off in my yard than others. For my food forest, would it be a good idea to plant low water together and those [plants] that need more [water] in the places I can collect more gentle rain run off? Or would it be better to mix them so something grows and then add the more needy plantings into an already existing planting? … I am having difficulty figuring out the guild things. Does it matter what I put together just as long as they complement in space/time and need?

BRYCE RUDDOCK: Setting up plant guilds based upon differing water requirements can allow you to use the micro niches on your property, the places where slight differences in soil type and drainage present the most challenges. These are of course the edges between areas where you have been collecting and infiltrating water, building a humus layer in the soil, and those places with stony and drier soils nearby.

Mixing the species together may work so long as more drought resilient plants are kept from getting soggy feet, which is probably not too likely in the high desert. Each guild should fade into the next so that rather than separate pockets of plant species, an uninterrupted progression of plants of different needs and yields will result. Of course, if the sites are widely separated, then the edge areas of interaction between the guilds are larger.

As a canopy species fills in with a crown of leaves and gains mature height it will result in more shade naturally, and some modifications to the design will occur either naturally, or by design. Many of the understory plants can thrive in varying regimes of light levels, from full sun to partial shade. Many of them will benefit from some shade during the hottest times of the year, during the afternoon hours when the heat is intense. A few species such as strawberries have cultivars and subspecies specific to different sunlight levels.

A major consideration in selecting plant guild species is how appropriate they are for the site. For dry land guilds, there are many species adapted over millenia by indigenous peoples that can fill the list of plants that will survive and are useful for human and animal needs. Too often a guild can be set up with species that are marginal for a site.  By working on building organic matter in the soil and enabling the growth of beneficial fungal, you can expand the choices of species that will work well in a guild. In the end, only you can decide which guild components are best for you. Follow the guidelines from permaculture and be ready to improvise according to your needs.

Integrated Forest Gardening and all of our permaculture titles are on sale for 35% off. Act now! Sale ends June 1.


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