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Permaculture Guild: A Primer

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Permaculture is a term derived from the words permanent and agriculture. And since there is no other permanent form of agriculture other than nature, mimicking its networking and sustainability to build our own agricultural society is what permaculture is based upon.

Guilding is one of the most impressive gardening aspects of permaculture. Plants grow in small and reoccurring groups known as guilds in nature.  Each guild is known to have seven layers each of which are designed in a way that uses one aspect of either the root strata or the sun. Every element of a guild makes a unique contribution. For instance, the shrub layer provide food for birds that feed on insects or use low trees as a habitat while tall trees provide shelter for small animals. Additionally, root plants seek out nutrients made available to the soil by decomposing foliage and plants found in the herb layer fix nitrogen. Mulch plants increase biomass that helps with regeneration of the soil, while neighboring plants act as protection for the entire guild.

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Permaculture gardening takes advantage of nature’s biodiversity and resource management by using the knowledge to modify nature into sustainable agriculture. It is however unfortunate that we have  chosen to do so in a way that only favors monoculture forgetting that Gaia can produce much more biomass on her own without any inputs on the same acre. The trick here is to ensure that we merge plants that produce usable products from humans with Gaia’s self-sufficiency and productivity. And what better way to achieve that than guilding?

checklist-smallIn most cases, the tall tree layer is forgone in urban areas. However, if you aren’t forgoing this layer, good trees to plant would include Black Locust (nitrogen fixer), Chestnut (protein), Sugar Maple (syrup), or a Standard Pear (fruit). The low tree layer is where most of the guild design is focused and great choices for this layer include cherries, paw-paws, and pears. Plums and apples are also great for pest management. When it comes to the root, herb and shrub layers, there is a wide variety of plants you can choose from. You just have to make sure that each layer has 5 things including protection from pests and competition, pollination, mulch, nutrients and nitrogen.

The main advantage of guilds include less water requirement due to minimal evaporation, minimal pest control as they attract pest predators, and little or no fertilizer as they produce this on their own. For more on permaculture guilds, enroll at Open Permaculture School or Regenerative Leadership Institute.

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