Permaculture 101: Guilds


Permaculture is a practical concept which can be applied in the city, on the farm, and in the wilderness. Its principles empower people to establish highly productive environments providing for food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs, including economic. Carefully observing natural patterns characteristic of a particular site, the permaculture designer gradually discerns optimal methods for integrating water catchment, human shelter, and energy systems with tree crops, edible and useful perennial plants, domestic and wild animals and aquaculture.

Permaculture adopts techniques and principles from ecology, appropriate technology, sustainable agriculture, and the wisdom of indigenous peoples. The ethical basis of permaculture rests upon care of the earth-maintaining a system in which all life can thrive. This includes human access to resources and provisions, but not the accumulation of wealth, power, or land beyond their needs.


Guild plantings are fundamental to permaculture design.  The concept is very simple:  A central plant, say a fruit tree, is specifically surrounded by other plants that provide certain beneficial services to the central plant.  For example, an apple tree might be companion planted with comfrey as a source of green manure and mulch; with shallow-rooted bulbs such as alliums to suppress grasses;  with herbs such as dill and fennel to attract beneficial insects; with dandelion as a deep-rooted nutrient accumulator; and with nasturtiums as a pest-insect repellent.  These plants act in concert for the benefit of the central plant, and can greatly reduce both the amount of labor and water required to maintain an orchard. Natural systems work in very much the same way.

I highly recommend the book “Tomatoes Love Carrots” (as silly as that sounds) as a great reference for guild/companion plantings- because just like people, some plants get along very well, and some just don’t.

This video that I would like to share with you was made by some friends of mine on Orcas Island, WA.  They are currently working on what has been described as the premier homestead-scale permaculture farm in North America.

What permaculturists are doing is the most important activity that any group is doing on the planet. We don’t know what details of a truly sustainable future are going to be like, but we need options, we need people experimenting in all kinds of ways and permaculturists are one of the critical gangs that are doing that.
– David Suzuki, International Environmental Advocate

This diary is an attempt to bring permaculture to a wider audience.  If the interest is there (let me know) I will hopefully be doing this bi-weekly.  Questions are encouraged.

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