Pest Patrol with Amy Grisak

Sure, Bambi is cute, but her appetite can just about ruin a garden. You don’t want the poor thing dead, just gone. OK, so what really works? And, while we’re at it, what works with Peter Rabbit and his family, too? This is the place to discuss those annoying critters, even if they were ‘here’ first! Goodbye, cuties!

Creating a fruit tree guild Blog Image

Creating a fruit tree guild

Are you looking for a way to reduce pests and increase nutrients to your fruit trees? If so, you might want to look into creating a fruit tree guild. Ive been bit by the permaculture bug this year, and am fascinated by the concept of creating a food forest around my home.

There are books written about permaculture and it doesnt happen overnight, but one of the techniques Im going to implement this year is creating these guilds around our struggling fruit trees. Its tough to get them established around here because our soil is so poor, the wind literally beats them to death, and the water is less than ideal. Weve lost a couple of trees to fire blight, and the ones remaining arent going to win any blue ribbons. Its time to step up the game.

A fruit tree guild is basically bringing in a variety of plants to fulfill various requirements of the apple (or pear or whatever) tree. Grass, on the other hand, competes directly with it because the root levels are at about the same level as the feeder roots of the apple. Plus, grass (as in lawn turf) doesnt bring anything to the situation. It just is. A guild has a wide variety of plants, and each have multiple functions.

For example, one of the choices for close to the trunk are bulbs, particularly daffodils because they keep grass out and a lot of animals dont like them. Last year we had a terrible time with voles chewing the bark off of trees and shrubs; daffodils at least put up some sort of barrier that they might avoid. Its recommended to also plant bulbs (you can include alliums, too) in a circle around the tree following the dripline of the branches. The good thing is the foliage dies back in the summer, and doesnt compete for moisture from the tree.

When youre thinking of a permaculture set up you want to be mindful of the big picture. Everything works together. Many of the plants are used to loosen soil, bring nutrients to the area, offer habitat for beneficial insects or food for birds (which in turn eat other insects that may not be beneficial). Once you start thinking about how its all interconnected, it really makes sense.

So besides the bulbs (which is a good thing my bulb numbers are increasing exponentially around here and I was wondering where I was going to move them) under the trees, Im going to seed dill and cilantro. Of course, I use both of these in the kitchen, but their umbrella-type flowers are also great for parasitic wasps and other good guys. Im also going to plant yarrow (another pest repellent plant), as well as a butterfly bush, Perovskia, salvia and borage to encourage pollinators.

A must have for a fruit tree guild is comfrey. The taproot goes a long ways into the soil, and does not compete at all for nutrients. It also brings up minerals, such as calcium and potassium, that are typically out of reach of the tree. When I chop off the leaves of the comfrey, and allow it to compost back into the soil, the tree will be able to utilize the minerals. Nifty, huh? Dandelions, chicory and plantain do the same.

Finally, I also need to include those plants that fix nitrogen. As Toby Hemenway said in his book, Gaias Garden, Since all important nitrogen is so freely available from the air, it seems silly to be constantly lugging bags of it into our gardens. Amen, brother. Ill plant beans, fava beans, peas and alfalfa to remedy the situation. Everything Ive been studying makes sense to me, so Im anxious to implement it!

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Amy Grisak

Meet Amy

Deer, elk, rabbits, squirrels, slugs, beetles, rattlesnakes, and bears, oh my! Amy Grisak knows how to solve those pesky pest problems.

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Create healthy soil now for healthy plants next season
Plant now to avoid pests and enjoy a fall harvest
Pests in the pond
Of swallowtails and Asiatic lilies
Organic options for fire blight
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Granulosis virus for codling moths and the mystery of the wilting apple tree
Garlic problems
Plan ahead for food donations
Appreciating our backyard butterflies and moths
A windscorpion in the neighborhood
Choosing deer resistant shrubs for the landscape
See how much a heat mat helps plants grow
Be proactive against pests during a drought situation
It’s time to stop and eat the weeds
Giant hogweed must die!
Those poor, cold little ladybugs
Planting when it’s already so dry
Deer behaving badly
Eek! I have apple mummies!
When bad bugs are good
How to prevent damping off in your seedlings
Will the cold winter knock down the pests?
How to top graft tomatoes
Using an electric fence to keep the dog out of the garden
Ticks and the Japanese Barberry
Watching Out for Winter Lawn Damage
Bokashi composting to take care of kitchen waste
Bees gone wild
The deer found the pumpkins
Got ducks?
Eliminating mealy cabbage aphids
Not so peachy pear slugs
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Using permaculture as pest control
Are solitary bees the future of pollination?
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Choosing new seed potatoes for a successful potato harvest
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Creating a fruit tree guild
A little about companion planting
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What is Integrated Pest Management
Stink bugs and invited pests
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