How We Design: Workings of a Support Guild

by ned on October 21, 2010

Young "Regent" saskatoon with non-flowering sorrel, white clover and "Western Front" perennial kale, hydrated by a swale.

This supportive collection of herbs around a young saskatoon fruit shrub will cycle and contribute nutrients into the soil, increasing fertility over time and improving growing conditions for the blueberry-like fruit crop. Sorrel mines scarce minerals and incorporates them into topsoil and clover continuously injects nitrogen into the soil.

This fertility duo enriches the soil while at the same time the sorrel is a deliciously tart salad and soup ingredient and the adjacent perennial kale is a tasty and nutritious perennial vegetable.  Also in this patch is the groundcover green & gold and root crop skirret which are both great nectary species to bring in a variety of pollinating insects.

Perhaps it’s not easy to think of more different ecological interactions that could be incorporated into this human habitat. While this community of species has some good potential interactions, ¬†increased biodiversity and structural habitat would be good next steps toward building more links between species.

The patch above is located on a slope and has been planted below an on-contour swale (visible on the right side of the photo). When it rains, water collects in the swale, infiltrates and hydrates the roots of the plantings below while also storing water in the soil for dry spells.