Apple guild (Somerset Redstreak)

This guild was developed for a ‘Somerset Redstreak’ heritage cider apple tree. The bare rooted tree was planted in 2016 with compost, tree starter and mycorrhiza. The soil in the immediate vicinity is relatively friable. Soil testing of the broader showed it to slightly acidic, with an excess of magnesium and a deficit of calcium, phosphorus and nitrogen. This guild has been designed based on interim drip line and has been planted in berm 2 of the Lyneham Commons in Canberra, Australia.

Species list

Common name Variety Botanical name
Lemon balm Melissa officinalis
Clover Clever clover Trifolium subterraneum ‘Dalkeith’
Strawberry clover  
Chives Common Allium schoenoprasum
Sorrel French large leave Rumex acetosa
Moroccan mint Mentha spicata var. crispa
Comfrey Bocking 14 Symphytum x uplandicum
Calendula Sunshine  Calendula officinalis
Bulbine lily Bulbine bulbosa

Pests and Diseases

Apple trees are prone to three key pests and diseases: woolly aphid, codling moth and apple scab.

Lemon balm has been planted to protect against woolly aphid. Lemon balm is a fragrant, vigorous ground covering herb that prefers full sun to part shade. Lemon balm can be used to make herbal teas and to add flavour to a cool jug of water. Medicinally, it is a calming herb.

Strawberry clover and clever clover have been planted to protect against codling moth. Trichogramma micro wasps are the key predator of codling moth. The larva of this wasp feed on the codling moth eggs. These micro wasps are attracted to clover flowers. Strawberry clover is a drought tolerant perennial ground cover with magenta flowers. It is a cultivar developed in Australia that grows annually in autumn, winter and spring, dying down in summer.

Chives have been planted to act as a natural fungicide against apple scab. They have been planted at the base of the tree to also prevent infestations of climbing insects. When they are regularly cut, the smell of chives can also deter aphids. The flowers of chives attract bees, hoverflies and Trichogramma micro wasps.

Micronutrients

Apple trees are prone to three key micronutrient deficiencies: potassium, magnesium and calcium. In addition to acting as a pest deterrent, chives have been planted to fix calcium to the soil. Chives are a perennial, grass suppressing bulb that should be divided every three or four years.

Sorrel has been planted to provide potassium. Apples need an ample supply of potassium during fruit development. A lack of potassium effects quality and size of the fruit and leads to bitter pit. Sorrel is a hardy perennial sun loving herb. Sorrel leaves have a citrus flavour and can be added to salads or cooked into soups. The sorrel is most palatable when it is the young leaves that are picked for salads.

Two plants have been planted to provide magnesium: Moroccan mint and comfrey. The main symptom of magnesium deficiency in cherry trees is yellow interveinal mottling of the older leaves. In addition to providing magnesium, mint also acts as a general pest deterrent and attracts bees and predatory wasps when flowering. Moroccan mint is a ground covering herb that grows approximately 60cm high and wide and makes a particularly fine tea. It flowers from December to February.

Comfrey is a perennial herb with large hairy leaves. It grows in full sun to part shade. It is a highly medicinal plant, primarily used as a poultice to reduce aches and pains, heal bruises wounds. Historically comfrey was also taken internally, however this sterile comfrey planted here is higher in the alkaloid pyrrolizidine than standard comfrey. Pyrrolizidine can have a cumulative effect on the liver, so it is not suggested that our comfrey is ingested. Comfrey will also provide nitrogen and organic matter.

Calendula has been planted to accumulate calcium. It is a hardy annual plant, with daisy like flowers that attract pollinators and other beneficial insects. The flower petals are edible and medicinal. They can be used in salads, or infused into honey or syrup for medicinal purposes. They are also a good inclusion in skin creams.

Nitrogen

This guild includes a native acacia. Clever clover has been planted with the strawberry clover to ensure year round nitrogen fixing. It has been planted with a climbing pea, which will be replaced annually until the tree is mature enough to support a perennial climbing bean. This guild will be located in a polyculture planted with other acacias and annual nitrogen fixing green manures.

Flowering

Bulbine lilies have been planted as a native, edible replacement to daffodils, flowering early in the season to attract pollinating insects. Bulbine lilies have an edible tuber that has been an important starch for local indigenous people for millennia.

Succession planning

Regular harvesting of the chives increases their value as a pest deterrent. Every few year the chives will need to be divided. The mint and lemon balm should be harvested and dried in autumn for use as a tea. Both plants will die down over winter and reshoot in spring. Calendula should self-seed, but the plants will flower longer if they are dead headed. Bulbine lilies can be harvested every few years in the context of a bush foods workshop, when there are young plants to replace them. The guild may also be planted with a perennial nitrogen fixer such as scarlet runner beans. Soil testing will be repeated in coming years to identify any ongoing deficiencies or new soil issues that may need to be remedied.