Apple guild (Golden Delicious)

Introduction

This guild was developed for a Golden Delicious apple tree. The bare rooted tree was planted in 2015 with compost, tree starter and mycorrhiza. The soil in the immediate vicinity is relatively friable. Soil testing of the broader site 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 3 of the Lyneham Commons in Canberra, Australia.

Apple guild Golden Delicious
Apple Guild (Golden Delicious)

 

Common name Variety Botanical name
Sage common Salvia officinalis
purple Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurescens’
variegated Salvia officinalis ‘Icterina’
Spearmint Mentha spicata
Garlic chives Allium tuberosum
Parsley root Petroselinum crispum ‘Arat’
Alpine strawberries Red wonder Fragaria vesca
Yellow wonder Fragaria vesca
Mignonette Fragaria vesca
Reine des Valle Fragaria vesca
Bush Alpine Fragaria vesca var. Benary Ruegen
Comfrey Russian Symphytum x uplandicum
Woolly vetch  

 

Disease and pests 

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

Two plants have been included to protect against woolly aphid: sage and spearmint. Lacewings prefer to lay their eggs on sage plants and the young  lacewings eat copious volumes of aphids and other pests. Spearmint is a vigorous perennial herb that prefers part shade. The strong fragrance of spearmint is also a pest deterrent; and when it flowers, from December to February, it attracts bees and predatory wasps.

Parsley root has been planted to protect against coddling moth. The umbel flowers of parsley attract ladybugs, lacewings, hoverflies, tachinid flies, and parasitic mini-wasps. The leaves of this herb have a large number of culinary uses and the root can be treated as any other root vegetable, added to soups or stews.

Garlic 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 garlic chives attract bees, hoverflies and Trichogramma micro wasps.

Micronutrients 

Apple trees are prone to three key micronutrient deficiencies: magnesium, potassium and calcium.

The main symptom of magnesium deficiency in cherry trees is yellow interveinal mottling of the older leaves. A lack of potassium effects quality and size of the fruit and leads to bitter pitCalcium improves fruit quality and quantity.

The three herbs that have been planted to repel pests also provide magnesium, calcium and potassium to this guild. Parsley root accumulates magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron to the soil. Spearmint accumulates magnesium and potassium; and garlic chives accumulate calcium.

In addition to these three dynamic accumulators, comfrey has been planted to provide the same nutrients. 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 and heal bruises wounds. Historically comfrey was also taken internally, however the sterile Russian 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.

Alpine strawberries have been planted to accumulate potassium. This variety of alpine strawberry is a runnerless berry that grows about 30 centimetres high in full sun. It makes a good ground cover and produces small, flavourful berries.

Nitrogen 

This guild will be planted with inoculated vetch, an attractive, nitrogen fixing plant known to be a good companion to apple trees. This guild will be located in a polyculture that is planted with acacias and annual nitrogen fixing green manures.

Succession planning 

If the vetch doesn’t self-seed, it may need to be replaced after a few years. The parsley may need to be resowed each year or so. Seed may be saved from these each year. Each two or three years, the chives may need to be divided and replanted. Annual nitrogen fixers such as a climbing pea may be planted so they can climb up the apple trunk. Soil testing will be repeated in coming years to identify any ongoing deficiencies or new soil issues that may need to be remedied.