Mulberry guild

This guild was developed for a white mulberry 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.

Species list

Common name Variety Botanical name
Lady’s Mantle Alchemilla mollis
Borage Blue Borago officinalis
Warrigal Greens Tetragonia tetragonioides
Perpetual Spinach Beta vulgaris
English Spinach Winter Giant Spinacia oleracea
Strawberries Red Gauntlet Fragaria x ananassa
Vetch Wooly Pod  
Climbing bean Haricot Phaseolus vulgaris
Climbing pea Snow pea climbing Pisum sativum

Disease and pests
Mulberries are hardy and not prone to too many pests or diseases. However, this tree is planted on the edge of the food forest, where it is very susceptible to weeds encroaching from outside the site. Many of the plants chosen here will form good ground covers to help suppress weeds. However, Lady’s Mantle has also been included as a ground cover. It is a medicinal herb with attractive leaves. It will benefit from the summer shade provided by the mulberry tree.

While mulberries are not particularly nutrient thirsty trees, it is occasionally recommended they be fertilised with a solution of potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen. As such, this guild is planted with fruits, herbs and vegetables that accumulate potassium and phosphorus.

Borage has been planted to accumulate phosphorus. Borage is a clumping herb that readily self-seeds. Borage leaves can be used to make tea. They also make a beneficial addition to compost. Borage flowers are tasty and have good culinary value; they can be added to salads or frozen into ice cubes. The flowers are also attractive to bees.

Potassium is being accumulated by strawberries and a selection of spinaches. Warrigal greens, sometimes known as New Zealand spinach, are a hardy, perennial, ground covering green vegetable. They are very tasty, but should be blanched before eating, to remove excess oxalic acid. Perpetual spinach is actually a type of silverbeet, but with an appearance more like English spinach. It is a short lived perennial that grows up to half a metre high. English spinach, an easily recognisable vegetable with an upright growth habit that will be planted in Autumn.

Strawberries have been planted in this guild adding to plants that were donated early in the project and capitalising on the sunny spots that will remain as the forest matures. Strawberries are a recognisable plant. It is hoped their presence here will draw people into the food forest. The chosen varieties produce far tastier fruit than that which is available in supermarkets. Strawberries are a perennial clumping plant that sets out runners. When planted in a guild with the other plants here, they should suppress weeds.

This guild will be planted with vetch, a perennial nitrogen fixing plant that also acts as a good ground cover. In autumn, this guild will be planted with a climbing pea. In spring, it will be planted with a climbing bean. In a year or so, it may be planted with a seven year runner bean. This guild is located in a polyculture containing acacias and annual nitrogen fixing green manures.

Succession planning
In the first few years, the bean in this guild will need to be planted annually. When the tree develops more, with stronger trunk and branches, a seven year runner bean can be planted. Perpetual spinach will need to be replaced every few years. English spinach will need to be planted each Autumn.