Plum guild (Mariposa)

This guild was developed for a Mariposa plum tree. The bare rooted tree was planted in 2015 with compost, tree starter and mycorrhiza. The soil in the immediate vicinity is slightly clay. 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 3 of the Lyneham Commons in Canberra, Australia.

Species list

Common name Variety Botanical name
Perennial leeks   Allium ampeloprasum
Alyssum Purple Lobularia maritima
Lime balm   Melissa officinalis ”lime”
Cerinthe Purple   Cerinthe major
Swan River daisies   Brachyscome iberidifolia
Blue Marguerite   Felicia amelloides
Anise hyssop   Agastache foeniculum
Roundleaf Mintbush   Prostanthera rotundifolia
Tansy   Tanacetum vulgare
Wormwood   Artemisia absinthium
Billy Buttons   Pycnosorus globosus
Nasturtium Ladybird Tropaeolum minus
Peppermint   Mentha x piperita
Yarrow ‘Terracotta’ Achillea millefolium ‘Terracotta’
Lucerne    
Clover White  

Disease and pests

This tree is the first to shoot new leaves each spring. The aphids attack before the ladybirds have awoken from their winter dormancy. As a result, it is a magnet for aphids which devour the second flush of leaves. This weakens the overall tree health, making it more susceptible to diseases including viral diseases transmitted by the aphids and scale insects. The primary goal of this guild is to introduce fragrant plants that will deter the aphids, making the tree more resilient overall, and early flowering plants that will attract beneficial insects to keep the aphid population that do arrive, under control.

Perennial leeks have been planted to help deter aphids. They are a perennial multiplying allium. The leeks may also act as a mild antifungal to help control any diseases that may take hold if the tree is not healthy. Harvesting and chopping and dropping the onion greens will be used as a mild mimicry of allium spray. Many alliums also accumulate potassium, a key nutrient for plums.

Alyssum is a hardy self-seeding ground cover that attracts a range of beneficial insects. The flwoers have a sweet fragrance. A purple flowering variety has been chosen to suit the colour palette of the other purple flowering plants in the guild.

Lime balm has been planted as a fragrant ground cover that helps deter aphids. Lime balm is a subspecies of lemon balm that spontaneously developed from lemon balm seeds. It retains all other characteristics of lemon balm, a common guild or companion plant for fruit trees, but the fragrance of the leaves is of sweet lime not lemon. Lemon balm has been planted at a range of other places within the food forest, so lime balm provides a pleasant change. The leaves of lime balm can be used to make pleasant teas or finely chopped in salads where you might otherwise want a lime flavour.

Cerinthe purple is a self-seeding annual that produces bell shaped flowers very early in the season. It has been planted with the hope it will attract beneficial insects early enough in the spring to help control the aphids. Seed has been sourced from the Diggers Club, whose stock is known to have a particularly vibrant purple colour. The plant also has attractive foliage.

Aster flowers attract a range of beneficial insects. This guild has been planted with two types of daisies both with purple flowers. Swan river daisies are a native ground cover with blue/purple flowers. They will readily self-seed and flower in late winter and spring. Blue Marguerite is a native South Africa shrub with a purple/blue daisy that can flower throughout the year, with greatest profusion in spring and autumn.

Anise hyssop has been planted to deter pests and attract beneficial insects. The foliage has a pleasant aniseed aroma that repels many pests. A perennial herb with tall flower spikes, beneficial insects find shelter in the foliage and are attracted to the nectar in its mint-like flowers. Culinarily, the fresh or dried leaves can be used to make a tea and the flowers can be added to fruit salad. Medicinally, anise hyssop is a soothing expectorant, relieving congestion and suppressing coughs.

Tansy repels aphids and scale insects, and accumulates potassium in the soil. It attracts lacewings, ladybugs, trichogramma wasps and tachinid flies.Lacewings and ladybugs are particularly good predators of aphids, but the others eat them at various life stages too. The leaves and flowers are toxic if consumed in large quantities; this is not a plant to be harvested.

Wormwood has been planted as a general pest deterrent. It grows well in desolate wasteland, so should be fine in the poor soil and dry climate at the Lyneham Commons. Wormwood is an attractive, bushy shrub with silver foliage. It is relatively quick growing. As such, if can be used as a source of biomass. Wormwood has been used as a flavouring and bittering agent, but it can be toxic. It is also used broadly in folklore and ritual.

Billy buttons are a native perennial clumping plant that are frost and drought tolerant. The yellow, globular, long stemmed flowers are attractive to beneficial insects and for use in flower arranging.

Nasturtium is a known deterrent for aphids. They are an annual that is well suited to Canberra summers, but will die off in the frost. It is hoped they will self seed to maintain a presence in the guild. The ‘ladybird’ variety has been chosen here because it’s attractive yellow flowers will match the yellow yarrow, tansy, billy button and wormwood flowers in the north east quadrant of this guild.

Roundleaf Mintbush has been planted to deter pests and attract beneficial insects. It is a native shrub with a mint scent, but it is not in the menthe family. It can be used in similar culinary situations as mint species including in mint tea blends and as a seasoning for lamb. It has very attractive purple flowers that bloom very early in spring. It is hoped they will flower early enough to attract the beneficial insects that will help control the aphids. It is hoped the mint fragrance of the foliage is also help repel aphids.

Micronutrients

Plums can suffer from potassium deficiency. Yarrow and peppermint have been planted to accumulate potassium, but tansy and alliums also serve this purpose.

Peppermint is a hardy ground cover that makes the popular ‘peppermint tea’. While it accumulates potassium, its fragrance repels aphids and the flowers attract beneficial insects. Peppermint will likely die down during winter, but will re-shoot in spring.

Yarrow is a hardy plant that forms a dense, weed suppressing mat that will also hold the soil together on the edge of the berm. It accumulates a range of valuable minerals including potassium. A variety called ‘terracotta’ has been chosen here as a change from the white yarrow which has been planted in many places throughout the food forest. The firey orange flower heads fade to yellow, matching the palette of the north eastern plantings in this guild. The flowers of this medicinal herb can be cut for a vase, used to relieve swelling and hormonal cramps, or made into a tea to help relieve the symptoms of cold and flu.

Nitrogen

Nitrogen will be fixed in this guild by inoculated Lucerne and white clover. When the tree is safe from pests and diseases, it may be planted with a seven year runner bean but for the moment, the trunk and branches need to be exposed for plenty of air circulation.

The guild is located in a polyculture with established acacias to both the north and south. Annual nitrogen fixing green manures are also planted on a biannual basis.

Flowering

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Plum                        
Companions                        

Succession planning

The perennial leeks will need occasional harvesting and the multiplied leeks will need dividing and replanting. It is hoped that alyssum, cerinthe, Swan River Daisies, Blue Marguerite and nasturtium will self sow. Lucerne will need to be resown every few years. If the pests and diseases can be kept under control, a ‘painted lady’ runner bean will be planted to climb the trunk of the tree. Soil testing will be repeated in coming years to identify any ongoing deficiencies or new soil issues that may need to be remedied.