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March 2022

Gardening/ Orchard

20 Easy Plants for a Fruit Tree Guild

On my suburban lot I like to use my space as efficiently as possible. So I plant my fruit trees in a food forest of overlapping fruit tree guilds.

In a FRUIT TREE GUILD all the understory plants contribute to the health of the fruit tree, but many of the plants offer one or even two additional benefits. These benefits include: attracting pollinators or deterring pests or weeds, providing living or biomass mulch, providing nitrogen or other nutrients to the tree, or being medicinal or edible to humans or animals.

I prioritize many of the blooming plants that are pollinator attractors or can be used as cut flowers to help beautify my orchard because my orchard is in the front yard of my house. I also prioritize edible plants and herbs to make the most of the space.

I currently have 4 apple trees, 1 sour cherry tree, 1 peach tree, 1 native plum tree, 1 persimmon tree, 3 paw paw trees, 1 fig tree, and 1 dwarf mulberry tree. I have designed a naturalized-style planting of a food forest where the benefits of the plants provide for multiple trees at once.

20 Fruit Tree Guild Plants Grouped by Benefit to Orchard

When planting my orchard I have tried to look for plants in each of the categories to benefit my orchard. The parts of a guild are not set in stone so you may find various lists with different beneficial parts to a guild.

Sometimes they are just additional sub categories of a more basic category. “Cut Flowers” is not traditionally a fruit tree guild benefit–it is a subcategory of human benefit—but I found it informative to my style of gardening to know that some of these plants traditionally found in fruit tree guilds have this additional human benefit as well.

Guild BenefitPlant
Pollinator AttractantBee Balm
Pest RepellantCalendula
Nutrient AccumulatorYarrow
Living MulchViola
Wild Violet
Grass SuppressorDaffodil
Edible (Research to know which part is edible)Borage
Wild Violet
Nitrogen FixingPeas
Cut FlowerYarrow
Table of Fruit Tree Guild Plants Grouped by Benefit to Orchard

These plants can be grouped in any combination. One plant can fulfill many roles to benefit the guild. Or you can choose different plants fo provide each benefit.

In addition it simply benefits the guild more and adds more diversity to add any additional plants from each category.

I will share three examples of fruit tree guilds in my orchard, and after that I will share photos and tips for all the listed plants.

Example Cherry Tree Guild

My fruit tree guilds overlap into a larger food forest. So far these are the plants I have closest around my Montmorency Sour Cherry tree comprising my cherry fruit tree guild:

  • Pollinator Attractant: bee balm
  • Pest Repellant: onion chives
  • Nutrient Accumulator: yarrow
  • Living Mulch: wild violets
  • Mulching: borage
  • Grass Suppressor: daffodils
  • Medicinal: echinacea
  • Nitrogen Fixing: peas

Example Apple Tree Guild

Johnny Appleseed wanted to see apples all across America, and many people do choose apple trees for their home orchard. I have four different apple trees: Jonafree, Pristine, Enterprise and Gold Rush. This is the list of guild plant I have planted around my Enterprise apple tree:

  • Pollinator Attractant: fennel
  • Pest Repellant: perennial garlic
  • Nutrient Accumulator: yarrow
  • Living Mulch: strawberries
  • Grass Suppressor: daffodil
  • Medicinal: calendula
  • Edible: strawberries
  • Nitrogen Fixing: lupine

Peach Tree Guild

I love growing peaches because they are my first tree to leaf out each year and that always gives me so much hope for the upcoming year. I have planted a Redhaven peach because it is self-fertile. Here is a list of plants in my peach tree guild:

  • Pollinator Attractant: mint
  • Pest Repellant: chives
  • Nutrient Accumulator: yarrow
  • Living Mulch: wild violets
  • Mulching: rhubarb
  • Grass Suppressor: chives
  • Edible: rhubarb
  • Nitrogen Fixing: lupine

Fruit Tree Guild Plant Photos and Tips

Bee Balm: Pollinator Attractor– It is totally adored by the bees.  It did not bloom the first year I planted it.  But by the second summer it was already taller than the dwarf sour cherry tree I planted it next to. 

Around here I often see a bright variety in people’s yards as well.

Echinacea Pollinator Attractor, Medicinal– These flowers, also known commonly as “purple coneflower” attract all kinds of flying insects.  The butterflies are especially fun to watch.

Echinacea is traditionally used to support the immune system. I have not yet experimented with using my home-grown echinacea medicinally.

Yarrow: Pollinator Attractor, Dynamic Accumulator, Cut Flower–I planted my yarrow from a seed mix called the “Colorado Mix”.  I ended up with a white, yellow, hot pink, and pale pink.

It spreads readily and needs to be split every third year.  I have it planted quite a few places in the orchard and I’m really excited with how much it’s grown and how much the plants are are filling out– the colors are really fun as well 

Yarrow can be used in cut flower bouquets or can be hung and dried to use as a dried flower as well.

Borage:  Pollinator Attractor, Dynamic Accumulator, Mulching Plant, Edible–It produces periwinkle blue flowers that are edible.  People say it tastes like cucumber. I don’t notice a specific flavor other than a sweet drop of nectar.

The plants grow quite tall (around 3 feet)and leafy which will die down in the fall and provide mulch.

Calendula: Pollinator Attractor, Medicinal, Edible, Pest Repellant–Calendula flowers can be collected to infuse in oil and use for making salves and lotion bars.  If left on the plant the flowers go to seed and will self-seed each year easily.  

There are many varieties, but this classic orange “Resina” variety is the most prized for medicinal usage.

Violas Living Mulch, Edible–I planted some little violas from seed.  They have edible flowers to use in salads or sugared or pressed in to cakes or cookies.  

Strawberries Living Mulch, Edible. They have taken well in the wood mulch and they are spreading through runners.

Crops such as strawberries may not produce as much in a fruit tree guild as in a dedicated strawberry bed.  But the trade-off is the benefit it is giving to the tree.  

Fennel: Pollinator Attractant, Edible–My kids love to chew on the licorice-flavored fronds which are also good with fish.  If you dig up the bulb it is good in soups and salads.  

In this picture it is very young. By the end of the summer the fennel can grow 5 feet tall. The seeds can be collected as well and are a common ingredient used in sauerkraut.

Perennial Garlic: Pest Repellent, Grass Suppressor, Edible–Hardneck garlic is perennial and so you do not have to harvest it each year.  But you may need to split the clump every few years.  

It also produces edible “scapes” which can be eaten. However they develop further into little edible “bulblets” of garlic that are more similar to cloves of garlic that you can use and still leave the bulb in the ground to benefit the orchard.

Wild Violets: Living Mulch–I would rather not have quite so many. Wild violets are a “weed” in my area, and 6 inches of wood chip mulch over cardboard didn’t offer much deterrent.

I’ve decided to accept their presence because they do make an effective living mulch in my orchard guilds.  

In the spring they produce sweet edible purple flowers, and their leaves can be added to salads as well. (If you did not purchase the plants or seeds always be sure you are 100% certain you have properly identified a plant you believe to be edible.)

Onion Chives: Pest Repellant, Grass Suppressor, Edible, Nutrient Accumulator–All parts of the plant are edible. It is easy to grow from seed or you can spilt a large clump to divide into two.

It will bloom annually starting its second spring.

Daffodils: Pest Repellant, Cut Flower, Grass Supressor.  Traditional wisdom states that if you want to prevent grass and moles or gophers from getting close to your fruit trees you should plan daffodils in a circle touching bulb to bulb the whole way around.

Unlike your prized tulips, deer will not eat daffodil bulbs, so plant away!

Daffodil bulbs spread, and if you want to keep enjoying blooms you need to make sure they don’t get too crowded.

Rhubarb: Mulching, Edible.  Rhubarb leaves contain toxic levels of oxalic acid and should never be eaten by humans. However, when the plant freezes in the fall the leaves create good mulch in the orchard.

The pink or red stems are tart and edible, usually cooked into chutneys or pies.

Elderberry: Pollinator Attractor, Mulching, Edible, Medicinal– Always consult a wild edibles book to properly identify elderberries to make sure they are safe to eat. We dug up some shoots from down by the creek–a common place to find them.

Elderflowers smell delicious and you can make them into a syrup for elderflower cordials. When fully ripe the berries can be cooked into a medicinal syrup to support the immune system.


Blueberry plants: Edible–Blueberry plants have specific PH needs. They prefer soil PH as low as 4-5.  If your native soil is unfavorable you may find they perform better in pots. Peat moss is often used as a soil amendment to lower PH along with “acid-lover” fertilizers.

Raspberries:  Edible–Berries are a delicious layer to the food forest. Providing food for people and animals alike.

Take not of whether your variety is summer-bearing or fall bearing. This will dictate the maintenance they will need.

Nasturtium: Pest Repellant, Mulching, Edible–Nasturtium have beautiful spicy edible flowers that are sharp like mustard greens and fun to add to salads. They will vine out quite large and provide some mulching benefit.

Mint: Pollinator Attractor, Pest Repellant, Living Mulch, Edible, Cut Flower– I rooted some mint cuttings to plant in my orchard. I hope they will compete with the wild violets and creeping Charlie. Mint is known to be an aggressive spreader, so take care if that is not what you want.

Mint is a fragrant addition to cut flower bouquets, but is also edible and commonly used in baked goods and drinks.  

Peas: Nitrogen Fixer, edible–The first year I planted my orchard they were all just bare trunks with tiny “feather” branches. So I figured I might as well use them as little pea trellises. Pease help make nitrogen available to the tree and are delicious to eat as well.

Lupine: Nitrogen fixer, Pollinator attractor–Going forward I want to add more lupines as a beautiful nitrogen fixer to my fruit tree guilds.

Why These Plants are “Easy”

Many of the plants on this list are perennial which means they will grow back each spring. So you do not have to plant new ones each year.

Also, most perennial plants spread over time. The group or clump will get bigger and bigger. After a few years you can split these clumps to move part of it to fill in a spot that is empty.

These include: bee balm, echinacea, yarrow, elderberry, daffodils, lupine, mint, raspberry, wild violet, strawberries, onion chives and perennial garlic.

Quite a few of the rest of these plants are prolific self-seeders. This means that even though the plant will die each winter, if you leave the blossoms on the plant to dry in the summer and fall, they will drop their seeds and plant themselves again for next year.

These include: borage, calendula, fennel, violas, and nasturtium.

Through perennial spreading and self-seeding you can increase the number of plants in your orchard without heading to the nursery to buy any more.

How to Plant a Fruit Tree Guild

Plants in a fruit tree guild will do the most benefit for the tree if they fall within the “drip zone”. This is the area under the fruit tree where the majority of the roots of the tree reside and generally corresponds with the diameter size of the canopy of the tree.

When you first plant your tree this area is quite small. (See my article on planting fruit trees in clay soil which also includes general fruit tree planting tips.).

Since your fruit tree will immediately begin to grow branches, you can start by adding your guild plants within a 3-4 foot diameter circle around the tree. As your tree gets bigger you can expand that circle by splitting and spreading out your perennials, or adding additional plants outside that original circle to correspond with the growing size of the tree.

Have you planted a fruit tree guild? Share your favorite plants in the comments!

Guild Plants Video

If you want to see how this all looks together in my orchard, watch this video:

Gardening/ Vegetable Gaden

Seven Steps to Growing Larger Garlic

Garlic is on of the easiest things to grow in the garden and also it grows at a time of year when nothing else is growing which is really motivating and enjoyable as a gardener.

There are some important tips to help the garlic that you grow to be even bigger. I know that I hate peeling off a little garlic papers when I’m trying to chop garlic for dinner so bigger cloves of garlic is definitely a win.

To grow the biggest cloves of garlic you need to select the largest heads and cloves for planting, plant in the fall for proper vernalization with generous spacing, fertilize properly, and avoid harvesting prematurely.

Read along and I will explain each of these steps.

Plant only the Largest Cloves

The first thing to do is separate the clothes of garlic from the head. You will start to see that some of the cloves are bigger than the others. Only keep the largest cloves to plant. You can take these little ones and put them in the cupboard or in fridge to use in your cooking.

You want to leave the paper around the clove in tact. It is going to help the clove to not rot in the soil before it starts growing.

Consider how many heads of garlic you use in a week or month to decide how many cloves to plant. Each clove of garlic will grow a whole new head of garlic.

Plant 4-6 Inches Apart

I plant my garlic at least 4 to 6 in apart. This will give the garlic plenty of space to for the heads to plump up nice and big.

Every once in a while I’ll accidentally plant two smaller cloves of garlic that are together wrapped up in paper and look like a single large clove. When that happens I’ll get two shoots growing out of the same spot and both of them will compete for sunshine and nutrients and I end up with two very small heads.

Plant with the flat side down–that’s where the roots are going to come out. And the pointy side up–that’s where the shoots grow from. Plant 2-3 inches underground. The hori hori is a great tool for this job.

Plant in Late Fall

For most places the proper planting time is late fall. In the Northern Hemisphere this is usually mid-October to mid-November. This is after we’ve had our first freezes but before the ground is frozen solid.

(If you live somewhere that doesn’t go through such a harsh winter– you may not need to plant your garlic so early. You may wait until January or later to plant your garlic so just check your local Extension office.)

With a good late fall planting there’s enough time before the ground freezes for the garlic to start start to sprout a little bit. And it will send out some roots and it will just wake up from its dormancy a little bit. It may even get a few inches of shoots above ground.

If it goes fully dormant for the winter before it has sprouted the garlic will sit there in the ground and it could simply rot.

If you wait until spring planting time to start planting your garlic what you’ll end up with his clothes of garlic that will grow and they will send out shoots out the top but they will never form a head of garlic underground. This is still usable product it goes by the name of green garlic and it’s delicious for making pesto or for using in stir fries.

It does not form a head because it did not get it’s period of cold vernalization. You can experiment with getting around this by purchasing pre-chilled garlic, or try chilling it in your fridge for a few weeks before planting.

Mulch 4-6 Inches

Cover the garlic with a nice thick 4-6 inch layer of a light mulch like straw or leaf mulch.

This is to help the soil retain moisture and to prevent erosion and prevent nutrient loss over the course of the winter. This is going to let the garlic start growing nice and early in the spring as soon as conditions are perfect.

Spring Maintenance

There are two necessary jobs to do in the spring.

Even though you planted your garlic in fertile, healthy soil, garlic is a heavy feeder which means it really needs an application of fertilizer in the springtime. Liquid seaweed fertilizer is a great natural fertilizer to use.

The second job you only have to do if you are growing hard neck varieties of garlic. Hardneck garlic will grow scapes in the springtime which need to be trimmed off.

Scapes are flower buds that grow out the middle of the plant on a stalk. The flower bud develops into small bulblets of garlic. These bulblets are intended to grow new garlic plants, so a lot of energy from the plan goes into develop those plants. So if you’re growing your garlic for nice large heads you want to trim off those garlic scapes to prevent that energy loss.

Don’t Harvest Too Early

To get the largest head of garlic it’s very important to harvest at the right time. Many people may see their garlic pop up in the spring and think that then it should be ready to harvest in a month or two, but this is not the case.

In most areas of the country garlic is not ready to harvest until at least the first week of July. To see if your garlic is ready to harvest, look for the bottom two sets of leaves to start to dry up and turn brown.

When you see this sign you can dig down a little bit and pull out a test head of garlic from the ground. Look for ridges or lines between the cloves showing a definition between the cloves of garlic. Once they start to form ridges with this definition between cloves you know that the head of garlic has reached its peak of growing and that it’s about as large as it’s going to get, and you can harvest at that point.

Plan for Next Year at Harvest Time

I like to pull off the outer set of leaves right at the time of harvest because they come off so easily at that point. Then you have beautiful clean, white garlic. You need to set out the garlic in shady spot with good air circulation to cure until the stems are dry.

This is a great point of time to sort your heads of garlic and put aside the largest head. Save your largest heads for planting next year.

This process of only planting the largest heads that you grow and only planting the largest cloves of garlic from each of those heads is going to over time select for those growing properties. And your garlic will grow larger and larger over the years.

There’s always variations of weather and climate from year to year which will cause variations. So it’s not always a linear progression but over time you will see larger and larger heads of beautiful garlic.

Main Dish/ Recipes/ Side Dish

Ham Fried Rice

My kids always eat fried rice and never complain about it. It comes together really quickly and easily for a fast weeknight dinner. And you can actually switch out the meat and vegetables to use the things you have on hand.

Fried rice can be made vegetarian without any meat. It can also be made including almost any kind of meat–fresh or preserved. Ham or shrimp are common, but chicken and beef are popular as well. Fried rice is traditionally made with leftover vegetables. It almost always includes onions, but can also include peas, mushrooms, carrots or many other vegetables.

I intentionally buy a ham larger than our family needs for one meal, so that I can use the leftovers for recipes like this.

I like to make fried rice using the leftover chunk of ham on the end of the ham bone that was not spiral sliced so I get nice cubes of ham. But you could use ham slices chopped up as well. (If you want to know what to do with the ham bone, check out this recipe!).

Slice ham into half inch cubes.

Slice 2-3 green onions into quarter inch slices. (Have you ever tried regrowing green onions from the root ends? It actually works pretty well.)

Set aside the green slices for garnish.

Crack four eggs into a bowl. Whisk eggs.

Add 2 tbs olive oil in the pan and 2tsp toasted sesame seed oil to wok or cast-iron skillet. Heat up until oil shimmers.

Add the ham and the onion to the skillet along with frozen peas and sauté those up for a minute. Next add the rice.

It’s best to use cooked and cooled rice. If it isn’t fully cooled down then fried rice will end up a little more gummy. But in a pinch you can still use it.

Then then I add a splash of soy sauce for a little salty flavor.

Finally, pour in the egg. Immediately start stirring the rice. The idea is to get every grain of rice coated with a little bit of egg. After stirring, let it sit for a minute to cook on the bottom and then stir it again.

When there is no more uncooked egg, remove from heat. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and with some green onions.

Serve along with potstickers or just enjoy fried rice as a main dish itself. 

Ham Fried Rice

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Main Dish
Serves: 6
Prep Time: 40 Cooking Time: 20 Total Time: 1 hour

A delicious family-friendly recipe to use up extra ham.


  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 cup cubed ham
  • 2-3 green onions
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil



Cook rice your preferred way. Fluff rice, allow to cool.


Slice ham into half inch cubes. Slice green onions into quarter inch slices. Set aside the green slices for garnish. Crack eggs into a bowl. Whisk eggs.


Add olive oil and toasted sesame seed oil into wok or cast iron skillet. Heat up until oil shimmers. Add the ham and the onion for the skillet along with frozen peas and sauté those up for a few minutes until the onions soften. Next add the rice. Then pour soy sauce over the rice, stir.


Finally, pour in the egg. Immediately start stirring the rice. After stirring, let it sit for a minute to cook on the bottom and then stir it again. When there is no more uncooked egg, remove from heat.


Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and with some green onions.


Serve along with potstickers or just enjoy fried rice as a main dish itself.