Creating a Community Guild

Food Forest Collage

It has been a fantastic month for the Urban Food Forest team! Many essential changes took place on the site, and we are thrilled to announce that planting has officially begun.  After many loads of soil, manure, wood chips, and leaves, the site is starting to transform into a beautiful growing space. We have transitioned much of our work tasks from inside to outside, and it feels great to be spending our days in the Spring sunshine!

The old saying, ‘many hands make for light work’ couldn’t be truer this month as we welcomed the many helping hands of volunteers onto the Urban Food Forest site.  Each Wednesday we have continued to host our Work Party Wednesdays, which are always a wonderful time filled with good work, friendship, and laughter. We have also been extremely fortunate to have student volunteers from both Queen Margaret’s School and Duncan Christian School join us out on the site. As we continue with community building around our project, we are reminded of how lucky we are to be working in such an inspiring place!Dandelions

Have you ever considered planting a guild in your garden? In food forestry, guilds are used to create mini ecosystems around your fruit trees, encouraging positive ecological exchanges between species. We were lucky to spend another day this month with Javan Bernakevitch studying permaculture design, and he shared many excellent tips with us for introducing guilds into a garden.

Guilds are centered on a key species, which in food forestry, are typically fruiting trees, including apples, plums, pears, etc.  In the absence of guilds, grass typically grows under fruit trees.  Grass is a voracious competitor, taking nutrients and water from the tree.  In contrast, guilds utilize support species, providing the fruit tree with needed functions instead of competing with the tree.  There are 5 different types of support species, which boast specific support functions:

1 – Nitrogen Fixers (at least 3)
Often the pioneering species in a new area, these plants work to add nitrogen to the soil, an essential ingredient for happy plants!
Examples include: Clover, lupin, peas, and beans.

2 – Insect Attractors (at least 1) 
These plants are great for attracting insects to the guild, necessary for pollination.
Examples include: Mustard, yarrow, columbine, mint, bee balm, borage, comfrey, lovage, dill, and parsley.

3 – Mulch Makers (at least 1) 
When they lose their leaves, these plants work as great natural mulchers!
Examples include: Comfry, vanilla leaf, squash, bracken ferns, clover, strawberry, and miner’s lettuce.

4 – Insect Detractors (at least 1)
Plants that deter insect pests from the garden.
Examples include: Nasturtiums, marigolds, onions, and other bulbs.

5 – Dynamic Accumulators (1-2) 
Plants that are compost catalysts, specializing in enzymatic digestion. Examples include: Yarrow, comfrey, borage, and nettles.

Note* Guild planting occurs within the drip-line of the key species (the area defined by the circumference of the tree’s canopy with mature).

If you are interested in learning more about guilds, or becoming involved in something spectacular, each Wednesday from 3:30-5:30 we will be hosting our volunteer Work Party Wednesdays at The Station (360 Duncan Street), the site of CGC’s new Urban Food Forest! For more information, contact

Be sure to keep your eye to the sky and your ear to the earth for the sights and sounds of spring coming from the Food Forest.

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