Brambleberry Farm
Brambleberry Permaculture Farm LLC

Companion Plants to Create Tree Guilds

These plants are planted around the base of young trees to provide a number of different services:

  • Keep grass and other weeds from competing with the roots of the fruit tree. (These plants all have root systems that either do not compete with fruit tree roots or the plants are dormant during the time of year when trees need more water and nutrients.)
  • Provide minerals or nitrogen to support tree growth
  • Provide food or habitat for beneficial insects
  • Many are plants that provide additional harvests to make the square footage that the tree takes up in your garden more productive
  • Alliums (garlic, chives, onions) help deter pests including burrowing rodents, and their flowers attract beneficial insects.

Garlic Chives : Beautiful abundant white flowers attract beneficial insects.  Garlic chives love the light shade cast by a well-pruned fruit tree and will provide plenty of seasoning for your cooking.  Don't die back in summer like Garlic.  Garlic chives are more vigorous and spreading than regular chives.  Full Sun to Part Shade.  Size & Price: Quart pots $6 +tax  OUT OF STOCK


Purple Chives : Beautiful purple globe flowers attract beneficial insects.  Thrive in light shade under fruit trees.  This is the standard chive most often used in cooking.  Don't die back in summer like Garlic.  Full Sun to Part Shade.  Size & Price: 2" plugs $3; Quart pots $6 +tax  OUT OF STOCK


‘Brambleberry's Bombproof Big Bulbil' Garlic : Found growing wild in a ditch up the road where it has formed very thick stands that compete well with sod.  Appears to have rather small cloves, at least in it's wild growing conditions, but is useful as scallions (green garlic).  One of it's most distinctive features is the large bulbils that form at the top of the flowering stalks.  This seems to be the secret to it's vigorous spreading habit, and offers great potential for easy propagation in large-scale plantings.  Full Sun to Part Shade.  Size & Price: Quart pots $6 +tax  

Seed Sterile Comfrey : Considered a “dynamic accumulator,” comfrey has deep tap roots that mine the subsoil for minerals which it makes available to the tree when its leaves die or are slashed periodically throughout the growing season. Comfrey is a “must-have” for every permaculture garden or orchard. It is useful for herbal salves, a wonderful high-protein animal fodder, and attracts beneficial insects. Its leaves are high in nitrogen, and it is used by many organic gardeners as a compost activator. Planted in a ring around a young fruit tree, comfrey grows vigorously, spreads by clumping out and keeps out weeds when full sun is available under the tree (a living mulch). It will gradually die back as the tree gets bigger and casts more shade.  Full Sun to Part Shade.  Size & Price: by the shovelful $12 +tax   


‘ Horseradish :  Full Sun to Part Shade.  Size & Price: Quart pots $6; gallon* pots $12 +tax  


Caucasian Mountain Spinach (Hablitzia tamnoides): A perennial vine that is the new hot thing in permaculture circles.  Related to beets and amaranth, it is a perennial vegetable that actually tastes good! Vigorous grower once established, but like most perennials don't expect to get much off it the first season - that's what annuals are for.  Produces very early in the spring, and can tolerate a lot of shade, though it produces best in sunny spots that have late afternoon shade.  Zones 3-6  Full Sun to Shade.  Size & Price: 2" plugs $3; Quart pots $6; gallon* pots $12 +tax  OUT OF STOCK


Ostrich Fern :  Part Sun to Full Shade.  Size & Price: Quart pots $6; gallon* pots $12 +tax  


Amorpha False Indigo Bush (Amorpha fruiticosa): is an attractive native wildflower shrub. It is a legume, and is often used in permaculture plantings as a nitrogen fixer - usually with the plan to coppice the bush because it will reach a fairly substantial size if not chopped down frequently. 15-18' tall and spreading up to twice that width. NOT edible, it's practical benefits are mostly beauty, nitrogen fixing and soil stabilization, and it also has some potential as a natural insecticide. Fast growing, thornless.  Full to Part Sun.  Size & Price: 2" plugs $3; Quart pots $6; gallon* pots $12 +tax  


‘LSU' Groundnut (Apios americana): An improved variety of a native plant developed at LSU.  There are reports of the tubers reaching the size of basketballs, but they will likely be smaller in our climate.  Wait at least 2 years before first harvest.  Tubers and seeds are both edible, and have high protein content for a tuber (17%).  Prefer rich, well drained soil.  Flowers are fragrant, very pretty, orchid like, smallish, and born in clusters.  Full to Part Sun.  Size & Price: Quart pots $6 +tax  

Herbs:  Check for availability: We often have a small selection of edible and medicinal herbs such as Valerian, tarragon, thyme, licorice, etc.  We are also happy to dig starts from our landscape beds when we have an abundant supply.    


Other useful companions for trees: Siberian pea shrub, Goumi (Nitrogen-fixers)


Also:   All of the bush fruits can be planted adjacent to trees to make use of sun while the trees are still growing, and then cut down or moved when the trees are shading them too much.   Some growers like to trellis a concord grape vine on a fruit tree (if you do this make sure you prune the grape back severely every year or it will overtake the tree.   Also prune off all tendrils each year or they will girdle the tree branches).   Know that the extra shrubs you put around a tree often have a similar root zone/structure and will be competing a little for nutrients and water.   This can be a problem in a drought (we have lost gooseberries under mature fruit trees).   Deeply tap-rooted trees like walnuts and pecans can avoid this phenomenon.

We do not ship plants.  To reserve plants please either call us at 812-723-5259 or email us, and schedule an appointment to pick them up. We can also DELIVER for a fee to our general region.                                                                  

*size designations are nominal. We use “trade gallons” (which are slightly less than a gallon) as well as recycled pots that may vary in exact size. There are a limited number of two gallon plants available – first come first serve.