Raised Bed Guilds

Post your ideas for plants in a raised bed guild here. We'll try to bounce some ideas off each other as a growing community.



  • Hi Veronica,
    Once you have your annual vegetables picked for each raised bed, it's good to then look at each cluster of plants as a guild. A guild is different than looking at the plant families because you are looking at the plants fulfilling a function in the guild. There can be plants in the guild that don't fill a function, other than providing you a harvest. The point of the guild is to think about other plants that might assist with things, like pollinating or ground cover, that don't necessarily have a harvest. Items like yarrow or comfrey are not useful for eating, but they are useful for other purposes in the garden.

    An easy way to adapt your plant families list to make a guild is to go through the list initially and label any plants that might have some functional roles (an example, would be peas providing nitrogen fixation in their roots). Once you've labelled them, you should then consider adding other plants, herbs or perennials, that fill other useful functions in that guild. So you could add dill, yarrow, anise hyssop, or echinacea as insectary plants, comfrey/turkish rocket/burdock/mallow/etc as dynamic accumulators.... The list of plants possible for filling those different functions is a bit more extensive than the plant families list so we don't put an exhaustive list of plants in the Choosing Your Plants module, but if you'd like a comprehensive list, I can recommend 2 books, Edible Forest Gardens v.2 by Dave Jacke, and Creating a Forest Garden: Working with Nature to Grow Edible Crops by Martin Crawford. The Martin Crawford book is much easier to read and generally a bit more useful, although it's more for England and doesn't include as many American natives.

    Just let us know if you have a guild that sounds plausible, and we can review it in the forums if you'd like to make sure it would work in your zone, sun conditions, etc.

  • I got a little lost in the course when it switched from talking about plant families to guild functions of various plants. If I missed something, could someone please point me in the right direction, as I am the type that needs it spelled out in a list... ☺️

  • Wow! I'm going to re-design my garden. I had planned beds to be 3' deep, but now I'm thinking 4'deep to be able to fit in more of a variety. I also love the idea of circular guilds! I have many to plan but my first one will be the guild you provided which contains the tomatoes, beans, basil and oregano. This is a must for my Italian husband! More to follow!

    Nicky Schauder
  • Grass around a tree isn't inherently bad, especially if the tree is established. But it's not as useful as things like garlic or as pretty as daffodils and grass may inhibit other things you would rather have. And if you have Bermuda grass like I do... it's an ongoing battle with very few things that can compete.

    I have borage, dill and nasturtiums, calendula growing under my citrus right now, also a few other herbs that want the shade the tree provides. Also curcubits just because i like them and they shade the roots as the tree shades them.
    Sweet potatoes can be a good ground cover to shade the roots, just don't put them too close or the sweet potatoes may outcompete the baby tree.
    When planting under the tree, make sure you still have a way to get to the fruit (you may not enjoy wading through borage to pick fruit from the tree).
    Those like some awesome lists and I think I'll be copying some of that at my place since i have figs and citrus too!
  • Sandy, thanks for suggesting to look for Permaculture fruit tree guild - that really brings up a lot of suggestions. This is what I found for my fruit trees:
    Fig: peas, beans, nasturtiums, mint, garlic
    citrus: dill, yarrow, thyme, marigold, borage, calendula, legumes, fennel, parsley
    I didn't really find anything for my Jujube trees - does anyone have suggestions?
    I was also puzzled about something I read about apple trees. They recommend daffodils and garlic to discourage the growth of grass around the tree, but I cannot imagine that grass per se is bad? In Germany we have "Streuobstwiesen", meadows with fruit trees loosely planted in them, and they are a great way to produce fruit and provide habitat for lots of species.
    Also, artichoke is mentioned on some websites as having the same benefits as comfrey. Does anyone have experience with that?

  • Kristen, trees as a centerpiece are awesome! I've been playing with that a LOT in my gardens. Just make sure you make it possible to get to the fruit when you want it! If you look for do an internet search for something like "permaculture cherry guild" to see what others have done. I've added borage under my trees for pollinator/accumulator, beans and nasturtiums for nitrogen, curcubits for ground cover, and sweet (not too close! Especially by baby trees) for ground cover/suppressor. Since I have so many starts when I start from seed, I'm even experimenting with putting things like tomatoes and lettuce near the trees. Its so fun to see what works and learn and observe more about my space! I hope you find some cool things to add to your cherry guild!

  • This was a neat exercise. I'm learning so much!!

    These are the things I've come up. Surprisingly, all the things I wanted to grow in particular were found in different families, so that was great!

    Tomatoes - centerpiece
    Garlic - suppressor
    Peanuts - nitrogen fixer
    Celery - attractors
    Cauliflower - not sure what function this plays
    Cucumbers - not sure what function this plays
    beets - not sure what function this plays
    Basil - repeller/attractor (as a bonus for my bed :smile: )

    I've also been thinking about doing this in an in-ground bed, using an existing cherry tree as the centerpiece instead. Any thoughts on this?

  • edited April 2020

    Re the troughs, that is what @Lisa Surendranath is using in her Ohio garden. Lining it with rocks is a good idea since they are tall enough for good root development. Just maybe not tall enough for things like daikon radish or rutabaga to grow big in. I'm so sorry to hear about the chipmunks. Are you pretty sure it's chipmunks? It helps to know the rodents that's doing the damage. We had the same thing happen to us this year. So disheartening. Please do try a taller raised bed or a sort of wire meshed enclosure that you can cover your bed with and easily open for access. Some clients have found that very helpful against squirrels.

    chimpmunks #steeltrough

  • also - we have critters! Chipmunks recently got into our covered beds and ate all of our transplanted lettuce seedlings, so we're hoping something that's about 2 feet off the ground will help?
    maybe it needs to be higher?


  • Has anyone gardened in steel troughs/stock tanks like these:

    We don't have time to build raised beds and thought this might work? I'm slightly concerned about drainage (I heard you can line it with rocks?) Any advice you can offer would be much appreciated! Thank you!

  • That's a perfect use of space Sarah! I love it. When you can draw it out and save the base map (to scan and use for future seasons) But definitely draw your spring garden the way you have described it above. You are getting so ready!



  • I would like to try a three sisters plan in one of my kitchen garden beds. In the main space I plan to put
    dry corn/popcorn - central element
    half runner beans - Nitrogen fixer /legumes
    butternut squash - mulch layer/cucurbits
    yarrow - accumulator
    Because my beds are concrete block I have planting space in the holes around the bed so they will hold a mix of these four:
    Dill , parsley - repeller/umbellifers
    Calendula , Zinna - attractor

  • Laurel, there are two types of comfrey one that spreads and one that doesn’t. So get the Bocking 14 variety that doesn’t spread. In terms of physical space, I would consider comfrey more an herbaceous later just because it’s taller than something that is truly on the ground. But good choice as an addition to a guild!

  • Oh, i forgot a ground cover! Where does one get Comfrey and would it crawl under a fence and infest my neighbors yards? They have very much just lawns.. would i have to line the garden with bricks not just using the fence as the outside? Thank you!

  • For my main bed:

    Kale, spinach, chard- Amaranths

    Sweet Potatos- Solanacea, or if this doesn't qualify, i would do a sweet pepper or Tomato of some kind

    Carrots-Umbellifer,-- b/c the okra grows beautiful flowers, would it quality as a Umbellier?

    Chineese Radish- Brassicas

    Pea sugar snap- Legume

    Okra- I don't know if i can even grow this in southwestern Ontario.. It's a member of mallow family, related to hollyhocks, rose of Sharon and hibiscus. But what Botanical family?

    onion Tropeana Lunga- Allum

    Pink Banana jumbo Winter squash- Cucurbitus

    I'd also like to try a three sisters guild:
    Russian Mammoth Sunflower- Aster
    Kentucky Wonder pole bean- hopfully a good climber- Legume
    Pumpkin Rouge Vif D'Etampes- Cucurbitus (an old french heirloom!)

    PS The side of our house is south facing and would allow for about a 1.5 feet wide (It's a 4 feet wide long space, but only abt 2 feet of the width gets sun) bed.. would the 3 sisters guild do ok along here, if i used the wall as a climbing space or what else of my list might grow there upward, if any??

  • Looks like a yummy and useful guild!

    I don't know about Kentucky, but from what I've seen other places(Utah and Washington state), comfrey grows like crazy so plan to be chopping it often or give it a contained area that's hard to escape from.

    If I remember right, carrots don't flower until the second year, so maybe not good for the role of attractor this fall?
    I like your idea of planting the same thing in both areas. I've learned a lot that way about what works and what doesn't.

    I think sweet potato can act as a suppressor too. Here in AZ it's good for shading roots in the summer, living mulch and even smothers out invasive grasses.

    Good luck!
  • We are busy planning our fall garden! Below is what we have come up with for our Kentucky Garden (zone 6b).

    We have one existing 5x3 raised bed and another 5x5 bed (once we convert it from a sandbox into a grow box using the lasagna method!). We originally planned to do different crops in each box but then decided we should grow the same thing in both so we can learn more about the plants. Here's what we are thinking in terms of plant guild function and diversity:

    • Kale (Brassica)
    • Carrots (Umbellifer; attractor)
    • Sweet potatoes (apparently this is not a solancea, but a convolvulaceae - should we go with regular potatoes so we have a solancea?)
    • Beets (amaranth)
    • Peas (Legume; nitrogen fixer)
    • Garlic (allium, suppressor)
    • Comfrey (mulcher/accumulator) - does this have to go in the box to make it a guild?
    • Yarrow (repeller/ground cover) - does this go in the box too?

    Anyone have any feedback? (first time growers here! ) :) Thank you!
    -Kristina (and Bryan)

  • This is David... just a few quick comments on your 3 sister's choices, Tahira. The idea with the 3 sister's guild is that the corn acts as the pole for the climbing plant, and the squash provides shade for the plant getting too much sun.

    I've found with organic corn, it tends to be shorter than the varieties that you see commercially, only around 5 feet tall. You might want to consider using a sunflower instead since they can get 8 to 10 feet tall with a thick stalk. Soybeans are not climbing beans, they tend to grow about 1-2 feet high, so you might want to pick a climbing bean (I've good luck with gold of bacau pole bean and scarlet half-runner beans). The melon that you've chosen looks good, but it's a fast grower, and a vining melon, so it you would need some sturdy trellising or support for the weight of the vine. You can let the vine sprawl on the ground, but make sure you have space in case in gets upwards of 20ft. long.

    I forgot to post some of my favorite varieties on the Choosing your plants resources. You are the first one to finish Choosing your plants, so it might be a while before others view your post, but if anyone else has any good tips for Tahira, please add them below.


  • Tahira! Thanks so much for your kind words!

    Yes, Your 3 sisters guild sounds perfect! Observe which of the three will grow the fastest. You rock, Tahira! Send us your pics before our next Zoom call so we can get a good look at your yard.

    Well done girl! Well done!!!!

  • Loving your courses. Thinking of doing an herb spiral this year, as well as a 3 sisters kids garden.

    We are using what you sent for the herbs. A couple questions on 3 sisters Plus. Would Golden Bantam Improved Corn, Agate Soybean, and Mother Mary's Pie Melon be a good trio?

Sign In or Register to comment.

GIY Forums

| make vanilla clean and light
@ 2018 Permaculture Gardens.
Powered by VanillaForums, Designed by ThemeSteam

Contact us

Get In Touch