The Gift of a Guild

Bare Roots has officially entered the realm of permaculture with the planting of a guild at the site of our community garden! Permaculture is a big buzz word in the gardening and regenerative agriculture community. It is defined as a system of agricultural and design principles simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems.1 The term permaculture was developed and coined by David Holmgren, then a graduate student, and his professor, Bill Mollison, in 1978. Mollison has said: “Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.”

Bare Roots steering committee member and master gardener, Lanny Ellis, wanted to start small. He and a group of volunteers planted the guild along the fence line of the community garden on top of a berm, built with the intent to help build productive soil. The group completed the guild on November 5th. Within a year’s time, the plan is to expand with another guild planted into the field site on the east side of the community garden. This initial guild is made up of:

One Mutsu apple tree, one Alexander apple tree, two black currants, two elderberries, two catmints, two hummingbird mints, one mountain mahogany, one Siberian pea shrub, four woolly thyme and two strawberry plants. 


A permaculture guild is defined as a grouping of plants, trees, animals, insects, and other components that work together to help ensure the health and productivity of the entire system.2 All the plants, from overstory trees to the choice of ground cover, give and take at different rates from the ecosystem. Bare Roots is off to a good start with this initial guild. The mountain mahogany in the mid story and Siberian pea shrub in the over story add nitrogen that other plants take out of the ground. The apple trees are over story fruiting perennials that will provide soil stabilization and help sequester carbon. The currant and elderberry are mid story fruiting perennials. The catmints and hummingbird mints will help attract pollinators. The woolly thyme and strawberry provide ground cover. In addition to the diversity of plants, spent grain was added to the top of the soil over each plant to help keep the ground around the roots moist while also adding more nutrients and beneficial microbiota to the soil. The additional mulch will ensure weeds and other unwanted plants can’t spread as easily. Later in the spring, comfrey will be planted for additional ground cover and nutrient accumulation.


A special thank you to Colorado Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute for the insight and advice as well as for the donation of some plants.

Thank you Vail Brewing Company for the spent grain donation.

And of course…thank you so much to our dedicated and passionate volunteers for helping to make this project possible!

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