PICAn Permaculture

I can’t say I expected that I would be here like this right now but here I am! I’m back at PICA for my last quarter doing an internship to break some ground and contribute to the food forest down here. My project is focused around guilding two black walnuts in the food forest.

A permaculture guild is a form of companion planting for fruit (or any) trees to occupy niches and perform ecological functions such as nitrogen fixation, ground cover, and attracting beneficial insects. It could be said that in some ways, the guild attempts to mimic the structure of a forest around a single tree. Walnuts however are more challenging to guild than other trees due to their natural allelopathy that comes from juglone, a compound found in walnut leaves, roots, bark and nut husks. The compound stunts the growth or outright kills many plants and is also toxic to some insects. With this in mind, the selection of plants for a walnut guild is greatly limited, but there are still numerous plants that are juglone tolerant. The guilds so far have had black raspberries, lamb’s ears, and daffodils added in, with New Jersey Tea and chrysanthemums to be planted in spring. The New Jersey Tea was an interesting find as it is a nitrogen fixing shrub that survives well in the shade, making it a great choice for other guilds and it is native to the US.

I’ve had a great experience working in the PICA seminar with other students and sharing about how guilds and the food forest function and mimic an actual forest. Without their assistance, I would have had a very hard time getting all this done, and it wouldn’t be nearly as fun. With each addition we make, we invest a little in the community and create more opportunities for the people next year. It’s been great to be able to contribute to the community in the form of this project and I hope others will build on it in the future.

                                                                                                                                                                           Shane Xiang Hao is a senior at UCSC and is doing a fantastic job on his senior project of PICA permaculturist in residence

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