Midwest Permaculture

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I wish to know what would make a good plant guild in my front and back yards.

The entire property is surrounded by massive Black Walnuts, and both have about 6 hours of summer sun. It's in a small city, soil slightly compact, has an array of wild herbs and grass, that gets cut every week and I''m wanting to plant fruit trees, and support them with other herbs and prennials.

I saw one plant guild out of Gia's Garden, which included Wolfberry or Goji Berry, Hackberry, Mulberry, Currant, some Nightshade and a Russian Olive.

Well if anybody has any knowledge on the subject or know how to test the soil I would greatly appreciate the comments.

Peace upon your Path
Sher-Doc. Yidaki

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Replies to This Discussion

I am currently creating a food forest on my property, and I have many young black walnut trees. In one area I have a sun trap in which I planted peach, pear, fuji & gala apples, cherry and apricot. When ever these fruit tress are within 20 to 30 ft of a black walnut their growth is stunted or the trees slowly die. Black walnut is known to produce the allelochemical, juglone, which is toxic to some trees, shrubs and annuals (including tomatos), and not to others. You can investigate this on-line. In Jacke's 2nd volume of "Edible Forest Gardens" there is a table that lists plants sensitive to the black walnut.


Steve Moring
Vajra Farm
AHH!!! JUGLONE! How I love thee, how I detest thee.

I have a few Black Walnuts on and surrounding my village lot, and it has been an interesting and rewarding challenge to work with them.

This summer I (somewhat successfully) grew Tomatoes in containers under the Black Walnut's dripline. After a heavy rainfall they started to look a little droopy, but as they got more sun and fresh water, they perked back up. I had to move a few out of the area because I was afraid they wouldn't recover, but I found a few plants were hardy enough. From my experience, the cherry varieties I grew, Riesentraube and Blondkopfchen, didn't mind as much as my Amish Pastes did.
I also tried to grow potatoes, which were not successful at all.
The table in Jacke's book is quite helpful, as well as this site, (http://web1.msue.msu.edu/msue/iac/greentip/blackwal.htm).

To Steve- your experience with the stunted fruit trees contradicts most things I have read about juglone-tolerant trees. Do you think there may be any other factors involved? I'm just about ready to plant a peach tree by my Walnut and now I'm slightly concerned!
Just spent the day collecting black walnuts and every so often would take a break to feast on american persimmons. I often find the two trees growing side by side down here in the MO Ozarks.

Caleb Wardlaw
Tributary Farm
My wife and I have been here for 26 years and every year the neighbor's black walnut has had a good planting of daylilies and comfrey mallows , and daffodils beneath it. By the way we have an agreement with the neighbor that we can harvest all,the walnuts we want. Great tasting those black walnuts!
Growing up outside phila. pa we had a very large black walnut with a naturally (at least we didn't plant it) occurring patch of raspberries all around its trunk that I remember eating a lot of.Here is a website with a list of plants for walnut but I would definitely recommend trying the raspberries in close so you can still get the nuts further out. We need info from folks on how to process nuts ( thinking about the mess of dealing with walnuts) too.


eric smith

Here is a link to a wikipedia entry about the "Universal Nut Sheller" developed by Jock Brandis.  It seems like such a simple design that it could be used for larger nuts like the Black Walnuts with a few modifications.  It is a great approach because it can be adjusted.  It uses concrete molded into a tapered cylinder with a tapered cone that fits within it.  The distance between the two can be adjusted in fine increments making it possible to get just the right fit for any diameter shell.


Hope this helps.


I again looked through the article Eric posted to refresh my memory. I have a little food forest I've started around a large black walnut and can say that the large rose hip variety of rosa rugosa have not done well. I know the reason is not that they were weak plants as I planted them in different locations and they have done fine. (On my little lot I've 2 native persimmons and a black walnut, so these grow naturally together in Indiana as well.) Other plants that are doing well after 2 years include spearmint, gooseberry, black raspberry, comfrey and daylily. I'll check on the hazelnut and elderberry when springtime comes!

Has anyone had any experience growing Asian persimmons or almonds next to a black walnut?

Thanks and smiles,
jami scholl

Hi All,


I thought I would give a report that the elderberry and hazelnuts did very well beneath the black walnut one year later. The most notable was that black raspberry that spread voraciously and produced many berries. This year it looks that the the gooseberries will really take off.





In my experience Mulberry does phenominally next to black walnut, both red (native) and white (chinese) thrive and fruit normally as close as can be to a black walnut. Also, my reading leads me to believe that Mulberry will create a buffer in to soil inhibiting juglone from passing to plants on the other side of a Mulberry root zone my observations in the field support this. Also, most alleopathic plants are concerned with disabling competition (hence the lack of grass under black walnuts because they are both surface feeders.) Therefore, many plants, such as smallfruits, should not be affected by alleopathic chemicals produced by trees.
The guild in Gaia's Garden was designed in AZ and therefore there is a difference in the character of their hackberry. Hacks in the SW USA are a shrub or small tree, whereas in the Midwest they almost always attain the height of a large tree (Hackberry seeds are an excellent late season sugar source for humans and wildlife.) Because of their larger size in the North (and the fact that they are also alleopaths,) they made compete pretty vigorously with a co-planted walnut.
As far as nightshade, i've heard peppers work fine but tomatoes i've heard both sides, some say they work some say they don't.
Black Locust is a good native nitrogen fixer, is very hardy and attracts a million bees, a guild which centered a black walnut with a Black Locust (coppicable, and good fuel wood,) nurse and a circle of mulberry (mulberry can be pruned heavily to shape or keep low,) could probably grow quite a wider range of food than a Walnut with no buffer.
Jami, persimmons I have never considered before- are they good and are they a smaller size that work well under walnut? Mulberry would work great and are a great yielding, pest free fruit that is unwisely dismissed currently as a "trash" food. They make great easy pies and probably a good source for wine- their yields are prolific I think .Black locust would work great too, you could limb the walnut for high value timber and create space underneath for the mulberry, black locust and raspberry. Ezekiel, I don't get the logic of why small fruits aren't affected but grass and other trees are. Could you elaborate? Also, greetings to all at Earthhaven- I took part of my certificate training there- it was a great experience and would love to visit again someday. But processing black walnuts still seems a limiting factor- they're just too messy and difficult to crack and clean.
Mulberry yields are variable but in good years are huge, I once filled a 5 gallon jug with mulberries in less than two hours. Persimmons are a tough tree and can deal with a moderate amount of pruning to keep them short and also tend to have a fairly sparse crown, they are also a very high value wood as the only N. Amer. member of the Ebony family.
As far as the alleopathic affects on differing root zones: grasses are the most direct competition for fruit and nut trees (most of which are heavy surface feeders like grasses.) Apparently the only grass that will thrive under a Walnut is Kentucky blue. Why small fruits don't seem to be affected is beyond me, I suspect it is a difference in root zones or perhaps it just has to do with the fact that they would be limited competition to a large tree, I just don't know honestly. I do know that I've seen raspberry under walnut both in cultivation and in the wild as well as black berry and gooseberry in the wild. I also know of one case of two very healthy and productive pears within 20 feet of the base of a very productive and grass massacre-ing Walnut, both are unknown older varieties but may be worth a try.
I live in California. I've been wondering about the validity of the black walnut problem. I got a chance to see a very old apple orchard (luther burbank planted stuff on this property, so I think it's pretty old) where apples and walnuts were planted in the same orchard in seemingly random alternation. the walnuts were all on black walnut understock and soe had overgrown the tops. The apples? They looked just fine. I've noticed a tendency with gardeners to adopt ideas as true which get passed from one person to the next. some of these are human urine is too strong for plants, coffee grounds are too acidic to just put on your plants and comfrey tea is too strong to put straight on plants. I've proven these too basic statement wrong many times. I wonder how true the whole walnut thing really is. I'm sure it's a valid phenomenon and it is a lot of work investment to test an idea like that when growing long lived perenials that take a while to come into bearing, but I think it behooves us to be cautious about accepting these ideas. I personally have just planted an apple near a black walnut seedling that will be grafted over to english walnut. my bet is that the apple does just fine, but only time will tell.



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