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Ideas for an Elderberry guild? Harvest?

 
master steward
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I have Elderberries on our fence lines that have the 'natural' look. They have various volunteer trees, wild BlackBerries, and Passion Fruit tangled together. I need armor to do any harvesting.

Elderberry on the wild side


I am considering building a calmer guild around this isolated bush, it is about 8 feet tall, and maybe 10 feet in diameter. The bush is surrounded by grass and Creeping Charlie. There is a columnar maple 5 feet away to the east from the Elderberries' drip line.

Lone Elderberry


Do you have any ideas?
 
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I'd go for partial shade lovers that stay low, the elderberry is a spreading bush that sends up new shoots from the root system, so you don't want to disturb that root system unless you want more elderberry plants coming up.

Squashes like pumpkin would do good as a border in the sun planting but so would watermelon or any of the melons for that matter. If you don't mind climbers getting up into the elderberries then even a loofa would work.
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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They are ripening!

 
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I already have comfrey in my elderberry guild, but I'm also moving "thornless" wild huckleberries from nearby because I noticed some thriving when growing together in a natural situation.
 
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I don't know what your entire situation is , but my inclination would be to fence it and put goats on it after harvest. They'll clean up the unwanted things and won't mind the thorns. Then you could plant and rearrange to your hearts content and the Elderberries should come through with flying colors, happier for the haircut, no?!?

These are by the way only thoughts.  I am just beginning to making a foray into the world of all things Elderberry.  Can't wait to see what you do!
 
pollinator
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:
Squashes like pumpkin would do good as a border in the sun planting but so would watermelon or any of the melons for that matter. If you don't mind climbers getting up into the elderberries then even a loofa would work.



With all due respect I would advise against loofas
as I have seen them crawl up and tug choke/bend to death a 4"+ diameter pine tree.
 
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What is your goal? I’ve seen people mulch with woodchips and then plant herbacious perennials (mint, comfrey, alliums, etc). This works really well as a low maintenance support guild with a potential harvest of herbs. If you are willing to put more work in on a yearly basis, pumpkins or other veggies might be a good option - more work, more yield. If you want to try other shrubs - maybe honey berry, low thorn gooseberries, etc? Thornless blackberry? This would be in danger of overgrowing unless you keep it trimmed, though. I haven’t seen that with elders myself though, so just guessing at good shrub partners.
 
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I found several elderberries on a hike today here in Utah. One elderberry was about 8 feet tall, in a meadow. The striking thing about it was it was totally surrounded by wild mint, about 3 feet high and in flower. A ring of wild mint around the elderberry.

The elderberry and mint both seemed to be thriving.
 
pollinator
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A summer growing, harvesting vine would be neat. Since elderberries are usually ripe early summer.
If one were to choose loofah, one may have to thin it a little. Loofah would likely need to be replanted annually in cooler climates.
Perhaps even a cool weather pea planted in late summer, that is winter killed. It'd grow after the harvest, die back in winter and add nitrogen to the soil. Plus provide a harvest.

We love our elderberries. We grow plants that tolerate moist soil at their feet. We are just beginning our elderberry hedge.
Happy growing.
 
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I found our blue elderberry growing in admist a bunch of salmonberries (literally in the middle of a big hedge). So I'm thinking they'd do well with cane berries. You'd probably want thornless raspberries or blackberries so you don't have to deal with pokies when picking berries. Probably also would like other woodland-type plants, like strawberries. Hostas might work, too!

I tend to put the same sort of perenials under my fruit trees, mainly because that's what I have access the most to:

 ~ sheep sorrel
 ~ french sorrel
 ~ chives
 ~ hostas
 ~ Daylillies
 ~ sweet cicely (self seeds!)
 ~ strawberries
 ~ wild strawberries
 ~ blackcap raspberries by bigger trees (thorny, but so yummy!)

I'm sure there's better, more personalized guilds out there, though!
 
pollinator
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Elder is rejected in native multi species hedge rows here in the uk. It grows very quickly compared to other hedging plants and shades them out, leaving a weaker and gappy hedge. With that in mind I would avoid anything that doesn’t cope well with lots of shade.

Also, don’t be afraid of pruning it at ground level and letting it regrow from roots when it gets too large. The individual stems are relatively short lived, and copicing can revitalise the overall plant. Flowers and fruit are on this years growth, and stems can easily grow 1m per year.
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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2020 UPDATE:

Not much progress on my guild. I've convinced my creeping charlie (Glechoma hederacea) to spread further around the bush. I think it looks much tidier than the tall grass at the bush edge. My bushes are now in full bloom, they smell yummy! I made a cordial a couple days ago that turned out well. I'm looking forward to harvesting a large amount of berries this year. My question today is when do I harvest the berries to beat the birds?

Here is how the fruit looked last year when I first harvested a few panicles. There seemed to be too many green berries on the other panicles so I left them.


Here is what they looked like a couple of days later.


Do ya'll harvest early and just pick out the green berries?




 
pollinator
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Joylynn Hardesty wrote:Not much progress on my guild. I've convinced my creeping charlie (Glechoma hederacea) to spread further around the bush. I think it looks much tidier than the tall grass at the bush edge. My bushes are now in full bloom, they smell yummy! I made a cordial a couple days ago that turned out well. I'm looking forward to harvesting a large amount of berries this year. My question today is when do I harvest the berries to beat the birds?

Here is how the fruit looked last year when I first harvested a few panicles. There seemed to be too many green berries on the other panicles so I left them.


Here is what they looked like a couple of days later.


Do ya'll harvest early and just pick out the green berries?






Depending on the number of berries you want, would you be able to bag some of them on the tree to keep the birds from getting them?    
 
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Thanks so much! I am in the process of building a small guild around a few elderberry plants, and never thought of mint!

(Each guild will be surrounded by brick edging, then grass (it's all part of our edible landscaping). So mint will be safely contained!)
 
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I find it very interesting that American elderberries seem to grow so differently to the wild European ones Sambucus nigra it is a small tree not a bush unless you cut it and it really doesn't need cutting at all to produce, grown in perfect conditions it grows one trunk and gets 3-4m high the large one below has grown with a lot of competition so it is rather taller than average, and has a single trunk around 10 inches in diameter. the group in the photo are basically all alone with a few self seeding sycamore than need oinking out, they give a better indication of the natural form they get here. There is a fair bit of dead standing wood in the cluster and that's great as it grows copious amounts of A. auricula-judae. they don't seem to care what grows around them at all, these ones have ground elder, nettles, thistles, cowparsley and some grass, and that combination is why they don't have any low leaves as the ground-cover gets nearly 6ft high by the end of summer!

Frontbackelder.png
Elder tree, the trunk and flowers
Elder tree, the trunk and flowers
DSC_0219.JPG
Elder grove.
Elder grove.
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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Trace wrote: Depending on the number of berries you want, would you be able to bag some of them on the tree to keep the birds from getting them?    



Ummm no. I want them ALL!! They are mine! Most of the panicles are 10 inches in diameter. That means any bags would need to be manufactured, by me. While I am capable and have enough of the right fabrics to do this, I really need to be working on my money jobs instead. The stand-alone bush exceeds 12 feet in diameter this year. I think the height has topped out at 10 feet. This is my biggest bush. But not the only one. Birdies know where they all are.

I have committed to not using bird netting ever again. I had 2 beautiful blue racers mangle themselves in a trellis of this stuff I set up a couple of years ago. Dang. If only they'd been copperheads.
 
pollinator
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Given the size, would extra pillowcases work?  Just for a week or so for that last burst of ripening?

My two store-bought Sambucus nigra bushes are piddling along at under a meter tall and are supposed to get only a meter and a half tall.  They're not flowering yet.  (At least they're alive!)  They're in a wet, half-shade bed with hazelnuts, bush cherries, honeyberries, hostas, perennial cabbages, alliums, sorrel, and perennial buckwheat.  (This is not an organized guild as much as "whatever can fight off the grass".  Last year I threw some rockcress in for flowers and a few have survived the slugs.  I added some cheap sweet alyssum last week for the same reason and we'll see if they manage there.  Meanwhile the lemon balm from the herb bed is marching in from the north...)
 
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I'm in a Mediterranean climate and I grow spekboom, pelagonium, and Dutch lavender under my elderberry bushes! They do great. Spekboom (portulacaria afra) does well in shade- it gets beautiful glossy leaves.
 
pollinator
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I have many in my guild. It was not planned but there was space I needed. On the south/southwest side I have potatoes in the wood chip mulch around the trees. Some tomatoes, peas, and honey melon to the left. Walking onion, tomatoes, ground cherries, cowpeas and corn in front. Walking onion and eggplant along the other side. On the north end is a flower, herb and veggie garden. Just to the other side of that side is the pollinator for the first tree.
Even the plants close to the trees do not effect my ability to make root cuttings for propagation. I do all of that in the winter when nothing is going on anyway.
That’s just one space. If you’d like to hear about my hugelculture planting area just let me know.
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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Yes please!
 
Scott Stiller
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The pictures below are the elderberry guild I described this morning.
1. The north side flower, veggie and herb garden. Turnips, lettuce, dill, ground cherries, tomatoes cucumbers, borage, Hansen cherry, marsh mallow, agastache and many more!
2. The southeast. Tiny honey melon, tomato, strawberries, dying winter pea.
3. Southwest. You can see corn on the right. It’s in a three foot deep hugelculture. Every year I add compost, wood chips and biomass to bring it back to level. With the corn is tomatoes, cowpeas, eggplant, ground cherries and walking onions.
Just in front of the elderberry are a stand of walking onions.
4. The last potato that I haven’t harvested from the base of the elderberry.
2FC7D5D6-A8EE-4D59-BD1C-BB16F3749813.jpeg
Northside
Northside
EB26DA56-20E2-48C7-95A8-2A1E401132C8.jpeg
Southeast
Southeast
A092E71E-FC82-4305-9069-F231AA5CD899.jpeg
Southwest
Southwest
 
Scott Stiller
pollinator
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Another guild. Six elderberries, red potatoes, Strawberries and grapevine. Up until today there were kale and mustard greens. I harvested them to save seeds.
These are two parallel hugelcultures. First pic is when I build them in 2016. The rest were taken today. The front elderberries were planted two years ago. The ones in back, last year. This spot gets around three hours of sun a day in peak season.
My other elderberries are not pictured. I have them growing as a hedge around my entire backyard. I have them growing with comfrey, shiso, stinging nettle, hops, mimosa trees and sun chokes.
FA8B256E-0B01-4DFF-918F-EBE73A0FAC20.jpeg
2016 hugelcultures
2016 hugelcultures
E9901C32-5F57-4219-9807-C5BE2C4760FF.jpeg
Looking north today
Looking north today
E2C51F34-EEE9-48AA-B32F-E2F63E63C1F2.jpeg
Looking west today.
Looking west today.
 
Scott Stiller
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And then there’s this ambitious little guy. I made it from a root cutting in February and planted a couple weeks later. According to my sun app this month it will get three hours of sun. From what I’ve read this isn’t near enough to produce fruit but here it is. Five months old and full of himself! I had planned on cutting back some limbs this winter but thought it would not be a big deal now because it wouldn’t produce anyway.
4220C3EE-01E2-4311-949C-8257A99AA3B9.jpeg
[Thumbnail for 4220C3EE-01E2-4311-949C-8257A99AA3B9.jpeg]
B70DC18B-E0DF-44E0-A8C9-6FD7FA0D8A88.jpeg
[Thumbnail for B70DC18B-E0DF-44E0-A8C9-6FD7FA0D8A88.jpeg]
 
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Very nice! I have some of these growing in my alley.

Stupid question, what is a guild in this context?
 
Scott Stiller
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Sepp Holzer calls them plant families. It’s a mix of plants that grow with the tree and they support each other. That’s my take anyway. I overthought this for awhile. The turning point was hearing Zack Weiss speak about it. He said anything and everything went into the mix. If it’s good enough for Sepp it’s good enough for me. One factor that changed how I did it was the addition of wood chips around the trees. Direct seeding into that was difficult. Around my pear trees I’ve planted perennials in the chips. St John’s wort, strawberries, hyssop, lavender and sage. I won’t be taking root cuttings from those so the perennials were perfect. I take four to six root divisions a year off each elderberry so I plant annuals in the spring, well after the divisions are made.
 
Michael Cox
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Scott - what is the app you use for predicting hours of sun?
 
Scott Stiller
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Lumos. It’s pretty spectacular. I can see where the sun will be any day, any year.
 
Scott Stiller
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Out of my elderberries that will produce this year the ones with the biggest blooms are all on hugelcultures. This includes the ones that get about three hours of direct sun per day!
 
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