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Permaculture Techniques - Plant Stacking


Plant stacking refers to the way in which plants are placed to achieve mutually beneficial relationships based on observation of natural plant systems and the way in which plants grow together. This is often referred to as plant 'guilds', and focuses on interactions rather than single elements. Guilds have several vertical levels, and involve successions over time, with pioneer and climax species occurring as the system evolves. Successions are dependent on site conditions and are affected by changes in them. Permaculture systems select plant species and place them to achieve multiple functions and yields organising plant guilds (thus supporting animal and other life).


The following benefits are derived from plant stacking:

  • Rehabilitation of site by pioneer plants (eg; lichens, mosses, weeds, acacia trees).
  • Control of erosion by evolution of soil structure by below ground stacking of roots according to plant needs.
  • Increased yields due to maximum exploitation of resources (water, light, nutrients, space) at various vertical levels by suitable plant species.
  • Encourages natural pest and disease control and resistance.
  • Prevention of invasive weeds (after establishment).
  • Ability to achieve high yields on minimum area (intensive gardens and forest systems).
  • Creation of attractive spaces.


Consideration must be given to the following factors in species selection:

  • shade - density of foliage, light requirements
  • root system
  • size and proximity to other structures (desirable or not?)
  • framing of desired view or feature; conversely concealment function
  • screening (wind, pollution, for privacy)
  • growth rate
  • eventual size
  • life span
  • comapnionability
  • associated non-plant life forms
  • affect on site energies (placement to direct or deter energy flow, eg wind, water)
  • specific yields and harvesting needs (human and animal)

Begin with pioneer or nurse species in site rehabilitation. Don't disturb existing natural or productive guilds. Consider vertical as well as horizontal space when designing, and use vertical surfaces on existing or planned structures (including established shrubs and trees where possible) for plant community evolution.




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return surplus,
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