Thursday, April 25, 2013

Orchard Adventures: Entry #1

My name is Jason Hsieh - and I'm a steward of the Learning Orchard.  I've been featured in some photos (many embarrassing ones) participating in RC FSI activities.  Since 2011, myself and many others have been planting fruit trees and fruit shrubs, weeding out invasive plants, building and colouring benches and arbors, aiming to transform the site from an informal garbage dump to a valued community space for food growing, learning and gathering.  A lot of sweat, tears, and time have been invested into this place, and I want to share the experience as we do it again this year!

What are we going to do this year?  The history of the site and our work can be found HERE.  Since the focus in past years has been to: clean up the site, make it walkable and accessible, and plant fruit trees, our focus for this year is to plant perennials and cover crops that will: 
My buddy Ryan, hanging out with the friendly Orchard cat
1) Support existing fruit trees
2) Keep invasive plants and weeds down
3) Help build the soil for future plantings

The idea is that we begin the process of putting in microclimates that support the food-bearing plants we want to grow.  This is going to be an experiment, adapting techniques and principles from permaculture , invasive species management, and repurposing resources available to us to achieve these goals.
Strawberry patch
Strawberry plants reclaimed from a neighbouring house undergoing demolition and abandoned community garden plots were transplanted into the space underneath the laurel tree last week.  As we wait for the strawberries to establish in the area, we have to control the morning glory, blackberry, and creeping buttercup that keeps coming back, year after year.  With any luck the strawberries will form the groundcover needed to shade out some of the less wanted plants.

After cleaning up the southern end of the garden of buttercup and crabgrass, we're now ready to plant some shade tolerant plants that will help build the soil in the Orchard.  The area tends to get more saturated with rain water, and the shading from the fence keeps the area damp and cool.  Bush beans may be great for that - they can fix nitrogen into the soil, and in the fall and winter, will be reintegrated into the soil as green manure

Fruit Tree Guilds!
With five fruit trees on site, we'll want to put in plants around them that support their growth and fruit production.  Permaculture practitioners call this mutually-supportive system a guild.  It's similar to companion planting, but with more plants that are incorporated in a systematic way.  Borage, marigolds, chives, daffodils, rhubarb can all work together to keep unwanted weeds away and attract the pollinating and predatory bugs we want!

Wanna join me?
I'll be there most Sundays and Wednesdays through the summer.  Drop by, bring some gloves, and let's garden!

April  28th 
May  5th 
May 12th
May 26th
June 2nd
June 9th
June 23rd 

May 8th
May 15th
May 22nd
May 29th
June 5th
June 12th
June 19th
June 26th

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