It was a brisk January morning when a team of volunteers descended on the QE Orchards for a tree care and pruning day this weekend. People from all over the city came along to take care of the juvenile trees that were planted last year, as well as the Real Junk Food Project who provided a lovely warming lunch to keep the cold at bay.
The morning started with a health safety and tool talk from The Urban Orchard Project and TCV, giving all the volunteers a greater understanding of the tools they would be using and the task that they would be undertaking. Everyone was then split into three groups; pruning, mulching and identification, and were sent off with their respective leaders to get stuck in.
The mulching group were the first to get going, clearing the area around the base of the trees and layering compost around in a circle. This helps the young trees on their way and helps prevent weeds and grass growing around the trunk and stealing all the vital nutrients the tree needs from the soil to ensure prolonged growth. With over 100 trees to be mulched work needed to be both thorough and swift to attempt to avoid the inevitable downpour the afternoon would bring.
The pruning workshop began with an explanation of the different types of trees in the orchards, the ways in which they need pruning and why. An old Victorian method, which apparently still holds truth today, was explained by Rob from the Urban Orchard Project; ‘There should be enough room in the canopy to throw your cap through the other side’ Unfortunately, there wasn’t a cap in sight. The pruning continued with Rob explaining the theory behind the practice; the branches need to be pruned to ensure enough light and air can get through the leaves and the better pruned a tree, the easier it is to access the fruit.
The identification group went off in search of damaged trees and missing stakes, going through tree by tree ensuring they were intact and healthy. After some initial difficulties navigating the orchards the team got down to checking the health of the trees, indentifying the varieties and marking all the information down on the maps provided by the Urban Orchard Project. Considering the open and public nature of the orchards the trees were in tip top health with only a couple being marked as having problems.
Lunchtime came and with it arrived a light smattering of the promised rain. Luckily, The Real Junk Food Project were prepared with a hearty bean stew and vegetable pasta. Huddled under the gazebo conversations took place about the morning gone by and ideas for the future, with new friends made and old reacquainted. After everyone had had their fill and warmed up sufficiently the teams headed back out for the afternoon to finish the job we had started.
The second session was slightly shorter due to the hard work of the morning and the adverse weather but the tasks were completed and everybody seemed pleased with what they had learnt and the work that was done. All in all a successful day and here, a chance to say thank you to all our volunteers, the QE, the Urban Orchard Project and the Real Junk Food Project, all combining to create another fantastic day at the QE orchards.