Orchards are key features on a number of Greens and a small feature of many others. They combine the addition of trees to the land, plus the community aspect of creating fresh community food. In some Greens, the orchards are the focus of succesful community events, such as in Fairfield. In others, such as New Southgate all the fruit disappears and is not available for any kind of organised use.
Orchards as Main FeaturesEdit
Obviously, Millennium Greens such as The Orchard and Orchard 2000 are actually based on orchards and it is the major part of what they are. The operation of planting and cultivation of the trees, where expectations are higher, requires proper technical abilities.
Some Greens, such as New Southgate and Cricklewood have small orchards that are just more or less left to themselves a lot of the time. Since modern fruit trees are bred to be small trees, these can be relatively low maintenance.
Creating and Maintaining an OrchardEdit
Orchards, like all tree planting, should have planning for where, when and what to plant. I would advise that the Green should have a clear plan of what they intend the orchard to be for and who will maintain it. The trees need to be planted sufficiently far apart, according to their needs. At NSgate, we follow recognised procedure by NOT mowing too often around the trees, which is supposed to give better fruiting (?) We do not use any netting or chemicals, indeed virtually no pest control, so we get Peach Leaf Curl, Rust on the Pear leaves, aphids and larvae in the plum fruit. Occasionally, I might take some more apples off the bunches at the end of the June drop, leaving just one or two on each bunch, but as most of our apples are taken before ripe anyway, it is a low priority job. The trees nearest the path were susceptible to vandalism, so we promoted Stinging Nettle growth in the early years, which worked.
One may need to remove suckers from around the trees; our orchard has lots. I would reccomend making a map of the trees as you WILL forget which is which eventually. Check which are the smallest varieties as they may need PERMENANT STAKES, due to heavy fruiting on small trunks. Modern plums from Homebase may get so many fruit the branches break. You can support or trim the branches, or remove some of the fruit and pickle them early. Ideally, you would have a regime for pruning at the right time and train a number of people to do this as part of an organised calendar of work.
Typical UK orchard trees are apples, pears, plums and cherries. Some orchards, such as New Southgate, have peaches, wild service, mulberry, as well as nuts, like almond and hazel. Some species and varieties grow better in particular areas, such as peaches, which need very good shelter to fruit in the north of England. Typical modern varieties you might scrouge off a local shop such as Homebase, are usually small- four metres high, which is easy to maintain, less need for pruning, but can suffer from overshadowing by larger trees, as happened in New Southgate.
Some orchard trees require a polinator of the same species, sometimes of certain varities that flower at the same time. Other trees may be self-fertile, but still get better crops from cross-fertilising with a suitable tree.
Beneficial to BeesEdit
Fruit trees, having flowers, tend to be good for bees. They provide plenty of flowers, often at a time when there are not many out yet.
Many Greens with orchards have events centred around the orchard, such as Wassailing and apple pressing.
Wassailing is a traditional English, originally Anglo-Saxon ritual celebration involving singing, dancing and making a noise to "wake" the trees up and be fruitful.
A number of Greens have an apple-pressing event in the autumn.