New Trees for Heritage Orchard

By January 31, 2024April 8th, 2024Blog

My gaze dances along straight rows of new saplings that fill in the gaps between existing apricot trees. Each sapling is tucked within a compost-rich basin, encircled by a spiral dripline at the trunks base. The Orchardscapes crew used a Bobcat loader to blanket the soil with arbor mulch spread along as many rows of trees as possible between rains, with additional mulching scheduled to follow.

Also known as woodchips, arbor mulch recycles trimmings from nearby trees devoid of diseases harmful to apricots. A local arborist brings loads of this mulch after completing jobs, thereby practicing Green Landscaping by sequestering carbon and reducing evaporation from soil.

A passerby asked me, Are the Grandmothers happy to have the young ones join them?” I paused my left brain and answered, Yes, I believe they are… just like our human community!”

On January 5th, we welcomed a truckload of 300 bundled Blenheim apricot saplings. To store the trees in a dormant condition, we covered the roots with moistened woodchips and stored the bundles on the shady north side of the building where the sun would not wake them.

Planting began as soon as the irrigation lines were installed. The Orchardscapes crew worked through long cold rainy days to complete the planting on January 13th, just before a good soaking rain. I couldnt help but dance a little jig!

The bare-root saplings exceeded our expectations, with well-developed root systems and tall healthy slender branches. From my experience helping Phil Doetsch plant 100 bare root trees in 2020, I expected long sticks with single roots and single stems the diameter of my pinkie finger. However, Board Member and Landscape Designer Tyler Furuichi put in a good word for us back in June when the City ordered the trees from Four Winds Nursery.

Each Blenheim apricot is grafted onto a plum rootstock called Marianna 2624” bred to tolerate clay soil and resist oak root fungus. We know we have oak root fungus in the orchard, because I discovered honey mushrooms on tree trunks last year. Although I was delighted to find the mushrooms, little did I realize that they were spreading spores of a fungus that attacked the trees.

The planting involved several steps to help the saplings recover from the shock of being uprooted. Roots were trimmed and dipped in a solution of beneficial mycorrhizal microorganisms, which have been shown to stimulate growth of apricot saplings. Together with the organic compost mixed into the soil, we expect the microbial food web in the soil to stimulate root growth. The mulch benefits the microbial community by keeping soil moist.

Recognizing a nitrogen deficiency in the soil through testing, each tree received treatment of feather meal. Our orchardist, Terence Welch, explained that feather meal is an organic fertilizer with slow-release qualities. Terence is keeping us on the path of organic certification, since no synthetic sprays are permitted in City parks.

Walkers along the path by the library windows may have noticed stakes in tree sites that currently have not yet been planted. As a good neighbor, we are holding a reserve of 11 saplings for planting when decisions unfold regarding the Library Reading Patio.

My heart fills with hope when I look out over the fully planted Heritage Orchard. Not only have we brought new life to the orchard, we have done so in a manner that demonstrates the Citys Green Landscaping guidelines for adapting to climate change. Thanks to MIssion Trails, the organic material you put in your green bins has been returned to enrich the soil in the orchard. Thanks to the City, the new precision drip irrigation system will conserve water while delivering what the trees need to grow and be healthy. Thanks to the proven techniques applied by Orchardscapes, we expect the new trees to be at least five- to six-feet tall in three years!

Contributed by Jane Packard, chair of the Orchard Commons Committee


Orchard Update
(March 2024)