Friday, 11 March 2016

Expanding the orchard - part 2

We gathered at the orchard to plant more trees on 5th March 2016  - in the rain.  Members of the Friends of Mayow Park  brought wheelbarrows with our four apple trees, still in their containers, ready to be planted.
But apples really don’t like very wet ground. The ground round the orchard had become extremely soft after a very wet winter and we had quite a task to find spaces that were a little less muddy on this heavy clay soil. 
When we planted the original orchard trees back in January 2012 the site seemed ideal with its gentle slope from the south side downwards towards the main park. Over the last couple of years however the soil surface has changed due to excess rain.
Ryan from the Urban Orchard Project brought the cherry, the quince and the autumn olive. He brought spades, tree guards, stakes and hard hats. We were ready to dig and the rain stopped for a while. The damp weather had put off some people but we had enough volunteers to make this a fun event.

Finding the best place for the Core Blimey apple tree

Sue checked the hole she had just dug

More hole digging 
Ryan explained about planting with the graft union above the soil.
Holes were dug, trees were planted and it was time to put in the stakes. Notice the stylish hard hats to prevent any head injuries when the stakes were driven into the ground.
Will, Lucy and Ryan work out the best place for the stake

Lucy and Will hammer in the stake. This is a job for tall people!

Jon hammers down a stake

Jon checks the height of the stake against one of the tree guards
The next step was to attach the tree guards to the stakes. Ryan in his hi-vis jacket and hard hat demonstrated  on one tree while we looked on. Then everyone went to the other trees to attach guards to stakes. 
We stopped for a tea break with biscuits, pitta bread, houmous and crisps. The youngest  little people among our group enjoyed that!  Glendale (the company that manages the park on behalf of Lewisham) had kindly allowed us access to the cabin at the bowls green where we could make the tea.
Ryan demonstrating putting up a guard. View  across park to the flats beyond.
When the stakes were in, every tree was given a deep blanket of mulch. 

Mulch has an important role to play in an orchard:
It suppresses weeds which might otherwise compete with tree roots for nutrients
It provides a visible reminder to gardeners not to mow or strim too close to the trees
It keeps the soil from drying our too quickly in the summer, 
It enables water to filter slowly down to the roots, 
As fungi rot down the mulch, they help nutrients to go down to the tree roots
Saffron and Lucy fixing the guard to the stake

Task completed

The rain returned, mixed with hail and we beat a hasty retreat. Photos of the completed orchard had to be taken the following day.  

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