Archive for the ‘Education’ Category


Get to know Seattle’s Early Season Apples (and how to turn them into butter!)

As July rolls around each year, you may notice a certain type of apple that seems to already be fully sized and ready for harvesting while most apples are just beginning to grow. These apples are called transparent apples and on sight, can be distinguished by their extremely light (shall we say, transparent?) greeTransparents holy cross 2012n skin. Last year we harvested nearly 2,000 pounds of Transparent Apples from around the city. If you have had the chance to bite into one of these apples, your first reaction was probably, “whoa! these are tart!” This early season fruit has a very bold, tart flavor. This, along with their dry flesh, makes them one of the best apples for cooking all sorts of apple treats such as apple butter, chips, and sauce. This coming Saturday at the Wallingford Senior Center we will be hosting our first cooking class using transparent apples. We will provide the apples and all participants will go home with some of each treat! For more information or to sign up for this weekend’s event, go to the calendar section of our website or simply click here!


Teens for Trees


A student shares her ideas with the group!

On a sunny day in Wallingford, Meridian Park is buzzing with frisbees, dogs, and people enjoying the gardens and open spaces. It’s easy to miss that many of the trees supplying the shade are edible fruit trees! On Wednesdays, a group of students from the Boys and Girls Club of Wallingford wander over to learn about what it means to be a steward and how to preserve and protect the trees in their neighborhood. A community grant has made it possible for City Fruit to teach our first youth program focused on tree stewardship – our goal is to inspire hands-on learning that will enable students to become the empowered environmental decision makers of tomorrow. This small group of motivated students has started to learn about the importance of the urban canopy and the role trees play in the local ecosystem. On Earth Day, they made observations and held an open discussion about the ways trees influence our climate and protect our planet. As a group, the students identified the many tree-based products in our daily lives and how native peoples have used raw tree products for food, medicine, tools, clothing and more! Students are developing their stewardship, leadership and advocacy skills to bring back to their community and local trees. Various other local student groups have also volunteered with City Fruit to plant trees, clear weeds, and help assess the impact of fruit trees on public lands in Seattle.

Climate change has increased the urgency for environmental action on a global scale. It is increasingly important for the human species to preserve the shrinking global forests in order to continue to survive. Our youth are the conservation leaders of the future. Studies have shown, environmental education engages students in learning, raising test scores, and encouraging youth to pursue careers in environmental and natural resources.

This class was made possible by the Alliance for Community Trees and CSX.


We’d love to get you engaged in the City Fruit family! Check out upcoming events, become anambassador to manage the fruit trees in your neighborhood and get your community involved, sign up to volunteer, or become a member to support City Fruit monthly or annually.


Feeling a Connection with the Past

I consider myself to be a bit of a history enthusiast (read in the most literal sense-I don’t claim to know pagodamuch but I am enthusiastic when doing so.) As such, I personally find it important to learn a bit about the story of my surroundings; grounding myself and connecting me with what came before and, in a way, also what will come after. This Saturday we will be hosting our second Save Seattle’s Apples event at Amy Yee Orchard (named after Amy Woo Yee-a community activist and star tennis player) in Mt. Baker. In my quest to know a bit about the area first, I learned that Seattle annexed the town of Southeast Seattle (which included Mt. Baker) in 1907-to encompass still wooded areas in order to fill the needs of Seattle’s milling industry. I learned that Sick’s Baseball stadium (home of the Rainiers until 1976) was located just two blocks south of Amy Yee. I learned of speakeasies, record-breaking hydroplanes, and the longest-active community club in the United States.

While people, events, and buildings can give one a sense of place, so can food. One of my favorite parts of Aldo Leopold’s famous book, A Sand County Almanac is when Aldo is cutting down a dead tree for firewood and talks about everything that tree has been a part of in the history of Sand County, WI as he does so. Like the Birch tree from Aldo’s book, the trees we care for at Amy Yee been a part of Seattle’s history-from the unincorporated woodlands of the 20th century to the metropolis Seattle is today. They have seen most, if not all of what I have described above. Not only that, they provide fruit that no longer is actively grown and cultivated-a literal taste of the past. These heirloom fruits help connect us to a different era; a time before Red Delicious, Gala, and Granny Smiths dominated our shelves. A time when they types of apples grown in an area were as unique as any other local customs and mores (there are over 7,000 apple varieties!) As I wind up, here is a list of some of the more common heirlooms in Washington-I encourage you to seek them out this summer and feel that connection to our past.

(Also, I came about a interesting NPR audio on heirlooms which is a worth a listen if you have a minute or seven. )


Reflections on Equal Rights in Our Time

As we head into Martin Luther King, Jr., weekend, I have been thinking about the man and, more broadly, the movement this holiday seeks to recognize. Whenever I think about the Civil Rights Movement, I find myself oscillating between the macro, “arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” perspective that encapsulates the struggles humanity faces as a whole, and the stories that helped define the movement and highlight injustices.

One of the stories that comes to mind pertains to the four African American college students in North Carolina known as the “Greensboro Four.”  One day in early 1960, these students decided to walk down to a local diner and perform the simple act of ordering a cup of coffee. They waited all day without ever receiving service. Long story short, over the course of the next few weeks and months, this simple act inspired sit-ins across North Carolina and several other southern states, solidifying these actions as highly effective forms of peaceful protest across much of the south that culminated in desegregation.

Almost sixty years after the sit-in by the Greensboro Four, it’s important to reflect on what it means to have equal rights in today’s society. At City Fruit, we believe everyone should have ready access to fresh, nutritious food. In the State of Washington, almost 15 percent of households report being “food insecure,” and 1 in 6 people rely on SNAP. While the barriers today may be different, those who lack the means to access the food they need still suffer needlessly.

Over the course of this weekend, I will think about what Dr. King’s words and deeds mean to me personally. I will reflect about what it means to be a good citizen, and how I should show support and solidarity with fellow human beings struggling in ways I can hardly begin to fathom. It’s easy to get too muddled in the abstract and forget that small, simple acts of kindness are what really make profound changes. By picking apples from a tree, I can ensure that hundreds of kids and families can count on a healthy snack each week. I’m thankful that my job at City Fruit allows me to spend time trying to do good for my fellow community members in Seattle, and to all of City Fruit’s supporters who make our work possible.

There is still much to be done to address inequalities in our society. As I think about my roles and responsibilities not just at City Fruit, but in life, I will remember the words of the man whose life we honor during this time every year. I think you’ll agree Dr. King’s words resonate now as much as they did 40 years ago:

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Even a superficial look at history reveals that no social advance rolls in on the wheels inevitably. Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle: the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. Without persistent effort, time itself becomes an ally of the insurgent and primitive forces of irrational emotionalism and social destruction. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”

Luke Jesperson is City Fruit’s Harvest and Community Outreach Manager.



Fruit-Filled Recipe: Vegan Apple Pie

IMG_0119My fiancé, Andrew, has been making this pie for years.  On our first date, we wandered a farmer’s market, where he picked out some green apples.  On our second date, he made a version of this pie recipe for me.  It has become my favorite apple pie recipe – its quick and tasty, and has never failed. The sour cream gives the filling a unique creaminess. Below, we’ve modified the recipe to make it vegan by replacing the egg with pear purée and the sour cream with Tofutti. We used a combination of Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, and Newton Pippin apples for this year’s pie (pictured here).  It is delicious!


  • 1 cup Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-2 pears, cored and cubed, then puréed
  • 3 cups peeled, sliced tart apples (about 1 1/4 pounds of slices)
  • 9″ unbaked pie shell, frozen OR your favorite pie crust recipe (here is mine)



  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Place the pears in a blender or food processor to puree.  If the pears are not yet ripe, you can steam and soften the fruit in a small sauce pan or crock pot. You need about a fourth cup of purée for the next step. (The leftovers can be used to make pear butter).
  3. Beat together sour cream, sugar, flour, salt, vanilla and pear puree (can beat by hand). Add apples, mixing carefully to coat well.
  4. Put filling into a pie shell and bake at 400 degrees initially for 25 min.
  5. Mix together all topping ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  6. Remove from oven and sprinkle with Cinnamon Crumb Topping. Bake for and additional 20 more minutes.

Let cool for a hour before serving. Serves 8. This recipe is inspired by Simply Recipes’ Sour Cream Apple Pie.

Kate is the executive director of City Fruit.  


New to Fruit Trees – Summer Pruning

Pruning copyThis past weekend, I attended City Fruit’s second Sunday series at City People’s Garden Store on summer pruning with Bill Wanless.  The class was packed – over 30 attendees! Clearly, this is a topic of interest.

While my plum tree is too young for summer pruning, here are some tips and tricks to help promote growth and fruit production.

August is the best time for summer pruning. We prune fruit trees in the summer to improve the health of the tree, protect against pests and fungal disease, and produce more fruit or flowers. To make room for more sun and air, consider these cuts during summer pruning:

  • Cutting back new shoots that crowd the larger, more established branches,
  • Removing dead and broken branches,
  • Removing all suckers — branches that are growing from the base of the tree

Don’t prune too much – no more than a quarter of the total leaf surface in any one year. And don’t try to fix a tree in one year; if the tree needs a lot of work, do it over several years. For more guidance, check out this City Fruit video with Ciscoe Morris and Kristen Ramer Liang or this resource sheet.

Catherine Morrison is executive director of City Fruit and new to fruit trees. She planted her first tree, a Hollywood plum, earlier this year.  


Luscious Landscaping with Fruits — A Special Lecture by Lee Reich

Lee Reich considers himself a farmdener —  more than a gardener, less than a farmer. And next month, the nationally recognized fruit tree and landscape expert will give a special talk in Seattle. On Sunday, August 10, join City Fruit, along with partners Bradner Gardens, Plant Amnesty, and the Seattle Fruit Tree Society, for a lecture and garden tour with Lee Reich at Magnuson Park.

Lee’s lecture, Luscious Landscaping with Fruits will cover:

  • Landscape features — fall color, beautiful flowers, and nice bark, of fruiting plants that are on a par with landscape features of strictly ornamental plants,
  • Landscape uses — groundcover, specimen shrub, hedge — that can be fulfilled by fruiting plants, and
  • The best fruiting landscape plants — in terms of low maintenance, pest resistance, ornamental assets, and good flavor.


Following the lecture, we will explore the gardens at Magnuson Park. Participants will have the opportunity to purchase Dr. Reich’s book and ask him their burning fruit tree questions!  Dr. Reich’s books include The Pruning Book, Weedless Gardening, Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden, Landscaping With Fruit, and Grow Fruit Naturally. He writes regularly for a number of gardening magazines and his syndicated gardening column for Associated Press appears biweekly from coast to coast.


His farmden has been featured in such publications as the New York Times and Martha Stewart Living, has won awards from National Gardening and Organic Gardening magazines, and has been included in “Open Days” tours of the Garden Conservancy.

Tickets are $15 for members of sponsoring organizations and $20 for the general public.  Don’t miss this special chance to learn from Lee Reich! Purchase tickets here. To receive the discount code for City Fruit members, email [email protected]



Orchard Stewards Attend Fruit Tree Biology Class

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City Fruit’s Executive Director, Gail Savina, teaches new orchard stewards about fruit tree biology.

What is a branch collar? Where does the scion meet the rootstock? Last Saturday morning, representatives from 9 different urban orchards learned the answers to those questions and more at Fruit Tree Biology class at Bradner Gardens Park.

City Fruit director, Gail Savina, explained the parts of a tree and how to select varieties to grow in maritime climates during class. Bradner was the perfect location for applying the knowledge we learned immediately as we examined the compartmentalization, or the sealing off of a wound, and growth structure of an old apple tree. We also learned how to identify where first-year growth ended and new growth started which is important to know when trying to figure out where to prune; some fruit trees produce fruit on older branches while others will produce on new.


Most class attendees were new stewards with City Fruit’s urban orchard stewardship program. City Fruit stewards commit to working at an orchard for two years and attending four work parties per year. In return, City Fruit provides free trainings, Fruit Tree Biology being the first of three core classes. Interested in becoming a steward? Click here to find out more information.


Interested in learning more about fruit tree biology and general fruit tree care? Check out City Fruit’s online resource page for factsheets, book recommendations, and helpful harvest tips.

By Amanda Lee

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Footies on fruit tree in the Bradner Garden Park







Ethan Russo Lecture: New Strategies to Tackle Urban Orchard Pests

Ethan Russo will present the results of his personal experience using an organic spray regimen to prevent apple maggot fly and codling moth on Saturday, March 16, from 10:00 to noon at Seattle University. Don Ricks will join Ethan to discuss his experience with pheremones, traps and GF120.  This event is presented by Seattle University Grounds Department in collaboration with City Fruit.  Ethan Russo, a Vashon Island fruit grower by hobby and pharmacological researcher by profession, had excellent results using an organic spray recommended by Michael Phillips, author of The Holistic Orchard. Don Ricks, a local fruit tree expert, is a lead steward at Piper’s Orchard.

The event is free, although a $10 donation is suggested.  Space is limited.  RSVP by contacting [email protected] and we will send you the room information.


Exceptions to the Rules: Topping and Heading Trees

Don Ricks pruning an apple tree in Piper's Creek Orchard

Excerpt from Cass Turnball’s article published in Plant Amnesty‘s Winter 2013 newsletter.

I’ve spent a life-time trying to convince people not to top their fruit trees. Such treatment does not increase the amount of fruit down low–there just won’t be that wasted fruit up high where it can’t be reached. Instead, Plant Amnesty classes demonstrate restoration pruning for the victims of previous top jobs. Those trees were an incredible mess. Their watersprouts shot for the moon and only arch over and make fruit after they had re-attained their previous two-story size. The apple and pear trees survive, mostly, with their hollow trunks, but the cherries just die. Dr. Alex Shigo once said, “Some of the most abused trees in the world are fruit trees.” I have used the word ‘abuse’ as sort of joke when applied to trees. Shigo didn’t. He helped me see small trees, including fruit trees, as deserving respect, another favorite word of that great man,

That said, topping an old apple or pear tree under certain circumstances can be the rational thing to do (just not the ones you see everywhere, all the time). I do believe that the old trees at Pipers Creek Orchard were radically renovated (topped, or severely crown reduced) many years ago. This included a lot of dedicated follow up heading and thinning of the resulting explosion of watersprouts. The fruit is, I suspect, bigger and better as it receives more of the tree’s energy and sunlight. And they look great. I have an illustration of topping an old apple tree in an OSU extension bulletin as well. What the bulletin failed to mention is: 1) the tree might die, and 2) if it doesn’t, a lot if follow-up pruning would be needed. Otherwise, your tree turns into a giant mess. The truth is that most people keep their apple trees for sentimental purposes, not maximum fruit production, so dramatic measures don’t make much sense. Then again, with the resurgence in organic, urban, and home food production, this sort of radical renovation is a valid point of discussion.


June Fruit Tree Tip: Thin Fruit Now

If you’re like us, you’re getting excited for the upcoming fruit harvest. I can’t help but continually check out our fruit trees to watch the progress of our fuit — apples, pears, plums all getting bigger. And by now, your apples and pears should be the size of a quarter (or larger), and hard as it is to contemplate, it’s time to ruthlessly remove much of the fruit (called ‘thinning’).

This activity helps the fruit tree focus its energy to a fewer number of fruit, making those fruit that are left larger and tastier. Would you rather have a lot of small, bland fruit or slightly fewer fruit that are of good size and taste? It’s not just about this year though — leaving fruit on the branch means that you get smaller fruit this year and less fruit next year. So thin your fruit now for both short-term and long-term benefits.

In this short video, Tom Thornton of Cloud Mountain Farm, shows how and tells why to do this.


Early June report

Lately, the nippy weather and rain is probably holding down the codling moth activity… many locations of Seattle you are probably still in time to protect your apple trees with Neem, Spinosad, Bt, or Kaolin Clay (see nursery). You are probably also still good for applying your foot sox, if that is your chosen protection method, as the eggs that have been laid by the codling moth of the first generation are usually not on the apple and haven’t reached the apples yet.   However,  these are activities that need to be started right away and in the case of foot sox, completed by mid-June.
Piper’s Orchard welcomes anyone who wishes to learn how to apply foot sox on Saturday, June 9th from 12 noon to 3 p.m. at the Piper’s Orchard in Carkeek Park.


Mid-May report

The codling moth is starting to fly. If you have an apple tree consider using a solution that will attract and drown this pest at this time.
Also consider talking to your local nurseryman about getting a product that has either neem oil or kaolin clay or spinosad in it and how to apply one of these products  to protect your fruit.    I recommend getting  the spinosad product because if you have a plum tree then later this summer you may need it.
The apple maggot barriers can be applied when the apples reach the size of a marble. For most people this will be late May or early June.   There will be an early work party at the Good Shepherd Center on May 23rd from 5 to 8 pm. for those interested. Come and help protect some apples and see how it is done.

Address: 4649 Sunnyside Avenue North
We will be working on the Seattle Tilth lot and in the parking lot more to the south side of the building.


Got spots?

Our pear tree with spots.

It’s time to check out your tree’s leaves and see if they’re good and healthy or if they’ve got little spots on them (like our poor pear tree). A few spots here and there aren’t too big of a concern if the overall tree is healthy — but watch it carefully. If it’s “Leaf Rust” and “Leaf Spot”, they are fungal diseases and can cause bright orange and black spots on the leaves. Once it starts moving, it will rip through the tree and soon all of your leaves will be covered in dark spots, wilting, and falling off the tree.

When our trees get it that bad, they never produce fruit and hardly grow. They’re not happy.

It’s not very easy to get rid of but a few things can help. We have a whole page on identifying and managing pests & diseases. But here are three quick tips:

1. Healthy soil. Start here. Make sure the soil is healthy for the tree. You can learn more about taking care of your fruit tree here.

2. Pick the leaves. Pick the leaves with the spots from the tree without touching too many other leaves. And pick them up off the ground. Don’t put them in your compost. Put them in your yard waste bin. Not ideal, but it’s the best option for the urban home owner. And wash your hands afterwards before touching any other trees or plants. You’ll probably need to do this several times.

3. Organic spray. Use a bordeaux mixture (copper sulfate plus lime). It will also takes care of those two issues. Follow the directions on the label of the spray bottle — different trees have different instructions.

Good luck and let us know how you get on or if you have other tips. Drop us an e-mail, send us a tweet, or post on our Facebook page.


May Report / one starfish at a time

There is a story that I like about not saving the world but just one thing at a time. It is the starfish story. Please see if you can google the story or pick up a link such as this one below:

This is the way I feel about protecting things whether it be  one park, one tree, or even one apple. If I put a foot sock on that one  apple late this month or in early June I have made at least one apple more desireable.   I may not have changed the world, but for that apple I made a difference….and that is kind of the way life is.
(More to come in mid-May about timing, codling moth control, etc., etc.)


April Report

An abnormally wet and cool March…..geesh !   Maybe if I post this on April 2nd (rather than April 1st) people will know I am not joking when I say the weather should improve.
Fruit trees need a decent Spring and Seattle hasn’t enjoyed any of those in the past few years…but there are “silver linings” behind these grayish  clouds. For one, pest populations have been retarded. Also, cold hardiness of the buds has been promoted. Further, delayed blossoming will help reduce the chances of any devastating freeze coming after blossom time.
Some plum trees have already blossomed. However most of the apple and pear trees I have observed are still in such pre-blossom stages as those called “green tip” or “tight cluster”. And thus, these trees  should do well the 2nd week of  April when we start to get some sun…and some blooms….and with temperatures near 60 degrees we might even dare hope for some bees as well.

On April 14th, from 12 noon to 3 p.m. the Piper’s Orchard will host a work party for those interested in hands-on learning on the subjects of hand pollination,  mating disruption of codling moth,  mason bee pollination and trichogramma wasps.
All are welcome…bring gloves and something to drink.


Seattle Orchards: Piper’s Orchard

[This exerpt is from Seattle’s Orchards: A Historic Legacy Meets Modern Sustainability, by Audrey LIeberworth. It’s a thesis paper written for Scripps College that explores the historic and new orchards in Seattle.]

The historic orchard at Piper’s Canyon, photographed by Audrey Lieberworth

Piper’s Orchard at Carkeek Park is one of the oldest orchards with an abundance of fruit trees in Seattle. As the “Piper Oral History Meeting” of February 20, 1984 recounts, the first owner of this land was the Piper family, which included Bavarian-born Andrew W. Piper, his wife Wilhelmina and their children. The family originally settled in what is present-day downtown Seattle, where Piper ran a konditorei, or a confectioner’s shop that sold baked goods and candy. However, his shop was burned down in Seattle’s Great Fire in 1889, and soon after, the family moved up north to an 80-acre plot of land by Piper’s Canyon, located in what is now Carkeek Park. The family planted an orchard on the land with many pioneer varieties, such as the German Bietigheimer, and a large vegetable garden. The “Piper Oral History Meeting” notes state that while Minna and her son Paul were the main caretakers of the garden, her husband often used the fruit harvested from the orchards to make pies. Minna and Paul took the fruits and vegetables from the orchard and their vegetable garden into town to sell. However, Piper died in 1904, and the City forced his family off the property a little while later to create Carkeek Park.

Carkeek Park was one of the first parks established in Seattle. Brandt Morgan, author of Enjoying Seattle Parks, a description and history of the parks that had been established by the time of publication in 1979, relates that Morgan J. Carkeek and his wife, Emily, settled in Seattle in 1875. Carkeek was a stonemason from England and one of Seattle’s best early artisan contractors. The park originally dedicated in Carkeek’s name was located on Pontiac Bay on Lake Washington 1918; however in 1926, the land was turned over to the federal government in order to operate a Naval Air Station. Consequently, Morgan states that Carkeek donated $25,000 in 1928 for a new park to be located at Piper’s Canyon and the City put up $100,000, to create the park. Carkeek Park opened for operation one year after this plan was finalized.

Since its creation, Carkeek Park has been utilized for a variety of different purposes. Some of the more notable uses were a sawmill company that was operated on the parkland in the 1920s, which usurped all of the timber in the original forested land, and the Whiz Company, whose fish traps were used to collect salmon until 1932. The park was then used to create work for those who were hard-hit by the Depression to make camp buildings and forest trails. Later, the park was used for a loop road, shelter, and picnic area in 1953, and a model airplane field in 1959. The park then slowly evolved into a place for community gathering, in part because of the discovery of the orchard after many decades of abandonment in the 1980s.

Map of Carkeek Park. Piper’s Orchard resides within the park.

In 1981, Daphne Lewis, a landscape architect, stumbled upon Piper’s Orchard, covered by layers of blackberry bushes. Lewis discovered the orchard in the process of surveying Carkeek Park in order to create a master plan for park restoration. Bob Baines, a SPD employee who was involved in the original restoration project, recalls that the restoration team consisted of volunteers, descendants of the Piper family and members of the newly formed Piper’s Orchard chapter of the Western Cascade Tree Fruit Association. The Piper’s Orchard chapter adopted and began to take care of the orchard. As part of this restoration effort, more pioneer varieties of apples were planted, which included Wagener, Red Astrachan, King, and Wolf River. The first wave of orchard restoration brought together the knowledge, expertise and resources of different members of the community.

Interest in taking care of this orchard has wavered over the years. However, a new era of the Piper’s Orchard restoration project began about five years ago, asserts Brian Gay, a naturalist for SPD at Carkeek Park. At this time, SPD and orchard volunteers put together a sustainability plan complete with recommendations for future care of the orchard. Afterwards, there was renewed interest in the educational opportunities that the orchard offered.

Today the orchard includes 82 fruit trees, 30 of which were originally planted by the Piper family. There is an abundance of apple, cherry, chestnut, filbert, pear, walnut and hawthorn trees all planted on the park hillside. Don Ricks, president of Friends of Piper’s Orchard, mentions that many of the fruit trees suffer from apple scab, a fungal disease, but they are putting up pheromone destructors and nylon socks in an attempt to counteract the incidence of pests.

While SPD owns the land, the non-profit organization Friends of Piper’s Orchard tends and maintains the orchard.


Seattle Orchards: Martha Washington Park

[This exerpt is the first in a series about Seattle orchards from Seattle’s Orchards: A Historic Legacy Meets Modern Sustainability, by Audrey LIeberworth. It’s a thesis paper written for Scripps College that explores the historic and new orchards in Seattle.]

The origins of the surviving historic orchards are connected to the rich narratives of the early settlement and development of Seattle communities since the late 1800s. Many of these historic orchards contain a diversity of tall heirloom varieties, instead of the semi-dwarf or dwarf, specialized and standardized varieties. Some of the orchards that were planted recently have heirloom varieties, but they are mostly semi-dwarf or dwarf species. The eleven orchards are only a few of the vast network of fruit trees that spreads across Seattle.

Apple and cherry trees at Martha Washington Park; photographed by Audrey Lieberworth

Like many of the other orchards in Seattle, the orchard at Martha Washington Park has a rich history. The pioneer E.A. Clark, Seattle’s third schoolteacher was the first settler to own the land, but he soon sold it to settler David Graham in 1855, who then sold it to his brother Walter Graham ten years later. Graham was a horticulturist and planted the orchard found here.

The location of Graham’s land was close to the cable and trolley cars that traveled to the city center, which enabled easy transport of their harvested produce into town to sell. Graham ended up selling his land to Asa Mercer, who is known for sending two groups of maidens north to Seattle to help meet the demand for single settlers had for wives. Graham met Mercer because he married one of Mercer’s young women. However, Mercer ended up selling the piece of property to John Wilson soon after as payment for a loan because he went bankrupt after sending his second shipment of brides.

In 1889, Wilson sold the piece of land to Everett Smith, an attorney who was the clerk for Judge Thomas Burke. Smith later sold the property to the Seattle School District in 1920, which turned the property into the Martha Washington School for Girls in order to provide resident supervision for delinquent girls. In 1957, the state of Washington took over care of the site, and in 1972 the City of Seattle acquired the land.

Map of Martha Washington Park locationToday there are nine cherry and apple trees left on the property, cared for by SPD and community members. Jim Kramer, one of the community orchard stewardssays that many of the trees do not have harvestable fruit because they have apple maggot flies, which they are trying to counteract by putting nylon socks on the individual pieces of fruit.Kramer states that since these trees are very old, the fruit is 30 feet up in the air and not very accessible. One of the main tasks to accomplish in the next three or four years is to do major pruning in order to encourage fruit production lower on the tree. Kramer hopes that they will also be able to plant more fruit trees at the site in the future.


December Report

As the City Fruit pointed out on their Facebook page, now is a good time to rake up the leaves under the apple and pear trees. Do this  if you had any evidence of apple or pear scab on your fruit. This scab is something that you would recognize if you saw it as it leaves blotches on the fruit. It may be said that this condition is unsightly but totally cosmetic only and not at all harmful to eat, nevertheless, if you wish to improve the appearance of your apples and pears, raking up the leaves now will reduce the chances of overwintering spores coming back to haunt you in the Spring. A suitable compost spread over the leaves in a suitable quantity is another alternative.

What I really want to talk about here is the weather, though. Ordinarily December is a good time in which one can prune your apple and pear trees, but the last couple years we have had a La Nina pattern with unusually cold and wet winters and that has made for a little caution.

The La Nina pattern is the single most dominant pattern affecting the Northwest weather. There are even some who believe the overall pattern has indeed been global warming the past few decades but that it is precisely the warmer temperatures East of the Cascades that is drawing air masses over the mountains in such a way as to produce cooler and wetter temperatures here West of the Cascades.

Whatever  the reason for the abysmal weather patterns we have had the past couple years, let’s hope we have a more congenial winter this year.  So far,  during this  Autumn of 2011,  there have not been any unusual weather patterns of concern and so it certainly looks as if it okay to begin pruning the apple and pear trees without risking any minor damages to the tree whatsoever. The trees should be sufficiently “hardened off”  now so that as they drop their leaves they have become ready to be pruned. Wait a month or two for the stone fruit trees, cherry and peach and plum, later until it is definitely clear that the harsh part of winter is over.



Every year, just when we think the harvest has ended, we get a call about a major harvest. This time, it was for grapes. A new homeowner discovered that the entire back fence of her yard is covered in grape vines. After giving tons away to her neighbors and picking more than she could eat by herself, she heard about City Fruit.

Two volunteers picked over 100 pounds of grapes from this Seattle back yard!

People in Seattle tend to think we don’t have the climate for grapes, but it’s clear we do. I planted Canadice grapes in my yard two years ago and am looking forward to getting grapes next year. Variety is important–it’s best to choose varieties that ripen early. That’s your best chance for a harvest in Seattle. Ask at your favorite nursery or fruit tree specialist store for recommendations.