Posts Tagged ‘fall’

Jun18

Top Ten Reasons You Should Vote for City Fruit to Win $50,000!

There’s less than a week left to vote for City Fruit in Zipcar’s Communities with Drive program! We hope you’ve taken the time to help us win $50,000 and expand our urban harvest.  If you need a little more convincing, we have compiled a list of reasons to vote for us:

10.  Figs! You may not know it, but figs are a fruit grown throughout Seattle. Our annual gathering of figs helps sustain the harvest, as the fruit is too delicate for most food banks and we are able to sell them to partners like Tom Douglas Restaurants.

Fig

9. Apple cider. Each fall, we celebrate the apple harvest with a series of apple cider events in Seattle neighborhoods.  We also loan out our apple presses – one manual, one electric – to community organizations.  Tasty, delicious fresh apple cider? Yes, please!

8. Partners for a more sustainable future. We have a diverse range of partners that believe in the work we are doing and who help fund the harvest and our programming, including the City of Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation, the Washington Department of Natural Resources, and the King Conservation District.

7. Network of tree owners. With hundreds of residencies from around the Seattle area donating their trees to City Fruit, we help build communal solidarity through the idea that everyone deserves access to fresh, healthy produce. Neighbors get to participate in the sharing economy and build a stronger sense of community.

6. 55,000 pounds of fruit.  Over the last five years, City Fruit has harvested over 55,000 pounds of fruit from Seattle neighborhoods. This year the harvest is taking place in five neighborhoods – Wallingford, Ballard, South Seattle, West Seattle, and Phinney-Greenwood. We hope to continue expanding to new areas with your support, harvesting more fruit and getting it to those in need.

5. Stewardship. We conserve and protect Seattle’s natural resources by encouraging organic tree care, reducing the amount of pesticides entering our streams and oceans, and providing a healthy environment for our precious pollinators. Many of our orchard sites were once overrun with blackberry vines and other invasives before stewards intervened. We’re working to preserve urban orchards for the next generation.

4. Dedicated and knowledgeable Orchard Stewards. We train and support a network of hardworking volunteers who are committed to caring for Seattle’s diverse urban orchards. This amazing group works year-round to care for fruit trees and share knowledge with the public.

3. Delivering fresh fruit to 50 programs and growing. During the harvest season, City Fruit donates fruit to local food banks, meal programs, senior centers, and daycares, among others.  We’ve reached over 50 programs in the last five years.

2. Amazing volunteers.  From orchard stewards, to local volunteers, to corporate partners, to our amazing and talented board of directors, our work would not be possible without community support from people like you.

1. Rescuing a local resource. We take wasted, unused fruit and make it available to the emergency food system. Food banks often struggle to provide fresh produce for their patrons, and fresh fruit is especially appreciated and valuable. We also find uses for fruit that isn’t fresh eating quality, such as fresh cider, hard cider, preserves, and dried fruit.

Feb04

A conversation with Barb Burrill, Burke-Gilman Trail Orchard Steward

Note:  Two weeks after Lori interviewed Barb Burrill for this post, Barb was named a national finalish for Volunteer of the Year, an award organized by the Alliance for Community Trees in Boston. 

Barb and I met at Mosaic Coffeehouse in Wallingford, which she recommended. This sprawling space, below a church, has lots of big mismatched tables and chairs, comfy chairs and sofas,  and a whole separate room for kids. And they take donations for the coffee, tea, and sweets, so you pay what you’d like. So cool. I can see why Barb loves it so much! Gail was with us in spirit, too, as half the questions I asked Barb were hers…

Lori: How did you end up becoming an orchard steward?

Barb: My son started school at John Stanford International. To get there, you walk along the Burke-Gilman from our house. So I’d walk him to school and pick him up. . .  .  I’m trying to remember now. I noticed some trees. Well, really two trees, along the way. One of them took me a long time to notice, because it was a tree that was totally enveloped by laurel. You could only see it when it bloomed. I could see it sticking out the top.

Barb sharing cider

Barb sharing cider

 

So I’d had some training before with Green Seattle Partnership (now Forterra). And so I knew, had experience, in removing invasives, and that’s pretty much what it was at that point with those trees, just finding the tree under the laurel, and then blackberries with the crabapple. So then I started noticing more trees along the trail, that was my main route. And then I went farther in both directions. I had that in mind. And then—I don’t know how—I heard about City Fruit. . . . So had that connection. So then when they started talking about the orchard stewards, I suggested, I guess, it was 6 trees on the Burke-Gilman. 

And then the Burke-Gilman got selected! And I thought “Alright!” It’s such a strange park. I mean it’s trees that have been either abandoned or volunteers. There are now 23, and then there are two others, we keep finding them!

Lori: What are the outlier trees? The farthest one way versus the other way?  

Barb: The farthest that we have taken on is the University Bridge to the east. . . . The other end is Northlake Place and Northlake Street, which is just west of the new Center of Wooden Boats, which is west of Gasworks. There’s one there, and one tiny one beyond that. So that’s the farthest west. But the tiny one needs to be moved, because that’s totally shaded. I do count that one. And there are a couple just across from Gasworks that aren’t official, they’re on a really steep slope and totally shaded, so it could be 25 trees now. Unless we plant some.

Gail: How do you keep people interested in pulling blackberries and ivy? How have you managed to create and keep such a loyal group over the past 3 years?

Barb: Well, it’s a fluid group. The big work parties, which have done most of the invasive removal recently, and a small core. In the past, our first work parties, we did do some blackberry work and then follow up. But it’s something where you really need a lot of people and generally, if you have a larger group of people, there’s a certain core that likes to do that. Most people do not like to do that. [Lori giggles.] But the ones who do, do really get into it. We have, really 3, maybe 4, people in our group that like to do that, so it’s not something that we do all the time.

And I guess that’s part of it. With our core group, there are certain things that they like to do, some don’t go on ladders, and most don’t do pruning. So it’s kind of the thing, we can choose what we do, and now that our trees are cleared, there are sort of easier chores that can be done for most of them.

Bruke-Gilman work party

Burke-Gilman work party

Lori: So they can follow their passions?

Barb: Yeah, and if it fits into their schedule. So things like — we had a couple who were planting daffodil bulbs, just as an apple tree guild. And they did that as they could.  We have more people working now than initially, so it’s harder to get together as the whole group. But it’s a combination now between the small group that is doing things over time and then the other, bigger, corporate groups. There’s one more—I have a meeting tomorrow with Seattle Parks to see if we can clear another area around some new trees now: one a volunteer and one that was planted. Once that’s done, though, the maintenance is pretty minimal. Do you put socks on? And harvesting. And thinning. Those are the big things.

Lori: So Gail’s question about how you keep a loyal support group, I heard fluid, I heard as their schedules allow, and I heard small core group and using temporary big groups.

Barb: Yeah. Flexible. . . . I’ve been trying to get somebody to be in charge of scheduling, because I find it hard to schedule myself out. And then we have people—some who can’t come on Sunday mornings, some who can’t do Saturday mornings, so that. I’d like to delegate that scheduling to somebody who can manage that and then to have that published so that the people who like us on Facebook, who have come from corporate groups, can find it and take part, so it’s a little easier for them.

Lori: What have been the best moments, your favorite moments, as an orchard steward so far?

Barb: It’s always fun when people stop, and thank us, for what we’re doing. It’s really interesting—it’s amazing—to me, how that varies depending on where we are on the trail. Even though it’s about a mile and a half, yet not everybody goes the whole length of the trail. We get certain kinds of affection in certain areas and others not so much, it’s really interesting. Maybe it’s certain people who see us more often, I don’t know.

Giving and receiving thanks along the trail

Giving and receiving thanks along the trail

And then last year was really good, because we had such a big harvest, which was amazing, with just that little bit of love. I mean it’s mostly just been clearing and spreading bedspread compost from the zoo, and not even—very, very little pruning—but a HUGE difference. And that’s how we’ve had the most reaction, because people can see through the trees and between the trail and the sidewalk, and they are amazed at how it feels. It’s so open, and they can see the trees, they can see the apples when they’re on the tree, and they’re not left to rot on the ground. It really is, it’s beautiful, and has an arboretum sort of feeling there, so there I think we’ve had the most response from people. Pruning the trees as they grow out over the trail, too, they were obstructing as much as half the width of the Trail –  so yeah, we have a lot of good feedback.

Lori: I thought the fact that when you did the cider pressing in the fall, that’s one of my favorite orchard steward moments. You letting different people use the cider press along the trail. I go to lots of cider presses, and usually there’s a couple of big, burly experts doing the cider pressing. Yours was so unique. There were kids using it, and lots and lots of people trying it and using it, and you had a lot of us who became expert in the process of using it, not showing up as experts.

Barb: That was our second year. The first year we had two—a brother and sister, probably only 6 and 8 years old—and they ran it two out of the three hours. [We laugh.] Because that’s normal for our little cider pressings, to have kids doing it.

Gail: What are the most difficult aspects of managing this linear orchard along a trail?

Barb: Well, keeping track of what’s going on with individual trees is really hard for me. It’s another area we could use some help. We’ve toyed with the idea of assigning a steward to each tree, but we don’t have people living along the same area. The hardest part is to be aware of what’s going on. Once you decide to go there, they’re not that far away, but it’s, you know, what stage they are. I’ve been keeping track of blooming times, and harvest times, and so now I know which come first, and which are next, so that helps.

Lori: I can imagine. Most of the other orchards–I’ve been to 6 or 7 in Seattle this past year–and most of them when you’re in the orchard, you can yell at each other, regardless of where you are, you can hear each other, and you can sort of coordinate on the fly, from within shouting distance.

Barb: And we generally don’t do more than one location during a work party, and that’s kind of tricky too, because some of them are just individual trees. But yeah, for this, we’re having a group from Washington State University come on March 10th, and it’s a very organized group from there. It’s their spring break, and they do service in different areas around the state, and we were chosen as one of their sites, so I want to get them a good experience, but I don’t really have much for them to do where we have a lot of trees, I mean they’re in pretty good shape. And they’re not pruners or grafters. So it’s getting a little trickier to find a big area for people to do things other than pulling invasives and hauling wood chips.

Lori: More guild planting?

Barb:  Yeah. But we need, we have a lot of slopes, where blackberries need to be pulled and then replaced with something.

Part of the orchard is under I-5

Part of the orchard is under I-5

Barb: But, I tell ya, the main challenge for me is working under I-5. It is so noisy. That’s where the cider pressing was. I have to have ear plugs, really good ear plugs.

Lori: I’m going to write that down for Gail: “Remove section of I-5.” [We laugh.]

Barb: Yeah. It’s really. I mean, talk about not being able to communicate when you’re right next to somebody.

Lori: Who in the orchard steward community has been an inspiration to you or a mentor for you?

Barb: Well, Craig Thompson is amazing. I’m just so inspired by him.

Lori: At Jose Rizal?

Barb: Yes, Jose Rizal. Yes, how much he gets done. And then his persistence. [She belly laughs.] It’s not like we have had any real issues here. We just, I’ve had great support. From Parks. And we haven’t really had  many problems. But he’s been working there for a long time, and had a lot of things that he’s dealt with, so yeah. He just gets things done.

And also, another inspiration is, not an orchard steward group but an urban forest group. Friends of Burke-Gilman Trail, they work up around 65th, and they do major, major restoration, and they are so persistent and consistent. They’re mostly retired, and they do strictly restoration. They just have been at that for years, doing amazing work.

Gail: What ideas do you have about educating the public about these fruit trees, and where did your ideas come from?

Barb: Well, since it’s so strung out, we’ve talked about having walking tours. And that’s possible a couple of different ways. In Wallingford there is Wallingford Walks. So it would be fine as one of those. And also, last spring, I met Penny who is the Tree Ambassador for Greenlake and Wallingford, I think she’s the first one.

Lori: What a great title!

Barb: Yeah! Isn’t it? And she’s something. She’s got a digital tour of the trees around Greenlake. And so you can have it on your phone, but ah, wouldn’t that be nice? She’s already done it. And we only have 20 something trees compared to her–she doesn’t have every single tree on it–and all the different species, but yeah. The Wallingford Walks are fun, because they’re really community based. We’re a little trickier, because where do you end up [laughs] once you’re in the area? If you started at one end, you could end up, there’s Essential Baking Company on the hill, we could end there. Then there’d be a coffee shop.

Lori: Yeah, human logistics. Need a bathroom stop along the way, coffee. Essential Baking would be a great stop. We were just in there.

Barb: They’re pretty much straight up from that last tree.

Lori: That reminds me of something I read last summer. Some village in England or Ireland or Scotland. They made their entire village a walking tour. They put up permanent plaques. And you can do it without a guide person. And you can go from plaque to plaque, and there’s a digital component. You can scan things and get more information for the entire town.

Barb: Well, yeah. There’s so much history. With these trees, you can get that in there, and gosh, I . . .  found Paul Dorpat’s Web site. He’s amazing historian. He does the “Now and Then” column for the Pacific NW Magazine in the Sunday Seattle Times. I’ve been meaning to talk to him for a long time about the history of these trees and what he knows about the trees on the trail. And you get on his web site and he has digitized plats from 1912 so you can see what was going on where these trees are in the city at that time. Most of them are old trees.

Lori: And you’re also doing the Facebook page, which seems to be educating the public.

Barb: Yeah, yeah. I always link it to City Fruit education, and to fruit tree education and care in general, because I just like to talk to people in the neighborhood about their trees. And they don’t usually know what’s going on with us, in south Wallingford. They know about Merridian probably more so, but yeah, they just think it’s a great idea. Pretty much the most popular question is “What do you do with the fruit?” and we when we say we give most of it away, they’re pretty happy to hear that.

One of the things that’s most exciting about those trees is finding that one—and another that’s not officially part of these—those two trees have amazing, unusual apples.  So that. One is a variety and the other is not, so if we could come up with a new variety for our orchard, that would be very exciting. That was something my dad always dreamed of. My dad had an orchard. That was his dream. That he was going to find some new variety that he could name.

Lori: Yeah. It is fun. Even for someone like me, who doesn’t know anything. I started volunteering for City Fruit in the spring, really excited, right on through July, and then had a lull in energy in August. And then September came and suddenly I was going to orchards and people were handing me apples to taste. It was just so fun!

Barb and Jan

Go sisters!

Lori: It activates a whole other part of you. If you like to cook. If you like to can, home can things. And getting all the new apples, every time I showed up a new apple was put in front of me.

Barb: And what do you do with it? And what is it best for?

Lori: And getting to introduce my friends and family to apples they’d never heard of, or seen.

Barb: Mmm, hmm.

Lori: Those bright red little apples that Craig gave me with the bright white inside, just off the tree!

Barb: We had some like that too. They’re pretty good. We had the most volume of those, 8 boxes. They disappointed me over time. They’re really good at first, and they’re ok keepers, but they don’t knock your socks off with tartness, like this one tree is. Oh yeah. That one’s really been great because it’s so prolific and productive, so it’s good but it’s not amazing like these two others are.

And they vary. I was talking to Lori Brakken, she did some ID’ing. And Bob Norton, he did some of the ID’ing of the apples from some of our trees plus the big one at the John Stafford school. I mean, it’s a really sad tree– it’s got scab, in a terrible location–but it tastes like champagne! I mean, or like a chardonnay or something, it’s amazingly complex. And Bob was just blown away, which I thought “This is very cool, if Bob Norton thinks this is great!” So I still had some left to ID, and Lori was doing that for us.  They all turned out to be seedlings, not an identifiable variety.  And she said it varies with these seedlings. They vary from year to year and you have to see how consistent they are. I mean, I’m not used to that!

Lori: Interesting!

Barb: Yeah, because some were so grim. I mean they just had no flavor, and then you wonder, it’s like, well,  are they going to be better this year? And then what does that mean?

Lori: And they’ve only had a little bit of love.

Barb: You were talking about trying different apples. We got some really tart ones, and then the ones from the school, at a school Move-A-Thon they do every October. So the kids are running, walking, biking right by three of our trees. We had a little table where we offered samples of our apples, and the kids were loving it. They just thought that was the coolest thing. They especially liked the apples that made them pucker up. 

Lori: It’s fun to see adults kind of act like little kids. I noticed that at the cider tasting along the trail too. It’s interesting to watch. Some people are just too busy to even stop. And those that do are amazed. What, it’s free?!  That is a strength of being a trail orchard. So many people coming through.

Community celebration work along the trail

Community celebration work along the trail

Barb: Oh yeah. On a nice day. Yeah. It’s getting them to slow down. Some signage would be nice. Getting people to stop and investigate the tree. We don’t have that, other than when we’re out there.

Gail: If you could have any wish for the orchard, what would it be?

Barb: Well, maybe that’s it right there. Signage has not been a big request for us compared to the other orchards. It would be really nice to get something, like what you were talking about, something that has a digital component to it too. And something that can’t be easily taken away. Picked up and run off with. But something like a self-guided tour would be nice, because, as you say, there are so many people that are there. It would just be great if they could stop.

Lori: I’m hearing more about walking tours everywhere I go.

Barb: And to tie in with cideries! There’s a lot of that too. The home brewed cider, which most, at least the people that I know, don’t know anything about cider. Or like my husband, who doesn’t even think he’d like it! And beer, we all love beer, but that whole thing. And having it local. And the local foods.

That’s another thing, another dream is to have some tie of Burke-Gilman apples to a local food company. Gelato or Mighty O Donuts or fritters… So that’s, we’re working on that. I need to do more leg work before harvest. That’s what would be really nice. That one tree would generate enough volume that it would be of interest to a bigger company.

 

Stewarding becomes a family affair

Stewarding becomes a family affair

Lori: My last question is, what do you have planned for 2013?

Barb: Well, we might have that walking tour, but we don’t have any signage. [we giggle together]

But I would like to pursue the food/apple connection. Are you invited to that City Fruit thing next week? That will be some of our cider from our apples, Paul Brookshire, so that’ll be interesting. And Don Ricks talks about drying apples. But I just want to be able to find a use for all these apples and goodies. Promote that. Sell that. Besides the fresh. Because a lot of these apples are not good for fresh, so you have to have other ways to really promote that this is food, and we can do a lot with that as a community.

We’re also going to do some grafting. So that’s the first time. I’d really like to take these two amazing trees and get them grafted to other, better locations. I’ll know more tomorrow if the Parks gardener is in favor of doing that, it’s almost right in front of my house, which I can keep an eye on it. But to get some other trees, or expand the better apples. We do have some problem apples, with the pest management protocol we’re working on. If we’ll be able to improve the health of some of the trees. It’s not bugs so much, it’s scab. It’s really kind of discouraging. Because we’ve done everything we can, and still the scab is so bad. I guess this is the year to see if they make it. Or we need to do something else to move them to a level where they have quality fruit. It varies so much. Some are good but others are just not in the right place, not the right variety, they’re old trees in the wrong place.

Lori: Thanks for your time Barb. And thanks for some of the questions Gail!

Oct27

Celebrating Harvest Season with the Seattle Orchard Stewards

Hello friends,

I’m Lori. You’ve likely seen me asking questions and taking pictures anywhere orchard stewards are gathering. I’m a community story wrangler and a City Fruit volunteer. All the photos I gather live here, a testament to the amazing people who care for Seattle’s fruit and nut trees: http://seattleorchardstewards.tumblr.com/.

Gail asked me to start blogging once a season for City Fruit to summarize what’s been happening across the Seattle orchard steward world and to eventually tell longer orchard steward stories. Grateful for the chance to do so. First up, harvest season. Yay!

Piper orchard’s festival of fruit (Sept 15th)

I’d never been to the North end’s Carkeek Park, or to Piper orchard within, in my 20 years in Seattle. I can’t believe it took me so long to find this amazing place. What the heck have I been doing with my time?!

Daniel and Chris, fellow pie tasters

After months of hot weather and no rain, by mid September the rest of Seattle was crisp (and many of us gardeners more than a bit cranky about it). So walking through the densely forested park–with it’s self-created humidity and damp, earthy smell–up a steep hill to the festival site was pure delight. I’d been sick that week, and I swear this walk healed me.

We drank fresh-pressed cider and ate a slice of apple pie. Then, 20 minutes later, after the pie contest winners were announced, we had a couple more pieces of the award-winning pies for good measure. That was the polite thing to do, right? That is the lie one tells oneself at slice #3.

Apple identification

We talked to Gail who was sharing plums and information with passersby from the City Fruit table. We listened as indentification experts helped people identify their apples and, for a few, their pests.

Magical Piper orchard

Then we took another delightful walk through the woods to the orchard itself, following little “orchard this way” signs along the way, like walking on a life-sized treasure map.
This old orchard is so beautiful, so magical, I can see why orchard steward Don centers his life’s work around it.
I’m looking forward to heading back to Piper orchard to hear more of Don’s stories in the coming year.

Amy Yee orchard harvest/work party (Sept 20)

Team multch

These trees sit up above the tennis center of the same name just up the hill from MLK Jr Way South, a few blocks south of I-90, and a long stone’s throw from Bradner Gardens. This was an especially fun harvest for me, because the work party was a large group from PopCap Games–the creators of the world’s best iPad game (in my humble opinion) Plants vs. Zombies, a game in which you defend your home from silly cartoon zombies via strategic and savvy gardening. Genius! And I got to meet one of the creators of the game! Ah, life was good.

PopCap Gamers harvesting at Amy Yee

I’d heard from other orchard stewards that the PopCap Games folks were fantastic work party folks, and they proved that rumor true. They cleared blackberries and brush, mulched around trees, and then harvested apples like they were in a World’s Best Harvester’s competition. So much energy! They were a lean, mean, harvesting machine, and a joy to watch as they came up with a myriad of ways to harvest: from small group approaches with the apple catcher sticks to traditional ladder work to climbing up into the trees themselves. Gail brought them a huge, gorgeous plate of sliced fruit from other area harvests. Um, yeah, I hope that was for the story gatherer too. ;-) Delicious!

Burke-Gilman Trail orchard harvest/work party (Sept 22)

One of the big old "trophy roots" that was bothering the apple tree

The Slow Food work party was going strong by the time we got there. They were working thoughtfully, steadily, chatting, and laughing the whole time. Manifesting the spirit of their organization, I thought. They were so much fun to be with.

Barb and Jan, sister stewards

I got to meet Barb’s sister Jan, who’d come to Seattle to help out. This was hard manual labor: digging into rocky soil, digging out huge old roots, and with the Burke-Gilman traffic whizzing by their ears all the while.

Not sure I’d be able to get my sister to do the work, let alone be happy to be there.

Amazingness clearly runs in this family.

 

Dr Jose Rizal orchard harvest/work party (Sept 30)

Dr Jose Rizal orchard stewards

This was my first trip to the Dr Jose Rizal Orchard on Beacon Hill. It lives in the shadow of the beautiful old building (formerly a hospital, then the Amazon building, and now I’m not sure who’s there) that looks lovingly over downtown, like a benevolent old queen looking out across her subjects.

Stewards with a view

You hike down a steep, and sometimes slippery, hillside to get to the orchard. And it’s worth the journey. The amount of work that it’s taken to clear the hillside, and liberate the fruit trees from the jungle-like conditions, is apparent. Somebody has devoted many, many years to this still-coming-back-to-full-life orchard. After being stunned into silence by the beautiful view of downtown, my first thought was “How the heck do they get a wheelbarrow down here?”

Beautiful

Craig and company were harvesting perfect little winesap apples, with an amazing view of downtown Seattle and the happy sounds of the adjacent off-leash dog park wafting up at them. And he gave me a few to try. What a treat! I look forward to getting back and hearing Craig’s stories in depth! As it was, I couldn’t stay long because I was on my way to West Seattle…

West Seattle harvest cider pressing (Sept 30)

cider in the works

Also great to finally see a cider press in action (at Piper, they’d finished pressing before we arrived).

Betsy filled our growler for us, we bought some plum jam from Gail, and then we watched the cider pressers do their thing.

Thanks Betsy!

The cider press seems like a tool designed to foster community as much as to make cider.

Old wisdom and damn good design, in my opinion.

And the weather was warm and sunny and perfect.

Life was good in West Seattle.

Martha Washington orchard harvest/cider pressing (October 14)

Jim invited us to the harvest and cider pressing event at Martha Washington orchard a few weeks later.

Rainy harvest at Martha Washington

True Seattle fall decided to show up in full force this day, drenching us and teaching me that rain and my camera will never be the best of friends. As a gardener, though, I reveled in the rain after so many months of nothing. Yay rain!

Jim and company had thought ahead, and brought portable stoves, so we had hot cider to warm us from the chilly fall rain.

Cheers stewards!

We learned that we were on the site of an former wayward girl’s school: the old trees, school trees. The beautiful colors of the umbrellas and clothes that the kid helper/harvesters were wearing leant an air of whimsey and magic to the very wet day. The rain-fuzzy images in my camera calling to mind the ghosts of those who came before us.

Is it any wonder I like to be in orchards. Seems like magic always finds me there. Thanks for the invite Jim. Great cider!

 

Burke-Gilman Trail cider pressing (Oct 21st)

harvest dancers

Last Sunday I joined Barb and company again at Burke-Gilman–this time in the shadow of the ship cannel bridge–for their cider pressing event. The I-could-rain-any-minute sky cooperated nicely and gave mostly sun breaks to the 3+ hour event. Barb had invited some traditional dancers to bring good fortune to the harvest and make the cider taste better: I think they helped with the weather too.

Helpful hands

Amanda from Solid Ground and Burke-Gilman steward Harriet were expertly working the cider press and encouraging those who came by on the trail to take a turn. I worked the press long enough that it was clearly an upper-body workout, which meant I could skip the gym, which was nice. ;-) But seriously, it was amazing to get a chance to use the press and to watch people of all ages do so as well.

We did free cider tastings of different blends and also one-kind varieties of cider. Other stewards sorted apples into “cider” and “eating” boxes and multched around nearby trees. Barb’s son and his buddy manned the information booth and proved themselves to be fantastic fundraisers beside the donation bucket. Such a fun day. ANd I came home with yet another growler of cider, which I’m sipping right now. So. Freakin. Good.

who likes cider pressing events?

Happy fall, my friends!

You can find more photos and stories of Burke-Gilman events on the Burke-Gilman Urban Orchard Stewards Facebook page, and more photos of all these events at the Seattle Orchard Stewards blog. . If your orchard steward event wasn’t mentioned, invite me to the next one! My email is lori@collectiveself.com.

Oct19

Ask Don & Jon: Fruit Q&A

[Even though this is no longer active, we posted the archive below because we think the information is useful.]

These two guys know a lot about fruit, fruit trees, pest prevention, etc, and they’ve graciously agreed to try to answer any questions you have. 

 


 

Dear Don & John,
Not a fruit question, but what’s with the new name?
Thanks, James

 

Hi James,
As you know, we’ve done a few Q&A pieces on this blog, answering people’s questions about their fruit trees, fruit shrubs, and, well, fruit. Well, turns out that there’s actually a company called The Fruit Guys and because of that, we’re changing the name to Fruit Q&A with Don & John. Same idea — you ask questions, we answer them — just a different name.

I do want to talk about The Fruit Guys, though. They were very nice in contacting us to let us know about their company and they care about the same stuff we do. From their site:

“The FruitGuys provides fresh seasonal fruit from local farms to thousands of American businesses, from small family-run businesses to major Fortune 500 corporations…We consider ourselves fortunate to work with customers who share our ideals about health, the environment, and our communities. The FruitGuys launched our Farm Steward Program in April 2008 to support sustainable small family farming. We donate 88,000 pounds of fresh fruit a year (more than 7,000 pounds a month) to non-profit groups and regional food pantries nationwide, such as Somethin’ Fresh. With your support, we sent over 7,000 pieces of fresh fruit to food-banks and programs for families in need over the winter holidays with our Donate-A-Crate Program.”

Seems like a great company and we’re happy to have made their acquaintance.
Learn more at fruitguys.com

  • Don & John

 


 

 

Hi Don & John,
I garden at Greenwood P-Patch, where we have a row of blueberries along our garden’s western edge. Unfortunately, the planters did not gauge the light level correctly, and most of the trees have failed to thrive and set fruit.

We have about six bushes that look healthy. They plan to eventually move them into garden plots, where they will get more light and presumably do better. I have six gardeners who have pledged to put their mud boots on and move the bushes while they are dormant.

My question concerns the remaining bushes, which are in very poor condition–stunted with yellow leaves. I’ve pulled out several dead bushes while weeding. How can I tell if these bushes are likely to survive? Once the other bushes are moved, it may be possible to move the sick bushes to areas in the row with more light.

Thank you,
Debby

 

Hi Debby,
We have seen some blueberry plants set tasty fruit in the shade, but the fruit will be more abundant in the sun. Blueberries can do well in shade, but need water and a soil that is acidic — yellow leaves is usually an indication of too alkaline a soil. You also would need a primarily organic soil as you cannot compost, wood chip, sawdust, etc. too much with these plants.

Also be sure to keep the weeds away. Pull weeds, do not hoe or dig up the soil near the plants as they have a very shallow root system. You can also use a low nitrogen fertilizer early in season (Feb-May) and keep things damp. As I mentioned earlier compost heavily, or wood chips are welcomed. Water is the biggest restriction with these plants.
Here’s a great video we found that has a great overview of blueberry care:  Blueberry Plant Care Video
With that work, hopefully the remaining blueberry bushes can make a come back. Hope that helps and good luck with the p-patch!

Sincerely,

  • Don & John

 

 


 

Dear Don & John,
My neighbor and myself grow both Red Currants and Gooseberries. This year we both have a bumper crop of fruit setting on our healthy, leafy bushes. We were very excited, until we noticed that something (an insect?!) has carefully laid eggs in every single berry. You can visually see the damage on the outside of the not-yet ripe fruit and inside there is a small, white grub growing.

What pest would do this to Ribes family fruit and what can we do to discourage this is future years?
Rachel

 

Hi Rachel,

Thanks for writing in. We don’t get many currant or gooseberry questions!

You’re instinct about the problem being an insect is probably correct. Currants and gooseberries are usually a pain to grow here because of the Currant Fruit Fly which actually is a small fly which hits the fruit, and the Currant Sawfly which is not a fly but a type of wasp whose larvae look like currant-leaf-colored caterpillars. There’s also a small chance it could be the Spotted Wing Drosophila (which they recently found in WA), but we suspect the larva is more likely the Currant Fruit Fly, pictured here.

 

The good news is that there is a non-chemical way to address this issue. You should immediately pick all fruit and remove it from the area – I wouldn’t recommend eating any of them, although if you only juice the fruit, you can still pick clean now and process.

The reason for removing them from the area is that the larvae drop to the ground and overwinter under the bushes, much as apple maggots burrow into ground under apple trees. Removing all the infected fruit may cut the life cycle enough such that you get a clean crop next year.

And while you can share this information with your neighbor, there’s no telling what the rest of your neighborhood might be doing and there may be infested currants in your area which are not managed and these can re-infest your fruit next year. One way to help against that is to net the shrubs with a fine mesh just after pollination but before fruit begins to form.

If you want to determine exactly which insect it is, save a handful of fruit, place in large Ziploc bag, store on kitchen counter, keep beady eye on it and see who emerges. If a small vinegar fly emerges in a couple weeks or so, you have the Spotted Wing Drosophilia. If no one emerges or rice-sized pupae are seen, you have the fruit worm which won’t emerge until next year.

Hope that helps and good luck with the berries!

  • Don & John

 


 

Dear Don & John,

I actually have two questions built in to one request.

1. My inherited apple tree (variety yet unknown) has some kind of disease causing the leaves on many branches to curl and look nasty. How do I treat it without chemicals? Is it too late?

2. Do you know where the best place is to get a reasonably priced orchard ladder (tri-pod style)? Those things are crazy expensive.

Thanks,

Mark

 

Hi Mark,

Thanks for writing in. It looks like you get a 2-for-1 special today!

Your apple tree probably has apple scab, causing some leaf curl and color distortion and you can read all about how to manage scab organically on the Pests and Diseases page. We’ve got some suggested sprays and techniques listed there.

However, if your leaves are tightly curled upward that could be a sign of a new insect, the Apple Leaf Curl Midge, that’s been coming down from British Columbia, Canada. The damage is caused by the new larva feeding on the leaves – which can lead to distorted limb growth, premature leaf dropping, etc. Luckily there is no evidence of reduced quality of fruit.
For a mature tree, you should be safe to ignore it. For a 1 or 2 year old tree, remove affected leaves to try to save others from curl since it is thought to have 2 generations per year here. We would anticipate that parasitoids will slowly catch up with it and keep it in check.

With regards to the orchard ladders, yeah, they can definitely be pricey but worth it. You should probably be able to get by with a 6-8’ ladder unless your tree is really tall. We’ve found Tallman to be an excellent brand generally, which you can sometimes find used. For new, we purchased ladders for City Fruit at Horizon in Bellevue, WA, but Wilson Irrigation in Yakima is also a good bet.

Hope that helps and good luck with the apple tree!

  • Don & John

 

Dear Don & John,

An apple tree on my block is 20-25 years old, pretty much neglected, but has a good crop of apples. I haven’t looked at it closely this spring until today, and was dismayed to see that the apples are all junk – see the photo.

What is the cause of this distortion? The leaves generally look OK, though there are a few curled and gray.

What can I do to help this tree?
Barb

 

Hi Barb,
The photo is great and always helps us provide a more accurate diagnosis. We think there are a couple things going on with your apples.

First, the spots on your apples are probably due to “scab” – a varying collection of fungus. The fact that the apple tree is older and has been neglected doesn’t help, but the wet weather probably had something to do with this as well, giving the fungus more time to establish itself on the fruit.

While problematic, there are organic solutions. The first step is to remove all old leaves from beneath the tree in the fall and put them in the yard waste container, or bury them. Prune out affected twigs, which bear small, blister-like pustules, and put them in the yard waste. Do both of these things in late winter or early spring, before growth begins in the tree.

There are also several organic spray options including sulfur, lime-sulfur, or Bordeaux mixture (copper sulfate plus lime) applied early in the growing season. These are readily available at most nurseries. Spray as soon as the buds show green. And since scab likes damp weather, spray every week until midsummer if the weather is dry. If the summer is wet, spray until 30 days before harvest.

The dimpling on the apples is more difficult to figure out, but it’s most likely a pollination problem – which is a more difficult problem to solve this season. It would be good if you get a lot of bees or other pollinators, as that would help ensure good pollination. Otherwise, next season when the flowers are blooming, take a small brush and a container, shaking some pollen free from the flower, and then using the brush to then apply it to other flowers.

Hope that helps and thanks for writing in!

  • Don & John

 


 

Dear Don & John,
I was cleaning up the ground and fertilizing some of the fruit trees this weekend and I noticed something really odd. All of the plum trees are acting like it’s fall. Several species, all very mature and prolific full-sized trees, have started yellowing and dropping their leaves. 50-60% of the leaves seem to have turned yellow almost overnight. The leaves have brown spots and drop in droves at a simple shake of a branch. I looked for signs of mold or insect damage, but didn’t see anything obvious. They just act like it’s fall.

None of the other fruit trees (cherries, apples, pears, fig) have this issue, though all are suffering somewhat from the weird weather.

Does this have to do with the funky weather we’ve been having? Please help!

Aaron

 

Hi Aaron,
You did all the right things in checking what you did. Those are good steps.

And while plum trees in general aren’t producing as much as they did last year, we don’t think the weather is the culprit here, but rather some sort of fungal infection – but it’s difficult to tell without actually seeing the leaves ourselves.

Our best guess is that the fertilizer might be the trigger here. Fruit trees in the Pacific Northwest tend not to need too much fertilizer beyond specific nutrients. But too much nitrogen can spur excessive growth, leaving the tree susceptible to fungal infections.

So we suggest holding off on the fertilization for now and seeing what impact that has on the tree in a few weeks. With all fungal infections, it’s a good idea to pick up all the fallen leaves and put them in the yard waste bin – not your home compost or the disease can spread there.

While you might not get a good crop this year, you can most likely improve the quality of the tree health for next year. In the fall, the tree could benefit from a good pruning – targeting the parts of the tree that were infected this year. This should help the tree produce new growth in the spring.

Fungal infections also benefit from various sprays. Because we can’t identify which fungal infection your tree might have, we suggest bringing in a leaf sample to the Center for Urban Horticulture on any Monday from 4pm – 8pm. They have experts on hand who should be able to more accurately identify which fungus is affecting your tree and then recommend the appropriate organic spray – which would be applied next spring.

Hope this helps and thanks for writing in.

  • Don & John

 


 

Don Ricks has been leading the charge on applying foot socks to apples & pears throughout the city. While Don shies away from the term “expert”, he’s very knowledgeable about fruit trees and pest prevention. He’s very involved with the Friends of Piper’s Orchard and sits on the City Fruit Advisory Committee.

John Reardon is a long-time member of the Seattle Tree Fruit Society and has spent many years helping educate and inform people on the proper methods for caring for fruit trees. He also sits on the City Fruit Advisory Committee.