This bud’s for you

community orchard

Well, that was easy.

We built a park. Which is to say, trees and blueberry bushes are in the ground at the little 55-by-60-foot community orchard we’ve been planning. In about 4 hours, we transformed a clay lot into a home for two pear trees, a fig tree, a persimmon tree and eight proud blueberry bushes.

Turns out building a park is a lot like painting a room: You spend all the time doing the prep, but putting the color on the walls — or trees in the ground — takes almost no time.

The prep in this case, though, wasn’t scraping and priming wood, or cutting in on the edges. It was lining up agreeable parties, securing partnerships with community organizations and negotiating options with a water utility.

The local paper, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, very graciously covered the planting. And they did a better job in their story and video piece than I can do here. There are some great action photos, too, but my favorite may be the clichéd, posed group photo, where you see a healthy cross-selection of the people who pulled this off. There’s me and Jenn, of course, but also Trees Columbus, who provided tools and brought more than a dozen volunteers. There are Bibb City neighbors, and a family who didn’t know us from Adam’s house cat, but whose mama wanted them to see the park when driving by it next year and 10 years from now and think, “I did that.”

Planting day was also the first time I ever got to meet the attorney who’s donating closing costs on the property — he grabbed a shovel and got busy with some blueberries — and the property owner who’s donating the land, who came by after running a marathon. Neither wanted to stick around for the photo.

Two weeks in and the trees seem happy. Maybe too happy. Thanks to the exceptionally mild winter, most of them are already budding, about 6 weeks too early. Hopefully they’ll make it through any freeze undamaged. We’re not expecting too much of a harvest in Year One anyway and were already planning on pinching off most of the blueberry flowers to encourage root growth.

And while it feels great getting the plants in the ground, we’re not even close to done yet.

This weekend I’ll be putting in posts to build the trellis for blackberries which still need to go in the ground. And I’ll be assembling two raised-bed planters for the foot of the street so we can get some herbs planted by late March. And if we’ve got any leftover money from the Georgia Organics Food Oasis grant at that point, we’ll put out some seed for ground cover and spread some rock for a path.

After the media coverage, I’ve had a few people approach me and ask if I’m worried about homeless folks congregating on the lot.

They already were, I tell them. And while we can’t have them camping on the land, what’s the harm in them passing through and grabbing some food on their way?

In fact, getting fruit into hungry bellies is really the point.


Anthony Street Orchard volunteers

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