Farming for the Future: Recap of the 2018 PASA Winter Conference

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POP staff were thrilled to attend Farming for the Future, the 2018 PASA Winter Conference.

The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, or PASA, is the largest statewide, member-based sustainable farming organization in the United States, which grew out of the need for an educational and support system for farmers – both experienced and beginning. PASA works to improve the economic viability, environmental soundness and social responsibility of food and farming systems in Pennsylvania and across the country with a mission to promote profitable farms that produce healthy food for all people while respecting the natural environment. Their work is rooted in education and support for farmers, and outreach to the general public.

Fedco Trees display some historic apple varietals for the upcoming growing season

PASA’s signature event is the annual Winter Conference that POP’s Education Director Alyssa and Orchard Director Michael just attended. It is widely regarded as one of the best of its kind in the East, a vehicle for community building and education that brings together farmers, processors, consumers, students, environmentalists, and business and community leaders.

This year’s theme was Farming for the Future: Farming in a Time of Transition, which seems all too true! The content was impressive with almost any farming topic imaginable represented through the 100+ speakers, intensive workshops, and 90+ trade show vendors. While there is an abundance to soak in educationally, the opportunity to network and socialize is equally present all day and evening for four full days – if you haven’t taken in too much and need a nap!

This year had more orchard-related content than ever with intensive workshops on all of the following topics and more:

  • Organic Apple and Peach Production
  • Kiwi Berries, Strawberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, and Blueberries
  • Biological Orcharding
  • Holistic Orchard Spray Decisions
  • Biological Alchemy
  • Urban Ecosystems
  • Urban Farmer Real Talk

POP staff attempted to soak in as much of this content as possible! Michael Phillips, a pioneer of holistic orcharding, had numerous workshops that dove into the many biological connections that can contribute to a healthy orchard ecosystem. And if you were lucky, you got to chat him up over a drink afterwards!

Michael Phillips encourages adopting fungal consciousness during his Biological Alchemy workshop, recognizing symbiosis as a principle life strategy

In Biological Orcharding and Alchemy workshops with Phillips, we dove into the details of beneficial fungal connections and how fungi create symbiotic relationships with plants and plant networks, soil building and the importance of all trace minerals, the immune system and physiology of orchard plants, the role of biodiversity in providing services to the plant community you are cultivating and the environment at large- including beneficial insects that will eat your pests, holistic orchard products and ways to produce your own from available materials. The work that Michael Phillips does aligns with much of what we encourage in POP Orchards and Food Forests.

Community activist Karen Washington addresses the crisis of malnourishment that affects 795 million people worldwide.

Other notable highlights included a keynote address and breakout sessions with the formidable Karen Washington of Rise & Root Farm, a community activist whose work in New York City explores food access, justice, and sovereignty at the intersections of race, class, gender, climate change, and the current economic and political systems. A powerhouse of knowledge and passion, Washington inspired dynamic conversations among attendees — exploring and depicting what food justice and sovereignty look and feel like, truly, in an era where the terms themselves can be threatened by rhetorical overuse if not embodied.

To grow your own food gives you power and dignity. You know exactly what youre eating because you grew it.  Its good, its nourishing and you did this for yourself, your family and your community.” Karen Washington

The PASA conference is a magical place, where you get to meet and hear from knowledgeable farmers from all over you would probably never come across other than on their farms, as well as busy urban farmers that you might also never see unless you’re working together to plant, prune, weed, mulch, and harvest.

We were happy to see Philadelphia well represented with Soil Generation Solidarity uprooting racism, Norris Square Neighborhood Project teaching hyper-local apothecary skills, Heritage Farm with high functioning high tunnels, Robyn Mello distilling her urban social and landscape ecosystem design considerations, Cloud 9 Rooftop Farm discussing small space and vertical gardening with recycled materials, many other Philly farmers running around and in discussion, and an urban farmer meetup hosted by Urban Tree Connection, Penn State Extension, and The Food Trust.

More good news for Philly area farmers- next year’s conference will be closer- to be held in Lancaster rather than State College. We highly recommend attending in the future if it’s your jam!  

This conference recap was written by Orchard Director Michael Muehlbauer, with contributions from Education Director Alyssa Schimmel. 

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If you find this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia:

POP Orchard Partner Feature: 5000 Cedars & Jewish Farm School

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A garden for all ages, even the little ones get their hands in on the action!

For the past nearly six years, Nati Passow and Rachel Tali Kaplan of 5000 Cedars and Jewish Farm School have been working to build a bountiful garden, communal gathering space, and home-scale food forest from three de-fenced, vacant lots in West Philadelphia. Their project is part of a growing movement of de-fencing advocates that work in community alongside neighbors to join parcels of land for regenerative food growing and community organizing practices.

A candle-lit Shabbat dinner in the garden

The project began in 2012 when the couple bought the vacant lot next door to their home and began seeding with neighbors a vision for a neighborhood teaching and feeding garden. After a few years of rubble removal, building and reorganizing, the space now serves as a hub for community potlucks, homesteading classes offered through the Jewish Farm School, and other religious and secular celebrations like Shabbat dinners and Passover seders tied to the Jewish agricultural year.

Community members welcome the Sabbath with prayers and song in the JFS garden and orchard

“More than anything,” Passow shared, we wanted to create a demonstration of what people in the city can do on the home-scale, or a little bigger, within the same ballpark. We are excited to model that with this space and invite passerby to eat some food and learn about the plants.”

In July 2016, the Philadelphia Orchard Project took on 5000 Cedars & JFS as a supported orchard partner site.  POP assisted in developing an orchard design and installation began in fall 2016 – adding plum and fig trees out front, in addition to a pie cherry, paw paws, blueberries, blackberries, chokeberry, currant and gooseberry. Local mushroom farm Mycopolitan also joined on board – inoculating  Stropharia wine cap mushroom spawn amongst the blackberries to boost soil fertility, as they’ve done through several other POP sites. In fall 2017 the orchard was transformed into a food forest with additional plantings of diverse perennial flowers, herbs, and groundcovers.  

Phil Forsyth prepares fruit trees for planting at the site

“It’s truly been a community effort,” Passow said. “Volunteer groups have helped transform the space during cleanups and build days, and every time we host a gathering or class, our mission gets stronger.” Since its founding, 5000 Cedars and JFS have provided platforms for local teachers and ag educators to share their knowledge with the community geared around urban sustainability and resilience – offering such classes as small scale backyard vegetable production, composting, medicine making, and more.

Nati Passow and volunteers plant native paw paw fruit tree seedlings

“We hope that when people walk into the space they’re amazed at what they see and the possibility of what you can achieve. We’re well on our way,” Passow said. 

To learn more about Jewish Farm School, their mission of using food and agriculture as tools for social justice and spiritual mindfulness, and to view their list of Shtetl Skills workshops for ongoing educational offerings, visit their website here.

This POP Partner Feature was written by Education Director Alyssa Schimmel. 

SUPPORT US!  If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia: phillyorchards. org/donate.

Does your tree look like it’s bleeding sap? It might be Bacterial or Fungal Canker!

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We recently received an update from Penn State Extension about bacterial canker on stone fruits (cherry, plum, peach, etc.) which provides one upside to hot midsummer temperatures. According to their recommendations, “summer is the best time to prune your [effected] trees, particularly during dry weather. The bacteria do not like hot, dry conditions and the pathogen population will be at its lowest. Research out of Cornell showed no benefit of copper applications before and after pruning. Save copper sprays for the fall and early spring when cool, wet weather favor bacterial populations to grow and trees will be the most vulnerable.”

So, what is canker? I’ve done some more research and found online resources to help you out with explanation, identification, pruning, and management tips! When there’s no precipitation scheduled in the forecast and its been dry for a couple days, please get outside, monitor your trees, and water any young plants, get your emergency pruning done!

To ask more questions and learn more about pest and disease management of fruit trees, stay tuned in to POP’s upcoming events lists for Community Orchard Resilience Education (POPCORE) course updates and specific Pest and Disease Management Classes.

Bacterial Canker (bacterial)

Latin names: Pseudomonas syringae and P. morsprunorum

Common names: gummosis, blossom blast, spur and twig blight, sour sap, and dieback

Cytospora Canker (fungal)

Latin names: Leucostoma persoonii and Leucostoma cinctum (teleomorph) and Cytosporaleucostoma and Cytospora cincta (anamorphs)

Common names: perennial canker, peach canker, Valsa canker, and Leucostoma canker

Identification (plenty of photos below)

These infections are most noticeable when it looks like sap is oozing out of your tree in one or more places. This sap is, in fact, the pathogen surrounded by a sugary layer of protection, which can then be spread via water droplets carrying the bacteria or through fungal spores carried in wind and water.

Cankers don’t always have to be oozing, however. Older or dormant infections might appear as sunken areas on branches or trunk bark, dessicated (dry) and cracked areas, areas that look like the tree has tried to heal over old wounds, or areas that look scarred.

Fruiting buds, vegetative buds, flowers, leaves, and fruits can all be affected by these diseases and show dieback (flowers, leaves), spotting (leaves and fruits), or gummosis (buds, fruits) as well.

NOTE: Identification, pruning, and management of the bacterial fire blight (Erwinia amylovora) and fungal apple canker (Neonectria ditissima) on pome fruits (apple, pear, Asian pear, juneberry, etc.) are very similar to those of these stone fruit diseases. If you have any of these, emergency pruning is also necessary at this time.

ANOTHER NOTE: Some of these symptoms may be from insect pest problems. Oozing sap could be an indication of oriental fruit moth, peach twig borer, or peachtree borer getting into your shoots, trunk, or fruits. Dieback (called flagging in this case) of new shoots could be an indication of oriental fruit moth or peach twig borer. However, any entry point in your tree from insects is an open wound that could be more susceptible to fungal or bacterial infection.

Bacterial canker of plum tree (Robyn Mello)
Blossom and leaf dieback are also symptomatic of infection, though there are insect pests that can cause similar appearances. (
Manifestation of advanced canker on unripe peaches. This will completely rot fruit before it ripens, and fruit left on the ground will continue to spread the disease next season. (photo credit: Robyn Mello)
Blossom and leaf dieback are also symptomatic of infection, though there are insect pests that can cause similar appearances. (
Blossom and leaf dieback are also symptomatic of infection, though there are insect pests that can cause similar appearances. (
An infection may not always look like it’s oozing. Here, a dry wound may still be harboring bacteria or fungus and should be cut out. (


Always disinfect your tools with isopropyl alcohol, bleach solution, or hot water and soap before removing every new canker. One organic orchardist out of Wales disinfects his tools with milk between cuts instead, which has anti-bacterial qualities and apparently works for him.

Tools you will likely need are pruning shears, pruning saw, a sharp knife (grafting knife, pruning knife, pocket knife, or sharp kitchen knife), and possibly chisel and hammer. Placing a sheet, tarp, or large garbage bag under you while pruning may help to keep infected debris from getting lost on the ground. You’ll want to remove all material from the site.

If infections are apparent in your main trunk, thicker branches, and branch crotches connected to the main trunk or thicker branches, you may be able to get away with cutting out the infection rather than removing the entire limb. To do so, cut into the outer layer of bark a couple of inches out from where your canker is showing, and peel that back to reveal the wood underneath. Infected wood is most likely brown/black and may have gummy residue. Cut all of that brown/black wood out by notching with a knife, saw, or chisel and hammer until all that you see exposed is clean and green, healthy wood.

After cutting into a canker site, the darkened center of this wood is what the infection looks like inside the tree. If cutting canker off, make sure you have clean, green wood or you haven’t cut deeply enough. (photo credit: Robyn Mello)

If smaller branches are infected and you can’t find clean and green wood below your cut, you’ll have to prune the entire branch back to where it is clean and green, and to a bud that’s pointed in an outward direction and angle preferable for a new new branch to grow. You don’t want any brown/black discoloration anywhere to be showing behind remaining pruning cuts.

NOTE: Emergency pruning for the bacterial fire blight (Erwinia amylovora) and fungal apple canker (Neonectria ditissima) on pome fruits (apple, pear, Asian pear, juneberry, etc.) are essentially the same. Pruning out fire blight is often recommended to cut back 8” from visible infection.

Pruning tools, bottom to top: 12’ telescoping pole saw and pruner, expandable pole saw, limb spreaders of various sizes, pruning saws, 70% isopropyl alcohol, loppers, extendable pole pruner, hand pruners, gloves, and twine (Robyn Mello)

Prevention and Management:

Remove all diseased plant parts from your orchard via trash bags, adding to a well-managed and hot compost pile, or burning. Placing a sheet, tarp, or large garbage bag under you while pruning may help to keep infected debris from getting lost on the ground.

Michael Phillips, author of must-have orcharding book, The Holistic Orchard, has some great herbal tips for helping your afflicted trees, including rubbing calendula salve or garlic paste onto newly pruned wounds for their antimicrobial effects. Plants healing plants seems like a winning option! There are many other common antibacterial and antifungal plants growing in most of POP’s partner orchards, as well, such as thyme and oregano that can be used the same.

Though we generally don’t recommend sealing pruning cuts because trees are best at healing themselves, some orchardists whose trees have been heavily affected by these diseases will use organically approved Abrex Heal and Seal or similar.

Continue to monitor your trees for signs of infection or re-infection, compost well at the end of the season or beginning of the spring, and, if your orchard’s infections are quite bad, spray with copper/sulfur fungicide at the very beginning of spring next year.


Penn State Extension: Bacterial Canker

Penn State Extension: Cytospora Canker

High Quality Educational Videos:

How to Identify and Remove Canker from Apple Trees

Removing Cytospora Canker from Plums

Fire blight and cankers


The Holistic Orchard by Michael Phillips

The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control: A Complete Guide to Maintaining a Healthy Garden and Yard the Earth-Friendly Way edited by Fern Marshall Bradley, Barbara W Ellis, and Deborah L Martin (a Rodale Organic Gardening Book)

This POP Disease Tip is written by Orchard Director Robyn Mello. 

SUPPORT US!  If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia:

POP Partner Feature: Monumental Baptist Church

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Volunteers clear the fence adjacent to the new orchard. Many hands make light work!

Over the last five years, Monumental Baptist Church in West Philadelphia has been steadily greening its churchyard. What started out as a large unused garden plot behind the church and two neighboring row homes has now become the Community Garden Project (CGP), a prolific teaching garden and orchard, serving the congregation’s 300 members and its surrounding community by not only providing healthy food but also teaching children and adults the nutritional value of growing fruits and vegetables, preparing healthy meals, recycling and reusing water and natural fertilizers. CGP also uses its program to teach service-learning skills and foster accountability and teamwork. 

The first year, Mecky Pohlschroder, a 19-year member of the church, and a few volunteers began on their own, removing debris, pulling up overgrown weeds, and sowing seeds for what would become plentiful harvests and Sunday morning distribution by the youth tending the space. The second year, the church joined PHS’ City Harvest program – one year, growing over 500 pounds of produce! 

In November 2016, MBC welcomed POP and volunteers for the first planting of fruit trees and shrubs at the site, including blueberries, cherries, peaches, and more.  On July 15th, 2017, POP will help MBC sheetmulch the orchard space in preparation for additional understory plantings.  Hundreds of perennial herbs, flowers, and groundcovers will be planted in the fall to complete the food forest.

Children ready the ground for planting fruit trees in fall 2016.

“It was one of my absolute most cherished days when POP came to start the orchard,” Pohlschroder recalled. “It was just after the election and there was so much sadness, so many emotions, but all these volunteers came out and it was just an awesome day of everyone working so beautifully together. It was filled with love.”

In addition to working with the MBC youth, CGP was extended to the community through after-school programs bringing together immigrant and local students teaching them social and academic skills through gardening. Pohlschroder describes the garden as a place where students’ wonder is cultivated. “The kids really love it,” she said. “They learn it all – from A to Z. They pull out the carrots, wash them, and eat them right there. They’re amazed. Our seniors love it, too. Many of them grew up in the South and had lived on farms, so it’s something that brings back a lot of memories.”

The site houses four garden beds in the church’s front yard, and five in the back, which produce crops such as kale, collard greens, peas, carrots, eggplant, tomatoes, and okra. Since planting the orchard, Pohlschroder says she’s hopeful that it will encourage more church members to spend time in the backyard connecting with community, now that there’s nice trees, with ample shade and room for the kids to play.

As a church, the garden and orchard are also a place where the Bible comes alive — a huge part of it being about working together and sharing the harvest, she says. “Jesus uses many parables in the Bible, from the story of cultivating faith as small as a mustard seed to references of fig trees. It really makes a lot of sense if you can actually see things grow.”

Monica Morgan (pictured here) and church members greet the new trees with joy and anticipation of future harvests!

More than anything, the garden and orchard at MBC is a place of inspiration. It’s a space where children learn to grow, where cookouts unite community members through shared food and cultural connection, and a place that nurtures the visioning of future gardens. One grandmother and granddaughter have begun planting their garden after seeing the church’s – learning about building beds and collecting compost from the Fairmount Park Recycling Center. “It’s amazing to see what sparks are ignited.”

This POP Partner Feature written by Education Director Alyssa Schimmel.

SUPPORT US!  If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia:

POP Partner Feature: Casa Del Carmen

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Volunteers gather at Casa Del Carmen after a productive day of orchard planting in 2016

Part of Catholic Social ServicesCasa Del Carmen is a bilingual, bicultural family service center in North Philadelphia that’s provided over 50 years of service to the Latino immigrant community in Hunting Park (4400 N Reese St, 19140). Last year, 21,000 people were impacted by Casa’s work in the spirit of ‘nuestra casa es su casa‘ (‘our house is your house’) ensuring that all clients have their basic needs for survival met with access to two food markets, a clothing bank, nutrition education, rent/mortgage and utility assistance, public assistance counselors, maternity education, ESL, and preschool offerings for young children.

Casa’s food program is a central component to their work, as administrator Chris Gale says, and their approach is unique. In partnership with the Coalition Against Hunger and The Green Light Market, only one of two in Philadelphia, Casa offers a food market for clients where they can select from fruits and vegetables grown in Casa’s backyard, frozen meats, and nonperishables. In fall 2015, Casa and partners took providing empowering food access one step further through partnering with the Philadelphia Orchard Project to turn what once was a grassy largely underutilized backyard garden into a fully realized orchard with fruit tree plantings, berry vines and bushes, and a perennial herb understory.

Although the orchard has yet to generate a sizable harvest, still being in its infancy, Gale says they anticipate the orchard being a major component of Casa’s nutrition program and food markets. “We’d like to see clients tending the orchard and being able to pick the fruit right from the trees.” Another way Gale sees the orchard space as integrated into Casa’s larger programming is through preschool program. “The children are already back there everyday because the playground is back there, but I dream of using the orchard as a living classroom, teaching the children nutrition and basic biology through the site.”

Staff members Janet DeJesus, Miguel Trigo, and John Hernandez have taken ownership of the site to make sure all is growing well in between quarterly POP visits to the site to check on the health of the plantings. Gale calls the orchard space “truly a greater Philadelphia effort” with estimates that nearly 100 volunteers from Villanova, Temple, Drexel, La Salle, Friends Central and the Junior League have helped to plant or maintain the site during days of service.

Resource tent for new mothers at Casa’s Community Baby Shower

“We’re still waiting for fruit,” Gale says, “but we’re very excited about the thought of harvests with the community.” In the meantime, clients can look forward to Casa’s other main programming including the Community Babyshower coming up on April 21st and again in August, where new and expectant mothers can tap into community resources and enjoy raffles, food, and music during the big celebration that’s held in Casa’s parking lot. To learn more about Casa’s work, visit their site here. 

This POP Partner Feature written by Education Director Alyssa Schimmel.

SUPPORT US!  If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia:  

POP 2017 Winter Newsletter

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“At first my volunteer group was hesitant, saying they had never heard of the fruit, but I think everyone there eventually tried the goumi berries, and this had an interesting effect. We began to talk about fruits we liked growing up, remembering what plants our families grew in their gardens, and sharing almost forgotten herbal home remedies for illnesses our parents gave to us. The time we spent in the orchard that day helped us get to know each other more and brought us closer together.”                                   — Leslie Cerf, Awbury Arboretum

We thank you for supporting our vision of a more beautiful, bountiful Philadelphia!

Here are some highlights from our fall 2017 season:

  • Planted our 1099th fruit tree and supported our 56th community orchard site!
  • Assisted with brand new orchard plantings at KleinLife community center, Jewish Farm School, and Monumental Baptist Church
  • Partnered with the West Philly Tool Library to make orchard tools & equipment more accessible
  • Involved over 2000 volunteers and participants in 59 events including orchard plantings, work days, workshops, tours, harvests, and festivals
  • Celebrated our 6th annual Philadelphia Orchard Week with harvest festivals and other events at orchard sites across the city!

We hope you will take a few minutes to read below about some of the interesting people and stories we encountered along the way.  

Young volunteers help with food forest plantings at Penn Park in fall 2016!

POP is 10 Years Old!

All this year we will be celebrating the Philadelphia Orchard Project’s 10th anniversary!  Each month we’ll look back at a different year in our history and recognize the efforts of some of our extraordinary volunteers.  Stay tuned for announcements about a series of events to celebrate our big milestone.

Ten years ago, POP Executive Director Phil Forsyth and others were inspired by Paul Glover’s original vision of a Philadelphia Orchard Project that would plant vacant lots and other city spaces with fruit trees to feed hungry Philadelphians.  In looking back on this important anniversary, we take pride on the progress we’ve made towards this original vision and transitioning it to a fully realized organization.  In our first ten years, POP has planted almost 1,100 fruit trees and currently supports a total of 56 community orchards in the city, primarily in neighborhoods lacking access to fresh fruit.  We are proud of the impact of our community orchards in bringing beauty and bounty to neighborhoods and helping to build a new culture of fresh food in the city.

POP’s very first planting way back in 2007!

2017 is going to be another pivotal year for POP’s growth!  We just hired a new part-time Education Director, Alyssa Schimmel, who among other things will be working directly with our 10 school orchard partners and developing a series of orchard-based lesson plans.  We are also rolling out our new POP CORE urban orchardist certification course in March to help train our orchard partners and volunteers.  What’s more, in February 2017, we moved into POP’s first ever office space at The Woodlands in West Philadelphia!

Fall 2016 Summary

Orchard Plantings. POP’s core work of planting and supporting community orchards in the city continues to grow, and we are now working with 56 different orchard sites in neighborhoods across the city!  230 volunteers joined with us and our partners at 16 orchard planting events this fall.  Brand new orchards were planted with the KleinLife community center, Jewish Farm School, and Monumental Baptist Church. We also expanded existing orchard sites at Lea Elementary, Penn Alexander School, Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, Overbrook School for the Blind, Overbrook Environmental Education Center, PhillyEarth @ the Village of Arts & Humanities, Awbury Arboretum, Historic Fair Hill, Woodford Mansion, Penn Park, Francisville, and Bartram’s Garden. To read more about all our orchard partners and view a map of POP sites:

Harvest, Gleaning & Preservation. Eight POPHarvest gleaning events were held during our summer and fall 2016 season, where an estimated 5,000 pounds of fruit were picked by volunteers for take home and for donation to emergency food pantries, transition houses, churches, and partner organizations throughout the city. Many additional pounds of apples went into fresh cider pressed at various harvest festivals and Orchard Week events! POP staff, interns, and volunteers gleaned apples, peaches, and pears from a local commercial you-pick orchard; Asian pears from streets and backyards; mulberries, plums, and apricots from one of our partner orchards; and trifoliate oranges from historic sites. Stay up to date with 2017 harvesting events and become part of growing this program to make use of underutilized fruits by becoming a member of the POPHarvest listserv.

Orchard Education.  POP continues to educate our orchard partners through diverse offerings including orchard care workshops, consulting visits by POP staff, POP TIPS shared through the Philadelphia Orchard Group (PHOG), and the Philadelphia Orchard Project Blog. In January 2017, POP hired two-time Education & Outreach intern Alyssa Schimmel to serve part-time as POP’s Education Director.  In collaboration with POP’s 10 school partner sites, POP will create orchard-based lessons to implement into the classroom with elementary, middle, and high school students. Henry C. Lea Elementary School in West Philadelphia will be the first committed pilot site. POP plans to build a network of educators throughout the city for educational resource sharing and curriculum development. Please email if you would like to join a committee of dynamic and inspired agricultural educators.

Please join us for our upcoming Fruit Tree Grafting Workshop on March 11 and learn more about the launch of POP’s 4-part Community Orchard Resilience Education (POPCORE) course Wednesdays in March at Bartram’s Garden beginning March 8th.

POP workshops this fall included biochar, compost tea, and ecosystem design!

6th Annual Philadelphia Orchard Week.  This year we celebrated Philadelphia Orchard Week with over 1600 participants at orchard sites across the city. Events included orchard plantings, harvest festivals, apple picking, cider pressing, a plant sale, crafts and games, volunteer opportunities, and more!  POP also loaned out our new cider press for fall harvest festivals at the Norris Square Neighborhood Project, Heritage Farm, Walnut Hill Farm, CHOP Karabots, Francisville, Overbrook Environmental Education Center, and the Pour the Core Cider Fest.

2016 POP Orchard Survey Results

Results of our 4th annual partner survey provide valuable feedback showing the impact of POP’s programs and guiding our future efforts towards continued improvement. Orchards were again valued most highly as educational spaces and over 4800 people participated in educational programs at POP orchards, up 38% from the previous year! Another 4600 tasted something grown in a POP orchard and 4300 used them as a gathering space in 2016. The survey again showed that almost all orchard produce is distributed within the neighborhood where it’s grown, including 44% harvested directly by community members. POP partners reported orchard yield totals for the year 38% higher than in 2015—over 5,000 pounds. Combined with another 5,000 pounds volunteers picked in our POPHarvest program, that makes for a lot of fruit!  82% of POP partners participated in the survey this year and as a thank you, POP is distributing a requested orchard item, including pruning tools, pole harvesters, produce scales, and guidebooks to all participants.

Read more survey results here!

Together, POP’s community orchards and POPharvest program yielded over 10,000 pounds of fresh fruit this year!

2016 Orchard Partner Stories

Every year we ask our orchard partners to reflect on the year in the orchard, and to share with us stories about what the orchard is providing for their community.

Overbrook School for The Blind

“Our students were able to taste figs for the first time from our fig tree. They would check the tree almost daily to get the figs before the squirrels! In late November, we made fig jam with the students. To quote our student, Elijah, when he tasted the jam: ‘It’s the bomb dot com!’”

— Roseann McLaughlin

Read more partner stories here!

Orchard Update: PhillyEarth @ the Village of Arts

Tucked away on an unassuming side street in North Philly, a large portion of the vacant lots on the west side of the 2500 block of North Warnock Street are buzzing with life and innovation. What once was a series of crumbling rowhomes is now a hub of outdoor learning for young people interested in self-sufficiency, regenerative systems, and improving their connection to the earth through PhillyEarth, a program of the Village of Arts & Humanities.

Read more about the PhillyEarth Orchard here!

POP and Phillyearth transformed vacant lots into a food forest this year!

POP Has a New Home

POP is excited to announce our move into our very first office at The Woodlands, a 54-acre historic landscape that was once a one-of-a-kind 18th-century English pleasure garden, 19th-century rural cemetery, and a modern green oasis for its neighbors in bustling University City and West Philadelphia. We are still working on furnishing our office; please email if you’re able to donate any of the following items in good working order:

  • printer/copier/scanner
  • computers (desktop or laptop)
  • space heater

Our new office space at Hamilton Mansion at The Woodlands! The ceiling may be low, but that won’t stop us from growing!

Annual Appeal Update

Thank you again to everyone who helped us during our annual appeal campaign this year! Together we were able to raise $18,552, which supports our work maintaining these community spaces of beauty and bounty, educating volunteers and orchard enthusiasts, and installing new orchards in the city of Philadelphia. We are still just shy of our $20,000 goal, and you can help us get there by making a tax-deductible donation today!

Other Ways You Can Help! 

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Workplace donations through United Way, Earthshare, Benevity

POP can now accept workplace donations via United Way (#53494), Earthshare, and Benevity: ask your employer about how to set up tax-exempt contributions and matching donations to support our work. We are also now able to accept stock transfers (email, so you can divest. . . and then invest in planting the future with POP!

Join POP’s Committees 

We’re always looking for more good volunteers for POP’s operating committees!  To help our Education Committee with developing new blog content, educational materials and curriculum, please contact Alyssa Schimmel (  To assist our Events Committee with organizing fundraising events or helping with outreach activities, please contact Tanya Grinblat (  Experienced volunteers are invited to join POP’s Orchard Committee and work directly with our orchard partners; for more info contact Robyn Mello (

Volunteer at Orchard Plantings and Events

POP’s fall event season will be announced soon!  To receive updates about upcoming volunteer opportunities, please sign up for our volunteer list on our website (

Plant a fruit tree in celebration of a loved one for holidays, birthdays, and other occasions!

POP Partner Feature: PhillyEarth @ Village of Arts & Humanities

Posted on Categories Blog, Home, POP OrchardsTags , , , , , , , , , ,
Newly sheetmulched PhillyEarth Food Forest in spring 2016.

Tucked away on an unassuming side street in North Philly, a large portion of the vacant lots on the west side of the 2500 block of North Warnock Street are buzzing with life and innovation. What once was a series of crumbling rowhomes is now a hub of outdoor learning for young people interested in self-sufficiency, regenerative systems, and improving their connection to the earth through the programming of PhillyEarth.

Since 2012, PhillyEarth has been the Permaculture education and demonstration center of The Village of Arts and Humanities, a nonprofit that has become a mainstay of the neighborhood since its inception nearly 30 years ago. While a large portion of the day-to-day arts and professional training that goes on at The Village is housed in its various reclaimed rowhome offices, the organization is famous for its public murals, mosaics, sculpture gardens, and neighborhood aesthetic improvements spanning for many blocks around. PhillyEarth’s mission adds to that history of cultural preservation and community empowerment by using underutilized space for growing food and constructing multifunctional infrastructure out of repurposed materials.

POP hosted a tour of PhillyEarth and The Village in 2015. Here you get a glimpse of the beautiful murals and mosaics that light up the landscape.

PhillyEarth works with youth of varying ages from the surrounding neighborhoods and recruited through Saul Agricultural High School for a semester at a time, roughly three months each. The current session, over in early March, has 16 students. Robyn had the privilege of meeting half of the middle and high school students over the last week for a conversation about orchards and healthy eating and fruit tree pruning, respectively. The education they’re getting from PhillyEarth and its partners is unlike anything they’re getting in their schools, so there was plenty of excitement in the room as questions came up about the life cycles of perennial plants, ingredients in the foods we eat, where foods come from, what “organic” means, and much, much more.

Robyn spending some time with the current PhillyEarth cohort

POP planted several fruit trees with the Village back in 2010 and has partnered with the PhillyEarth program since its inception.  Last year the relationship and the orchard space were expanded through the installation of PhillyEarth’s demonstration food forest on the corner of North Warnock Street and West Cumberland Street. Hundreds of perennial herbs and groundcovers, berry brambles, berry shrubs, and young fruit trees were planted in spring and fall of 2016 with the help of POP volunteers.  The new plantings were made possible by a grant from the Philadelphia Chapter of the Garden Club of America.  

Asian pears at the PhillyEarth Orchard!

Jon Hopkins, PhillyEarth’s Director, and the youth with whom he works are excited about their future of fruit. Despite the immaturity of most of the orchard plantings, participants in PhillyEarth programming harvested upwards of 200 pounds of fruit and herbs in 2016. “At the farmstand, the hottest ticket items are the fruits, especially with the kids,” Hopkins said, while the youth around him nodded emphatically. He estimates that half of the produce grown on site is sold by youth at their farmstand next to the main Village of Arts building on Germantown Avenue, and the rest is taken home to PhillyEarth families. Whatever isn’t consumed by humans is fed to the chickens who live at the farm, and everything that’s inedible becomes compost to build soil for next season’s food. Nothing goes to waste.

Inside the Earthship greenhouse where the solar-powered aquaponics system is housed, still growing kale in January!

In addition to providing a safe space for youth to spend their time outside of school, the farm and food forest are full of projects constructed by the youth which demonstrate PhillyEarth’s core values of caring for people, caring for the earth, and working towards a healthy future. There are chickens housed in a chicken coop, a cob oven (sculpted sand, clay, and straw) , an Earthship greenhouse, an aquaponics system powered by solar panels, benches made out of pallets, big flower sculptures made from old hubcaps, a solar dehydrator, a living willow fence, and more. The PhillyEarth website has dozens of blog posts highlighting the many other sustainability and self-sufficiency projects that youth and neighborhood volunteers have participated in over the past few years. There’s a lot of beauty and ingenuity in frugality, and a really bright future in neighborhoods growing their own food. Like many of POP’s partners, PhillyEarth is leading the way.

One of the pallet benches and hubcap flowers in front of PhillyEarth’s living willow fence
This Orchard Update written by POP Orchard Director Robyn Mello.
SUPPORT US!  If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia:  

Winter Pruning: Workshop Review & Pruning Guide

Posted on Categories Blog, Home, Orchard Care, POP Orchards, Tree CareTags , , , , , , , , ,
Phil discusses branch bark collars and where to make proper ‘thinning’ pruning cuts to open fruit trees to more air and light.

POP kicked off its 2017 season on Jan. 28th with a sold-out class on winter pruning held at Awbury Arboretum’s Agricultural Village. Executive Director Phil Forsyth led off with a presentation on pruning and the techniques and tools most appropriate by species — whether stone fruits like peaches, plums, cherries, and apricots, pome fruits like apples and pears, fruiting bushes, vines, or rambling brambles — blackberries and raspberries.

The second portion of the workshop brought participants, armed with hand pruners, loppers, pole pruners and saws, out to test what they learned. We pruned a row of pie cherry trees on the border of the Teens Leadership Program farm and then moved through POP’s demonstration food forest orchard, tending to the assortment of plantings. Now cleared of diseased and damaged wood, and competing, crossing, or vigorously grown branches from the previous year’s growth, the pruned plants will be more productive and structurally sound for the season to come.

Workshop attendees saw back a limb to create a modified central leader for this cherry tree, improving air and light flow toward the tree’s center

Pruning helps maintain the health and vigor of plantings through the removal of branches and manipulation of buds. Good pruning helps fruiting trees, shrubs and vines remain more resistant to pests and disease, as well as bear a larger, more consistent, and better quality harvest. While damaged, diseased wood, suckers at the base of the tree, and watersprouts can be pruned in any season, most orchard pruning is best completed during the dormant season, before the buds begin to swell, and preferably on a day when the temperature is above freezing (late January through early March) – with the exception of peaches (which should be pruned after they bloom).

For specific information on pruning and shaping methods and the basic structure of trees, consult POP’s Pruning Guide for Young Fruit Trees here along with other printable resources for tending to your orchard plantings from our POP Handouts and Resource guide.

Eager to learn more? Look out for next month’s workshop on Fruit Tree Grafting at Bartram’s Garden on March 11th from 10am-1pm, and this year’s new Community Orchardist Training Program kicking off Wednesday evenings in March at Bartram’s Garden!

SUPPORT US!  If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia:  

Plant Spotlight: Meet the Pawpaw! (Asimina triloba)

Posted on Categories Blog, Cooking & Preservation, Harvesting, Home, Orchard Care, Plant Profiles, Plants, Propagation, Recipes, Tree Care, Wild EdiblesTags , , , , , , ,

By 2016 POP Intern, Lucia Kearney.

I first encountered the pawpaw one late-September day when my former elementary school art teacher came to my parents’ house for dinner. She and her husband had gone foraging for them on Swarthmore College’s campus before heading our way. I was perplexed; these fruits were native to the area, growing right down the street, and I’d never even heard of them. The fruits had yellow-green skin, and were somewhat lumpy and filled with large, dark seeds that were easy to squeeze out. The texture I found strange–it’s often been described as “custard-like”–and the flavor was very particular. Many say that pawpaws have a rich banana flavor with hints of pineapple or mango, an observation reflected in the many nicknames the pawpaw has earned in North America, including the Hoosier Banana, the Poor-Man’s Banana, and, my personal favorite, the Banango. The late-September day remains the only time I’ve ever tried a pawpaw, but after reading up on them for this blog post, I’m looking forward to trying them again when they’re ripe this September.

Paw Paw tree at the Tertulias Orchard in North Philadelphia.
Paw Paw tree at the Tertulias Orchard in North Philadelphia.

The common pawpaw has the great distinction of bearing the largest fruit native to North America. Pawpaws were first documented in the 1541 report of the Spanish de Soto expedition who encountered Native Americans who were cultivating pawpaws east of the Mississippi River. They grow in most of the eastern United States, as well as in southeastern Canada. These trees usually grow to be between 10 and 26 feet in height, though some have been known to reach up to 40 feet. As a result of their long, gracefully drooping leaves, Martin Crawford describes the pawpaw as having a “sleepy” look.

The Sleepy Pawpaw
The Sleepy Pawpaw

Their flowers are a sight to behold, unlike any other flowers on POP’s orchard trees, and seemingly less delicate. They begin bloom in mid-April, and many are just emerging right now. Flower buds form only on one-year-old wood, and each flower has six petals (three inner and three outer) that start out green, turn brown, and then finally transition to a dark red. Interestingly, pawpaws are not pollinated by bees, but rather by flies and beetles. As such, flowers have a faint but unpleasant smell. In order to increase rates of pollination, you can hand pollinate by using a small paintbrush to take pollen from the flowers on one tree and apply it to the flowers of another tree.  Some growers will even lay decomposing animal carcasses beneath pawpaws in order to attract more carrion flies! Interplanting with other smelly carrion flowers (such as the native Wild Ginger, Asarum canadense) is also a wise strategy.

A pawpaw flower
A pawpaw flower

A single flower can produce a cluster of several fruits. While the pawpaws that I tried were of a particular wild variety, fruits are usually oblong and sometimes banana-shaped. Wild pawpaws average about 3.6 inches in length by 1.4 inches in width, while selected cultivars can get to be up to six inches by 3 inches. The skin is usually thin and smooth and easily bruised, while the flesh varies from white to yellow-orange (it should be noted, though, that white-fleshed varieties tend to be bitter and inedible).

Pawpaw fruit
Pawpaw fruit


NOTE: The following information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Please read our full edible/medicinal use disclaimer at the end of this article and seek medical advice from a qualified professional before using a new plant in your diet. 

The best thing to do with pawpaws is, of course, to eat them! Pawpaws can be eaten raw or cooked and can be used in salads, for making preserves, pies, cookies, and cakes, amongst other things. Apparently, chilled pawpaw was George Washington’s favorite desert! To loosen the seeds, roll the fruit between your hands. You can also cut them in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon, or peel them like bananas. The internet is filled with recipes for pawpaws, including this New York Times piece on Pawpaw Pudding (that I fully intend on making this Thanksgiving). Asked if there were various other fruits or vegetables that could be used to replace pawpaw, Appalachian chefs told the author again and again, “forget it, there’s nothing like a pawpaw.” For more recipes, check out Kentucky State University’s multitude of recipes here, including pawpaw cream pie, pawpaw custard, and pawpaw ice cream.

Pawpaw pudding
Pawpaw pudding

Pawpaws are wonderfully nutritious. They are higher in unsaturated fats, proteins, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin C, and many other minterals and amino acids than peaches or apples.

There have been some reported allergic reactions to the fruit, mainly to substances in the fruit’s skin, and especially in fruits that have not completely ripened. The seeds are inedible and, in fact, were traditionally crushed and used as an emetic, as well as to treat head lice. They also make beautiful seed beads.

The long, brown beads in this necklace are pawpaw seeds!
The long, brown beads in this necklace are pawpaw seeds!

The bark contains natural pesticides called acetogenins. Interestingly, the larvae of the Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly feed exclusively on the young leaves of pawpaws (though they usually do so in numbers small enough as to be no problem for the plants). These butterflies are not only immune to the acetogenins but carry them with them once they become butterflies, rendering the butterflies unpalatable to birds and other predators.

Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar Eating a Pawpaw leaf
Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly Caterpillar Eating a Pawpaw leaf
Zebra Swallowtail
Zebra Swallowtail

Two substances obtained from the bark – asimicin and trilobacin – are currently being tested as anticancer agents. The inner-bark of the pawpaw is stringy and fibrous; traditionally it was stripped from branches in the early spring to be used to make fishing nets and ropes.

Growing Pawpaws

While pawpaws in the wild often clonally propagate via suckers, cultivated varieties are usually started from seed. Seeds should be stratified at 35˚ to 40˚ Fahrenheit for between 60 and 100 days before sowing. Make sure that seeds don’t dry out or freeze, as this can kill the dormant embryo. After stratification, soak the seeds in warm water for 24 hours, and then plant about 1 inch deep in deep containers. Heat the containers at about 80˚ from the bottom. Germination takes around 2-3 weeks, and a shoot should emerge after around 2 months. Growth is slow for the first 1-2 years.

Pawpaw seeds
Pawpaw seeds

Root cuttings are often successful as well. Plant 6inch lengths of tap root deep in the ground in the spring. New plants will emerge in the following season.

Named cultivars are often propagated via chip-budding or grafting.

Plant out baby pawpaw trees when they are between 12 and 40 inches tall. They have long and brittle taproots, so it’s important to take care while transplanting. Space trees 13 feet apart and mulch well; pawpaws do not like competition, especially from grass. Once planted, pawpaws require little attention; pruning should be limited to dead or crossing branches, though the occasional heading cut can be used to shorten limbs and encourage lateral growth. Suckers begin to emerge once the trees start bearing fruit and can pop up as far as 10 feet from the parent tree. These can be cut, mown, or left to grow. Trees grow about 16in/year, and should be about 5ft tall after 4-6 years. Cross-pollination is necessary for fruit production, so it’s best to have more than one tree. If necessary, hand pollination can increase yields. They also grow well with walnuts.

Baby pawpaw saplings
Baby pawpaw saplings

Pawpaws require a minimum of 160 frost-free days and like rich, moist, well-drained soil that is slightly acidic (ideally with a pH between 5.0 and 7.0). They need plenty of water through the summer months – at least 32 inches of rainfall per year – and will tolerate partial shade, especially in hot climates. They often form thickets in the woods beneath tall, shade canopy trees. However, more sunlight will result in more fruit.

Pawpaws are fairly free of pests and diseases, and deer and rabbits leave the leaves and bark alone. However, deer, squirrels, foxes, birds, and other critters will eat the fruit. Pawpaws do sometimes fall prey to the larva of the small Tortricid moth, which can burrow into the flowers causing them to wither, blacken, and drop, potentially lowering fruit yields significantly.

Tortricid moth larva
Tortricid moth larva
Tortricid moth adult
Tortricid moth adult

Fully-ripe fruit will fall to the ground, so it’s usually best to pick them a little bit early and allow them to ripen indoors. Take care when harvesting, as fruits are easily bruised. They can be stored for many weeks in the cold, but should be eaten within 3 days when ripe and left at room temperature. Trees produce every year, about 20-30 fruits per tree, though some varieties may produce double that.

Happy pawpawing!

SUPPORT US!  If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia:


The Philadelphia Orchard Project stresses that you should not consume parts of any wild edible plants, herbs, weeds, trees,​ or bushes until you have verified with your health professional that they are safe for you. As with any new foods that you wish to try, it is best to introduce them slowly into your diet in small amounts.

The information presented on this website is for informational, reference, and educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as a substitute for diagnosis and treatment by a health care professional. Always consult a health care professional or medical doctor when suffering from any health ailment, disease, illness, or injury, or before attempting any traditional or folk remedies. Keep all plants away from children. As with any natural product, they can be toxic if misused.

To the best of our knowledge,​ the information contained herein is accurate and we have endeavored to provide sources for any borrowed​ material. Any testimonials on this web site are based on individual results and do not constitute a warranty of safety or guarantee that you will achieve the same results.

Neither the Philadelphia Orchard Project nor its employees, volunteers, or website contributors may be held liable or responsible for any allergy, illness,​ or injurious effect that any person or animal may suffer as a result of reliance on the information contained on this website nor as a result of the ingestion or use of any of the plants mentioned ​herein.


Trees for Gardens, Orchards and Permaculture by Martin Crawford


Picture 1 – Philadelphia Orchard Project photo

Picture 2 –

Picture 3 –

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Picture 5 –

Pictures 6 & 7 –

Picture 8 –

Picture 9 –

Fruit Tree Propagation: Grafting

Posted on Categories Blog, Home, Plants, PropagationTags , , , , , , , , ,

By Lucia Kearney, 2016 POP Orchard Intern

It might surprise you to learn that almost no fruit trees are grown from seed. There are several reasons for this, one of the primary being that most fruit tree seeds are unlikely to produce the same variety of fruit as the parent tree. This is especially true in the case of apples, whose seeds may not even produce edible fruit, and have maybe a one in a million chance of producing fruit similar to the parent tree. As a result, chances are that every apple that you have ever eaten has come from a grafted tree. All named varieties of tree fruit, like a ‘Seckel’ pear or ‘Goldrush’ apple, are propagated via grafting and are thus genetically identical to all other fruits of the same variety name.  Even trees that do grow fairly true from seed – such as peaches – are also usually grafted as this process is less-time consuming and easier to control than starting trees from seed.

So, what is grafting? As defined by Greg Rothman of Cummins Nursery, grafting is “a form of plant propagation in which scion and rootstock are surgically combined.”

Labeled scion wood waiting to be grafted at the POP Grafting Workshop.

The rootstock is exactly what it sounds like – the roots of the tree that you would like to grow. The rootstock determines the size of the tree, and can also be chosen for characteristics such as disease resistance and drought resistance. POP, for example, generally uses semi-dwarf rootstock, which makes for 12 to 15 foot tall trees.  The same ‘Goldrush’ apple scion would grow to 30′ grafted on standard root stock and 8′ on dwarf root stock.

Rather than being grown from seed, rootstock is clonally propagated. The desired variety is grown for about a year, then cut close to the base. The tree will send up a number of sprouts, and as they grow, their bottoms are covered with sawdust or sand to encourage root growth. The same can be done to the suckers sent up by more established trees. Once they have grown roots, the individual sprouts can be cut and used as rootstock.

Scion wood refers to the part of the graft that will produce fruit. Scions are usually first year wood with at least 2 or 3 buds cut from trees with the variety of fruit that you wish to grow. It’s best to cut scion wood while it is dormant in the wintertime, as well as to use rootstock that is dormant. This allows the tree more time to heal as it slowly wakes up.

One of the most common forms of grafting is called “bench grafting,” so called because you can do it indoors, sitting on a bench (if you’d like). Participants learned this technique from Greg Rothman at POP’s grafting workshop at Awbury Arboretum in March 2016.


  • Grafting knife (small straight blade beveled on one side); it is important to keep this very sharp so as to make clean cuts.
  • Grafting tape/bands for wrapping the rootstock/scion to keep the graft in place.
  • Hand pruners, to trim the end of the scion.
  • Wax/wound goo to seal the exposed parts of the scion.
  • Tree labels
  • First aid kit (because as Greg said during his presentation, if you do enough grafting, at some point you’re going to accidentally cut yourself.)


First, make sure that your rootstock and scion are about the same thickness at the point where you will be connecting them. The idea is to get as much as the cambium of the rootstock and scion to be in contact. The cambium is the green layer of cells between the bark and the wood. It is made of meristemic tissue; undifferentiated cells that can become wood or bark, and is thus where the graft will connect.

Tree Tissue Layers

There are two different ways of cutting and connecting the rootstock and scion. The first is called a ‘splice graft,’ and is simply a vertical cut, ideally made on a sharp angle so as to ensure maximum contact between scion and rootstock. To make a whip & tongue graft, start with a slice graft cut, and then make a second cut in the middle of the first cut on both scion and rootstock. This cut allows for more contact between scion and rootstock, and naturally compresses the two together.

Types of graft cut

Greg Rothman of Cummins Nursery, demonstrating proper cutting tecnhique.

Next, cut the scion back to two or three buds; this ensures that the tree will focus its energy on these points. After that, the graft needs to be tied in place. You can use a variety of materials for this – tape, rubber bands, etc. At the grafting workshop, we used a parafilm wax tape that stretches to apply increased pressure, holds in moisture, and eventually decomposes so it doesn’t need to be removed later. (Some other grafting rubbers and tapes need to be removed once the graft is healed so they won’t strangle the tree). The graft should take around 4-5 weeks to heal.

Wrapping the graft makes sure it stays in place and holds in moisture.

Next, the pruned edge of the scion wood needs to be sealed in order to prevent infection. You can buy tree wound sealant to do this or even use Elmer’s glue.  The preferred technique involves heating wax and then dipping the tip of the scionwood, making sure to completely coat the exposed edge. You can melt the wax in a double boiler or crock-pot.

Lastly, make sure to label your tree! It’s going to be some time before it produces mature fruit, so you’ll want to remember what fruit cultivar you’ve got on your hands.

Make sure to label your graft so you don’t mix up cultivars!


We recommend that you pot up grafted trees immediately, and then keep them in a cool place (such as a garage) to give the tree time to slowly wake up. Make sure to keep the soil moist. Plant trees in the ground around tomato planting time, around May or June, and make sure they get about an inch of water per week during the first year. At around the same time, you can remove the wrap (if using non bio-degradable type) around the graft so as not to strangle the tree. Alternatively, transplant your successfully grafted tree to a larger container to grow out and plant in the fall or following spring.


While bench grafting is the most common method for grafting fruit trees, there are some other ways to do so.

Chip budding – The rootstock is planted out, and then a single bud is cut out and replaced with a bud from the scion wood desired. It is then tied in place, and given time to heal.

Chip budding
Chip budding

Top Working – This method is used usually to change over the variety of a more established tree. Cut scions are inserted between the bark and the wood of the parent tree, and then wrapped in place. All exposed surfaces are then coated in wax. Using this method, several different varieties of tree can be grafted onto the same tree. Sam Van Aken, a professor at Syracuse University, has a single tree onto which he has grafted 40 different kinds of fruit!

Top working
Top working
40 fruit tree
An artistic rendering of the Tree of 40 Fruits, Sam Van Aken

Bridge Grafting – This is a method for rescuing damaged trees that are more than four years old. When a tree is girdled – meaning the bark has been removed – then the tree can no longer transport food produced via photosynthesis by the leaves to the roots, eventually killing the tree. Scion wood is cut and inserted into the healthy bark above and below the damaged part of the tree, thereby allowing the tree to once again transport food from the leaves down to the roots. If the tree is less than four years old, it is recommended to simply cut the tree below the wound, allowing it to regrow from that point.

Bridge grafting
Bridge grafting

Happy grafting everyone!

SUPPORT US!  If you found this entry useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia: