POPHarvest Program Update 2018-19

Posted on Categories Blog, Harvesting, Home, Plants, Wild EdiblesTags , , , ,

The POPHarvest gleaning program has taken a few turns and this year ventured into new fruiterritory, launching a new POPHarvestEd workshop series! The POPHarvest program, first piloted in 2014, is focused on picking and distributing fruit that would otherwise go to waste. These programs have taken two primary forms: distributing excess production from regional commercial orchards and educating about abundant but overlooked city fruit. In previous years, POP had developed relationships with some larger scale commercial orchards that would allow groups of POP volunteers to harvest otherwise unused portions of their production for donation to local emergency food services. This opportunity has unfortunately been on hold the past few seasons and while attempting to rekindle this, we’ve adjusted to further highlighting more unusual, yet abundantly available plants that grow in the city.  

POPHarvest events in 2018 focused on abundant but often overlooked city fruits, including crabapples, juneberries, mulberries, and hawthorns.

In 2018, we hosted our 3rd annual week long Juneberry Joy campaign, harvesting 118 pounds of juneberries with volunteers at 9 locations across the city, followed by a two-part Mulberry Madness yielding 51 pounds. These yields were utilized by a variety of local partners to create magical, edible and drinkable concoctions ranging from ice cream to kombucha, demonstrating the culinary value of these lesser utilized fruits. In the fall, POP engaged in two crabapple harvests, totaling 242 pounds, much of which was donated and turned into applesauce by Sunday Suppers, a culinary education program serving families at risk of food insecurity. Other group harvests included 25 lbs of hawthorn, and small paw paw and persimmon gleans, all supplemented with discussions of recipes, preservation, and other uses. For many of these lesser utilized orchard and regional gleaning opportunities, we have produced info sheets available on POP’s website to extend the reach of our educational efforts. These sheets contain plant facts, seasonal care tips, nutritional information and propagation or usage recommendations.  

If you’re interested in getting involved with gleaning efforts, please join our POPHarvest email list or reach out to michael@phillyorchards.org.

Introducing POPHarvestEd!

To expand upon what we at POP can share with our communities in the POPHarvest program, we piloted a new POPHarvestEd community harvest education program in fall of 2018. This workshop series brings in community teachers to lead gleaning workshops focused on sharing cultural, culinary, and medicinal uses of lesser known fruits, nuts, and herbs that are widely available through POP orchards and the Philadelphia region. In this effort, we are able to provide a platform for more diverse expertise, traditions, experiences and viewpoints concerning lesser known harvests in our region. We believe all people have something to learn and teach, and we celebrate the many ways people come to knowledge in their own unique experience and time. This season we held four of these workshops on the topics of Ginkgo berry processing, Trifoliate Orange based fire cider, Herbal Oxymels, and Black Walnut processing for edibility, fabric dye, wood stain and medicinal properties.

The POPHarvestEd workshop series features community educators sharing cultural, culinary, and medicinal knowledge about abundant but lesser known fruits and orchard plants.

In 2019, the POPHarvestEd community education program is looking for 8-10 teachers to share workshop proposals that would include info on selected plant(s), group harvesting, and food or medicine crafting. POP has been able to pay teachers a flat rate and sponsor ServSafe certification for workshop facilitators while offering these workshops on a sliding scale for attendees. If you’re interested in leading a POPHarvestEd workshop this year, please reach out to alyssa@phillyorchards.org or michael@phillyorchards.org for more info.

List of potential plants for 2019 POPHarvestEd programs:



trifoliate orange




aronia / chokeberry

black walnuts



grapes / grape leaves



lemon balm

bee balm

anise hyssop



lemon balm


raspberry leaf

blackberry leaf (root)

mulberry leaf

peach leaf

japanese knotweed


yellow dock


This blog post written by Orchard Director Michael Muehlbauer.

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.  

PLANT SPOTLIGHT: Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)

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

Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)

Tree Facts

Black Walnut  (Juglans Nigra) is a perennial, stone fruit tree native to Eastern North America, commonly found in riparian zones (area between water and land).  Technically the walnut produces a fruit called a “drupe” and is not a true nut! The drupes are harvested in the fall, dehulled and dried to allow the nut meat to cure for consumption.  This tree can grow very large, eventually reaching over 100’ in height and 6’ in diameter. The black walnut is a member of the Juglandaceae family. Careful consideration should be made before planting or growing around this tree as it is allelopathic, suppressing growth of many other plant species by releasing a chemical called juglone. The black walnut contains the highest concentration of juglone in the nut hulls, roots, and leaves and is commonly used as an herbicide.  This tree has numerous uses, such as: nutritional, medicinal, dye, structural/decorative, antibacterial, and herbicidal.

Seasonal Care-

The black walnut tree grows well between zones 5a-9a.  Commonly found natively near water, these trees prefer deep rich soil, moist yet well drained. Black Walnut is self fertile, but puts on a better fruit set with two trees. It is generally easy to grow with little attention needed.  

Winter/ Spring: Pruning is generally not necessary. Compost or organic fertilizer can be added in the Spring to maximize nut production.

Summer: The first year, a Black Walnut tree should be irrigated every week with 3-5 gallons of water. Once established, the tree generally only needs watering during severe drought.

Fall: Fruit is generally harvested from the ground, dehulled and allowed to dry for a few weeks before cracking the nut and consuming/storing the nut meat.

Nutritional Benefit:

Black Walnuts are packed with nutrients and are considered a superfood.  They contain one of the highest protein contents of any nut (7 grams per serving), as well as high levels of Manganese, Omega-3, antioxidants and other nutrients.  The nutritional content supports metabolism and bone structure, and can help protect against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain neurodegenerative conditions.

Propagating Black Walnut Trees:

As previously noted, Black Walnuts are toxic to a variety of plants and research should be done prior to planting to understand the effects that Black Walnut will have in that area.  Black Walnuts are best propagated by seed, collecting the fruit in the fall dehulling and immediately placing 5-6 whole nuts, 5-6” in the ground. Protect the nuts from animals, by placing chicken wire or cloth over the nuts and securing to the ground.  Cover with leaves/mulch and be sure to properly label location. In the spring remove the protective cover and water the sapling every week with 3-5 gallons of water.

Processing Black Walnuts for Nutmeat

  • Pick nuts up off the ground as soon as possible by hand or nut wizard. It is best to process nuts while the hull is mostly green to avoid mold and astringent nutmeat.
  • Use gloves to handle and de-hull the nuts. They will stain your fingers. They will also stain concrete for a period of time, clothing, and other surfaces.
  • Remember that walnut hulls halve a chemical called “juglone” that suppresses the growth of certain plants, so be mindful of where you take your hulls and wash water
  • Remove green hulls with hammer, knife, or strong hands (some people step on them or even drive over them covered in a tarp!). If hulls are too tough to work, let soften for a few days or buy a de-huller!
  • If you encounter worms when removing hulls, do not be alarmed as they do not affect the nut meat inside the inner shell
  • Rinse de-hulled walnuts to remove debris however you wish. A simple method is to fill a 5-gallon bucket with water and agitate a batch of nuts with a hoe, cement mixer, or by hand three times. Discard nuts that float, a legendary sign of likely spoilage.
  • Spread cleaned nuts out in a single layer to dry for 2-4 weeks. Make sure you do this in an area that squirrels absolutely cannot get to, as they will find a way to steal your nuts. Squirrels broke into Michael’s outdoor solar dehydrator this year because the openings didn’t have thick enough wire mesh! Some people swear that forced heat drying black walnuts at 95-100 deg F for 3-4 days is best for flavor and storage. Turn the shells every so often throughout the drying process.
  • Dried nuts can be stored in shell in a cool, dry location. They can be also be frozen until ready for use. Shelled nuts can be stored in a fridge or freezer for longer shelf life, and salt brining with further dehydration is a way to store walnuts longer at room temperature.
  • To crack black walnuts, do not use a regular nut cracker. It will break. Use a nut cracker that is made for black walnuts, or use a vice grip, or hammer with good hand eye coordination. You’ll want a nut pick or small scraping device to remove the nut meat from the cracked shell.

Volunteers de-husking black walnuts at a POPharvest gleaning workshop at The Woodlands in West Philadelphia.

Black Walnut Recipes!

  1. Basic Black Walnut Pie 
  2. Black Walnut Hummingbird Cake (Cream Cheese Frosting)
  3. Black Walnut Cinnamon Ice Cream
  4. Black Walnut Fudge 
  5. Black Walnut Chicken Quiche 

**Click HERE for more delicious black walnut recipes!!**

Processing Black Walnuts for Dye, Wood Stain, and Ink

  • Add green hulls to a stainless steel pot of water (We used the first rinse water from the above process).
  • Simmer for at least 30 minutes. For darker colors simmer longer, add more hulls, and even boil down the liquid.
  • Cool the liquid and strain through muslin bag or other cloth.
  • Test the strength of the dye/stain/ink. If darker color desired, return to step 2. Be careful not to scorch the liquid if boiling it down.
  • Store liquid in a glass jar or bottle, and add 100 proof vodka or rubbing alcohol (up to 1:4 ratio) to prevent mold and preserve for later use. The liquid will mold after a while if untreated.
  • Experiment with tie-dye or other fabric dying methods, black walnut as a wood stain, and as ink! Fabrics dye a cocoa brown and do not require a pre-mordant for dye to set as with other dyes. Wood stain is a light brown that can me made darker by concentrating the liquid.

Black Walnut tie-dye and wood-staining demos at POPharvest workshop.

Black Walnuts as Medicine

Black walnut hulls contain very powerful medicine that has been used for a variety of conditions including intestinal worms in humans and animals, while it must also be approached with caution. It is also a natural source of iodine. Do not attempt to use black walnut medicine without first consulting professional medical practitioners and clinical herbalists.

This POP Blog was written by 2018 POP Intern Greg Hample and Orchard Director Michael Muehlbauer with assistance from Admin Assistant Natalie Agoos. 

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.

Links for more info:




Wild Foodies of Philly

Philadelphia, PA
4,280 Wild Foodies

Our main mission is to educate the public on the many uses of wild plants and animals for food, fiber, and medicine. Wild edible plants and animals are the only truly sustaina…

Next Meetup

A Wild Winter Tour @ Awbury, Plus Open House & Greens Sale!

Saturday, Dec 8, 2018, 12:00 PM
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You Can Make Homemade Stain Using Walnuts!

POP 2018 Summer Newsletter

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2018 has been an exciting year so far for the Philadelphia Orchard Project and we thank each and every one of you for supporting us in our mission to create a more beautiful, bountiful Philadelphia.


-Planted our 1,239th fruit tree and supported our 61st community orchard site
-Involved over 700 volunteers and 1200 participants at orchard plantings, workshops, work days, harvests, school lessons, 1st annual Fig Fest and 10th annual East Park Strawberry Fest!
-Assisted with brand new orchard plantings at Cramp Elementary, Union Baptist Church, and Wyck Historic House
-Received new support from musician Paul Simon, Impact100, the Claneil Foundation, and more!

We hope you will take a few minutes to read below about some our POP events, past and future, as well as some of the interesting people and stories we’ve encountered along the way.  

Volunteer Work Days



POP is always in need of volunteers to help us with orchard maintenance throughout the season, workdays occur monthly so be sure to check our website for updates on events across the city.

Volunteer Groups

Getting your hands dirty in an orchard is always better with friends, if you or anyone you know is looking for the opportunity to help out as a group, reach out to: info@phillyorchards.org

2018 Updates

POP is Growing!

This year we are thrilled to introduce new staff members Orchard Director Michael Muehlbauer and Orchard Assistant Alkebu-lan Marcus! This year’s POP team also includes Repair the World Fellow Megan Brookens and interns Alex Vogelsong, Cole Jadrosich, Greg Hample, and Abaigh Casey. We’d also like to express our thanks again to departing staff Robyn and Tanya.

Orchard Education

We’ve had a busy and bountiful spring season with POP’s School Orchard program and community educational initiatives. Since January, we’ve delivered 17 lessons to 6 school orchard partners and reached 210 students.

Participating school orchard partners included William L. Sayre High School, William T. Tilden Middle School, Henry C. Lea Elementary School, Overbrook School for the Blind, Penn Alexander School, and John F. Hartranft School. Lesson topics included propagation, planting, and pruning; creating value-added products from the orchard; wild edible identification; and food preservation methods and traditions.

To read more about this year’s school orchard program, see our recent blog post update “Teaching Tomorrow’s Tenders

Orchard Plantings

POP’s core work of planting and supporting community orchards in the city continues to grow, and we are now working with 61 different orchard sites in neighborhoods across the city! 234 volunteers joined with us and our partners at 14 orchard planting events this spring.

Brand new orchards were planted with Cramp Elementary in North Philly, Union Baptist Church in South Philly, and Wyck Historic House in Northwest Philly. In all, 33 new fruit and nut trees, 92 berries and vines, and 526 perennial flowers and herbs were planted this season!

To learn more about all our orchard partners and view a map of POP sites, click here or visit phillyorchards.org/orchards.

POPHarvest Gleaning


June was joyful and filled with Juneberries, one of our favorite native fruits. With volunteers and orchard partners, we picked 120 lbs of juneberries at 10 harvest events across the city.

These incredible, abundantly available fruits were then featured by local businesses with a shared aim to increase awareness and utilize local fruit that would otherwise go to waste. We also harvested 50 lbs of fruit during Mulberry Madness and we are looking forward to Paw Paw Palooza 2018. Stay tuned for other gleaning events and a new workshop series highlighting lesser known fruits & herbs and led by community educators.

Join our POPHarvest listserv to get involved!


POP Blog
POP’s urban orchard blog continues to cover a variety of topics in ecological orchard care as well as highlighting our plants, programs, partners, and volunteers.

Some recent posts include:

Those Nutty Gardeners!: PA & NY Nut Growers Association

The Spotted Lanternfly: New Orchard Superpest?

Amaranth: Super Feed, Super Weed

Shrubs with Shrubs: Incorporating Underutilized Shrubs into Your Garden and Your Cocktails

New POP Pest & Disease Identification Guides!

Need help in identifying what specific pests and diseases are troubling your fruit trees?  POP has put together a series of photo guides for apples, cherries, peaches, plums, pears and Asian pears!  Download them for free from our website: https://www.phillyorchards.org/resources/pop_handouts/

Weed ID Guides

Our user-friendly guide was designed for orchard partners to identify over 40 of the most common weeds in Philadelphia. The guide also educates partners about positive and negative attributes of each weed, including life cycle, growth habit, edible and medicinal qualities, and ecological value. Based on these characteristics, the guide makes recommendations for which weeds to consider tolerating and which to consider removing.

Although intended for use by our partners, POP’s Weed Identification Guide has value for any home gardener! The price for mail delivery is $18 per guide and you can purchase them here via PayPal.

Please reach out to info@phillyorchards.org for bulk ordering options. We are happy to provide reduced pricing options for orders of 5 or more copies.

Keep POP Growing Strong

Your Amazon purchases can benefit POP at no cost to you!

You can direct Amazon to give a percentage of all purchases to POP.

Workplace Donations:

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, so you can divest, and then invest in planting the future with POP!

Individual Donations:

The Philadelphia Orchard Project is deeply grateful to each and every one of our generous donors and the support of our community. To make a donation simply click below and fill out the online form.



POP History 2009 & Volunteer Highlight: Jerry Silberman

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“Community orchards resonated with me because of all the things that trees can provide that vegetables gardens alone can’t – shade for one, but more importantly, a visible symbol of permanence and continuity.”  -Jerry Silberman, 2009 POP Golden Persimmon volunteer

In honor of the Philadelphia Orchard Project’s 10th anniversary in 2017, we’re looking back at a different year in our history every month.  We’re also designating Golden Persimmon Awards for each year in recognition of the extraordinary efforts of our volunteers.

We will be celebrating our 9th annual East Park Strawberry Harvest Festival on June 10th, 2017, a treasured community event first held in 2009!

Philadelphia Orchard Project History: 2009
POP organized our first ever Strawberry Festival in spring and Apple Festival in fall 2009 in collaboration with our community partners the East Park Revitalization Alliance and Woodford Mansion; these engaging community events have continued ever since!  POP’s core work also continued with 5 new community orchards planted in 2009 and the development of a more formal application procedure to vet new community orchard partners.  One of the more exciting projects was partnering with the SHARE Food Program in planting an orchard at their headquarters, now part of a multi-faceted urban farm program educating emergency food recipients about growing and eating a wide variety of fresh produce.  We also planted fruit trees at Greenfield Elementary as part of an innovative, collaborative project in which Philadelphia Water depaved large sections of the schoolyard to create a series of garden spaces.

POP ORCHARDS PLANTED in 2009: SHARE Food Program, Greenfield Elementary, Evelyn Sanders, Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School, Roxborough Presbyterian Church
2009 MEDIA COVERAGE: ‘Power Plants‘, GRID magazine.
2009 POP BOARD PRESIDENT: Domenic Vitiello

POP is proud to have planted fruit trees as part of the schoolyard transformation project known as Greening Greenfield, completed in 2009.


I don’t remember how I heard about POP, but I was there for the very first planting at the South Philly Teen Orchard and I was hooked. Community orchards resonated with me because of all the things that trees can provide that vegetables gardens alone can’t – shade for one, but more importantly, a visible symbol of permanence and continuity. The vision of POP that the orchards would be community property also speaks to permanence and continuity.  What’s more, I have to confess, most of my favorite foods grow on trees.

After its planting, I served as POP’s Orchard Liaison, or lead volunteer, for the South Philly Teen Orchard for more than five years.  The growth of the Teen Orchard was not a linear, unbroken success. The neighborhood had its share of problems, a polyglot community with new immigrants from many countries, much poverty and the stress that go with it. For a while, a drug house across the street regularly vandalized the orchard.

But for many neighborhood children and teens over the years, it was an exciting project, and a way to share different cultures. Some youth connected some of the plantings with  foods and products in their mother’s kitchens, and many, city born and bred, had their first close up appreciation of plants, bugs, and soil – and the amazement of eating something straight off the bush. In volunteering with POP at the Teen Orchard for many years I enjoyed, and learned from, the company of the young people.  And of course I learned how to care for our plants, and how to pass that learning along.

The growth and development of this orchard helped POP learn and evolve a model of community partnership now applied in neighborhoods across the city. POP’s Orchard Committee meetings spent a lot of time working through how to lead new partner groups through a process that would result long-term success in creating and caring for their community orchard spaces.

A few years ago I organized a bicycle tour as part of Philadelphia Orchard Day, something I hope can happen again. But it would now take several days to see all the sites/sights POP has to offer.

Planted in 2009, the orchard at the SHARE Food Program has since outlasted the neighboring Tastycake factory!

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

POP CORE Recap & Orchard Care Through the Seasons

Posted on Categories Blog, Home, Orchard Care, Orchard Pests, POP Orchards, Soil Care, Sprays, Tree Care, Tree DiseasesTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

POP kicked off its newest training program last Wednesday, March 8th at Bartram’s Garden called POPCORE: Community Orchardist Resilience Education. An endeavor to realize the potential and beauty of fully productive, well cared-for eco-orchards in every neighborhood, POPCORE seeks to encourage the self-sufficiency of our partners and connections between partners in close geographical proximity through group trainings and face-to-face sharing between partners. With increased knowledge, attention, and combined resources, the average community orchard has the potential to produce hundreds of pounds of varied produce per season in addition to being a safe, beautiful outdoor space for gathering and education.

POPCORE combines many elements of orchard stewardship, ecosystem design, and food uses that POP has learned over the past ten years,  synthesized in a 4-part series that can be taken as one-off classes or in pre-season series. Hosted back-to-back over four Wednesdays in March at Bartram’s historic garden, the course covers Pruning and Eco-orchard Seasons (March 8), Pest and Disease Management (March 15); Plants, Fungi, and What To Do With Them (March 22); and Permaculture and The Future of Philadelphia’s Food System (March 29).  Registration info here

The first class taught by POP Executive Director Phil Forsyth and Orchard Director Robyn Mello drew 21 participants, who came from a span of neighborhoods throughout the city to learn about orchard care through the seasons and the specifics of pruning fruit trees, berries & brambles, and fruiting vines, with a pre-class hands-on pruning demo hosted in Bartram’s Community Orchard.

For the health of your orchard, seasonally-appropriate care is important and POP wants you to succeed! Check out POP’s Resource Guide for PDF-downloadable handouts on topics covered during POPCORE’s first session, including orchard care by season (summarized below) a guide to pruning, and relevant POP blog posts linked below. 

Students learn techniques for wintertime pruning of fruiting shrubs in Awbury Arboretum’s food forest.


PRUNING. For best production and tree health, all common fruit trees regardless of age should be pruned during their dormant season every winter, ideally between late January and early March. The basic idea is to open the tree to more air and light.

Check out POP’s guide to Pruning Fruit Trees and  Pruning Bushes, Brambles, and Vines.  

REMOVE MUMMIFIED FRUIT. Any fruit left hanging on the tree is a potential source for disease spores. Pluck and remove any mummified fruit from the orchard during pruning.

SPRAY DORMANT OIL. Apply horticultural oil, neem oil, or vegetable oil at 4% dilution to smother overwintering eggs of insects including aphids and scales.

Check out POP’s guide to Dormant/Horticultural Oil Sprays. 

MAINTAIN ORCHARD EQUIPMENT. Clean and sharpen all orchard tools. Order orchard care supplies. For PHS City Harvest participants, check out a related training on Tool Care on Saturday March 25th from 10am-noon or visit POP Partner The West Philly Tool Library for information on tool rental and care. 

Orchard liaison Tony Dorman spreads compost during a spring workday at Philadelphia Montessori Charter School


APPLY MULCH/COMPOST. Spread chipped winter prunings, shredded leaves and/or compost.

Check out POP’s guide to Ramial Wood Chips and Weeding in Place.  

HOLISTIC ORCHARD SPRAYS. Holistic sprays are composed of compost tea, liquid fish/seaweed, neem oil, and/or effective microbes. For best tree health and resistant to disease, apply up to 4 times in the spring (after bud break, at first pink of flowers, after petal fall, and two weeks after petal fall). Depending on specific pest or disease problems, some orchardists might also consider other organic sprays including the ones listed below. 

Check out POP’s guides to orchard applications of:

TRAINING. New growth can be trained to better angles using clothespins, branch spreaders, or tying to weights.

THINNING. In late May or early June, young fruitlets on peaches, apples, pears and Asian pears, and some plums should be thinned by pinching off with fingers or pruner. Peaches should be thinned to 8” apart, apples and pears to 5”, and heavy-bearing plums to 5” on the tree. Also at this time, all fruit should be removed from any newly planted trees.

Check out POP’s guide on Thinning Fruit Trees. 

BAGGING FRUIT. Place ziplock, paper, or nylon bags around young fruit (especially apples) to protect them from some insect and disease challenges.  

Check out POP’s guide to Bagging Fruit.

Community members pick berries during Strawberry Mansion’s Strawberry Festival


HARVEST. Pick fruit as they ripen, spring through fall according to fruit type. Remove or compost any fallen fruit to reduce potential pests and disease. 

Check out POP’s guide to Summer Harvest Timing and Equipment and Late-Season Fruit Ripeners.

MONITOR. Observe orchard regularly throughout the year for pest and disease problems, identify and respond appropriately with trapping, removal, or possible applications of kaolin clay, neem oil, Bt, pyrethrin, etc.

EMERGENCY PRUNING. Remove diseased or damaged wood, root suckers, and watersprouts any time of year. Be sure to sterilize tools with alcohol or bleach solution between each cut. In some cases, additional structural pruning may be done in early summer to minimize regrowth, but avoid anything but emergency pruning after July.

For more information, check out this POP guide to emergency pruning. 

Executive Director Phil Forsyth brews a batch of compost tea to apply to orchard plantings


APPLY COMPOST. After most leaves have fallen, spread a layer of compost or spray compost tea. An annual soil test can reveal any other specific nutrients or amendments that should be added.

Check out POP’s guide to Autumn Composting. 

We hope this seasonal breakdown provides you with a solid overview to ready yourself for maintaining the health and productivity of your orchard. Hope to see you in a POP CORE class soon!
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.  

How did we do last year? POP’s 2016 Orchard Survey Summary

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POP has been surveying all of our orchard partners at season’s end since 2013. Each year’s qualitative and quantitative results have shown growth, improvement, and areas in need of more attention. We want to share some of what we’ve learned with you!

In all, 46 of 56 total POP partners (82%) participated in our 2016 survey. As a thank you, POP is distributing a requested orchard item, such as pruning tools, pole harvesters, produce scales, neem oil, or a desired plant, to all participating partners.

46 of POP’s 56 community partners participated in our 2016 orchard survey!

Orchard Value

This section is intended to help us understand what our partners value most about their orchards. The highest percentage of respondents rated “Educational Opportunities” in orchards as having the “highest value” (57%) for the fourth year in a row. Partners also most frequently placed Highest Value and High Value on orchard contributions to “Beauty and Neighborhood Greening” and “Environmental Impact.” A relatively lower rating for the value of food production and distribution is somewhat distorted by responses from younger and newly planted orchards that have not yet come into full production (a process that can take 5 years). However, many of our partner sites with more established plantings or larger numbers of plants rated food production and distribution with highest value.

To exemplify the varied things that can come from an orchard space: “POP’s initial planting day at Penn Alexander School was also the catalyst for a partnership between Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Streets Department, and University City District.  Additionally, Penn Alexander School Garden and Orchard won the ‘Garden of Distinction Award’ in the 2016 Pennsylvania Horticulture Society Gardening Contest–selected from among 300 entries!” Other specific uses of orchard spaces mentioned involve being refuges and resources for wildlife, sources of still life for art students, spaces of honor and memorial for loved ones, spaces for therapy, and spaces for safe play and exploration for children.

Penn Alexander School students spreading mulch and compost during our spring 2016 orchard planting.

The survey’s request for stories illustrating the value of the orchard always provide some heartening responses that help provide qualitative support for the impact of POP’s work. The most common theme of these responses is the value of educating and exposing people to freshly grown fruit, the reactions that people have to tasting things for the first time, the lessons involved in learning to care for their orchard spaces, and the ways in which children respond to the spaces. More than half of all respondents also took time to write into at least one of their answers how thankful they are for the work that POP staff do for partners and their communities. Some of the most exciting partner testimonials from the 2016 season are contained in a separate blog post here.

Community Involvement

This set of questions was intended to assess the number of people involved with and affected by our orchards.  Surveys reported:

  • A total of 324 people throughout the city participate at least monthly in orchard care. This number is up 30% from last year’s survey.
  • 2,200 people participated at least once in orchard care.  This number is up 22% from last year.
  • 60% of respondents tend to their orchards at least every other week, and half of respondents have organized workdays at least once per month, doubling last year’s response!
  • 4,609 people tasted something grown in a partner orchard.
  • 4,300 people used a POP partner orchard as a gathering space.
  • 4,800 people participated in educational programs at orchards. This number is up 38% from 2015!

Significant increases in regular attention, participation in regularly scheduled workdays, and the number of people participating in educational programming is fantastic news! These improvements in just one season are very encouraging indicators that our increasing number of orchard spaces and maturing orchards are reaching more people.

Over 2200 individuals participated in caring for POP orchards in 2016 (in all kinds of weather)!


This section was intended to assess where the produce from POP orchards is being distributed. Of total produce yielded by community orchards in 2016,

  • 44% was harvested for free by community members (up 15% from 2015)
  • 21% was distributed for free to community members (down 4% from 2015)
  • 11% was lost to pest or diseases (up 3% from 2015)
  • 6% was processed into value-added products (up 3% from 2015)
  • 5% was sold at on-site farm stands! (down 3% from 2015)
  • 5% was sold off-site at farmers’ markets (down 4% from 2015)
  • 5% of ripe fruit went unharvested (down 3% from 2015)
  • 2% was donated to emergency food pantries, and (not tracked in 2015)
  • 1% was sold via Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares (down 2% from 2015)

The most significant and promising change shown is the 15% increase in produce being harvested by community members for their own use. This demonstrates increased involvement, agency, empowerment, education, and orchards continuing to be woven into the fabric of the neighborhoods in which they’re housed.

Mill Creek plums
Mill Creek Farm’s plum trees studded with fruit this summer!

Orchard Production

This section was intended to evaluate what plants are yielding the best, gather data on actual production levels where available, and discover the production problems with which our partners need the most assistance. Compared to last year, 57% of applicable respondents reported an increase in orchard yield.

One of the challenges POP would like to address in coming years is expanding partners’ understandings of what is considered a “yield.” As orchard ecosystems mature, making use of understory plants in abundance will contribute to better overall maintenance and orchard value. Making more increased use of plants for medicine-making, fiber production, culinary spicing, and preserves are ways of expanding yields.

The total reported orchard production for 2016 is 5,000 pounds. This is a 28% increase, up from 3,910 pounds reported in 2015. The 3,910 pounds reported in 2015 was a 67% increase from 2014.

Based on survey analysis of tree fruits, peaches/nectarines, juneberries, plums, sweet cherries, apples, figs, and persimmons produced the highest yields, with juneberries, plums, sweet cherries, figs, persimmons, mulberries, and paw paws seeing the most significant increases in yields since 2015.  

Several berry and perennial vegetable yields saw a decrease in reported yield from 2015, with a notable exception of raspberries and blackberry harvests greatly increasing. Overall, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and asparagus continue to yield the best. The best producers have quickly spreading growth habits and few pest pressures, and the lowest producers are lesser-known, lesser-harvested, and lesser-planted shrubs in our orchards overall.

Based on previous survey data, increased attention was paid to care of raspberries and blackberries in 2016 and significantly increased yields resulted!

In 2015, there were significant decreases in yield among bramble berries (raspberries and blackberries, mostly), which POP attributed partially to a lack of proper pruning and maintenance during the previous winter. As a result, POP Staff made a push during the 2016 pruning season for orchard partners to increase care for these plants, and the increased yields this year suggest that this work paid off. This is strong evidence that survey data is important in guiding actions to improve overall orchard health and production.

Culinary and medicinal herbs were tracked a bit more this year, but education and encouragement to partners to harvest and track yields from these plants must continue. Mint, lemon balm, sage, and oregano were highest harvested plants.

Production Challenges and Recommendations

In 2016, 22 respondents believed they had extensive management problems in their orchard, and 24 believe they did not. However, 59% of respondents reported that their community orchards were easier to maintain in 2016 than in previous years.

Specific incidents of pest and disease problems are only as accurate as a partner’s ability to identify them, so it’s also likely that there are more problems than were reported. Nonetheless, reporting seems to have improved in 2016 so that we have enhanced ability to know what to continue education around. Four orchards report they had no problems at all. The highest incidence of challenges were squirrel (22), insect pests (18), plant diseases (16), peach leaf curl (15), birds (13), and mosquitos (13). The most common problems reported were very similar in number to the previous year, so POP will continue to educate around these specific challenges as much as possible.

Dedicating more staff time to on-site pest and disease management at a few key partner orchards in 2017 is another pilot program in development. A schedule will be set up with partners to travel to various orchards, apply compost tea and other holistic orchard sprays.

Expanding Orchard and Permaculture Education Efforts

89% of respondents are interested in participating in a Community Orchardist Training Course.  As a result of this enthusiasm, we’ve decided to design and offer a new series called POP CORE (Community Orchardist Resilience Education) for all partners and volunteer orchard liaisons throughout the month of March!

Based on this year’s survey results, POP is establishing a new POPCORE training course for orchard partners and volunteers!

Orchard Demographics

Although challenging to assess, we feel it’s important that POP understands a bit more about the populations that participate in and live around community orchards. To start, we asked about income this year. On average, orchard partners reported that 66% of populations they serve would qualify as low-income. Depending on the partner, these numbers were generated via census data, FMNP voucher collection, HUD criteria, and well-informed estimates. For some sites with public access and a larger draw from out-of-neighborhood visitors, these numbers are harder to assess.

Organizational Improvement

On a scale from 1 to 10, respondents’ average rating of POP as an overall organization was a 9.1! Almost every single respondent is pleased with their relationship with their volunteer orchard liaison, and overwhelmingly partners believe that POP staff are supportive and easy to reach. 

Looking back on the previous year provides great encouragement for the coming season, and we will continue to use this information to improve our programming and outreach long into the future!

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.