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.



Intern Spotlight: Alyssa Schimmel

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The Philadelphia Orchard Project started its internship program in spring 2014 and it has proved essential for the organization in enhancing our programs while providing individuals with opportunities to engage with and learn about urban agriculture and sustainable living practices.  If at all possible, we seek full-season interns (approximately February 1 through December 1) who are flexible enough to help with all manner of things our small nonprofit might need. Intern efforts include researching and writing new blog posts and educational tips for orchard partners; assisting with orchard planting, maintenance, and harvest events; working in the POP nursery; performing outreach and assisting with event planning, and more!
Alyssa Schimmel has worked with us for two seasons. Here, she harvests strawberries at the annual Strawberry Festival at Historic Strawberry Mansion.
Alyssa Schimmel has worked with POP for two seasons. Here, she harvests strawberries at the annual Strawberry Festival at Historic Strawberry Mansion.
Alyssa Schimmel has been an all-star intern since the start of the 2015 season, generally going above and beyond in her work and ability to stay focused and organized. She’s also extremely easy to get along with and acts as a great POP ambassador. Here’s a little about her and her experience working with POP in her words:
“I came to intern with The Philadelphia Orchard Project two years ago, after a season cultivating medicinal plants at Joe Hollis’ North Carolina botanical garden, Mountain Gardens. There, I was ignited with the desire to steward natural spaces that could at once serve as sources of food, medicine, retreat, recreation, community, beauty, and inspiration – a philosophy Hollis calls his Paradise Gardening approach to working with nature.
“With every tree that POP plants, a web of interconnectivity awakens: communities form to care for precious land throughout our city, habitats are restored for animal and pollinator species, and we are all gifted the opportunity to observe nature’s cycling and to learn from it – to the benefit of us all. The fruit that ripens on the trees that we enjoy every season is fruit that spans time. This season’s fresh peach, goumi, or hardy kiwi is ever sweeter knowing that these trees will feed many more beyond our conception and will have been tended collectively by thousands of hands.
Alyssa performed a large amount of the work needed to put together September's first ever orchard-to-table dinner at Bartram's Garden.
Alyssa was one of the primary organizers in putting together POP’s first ever orchard-to-table dinner at Bartram’s Garden in September 2016.
“With the mentorship and support of Phil and Robyn, who lead with tenacious heart for this work, I have come to learn so much about building sustainable and diverse eco-systems and developing programming that involves land tenders, volunteers, community members, local business, and artisans in its reach. As a second-year Outreach and Education Intern with the organization, some of my favorite working projects have been cataloging the medicinal and edible uses of the hundreds of species POP plants throughout its sites, writing educational signage, tending our many sites through community work parties, organizing gleaning events that connect people with beloved fruiting street trees like the mulberry and juneberry, and working with local businesses like Magpie, The Random Tea Room, W/N W/N, Weckerly’s, Sazon, Lil Pop Shop and many more on collaborations that turn harvested and gleaned fruit into creative works of culinary art to share the value of the wild and cultivated edibles around us.
“Work with POP is work that truly nourishes; and I am thankful to be among many others who sustain and protect nature throughout the city in all its forms.
“Hope to see you in an orchard soon!”
SUPPORT US! If you would like to help us grow our Intern and Apprenticeship Program, please consider a donation of any size: phillyorchards.org/donate.

POP Intern Experience: Bridget Downey

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2016 POP Intern Bridget Downey

The first day I interned with POP was at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. It was the first day of March and incidentally the morning after my beloved dog passed on. We started many perennial seeds in the Federation of Neighborhood Centers’ greenhouse space, and it felt like a good way to honor the cycle of birth, reproduction, and death. I believe this is what growing food does: it allows us to fully accept the truths of life, co-create with the Earth, and find meaning. Especially in the chaos and bustle of the city, when I arrive to an orchard site I am greeted by smiling faces and waving fruit trees, immediately feeling at home and safe. I get to meet people from each orchard neighborhood, hear about their lives and perspectives, and forge bonds while pruning, planting, and harvesting from fruit trees, vegetables, and herbs.

These shiso seedlings, and many other species, are now growing in orchards throughout the city!
These shiso seedlings, and many other species, are now growing in orchards throughout the city!

Those seeds we planted the first day of March have sprouted and grown quite big since then, moved out of their trays and pots and into their new homes in orchards all across Philadelphia with trees, vines and shrubs, we potted from bare roots at POP’s Awbury Arboretum nursery. Orchards take patience, but I know the plum trees and blackberry bushes I helped to temper this spring at orchard sites will soon produce and give generously to those who give attention and care to their sweet fruits. I have learned a tremendous amount about all of the various fruit-bearing trees that we can grow in Philadelphia, from the common fruits like apples, peaches, and cherries to fruits I had never heard of before like juneberries and pawpaws. I’ve learned how to identify many by their bark, flowers, and fruits through direct experience and writing blog posts–even though taste tests are my favorite way of getting to know the plant! On top of this I have learned many common weeds to eat or remove, pests and how to manage them, diseases from which trees can suffer, and how to generally care for the trees and their homes.

We are in the peak of summer now, and plums, peaches, apples, blackberries, and raspberries are all ripening. Sweet fruits of our combined efforts are coming to fulfillment! I am so grateful to be cultivating deep-rooted relationships with plants, with people, and with communities who surround them. When we gather around to plant, it’s not just a tree that grows, but the whole community grows together. Through this work, we are strengthening our ties to each other and the Earth.

Helping Wildcrafting Summer Campers at Awbury Arboretum to start a fire to brew herbal tea.
Bridget helping Wildcrafting Summer Campers at Awbury Arboretum to start a fire to brew herbal tea.