2018 School Orchard Program Recap & A Look Ahead to 2019

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In 2018, POP’s School Orchard Program continued to expand in offering unique, engaging, and hands-on learning activities for students, centered in 9 of 12 POP partner school orchards. In total, we offered 26 unique topical lessons, created 6 downloadable lesson and material packs for teachers to use in their classrooms, made 440 total student impressions through staff visits and lesson plan delivery, and created pre- and post-school year surveys to collect orchard metrics that have value for structuring our programming. All of our delivered programming is centered around our school partners’ learning objectives of those of their students and communities.

Last year, we developed and delivered lessons on key orchard fruits and pollinator orchard herbs like blackberries, persimmons, bee balm, anise hyssop, and thyme, that have high nutrient and medicinal value, are well-adapted to this growing region, propagate easily, and have promise for small-scale home or community food production. Students at Sayre High School in West Philly and Richard Allen Preparatory School learned the Japanese traditional persimmon string-drying method of hoshigaki. We experimented with the astringent Hachiya and non-astringent Fuyu varieties, finding them to work equally as well, and less so with the American persimmon, whose softer flesh makes it better suited for puddings and breads!

Sixth and eighth graders at Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School peel persimmons as the first step in string-drying, using the traditional Japanese method of hoshigaki.
Two weeks later, students at Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School test the progress of their drying persimmons.
Students at Sayre High School get ready to add their strung persimmons to their drying window of garden-grown herbs and peppers

In 2018, we also honored the life of Roseann McLaughlin, the beloved, foundational visionary behind Overbrook School for the Blind’s Farm-to-Table Program. Continuing in her legacy through GrowAbility, we continued to work with a consortium of 10 organizational partners working to adapt orchard and agricultural curriculum for special needs students. POP created sensory lesson books and tactile prop boxes on honeybees, worms, apples, and herbs of the orchard understory, which are being adapted and replicated at partner sites all over the city.

Overbrook School for the Blind’s Lee Stough leads students on a full sensory journey of the honeybee, using POP’s story book and interactive, tactile prop box.

Using art, dance, and music, we delivered kinesthetic-focused lessons at new orchard partners like William Cramp Elementary School in North Philly, where students learned about root structures while tending to the weeds in their school’s orchards and danced the different structures they found! With support from Mural Arts, students also made collaborative exquisite corpse drawings, drawing themselves as part-humans, part-plants while learning about the functional parts of plants. With retired-but-returning teacher Dr. Ruiz, an incredibly knowledgeable resource and student advocate, students learned how to make egg shell gardens and how to seed plants from avocado pits, a common staple for many of the school’s students. We continue to use art to facilitate students’ understanding of the natural and built environment.

Cramp Elementary School’s Dr. Ruiz prepares for a lesson on egg-shell gardening with 4th grade students.

In 2019, POP’s School Orchard Program has identified two key learning initiatives: education around protecting pollinator habitats, and work on natural dyes and pigments. This winter, we’re welcoming 4 undergraduate environmental studies students from Swarthmore for 10 weeks, who will be working with us on researching the crisis of pollinator population decline and ways we can intercept through the seeding of useful host plants. We’ll be working on a large seed ball project to seed these plants in the gardens and understories of our school partners, in addition to making these resources available to the wider community. We’ll be piloting a natural dyeing component with several schools this year, which will include a fall student showcase. This year we’ve also begun to work more closely with the Mayor’s Office of Education; through their work with community schools and includes several of our school partners, we’ll be creating a database of some simple garden projects for teachers and students, and sharing our newly created nutrition and recipe cards for use with classrooms and school food pantries, available in both English and Spanish (with special thanks to Camille Crane of Casa del Carmen for translating!).

If you are interested in getting involved in any of these school orchard initiatives, please reach out to Education Director Alyssa Schimmel, alyssa@phillyorchards.org

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.  

Mason Bees: Philly’s Friendly Pollinators

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A blue orchard bee, Osmia lignaria, collecting nectar from a flower (Oregon State University)

You’ve probably heard the buzz about honeybees and how important they are to agriculture, but did you know that native bees such as mason bees are even better and more efficient pollinators of native crops? In fact, the species Osmia lignaria (pictured above) has been named the blue orchard bee for its recognized usefulness in pollinating fruit trees across North America. The blue orchard bee co-exists with the similar Japanese orchard bee Osmia cornifrons, which was introduced to the United States in the 90’s but is now well-established in the wild. Though more than 500 related species of bees exist in the Mid-Atlantic region, the blue orchard bee is one of the few native pollinators that is managed for agriculture in Pennsylvania.

Part of why mason bees are so prized for their pollinating power is that they emerge in early spring, when it’s still relatively cool and not many other pollinators are out. The life cycle of the blue orchard bee has evolved to coincide with the blossoming of fruit trees such as apricots, plums, pears, apples, and cherries- in fact they are generally only active for a few weeks around bloom time in March and April! Some other much-loved plants of this species include currants, gooseberries, elderberry, and huckleberry. Mason bees are special because they carry pollen on their abdomen instead of their legs, so when they land on individual flowers a lot of pollen is directly transferred from other blossoms. Another bonus as far as urban orchards are concerned, mason bees do not sting!

A female mason bee covering a nesting cavity with mud (David Biddinger, Penn State Extension)

Nesting patterns

Unlike honeybees, which are highly social and live in hives, mason bees are solitary, meaning that each female builds and takes care of her own nest (no queen here!). That being said, mason bees are often gregarious and will nest near other mason bees. Mason bees naturally nest in the hollow reeds of plant stems or in similar crevices that appear in their environment, such as cracks in firewood, slash removed from orchards, and cavities excavated by boring beetles in deadwood. After laying a single egg in each cell and provisioning it with a pea-sized mass of pollen for food, the female mason bee constructs a mud wall to close off the cell – just like a mason might build a house using mud bricks! Within a week, the eggs hatch, and the bee larvae spend the summer metamorphosizing into pupae and later onto adults, which then stay nice and cozy inside their home for the entire winter… until next spring, when it’s time to emerge and start the process all over again.

Mason bees tend to pollinate and nest not too far from where they emerge, so it’s relatively straightforward to introduce new populations to your orchard in the winter by purchasing tubes of cocoons containing adult bees from another local orchard that is already managing them. Keep the cocoons refrigerated at least until late March to prevent premature emergence during midwinter thaws, but release them no later than mid-May to reduce mortality. Purchasing new bees may be unnecessary, though, since wild mason bees in the area will be more than happy to accommodate artificial nesting material that you prepare for them.

This video demonstrates how to make one type of DIY mason bee nest (RescueDogTreats, YouTube)

Managing mason bees

Artificial nests can be made from wood blocks drilled with a series of holes, cardboard tubes with one end plugged, or sections of reed and bamboo with a stem node intact on one end. Ideally, each nest should have a 6 to 8-inch long internal tunnel that is about 5/16 of an inch in diameter. Mason bees generally lay female eggs first, since they will be the most insulated, with male bees on the outside, so if the tunnels are too shallow, you may not end up with enough females to do the hard work the following year!  These types of nests can be bundled together and placed horizontally throughout the orchard several feet above ground level under some sort of rainproof shelter. Some good locations include the sides of buildings, adjacent to cliff faces, or open sheds or garages, and a southward orientation encourages exposure to sunlight (but not too much). Remember to place your nests close to a steady source of mud! This can be as simple as an excavated hole with a dripping water hose or bucket.

Nests must be managed carefully in order to prevent the spread of parasites and diseases. Mason bee nests are often subject to predation by wasps, which can drill through wood to lay their own eggs on developing bees. Once the wasp eggs hatch, the larva eat the mason bee alive! One way to reduce wasp parasitism is to remove sealed nests from the orchard in the summer and move them to a dry, unheated and non-air-conditioned building such as a barn. Alternatively, the cocoons can be refrigerated for the winter.

Mites can also pose a serious problem to mason bee nests. Mite-infested cells are recognizable by the fluffy remains of shed mite skins and consumed pollen debris (rather than a compact ball of yellow pollen). Infested cells should be removed immediately to prevent further infestation, and healthy cocoons can be removed from the nests to be stored in refrigeration. Any nests intended for reuse the following year should be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, or else the mason bees should be provided with new nesting materials in the spring.

Finally, as with many other beneficial insects, mason bees are very sensitive to pesticide use. Spraying should definitely be avoided during nesting season. Moving nests and nesting materials while the females are still constructing them can be very disorienting and will most likely result in abandonment of the nests.

Mason bees are often the first pollinators to come out in the spring (Seabrooke Leckie, Flickr)

Attracting solitary bees

In addition to providing valuable pollination services for fruit trees, blue orchard mason bees and other solitary bee species help diversify your orchard or food forest, leading to a healthier ecosystem, healthier humans, and a healthier planet. Providing them with nesting materials may attract wild bees in your area, or you could source them from another local orchard. Be on the lookout for these solitary insects in the early spring, and consider providing supplemental wildflowers to your garden, which will be appreciated by managed and native pollinators alike. Bees tend to be drawn the most to blue, purple, white, and yellow flowers.

Some specific native plants that bees love include…

  • Aster
  • Bee balm
  • Black willow
  • Blackberry
  • Blue wild indigo
  • Blueberry
  • Coneflower
  • Elderberry
  • Goldenrod
  • Trumpet vine
  • Lily
  • Lobelia
  • Maple
  • Milkweed
  • Phlox
  • Red buckeye
  • Rose
  • Sassafras
  • Serviceberry
  • Lupine
  • Violet
  • Turtlehead

Additional (re)sources:

Penn State Extension
Oregon State Extension
USDA Forest Service
Managing Alternative Pollinators: A Handbook for Beekeepers, Growers, and Conservationists
Phigblog: Making Mason Bee Homes

Where to purchase mason bees and supplies:

BeeDiverse
Pollinator Paradise
Back Yard Fruit Growers

This blog article written by 2019 POP Intern Piotr Wojcik.

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.  

2018 Orchard Partner Survey Summary

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POP surveys all of our orchard partners at season’s end and we like to share what we’ve learned each year! Each year, we ask partners about their orchards, orchard challenges, orchard value, community involvement, yields, distribution methods, how we perform as partners, our educational offerings, and how to improve. In all, 52 of 62 POP partners (84%) participated in our annual Partner Survey in November and December.

52 of 62 (84%) of POP orchard partners participated in this year’s annual survey.

Orchard Value

For the first time, ‘Gathering and Community Space’ was rated most often as having the “highest value” (37%) with a close second between ‘Educational Opportunities’ and ‘Beauty and Neighborhood Greening’ (35%). “Beauty & Neighborhood Greening”, “Educational Opportunities”, and “Community Health and Nutrition”  were rated as “High Value” by just under half of respondents. Voting drops off significantly in categories of “Moderate Value” with half of respondents electing not to assign both “Low Value” and “Lowest Value”. Among the votes cast in these lower categories, “Food Production and Distribution” received the most votes followed by “Environmental Impact”. The 44% of partners that rate “Food Production and Distribution” as “High Value” or “Highest Value” tend to be more established plantings, organizations centered around food access, or organizations with market-based endeavors. Smaller urban spaces with few trees will be more valued for their educational impact rather than their impact on the food system, while some orchards are either too young or are struggling with pest, disease, and weather related factors preventing them from seeing full yields.

Stories illustrating the value of the orchard always provide some heartening responses that help provide qualitative support for the impact of POP’s work. Repeating themes include educating and exposing people to new fruit (17), the availability of fresh fruits and herbs (11), people’s reactions to tasting something for the first time (5), the response of children to the environment and tasting fresh fruit (14), community members coming together (13), profound or healing experiences of gardening or the natural world (8), the urban orchard as a vehicle for talking about social issues (6), and the excitement that comes with seeing fruit trees mature and produce over time (7). Link here to read some of our favorite POP partner stories from 2018!

Community

POP partner orchards serve a wide array of constituents across the city of Philadelphia, which are primarily neighborhood and community based. Some orchards serve specific demographics within a neighborhood or are in a neighborhood consisting of fairly specific demographics, while others are located in incredibly diverse neighborhoods. Many orchard partners have child, youth, or young adult based programming. Some are wide open to any and all people, and some prefer to work with a specific population. Some orchards are located within rapidly changing neighborhoods.

On average, orchard partners self reported that 61.4 % of populations served qualify as low-income, which is close to the average of 65.1% reported last year. The change in reported low-income populations served may be a reflection of development and changing demographics in certain areas, a change in perception, or a change in estimation methods. Depending on the partner, these numbers were gathered via census data, FMNP voucher collection, HUD criteria, and well-informed estimates and guesses. This should be compared to other methods POP uses to assess demographics served, however our orchard partners know their communities the best and we will continue to value their reporting on demographics served.

Community Involvement

Our survey found that there were significant increases in regular attention, participation in regularly scheduled workdays, and the number of people participating in educational programming in our partner orchards. This past year 428 people participated monthly in orchard care (up from 2017’s 350), 2404 people participated at least once in orchard care, and 4,435 people tasted something grown in a POP partner orchard. Larger gains were seen with 7,190 people participating in education programs in POP orchards (an 84% increase from 2017’s 3,900) and 8,923 people using a POP partner orchard as community gathering space this year (a 65% increase). These improvements in just one season are encouraging indicators that our increasing number of orchard spaces and maturing orchards are reaching more people.

Partners reported that an all time high of 8923 people used POP orchards as community gathering space in 2018; this function also was most commonly rated as the highest value of orchard spaces by our community partners.

Yield Distribution

Distribution methods vary greatly from one group to another, as expected from distribution plans submitted in partner applications and the varying missions of partner orchards. Similar to past years, over half (51.5%) of all recorded harvest yields at POP partner orchards were made available to community members for free.  If averaging distribution methods across all partners, each partner weighted equally, over 70% of partner harvests are slated to be harvested directly by or distributed to community members for free either onsite or through outside emergency food service organizations. When accounting for production levels reported by each partner within their distribution methods, the scales are tipped heavily by 16 partners (30%) reporting much higher harvest weights than the majority of POP partners. It may be important to note that most of these 16 partners have well established plants, and thus more access to harvest, as well as some of the highest recorded rates of interaction with their orchards, enabling higher yield utilization and tracking of harvests.

Most of these percentages are very similar to last year’s, except that free harvest by community members has decreased, and the percentage sold at on-site farmstands has increased again for the 2nd year in a row. The increased entrepreneurial use of these orchard spaces is most likely an indication of increased youth and community engagement through jobs, internships, and a need to consider economic components as a factor in sustainability.  It should also be noted that the on-site farmstands led by our urban farm partners generally feature very affordable prices to accommodate their communities and a high percentage of sales are through FMNP or SNAP programs, meaning additional free distribution to Philadelphia residents in need.  

Orchard Production

Total orchard production of over 3580 pounds was reported in 2018, and the majority of produce was harvested by or distributed directly to community members for free. In total, 21 orchards answered that their spaces had higher yields than last season, while 16 reported lower yields, 11 were unsure, and 4 were too new to answer. It is difficult to accurately track yield between spaces that are used in a wide variety of ways by different partners, including public spaces, organizations with limited or no staff, and where free harvest from community members is encouraged. However, estimates continue to improve with each passing season. POP has taken measures to provide partners with volume-to-weight conversion charts to aid in estimation, notebooks for writing yield recording, gifting scales when asked for in annual tool lotteries. As always, new orchards will have little to no production and should follow POP’s advice to remove all first-year fruit to enhance tree growth. Despite challenges in accurate tracking at some sites, aggregate yields reported by our partners correlate to and reflect climatic factors, pest and disease pressure, frequency of planting, and sometimes people branching out into new ‘fruiterritory’.

Fruit Tree Production

Based on survey analysis of tree fruit production, figs, peaches/nectarines, Asian pears, plums and paw paws again had the highest yields, with pie cherries, plums, and apples seeing the most significant increases in yields since the previous season. These numbers are partially representative of the frequency at which POP partners plant these fruits, and numbers may be skewed by new or immature plantings. For example, despite most of our paw paw trees having a ways to go to reach maturity, paw paws show a higher harvest because they are the second most planted fruit tree next to Figs. Our most common fruits like apples, peaches, pears, cherries, and plums also face the most challenges in pest and disease, significantly impacting reported yields. While most nut trees planted at POP partner orchards are fairly immature, hardy almond yields are steady and should grow with more plantings in recent years. We saw a first recorded yield of hazelnuts, partially due to the addition of Saul High School’s mature plantings as a supported partner.

It is important to note  that 14 of the 39 full partner respondents are 4 seasons old or younger, meaning their fruit trees and berry bushes are immature or possibly too young to be bearing any fruit at all. Additionally, several POP Partner orchards are semi-public or entirely public. Whether intended to largely be harvested for free by community members or not (many of our partner orchards are), open public access mean a significant portion of harvests go unrecorded, which makes tracking orchard yields difficult. Weather was again a significant factor this year, but in a manner different from last. This year, a cold, cloudy, wet fall affected our fall harvests of European and Asian pears, apples and figs. Stone fruits, especially plums, saw a rebound in yields this year after being negatively affected by frost damage following early blooming due to a mild winter in 2017. It’s a good idea to plant a variety of fruits, so you hopefully end up with some production despite the challenges of a given season!

Plums were the fruit that rated most productive per tree in 2018, largely escaping crop losses due to early blooming that were problematic the previous year.

For the first time, we also attempted to quantify the average productivity of each type of fruit tree. While it is difficult for us to accurately do this across all partner sites, our data does inform us what plants are producing well and are utilized by partners, reflected in their yield reporting. One should note that there are a hand full of 11 year old orchards coming into fuller fruit bearing age, a few mature “supported POP partner” orchards planted prior to POP’s involvement, several 5 year old orchards beginning to bear small quantities, and orchards between those ages all being averaged here, each with different arrays of tree crops. Totaling yields and number of trees across partners over 5 years old, we see that plums are currently by far the highest yielding and utilized fruit or nut tree at POP partner sites. Pie cherries and peaches follow, with a next tier of productivity for sweet cherries, pawpaws, and the recently producing hardy almond. Closely following, persimmons, apricots, figs, and asian pears are reliable producers across partner sites above 5 years old. The fruit trees our partners struggle with the most to get good yields are apples, largely expected given they are the most pest and disease prone of any species we plant. Mulberries and jujubes are likely underutilized and chestnuts have a ways to grow before full bearing potential. While sweet cherries seem to be mostly for the birds in some partners’ cases, some of our more uncommon fruits may continue to be underutilized because, well, they may still be somewhat unfamiliar to many folks. They also tend to be smaller and may require some processing.

Berry and Fruiting Vine Production

Berry and perennial vegetable yields were tracked again and we saw an increase in total yields and/or usage of smaller orchard fruits in 2018. However, we did see a significant reduction in reported raspberry yields this year. The previous year, many berry and perennial vegetables had seen a dip in yield or usage, which some crops (strawberries, blackberries, currants, goumis, and hardy kiwi) rebounded from in 2018. Some yields persisting at lower than previously reported levels may be a reflection of a number of things, including strawberry patches that need rejuvenation, brambles needing thorough pruning, fungal issues that affect Ribes species, changes in tracking methods, or maturing fruit trees beginning to shade out lower growing berries.

Herbaceous Production

Culinary and medicinal herbs were tracked again this year and reported yields of our most common herbs, aside from comfrey, increased across the board in 2018! This is encouraging and may reflect efforts to provide further education on the benefits and usage of herbs in the orchard. We like to hear partners are making use of these herbs that also provide important ecological benefits to holistic orchard ecosystems; POP will continue to expand information and workshops on the subject. Fennel, mint, and lemon balm were among the highest reported yields, perhaps reflecting their tendency to spread and quickly increase their offerings. Has the comfrey craze subsided!? Time will tell…

POP partners reported increased harvest and use of culinary and medicinal herbs planted as companion plantings to fruit trees in food forests and orchards.

Of total respondents, 42% of partners would like more assistance in learning how to make use of their orchard plants, down from a high of 72% reporting the need in 2016. This is an indicator that POP’s educational outreach has improved confidence in harvest utilization, while perhaps there is still a deeper level of understanding to achieve. As orchard ecosystems mature, an understory of plants in abundance contribute to better overall maintenance and orchard value. The use of these plants for nutrition, medicine-making, fiber production, culinary flavoring, and value-added products is still uncharted or mildly dabbled in territory for many modern farmers, though a way of expanding yields.

The best ways to improve yields from all orchard plants and overall yields from orchards will be to increase capacity of orchard partners and community members in pest and disease management, regular orchard maintenance procedures, and yield utilization through educational programming, distribution of educational reference materials, and providing resources in the form of tools, pest and disease control supplies, and interpretive signage.

Production Challenges and Recommendations

When asked to rate challenges in the orchard from 1-5, responses from partners averaged out to 3, which is neither very easy nor very challenging. 30 respondents (57.7%) believe it was easier to maintain their orchards in 2018 than last year. It does seem that the orchards which are more mature and with more consistent caretakers across multiple seasons are becoming easier.

Many spaces that reported higher challenges are also undergoing staff transitions, which can naturally create some difficulties in the continuity of orchard care. According to survey responses, 14 of our partners are going through definite staffing transitions and there are two foreseeable additions to that number. While we are aware of additional staffing transitions not represented in survey responses, this clearly demonstrates high turnover rates within the field of urban agriculture which may relate to wages and organizations’ abilities to employ full time. We find POP support to be helpful in these times of transition, as we are able to provide orchard history, orientation, and training to staff that are onboarding to orchard care as a new role.

When comparing frequency of orchard care against rate of difficulty, an obvious takeaway is that we do see a correlation between challenges in orchard care and frequency of care. While those that report mild to moderate challenges fall across the board in terms of frequency of orchard care, all respondents rating orchard care as relatively or very easy tend to their spaces monthly, if not more often. Everyone reporting orchard care as ‘very easy’ tend to their spaces twice a month or weekly. This is understandably not possible for all partners, though we recommend monthly care to keep up on orchard needs.

The most frequently identified challenge is the amount of time available and other responsibilities. While this is the first time we asked, this outcome is no surprise. Understanding the nature of being split between many responsibilities and needing to be most effective with your time and effort, POP has plans to craft a list of recommended practices for community and volunteer organizing to share with orchard partners this coming season. Organizing robust volunteer work days for certain tasks like weeding and mulching may take a load off your back, as the old adage indicates: “many hands make light work”. With time constraints and other responsibilities in mind (often vegetable production taking priority for urban farm partners), organizing or sharing leadership in monthly volunteer workdays in addition to POP visits could significantly lessen orchard challenges.

The most commonly reported challenges in orchard production and percentage of orchards reporting these challenges were: available time and other responsibilities (59.6%), squirrels (48%), birds (40.3%), insect pests (34.6%), plant diseases (32.7%), weeds (32.7%) staffing transitions (26.9%), background knowledge (24%), and watering schedules (13.5%). POP sends out orchard care tips, pest and disease identification, as well as management information through our blog and email lists. When asked, 48% of partners are usually or always reading these tips, 36.5% are occasionally reading them, 4 never read them, and 4 newer stewards need to be added to our email list. With available time and other responsibilities being our biggest challenge and the modern age of overflowing email inboxes, this is understandable. It is important to note that all of our pest, disease, and orchard care tips are also available on our website, easily obtainable through our website’s search function. When polled, 46% of our partners do not utilize this resource when they discover an issue, though 21% often do, and 33% do occasionally. POP will continue to remind partners this is available and that guidance on most growing challenges is readily available.

In 2018 POP created and shared easy to use, photo-based scouting guides to help orchard partners identify and manage pest and disease challenges.

Pest and Disease Management

In 2018, POP released orchard pest and disease scouting guides for our most common and commonly affected fruits including apples, pears, cherries, peaches, and plums. While 37% (19) of survey respondents indicated they haven’t seen or used these yet, 60% (31) of respondents did see these and found them useful. When asked if we should produce more pest and disease guides, 85% of respondents said yes. In addition to supporting the production of additional pest and disease guides, 36 out of 52 respondents would like more guidance in holistic and organic sprays. Ultimately, a pest, disease, and spray calendar/guide could prove extremely useful, given the understanding that seasons vary and biological cycles of all players follow different timelines year to year.

Pest and disease identification and management is the most complicated aspect of orchard care, requiring the most knowledge, time and resources to become well versed in. Highest reported diseases by POP partners are the most common and easily identifiable diseases. Based on this years responses, it seems that fire blight may be spreading; peach leaf curl is getting addressed; brown rot, black rot, gummosis and aphids are mainstays; pest and disease knowledge could still improve; squirrels and birds are having a field day; and we’re safe from the pear shrew for now. On average, partners feel that 19% of their yields are lost to birds and squirrels, and while we haven’t thought of how to solve this aside from extensive netting systems, obsessive trapping and the encouragement of bird predation seen at commercial orchards, we continue to inform our partners about recommended approaches to pest and disease. POP partners estimated that 16.5% of their orchard yields were lost to pest and disease in 2018.

Expanding Orchard Education Efforts

In March 2018, POP hosted its 4-part Community Orchard Resilience Education (POPCORE) course for the second time as a 4-week offering. Additionally, three of the four classes were offered at least one other time throughout the year. Among our partner respondents, Winter Pruning is our highest attended class at 18 partners, while attendance declines to 14 at Pest and Disease, 6 at Plants and Usage, and up to 9 at Permaculture.

According to 2016 and 2017 surveys, at least 85% of respondents were interested in participating in these courses. However, 60% of this year’s respondents still haven’t attended any. Of those that haven’t attended, only four are not interested, with the remaining evenly split between definitely wanting to and perhaps wanting to attend. No one that has taken at least one class does not want to attend another, and all four survey respondents that attended the full course offering have indicated they would like to continue coming. While this survey is for partners only and our courses are offered to the broader public, this is a good indicator of the successes and challenges of the program. We are pleased to see those that have attended one or more classes are 100% interested in continuing. This indicates our educational offering is valued, and that perhaps our efforts to gather and incorporate feedback, update and include new content is inspiring return students.

POPCORE offerings will continue to be held in multiple formats at different locations and times of year to meet the availability needs of our partners. Producing educational video content is also a new goal for 2019.

Similar to 2017, there is an even split between a preference for a 4-week course in Winter and one course every 2-3 months. The March course has been more consistently well attended, as of course more growers are willing and able to attend a workshop in the off season. Day and time preferences were similarly split, with weekday evenings and Saturday afternoons being the most preferred. POP will continue to offer POPCORE courses in both formats and with both timing options to try to accommodate and reach the most participants.

We asked our partners “Considering your natural tendencies, commitments, and accessibility, what is the best way for you to learn?” If you lump ratings of “good”, “great”, and “best” together, each mode of learning “works” for at least 50% of our partners, which reflects a natural spread of prefered learning modalities, tendencies, and personal availability. The #1 preferred mode of learning is hands on, working for 93% of responding partners. Hands on workshops were also highest category rated “best”, by 69% of partners. Perhaps not so surprisingly Philly, the 2nd most popular mode of learning was experimenting on one’s own with 83% happy to learn in the classroom of life. The next most popular mode of learning, a sign of the times, is video, which will work for 77% of our partners, followed by in person lecture at 75%. Published online materials work for 63% of partners, while hard copies and infographics both work for 57%. That said, there is a segment of partners that each of these categories doesn’t work for, and we should continue to diversify the modes we provide educational materials and resources through.

The main barriers to participation in continuing education are cost, location, and time of day. 30 POP partner respondents indicated they are associated with a building or outdoor space that could host an evening or weekend class, with 9 additional partners potentially able to extend the opportunity towards us. The ability to utilize these resources plays a large role in our offering of POPCORE and POP HarvestED workshops both in central and dispersed locations in Philadelphia on a sliding scale. Continuing to vary locations and times of workshops will make POP educational offerings available to the most people possible, while posting electronic materials as downloads or video and reminding partners these are available to help this information spread.

POP Harvest and HarvestED

Expanding our effort to highlight and educate partners and the public about unusual fruit, we piloted the POP HarvestED program in 2018 as an extension of our POP Harvest gleaning program. This new education program brings in community teachers to lead gleaning workshops focused on the end use of lesser known fruits, nuts, and herbs that are widely available through POP orchards and the Philadelphia region.
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. When asked, 87.5% of partner respondents would like to attend these workshops in the future whereas a similar amount have not attended any yet. This is an encouraging percentage, while only 42% of partner indicated they would like more assistance learning how to use the plants in their orchards. This may indicate POP partners are getting to know their plants, and that there is interest in this model of hands on community education with more unusual, yet abundantly available harvests. We intend to continue this series with 8-10 workshops in 2019. Suggested topics predominantly include nut and herb usage, but also a variety of specific plant care intensives, in-depth harvest preservation methods, propagation, permaculture, and tree tapping are desired.

The pilot POP HarvestEd workshop series this year included an event harvesting trifoliate oranges at Historic Strawberry Mansion for use in making Fire Cider.

Organizational Improvement

On a scale from 1 to 10, respondents’ average rating of POP as an overall organization was a 9.2 (a tenth of a point higher than last season)! Partners continue to believe that POP staff are supportive, adaptable, and easy to reach, though there are always ways that we can improve. Some partner suggestions or desires include increased engagement through more frequent visits, hands on assistance, check ins and classroom time, increased number of volunteer orchard liaisons, increased staffing, more frequent plant health checks, collaborative facilitation of partnership and community building, spray tips and services, more plants, and help finding mulch. A number of partners wouldn’t change a thing and think “continuing to do what we do together will bear much fruit”. Pun intended.

POP exists to support our Philadelphia orchard partners, primarily through educational programs and materials; hands on assistance in the form of consulting visits and volunteer workdays; and access to design services, plant materials, and tools & equipment. Our model and current resources allow us to do our best to visit each orchard quarterly, additionally on an as needed basis, while seeking to empower our partners through educational offerings. Due to limitations of staff capacity, it is unlikely that we will be able to visit most partner sites more than quarterly, but a solution for sites desiring more engagement may be in the orchard liaison system. By growing this program, POP staff hours can be multiplied to increase support across the city through a growing network of trained volunteer orchard liaisons. This alongside community and volunteer organizing recommendations may go a long way, while continuing to build out niche reference materials and workshops.

Dedicating staff time to implementing and reporting back on a pilot program of more intensive pest and disease management practices at a few partner orchards will be a worthwhile step to take. As POP, our effort is best served empowering our partners to manage their spaces confidently as caretakers through our programs in the most effective and accessible ways that address a number of preferred learning methods. While POP provides information and experiences in a variety of ways, the production of video is a mode of instruction POP has not yet pursued. Survey responses indicated instructional videos would work for a majority of partners as supplementary learning opportunity, which may enable us to reach partners for whom attending workshops is a challenge. POP aims to pilot new educational video content in 2019.

When asked “what would make 2019 better?” 3 or more partners self identified the following strategies or areas of improvement: more volunteers or staff, planning and leadership efforts, setting a schedule for one’s self, assistance identifying something, physical infrastructure, compost and signage. POP has developed plant signs for most of orchard and food forest plants we plant, though they have not yet been widely distributed. We are in the process of further developing these signs and identifying the most cost effective and weather/sun proof options. 34 POP partners that don’t have plant id signs want them and 6 partners need sign replacements. Additionally, we’ve also developed signs to explain what food forests and community orchard are. 35 partners want a food forest or community orchard sign, 11 have them, and 6 are uninterested.

POP has steadily grown its staff, interns, liaisons, dedicated volunteers, and confident partners, as the capacity and understanding of what it takes to properly maintain orchard ecosystems in our network improves with each year. Despite the notion that orchards and perennial ecosystems are slow to produce and take care of themselves, the amount of time needed to learn care of the plants and ecosystems we work with, manage a range of growing challenges, and to harvest maximum yields is equally as great or greater. Patience, routine, time for observation, and preventing problems rather than treating them could be valuable, applicable orchard and life lessons. As such, much of the work POP pursues is attempting to shorten that span of time and bring awareness through hands on experiences and informational resources. POP continues to refine our efforts, programs, and support services based on the valued input of our orchard partners across the city.

This blog post was written by Orchard Director Michael Muehlbauer with input from Executive Director Phil Forsyth.

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.

10th Annual East Park Apple Festival

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This year’s 10th annual East Park Apple Festival included a beautiful clear sky, perfect Fall weather, plenty of community involvement, and LOTS of apples.  The festival, which has been held at historic Woodford Mansion every October since 2009, is a collaboration between Woodford, the East Park Revitalization Alliance (EPRA), and the Philadelphia Orchard Project (POP). These partners first began to work together in 2008, when the Fairmount Park Commission (now Philadelphia Parks & Recreation) approved planting of the first fruit trees at Woodford.  Plantings now include dozens of fruit and nut trees, a berry garden, pollinator garden, and herb garden that help bring to life the history of the landscape while serving residents of today’s Strawberry Mansion neighborhood by providing fresh fruit and educational programming.

Pressing fresh apple cider has been a big hit at the East Park Apple Festival every year since 2009!

On October 20th, 2018, community members attending the Apple Festival enjoyed free food prepared by various volunteers, tours of the mansion and orchard, freshly pressed apple cider, a tasting of apple varieties, and various activities led by the partner organizations.

As guests arrived around noon, activities began.  POP set up its information table by the orchard, accompanied by volunteers and dozens of potted trees.  At this event, along with a several others during Philadelphia Orchard Week, POP provided those interested with a free fruit tree to take and plant at home through a grant from UPS and Keep America Beautiful.  Many fruit tree types were available, including Asian Pear, Peach, and Pawpaw! POP Executive Director Phil Forsyth later led a tour of the Woodford Orchard and neighborhood kids got to pick and eat some early ripening American Persimmons.

One of several Apple Fest attendees that went home with a free fruit tree to plant in their yard courtesy of POP and a grant from Keep America Beautiful and UPS.

Martha Moffat, who you could find helping out in every corner of the festival, is Site Manager of Woodford Mansion.  Ten years ago, Ms. Moffat recalls, when the first festival commenced, “it was cold and pouring rain. It wasn’t much fun, but we pushed forward and look, here we are ten years after, lots of big trees, people, the sun is shining.”  She could not be more proud and is thrilled to be a larger part of the community through their partnerships with EPRA and POP.

Near the entrance of the festival, you could find a beautiful red apple cider press, piles of apples, and EPRA staff and volunteers cranking away to make those apples into sweet, fresh cider.  Suku John, who is EPRA’s Executive Director and a master of the cider press, was happy to see such a great turnout this year. EPRA has been working as the primary stewards of the Woodford Orchard since its planting, with ongoing training and support from POP.  Dr. John reports that plans of further orchard expansion are to come with the help of a group called the Fair Amount Food Forest.

On this year’s tour of the Woodford community orchard, Apple Fest participants picked and tasted American persimmons right from the tree!  

Michael Muehlbauer and other volunteer members of the Fair Amount Food Forest collective also had a table set up at the festival and spent the day handing out information and receiving feedback from the community on possibilities to add new plantings and programs to the existing orchard space. They also provided activities for the kids and fresh herbal tea.  On top of providing information, activities, and tea, Mr. Muehlbauer was happy to be there, saying “the festival is a relaxed event with a wonderful vibe and great people.”

This years event came to a close just about when the apples did.  Honeycrisp was the decidedly “most popular” apple in the taste test, guests left with faces painted and stomachs full of all things apple, and the mansion and orchard received lots of welcome foot traffic.  Event partners Woodford Mansion, EPRA, POP, Fair Amount Food Forest, and community members all look forward to another 10 years of East Park Apple Festivals!

The apple variety taste test is always a popular part of the East Park Apple Festival!

This POP Blog post was written by 2018 POP Administrative Assistant Natalie Agoos with assistance from Executive Director Phil Forsyth. 

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.

Check out more photos of this year’s East Park Apple Festival courtesy of WHYY: 

A rainy 2018 yielded soggy fall harvest, Philly growers say

Honoring Roseann McLaughlin and GrowAbility Honeybee Sensory Lesson Book (PDF Download)

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Roseann McLaughlin (far right) along with staff at Overbrook School for the Blind during a groundbreaking ceremony for the school’s new greenhouse program.

It’s with deep sadness that we at the Philadelphia Orchard Project offer our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends, and community of Roseann McLaughlin of Overbrook School for the Blind, who passed November 2, 2018 in a tragic house fire. Roseann was the enthusiastic and loving cornerstone of the school’s Farm-To-Table program begun in 2013, which connected Overbrook students to healthy food, on-site gardening opportunities, an ever-expanding school orchard, and in-development greenhouse. She served at the school for 15 years as a Registered Nurse, Certified Nurse Practitioner, and Health Services Coordinator, and was recounted lovingly by staff and the larger community as one of the most encouraging, dedicated, and positive people and team members, who always had a kind word of support to share and a new idea to explore that could expand students’ horizons. She had the unique gift of making everyone feel appreciated — from staff who had known her for many years, to volunteers who came in to lend a hand, even for an afternoon.

In March 2017, she initiated a new collaborative curriculum endeavor named GrowAbility with agricultural educators around the city — including OverbrookElwyn, and Easter Seals schools, POP, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Penn State Extension, 4-H, Associated Services for the Blind, Philadelphia Free Library’s Culinary Literacy Center, Greener Partners, and others — to asses how garden curriculum could be adapted for special needs students. In our last meeting together, we brainstormed ideas for new projects like making music from the plants of the orchard with a device that could translate plants’ electrical signaling into music, and could be felt by students with deep-bodily sensory-input needs through students’ vibratory backpacks. She delighted in the collaboration of new ideas, how they germinated, and grew. Her giving heart, commitment to her work and community, and her service-oriented spirit was unparalleled and will be sorely missed as a project partner we are blessed to have had, and as a kindred friend. It’s our deep wish that the continuation of this work honors her legacy for all those who were blessed to know her and carry her intentions and plans forward.

A GoFundMe campaign has been established to support her daughter Casey and grandson Michael. 

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Honeybee Sensory Lesson 

In honor of Roseann McLaughlin and the collective consortium of educators she gathered, we share the first sensory-lesson book created by POP and reviewed by the GrowAbility collective as an adaptive activity guide book for special needs students.  Inspiration for the format first came from Linda Bucher of Overbrook School for the Blind, who supported the school’s Farm-to-Table program along with Roseann, teacher Lee Stough, Library Assistant/Farm-to-Table Job Coach Shannon Walsh, School Nutritionist Cathy Dorazio, and art teacher Susan DiFabio. 

Each page in this Honeybee Sensory Lesson Book (downloadable here) pairs information about the topic, life and role of honeybees in the larger ecosystem, with a sensory component that involves some mix of sight, smell, taste, movement, music / auditory input, solitary, and group work in recognition of the many ways students of all levels create pathways for learning, experience, and retention. 

Cover page for the 15-page book that can be adapted by teacher based on length of lesson and skill-level of students.

Each guidebook is adaptable — meaning teachers can choose which pages to present and props to use from the suggested accompanying prop-box based on the needs of their unique student group. We also include a rubric (downloadable here) that teachers can use as a guide for categorizing the book’s pages and for assessing students’ response to paged / themed activities. 

Students pretend to be drones with large-eyed sunglasses, fan the queen like a worker bee, and enact the process of pollination with hands-on tactile props.

Educators can consider a range of follow-up activities to complement the lesson book including art exercises making honeybees with tissue paper, as Lee Stough’s class had done (pictured here), visits with teaching demo beekeepers and hives (consult Philadelphia Beekeeper’s Guild for more info), planting pollinator gardens, making honey bee drinking dishes, etc. 

Teacher Lee Stough passes around a boar’s hair brush for students to feel the short bristly hairs of the honeybee that holds flowers’ pollen from one flower to the next.

This lesson was first offered to Lee Stough’s class, which includes a mix of student levels — from those with partial to fully obstructed sight, to those geared more toward sensory learning and to those able to perform at grade-level academically. The GrowAbility collective aims to pilot this lesson 10 times in the fall across various program sites including Elwyn, and Easter Seals Schools, Philadelphia Free Library branches, and with 4-H student groups and make edits to the curriculum with the larger collected findings.

As a follow-up to the lesson, Lee Stough’s class made flying honeybee decorations using tissue paper that the students ripped and glued in place.

Lee Stough’s Feedback on the Lesson: “The HoneyBee lesson was a big success with my students who have visual impairments and multiple disabilities.The adults also loved it and were as equally engaged as the students. The lesson allowed the students to learn about Honeybees through all their senses not just vision.  They were able to hear a swarm of bees through the classroom speakers, feel the hairs that are on the Honeybees by touching a Boars’ hair hairbrush, they were able to taste pollen grains, and smell the lemon scents bees give off to locate their hives. This lesson is in-depth and engaging.  Learners of all abilities will be engaged and want to participate.” 

If you’d like to pilot this lesson with your student group and loan the laminated book and accompanying prop box, feel free to reach out to Education Director Alyssa Schimmel, alyssa@phillyorchards.org 

This POP Blog Post and Curriculum Materials were 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

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.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM OUR 2018 SPRING SEASON

-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!


Resources

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.

Donate 

 

Aphids and Fruit Trees

Posted on Categories Blog, Home, Orchard Care, Orchard Pests, Sprays, Tree CareTags , , , , , , , , , , ,
Aphids are a common pest an a wide variety of fruit trees, shrubs, vines, vegetables, and more!

Leaves curled end to end are the most common sign of aphid damage. 

Ants in your tree are another sure sign of aphid infestation, as their only interest in climbing trees is to harvest honeydew (sweet aphid droppings).  The one exception is fig trees, where they can sometimes also feed on overripe fruit.
Aphids are tiny insects that suck sap from leaves, causing plant stress than can result in curled and distorted leaves, flowers, and fruit.  They can also sometimes spread viruses and their honeydew droppings can lead to sooty mold on leaves. Aphids come in many colors: green, black, gray, pink, yellow, some even a fluffy white.  Minor infestations often go away without any extra effort, but more severe cases may require management.  Aphids affect many vegetables and ornamental plants as well as fruit trees.
Image result for aphids

Aphids are tiny insects that come in many colors. 

APHID CONTROL

Spray Water.  A strong stream of water can knock aphids off leaves and greatly reduce their populations.  Be sure to hit the bottom of the leaves, as that’s where most are found.  As always, avoid wetting leaves during the heat of day.

Beneficial Insects.  Plant a pollinator garden to attract a variety of native predators and parasites to keep aphids and other pest insects populations under control.  For bad infestations, you might also consider releasing purchased insects like lacewings, aphid midges, parasitic wasps, or ladybugs.  Read our article on insect releases here:

Rosy Apple Aphids are one of the more common species affecting apple trees.

Dormant Oil.  If you have a lot of aphid problems this season, consider spraying a dormant oil on your trees in late winter of next year.  This is the most effective means of smothering overwintering eggs and thus reducing pest populations for the next growing season.  Read our article on dormant oil here:

Neem Oil.  For treatment of bad aphid infestations during the growing season, consider spraying neem oil at 2% concentration.  Read our article about neem oil application here:


This blog post prepared by POP Executive Director Phil Forsyth. 

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

Those Nutty Gardeners: PA & NY Nut Growers Association!

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Well, we all know gardeners can be a little nutty, but these next two groups take the cake.

The Pennsylvania Nut Growers Association (PNGA) and New York Nut Growers Association (NNGA) asked POP to join them at their spring meeting at Delaware State University in Doylestown, PA this year, and it was well worth the drive to meet them! We got got to learn about some great work being done in Pennsylvania and New York, which we’d love to tell you about.

Formed in 1932 to promote interest in hardy nut growing trees, their products and their culture, PNGA is a non-profit group dedicated to assisting local professionals, hobbyists, and students in growing higher quality nut trees. They offer a wide range of opportunities, including tree grafting workshops, demonstrations, farm tours, and newsletter articles as well as access to a network of experienced members.

On this fine day, we heard about commercialization efforts for Eastern Hazelnuts, the Gleaning Project of South Central Pennsylvania, the Hundred Fruit Farm Permaculture CSA, the Downingtown nut tree plantings of John W. Hershey, farm succession, and government resources to help farmers with legal issues all in one place! This was all followed by grafting demonstrations, where a hickory grafted before our very eyes was donated to us here at POP.

It was encouraging to hear that the Upper Midwest Hazelnut Development Initiative is to working to support the growth and commercialization of the hazelnut industry through efforts in grower support, targeted research, and technology transfer. These folks (which include our new Orchard Director Michael’s former adviser) see an opportunity for substantial regenerative agriculture through Hazelnuts that can contribute perennial food, an array of value added products, and biofuels. Could this be true or are they just nuts?

American Hazelnut, photocredit “Corylus americana Tree Record.” 1995-2018. May 29, 2018. <https://selectree.calpoly.edu/tree-detail/corylus-americana>

Apparently, the american hazelnut is more than just a nut. It is 81% oleic acid, making it one of the healthiest oils available and also a superior feedstock for biodiesel and other bio-industrials. It’s claimed that hazelnuts grown in Nebraska have shown the potential to yield twice as much oil per acre as soybeans, which is a step up in the attempt for sustainable biofuels. Aside from these special value added products, The Upper Midwest Hazelnut Initiative describes their use in trail mixes, nut clusters, nut butters, and on their own all while lending itself to mixed regenerative and perennial agriculture approaches. Hazelnuts are among the nut trees we’ve been planting in urban orchards because they can be grown as a bushy shrub and kept to a very manageable size through pruning- a perennial food source indeed if you can keep ahead of the squirrels!

Photo credit: The Gleaning Project

Also in the room were fellow gleaners in South Central PA taking on food waste in a big way with The Gleaning Project. Much larger than our own POPHarvest gleaning program but something to strive for, The Gleaning Project has over 120 partners and is gleaning over 300,000 lbs of produce, feeding over 26,000 food-insecure individuals each year! This effort started as a volunteer side project of two growers in Adams County, Jan and Jerry Althoff, under a national faith-based gleaning and food recovery non-profit. After 4 years of expanding the Gleaning Project alongside running a nursery business, the effort was ultimately adopted by the South Central Community Action Program and has grown into what it is today. This story demonstrates the power of dedicated volunteers and good hearts, and we are glad to see you shine.

Unassuming, yet evenly spaced walnuts trees. Photo credit: Small Acts Ecological Design <http://smallactsecodesign.blogspot.com/>

And check this out! If you want to see why planting fruits and nuts is a good idea, you’ll have to check out the remnants of John W. Hershey’s tree nursery in Downingtown, PA. Mr. Hershey is said to have worked very hard  toward the improvement of native fruit and nut trees in the region during his time. While the land his nursery existed on had been sold after his death with houses and buildings subsequently built throughout, much of his work still stands tall today. We’ve heard of bur oaks that produce low tannin content acorns, large american persimmon trees, grafted thornless honey locusts, large grafted Northern pecans, hicans, hickories, walnuts, shagbarks, and sweet pignuts that still stand from the original nursery, and we plan to take a trip soon to investigate further!

The knowledge and experience present at the nut grower’s meeting was rich, diverse, and in this observer’s opinion, should be thoroughly documented and distributed. We heard from tree crop growers young and old, including new permaculture-based Hundred Fruit Farm in Buckingham PA; Wild Ridge Plants with their edible, medicinal, and native offerings; and even how to plan for your farm’s succession when you start to worry about reaching that age.  The reason we were all there together? We are passionate about one thing. . . which is, absolutely, nuts! These folks seem to be on to something, however, so we hope to connect again soon.

Links:

http://pnga.net

http://www.nynga.org/cInfo.htm

https://www.midwesthazelnuts.org/why-hazelnuts.html

https://thegleaningproject.org/

https://www.growveg.com/guides/a-guide-to-growing-your-own-hazelnuts/

http://northeastedible.com/northeast-edible-blog/a-visit-to-john-w-hersheys-defunct-tree-crops-nursery

http://blog.pennlive.com/gardening/2014/10/hershey_gardens_is_going_nuts.html

www.hundredfruitfarm.com/

www.wildridgeplants.com/

http://smallactsecodesign.blogspot.com/2017/02/the-former-site-of-john-w.html


This blog post written by POP 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.  

The Spotted Lanternfly: New Orchard Superpest?

Posted on Categories Blog, Home, Orchard Care, Orchard PestsTags , , , , , , , ,

Adult Spotted Lanternfly Photo credit: Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org

Have you heard about the Spotted Lanternfly yet? If you haven’t, you’ll probably hear about them a lot more in the near future! First seen in Southeastern PA in 2014, this pest insect’s population has exploded and since moved into New York, Delaware, and Virginia. The Spotted Lanternfly is a threat to many orchard crops and the USDA is now pouring $17.5 million of dollars into fighting this new pest in Pennsylvania!

Photo credit: Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org

Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula), is native to Vietnam, China, and India, but has become an aggressive invasive species in both South Korea and Pennsylvania, the only other two places it has been found so far. This pest has a favorite host, the Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), an invasive, fast-growing tree from China which may have provided initial habitat for this pesky bug in Pennsylvania and is a common weed tree in Philadelphia.

The Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima. Photo via public Domain

The Spotted Lanternfly also feeds on up to 70 other plants including grapes, apples, peaches, plums, apricots, and hops. It is a large planthopper, about 1 inch long, with distinctive spots and red hind wings. Like other leafhoppers, the lanternfly feeds on plant sap, which damages the plant. The Spotted Lanternfly also secretes large amounts of honeydew, which leads to growth of sooty mold. Sooty mold can severely damage the host plant and is especially damaging to fruit crops!

 

Spotted Lanternfly egg mass. Photo credit: Kenneth R. Law, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org

 

Female lanternflies will lay their eggs on almost any surface available including trees, cars, lumber and outdoor furniture, and people are very worried about this bug’s potential for hitchhiking and long distance travel. The adult female will often drop down to the nearest available surface and lay 30-50 eggs. Combine that mobility with the fact that 44 states already have the host plant Tree of Heaven- which tends to grow in disturbed and lesser maintained areas like around parking lots and along highways and railways- and you can see why farmers, gardeners, orchardists, and authorities are concerned about the potential for a new superpest!

         

(Lanternfly nymphs. Photo Credit: Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org)

If Spotted Lanternfly is identified in your area, please join the team of people addressing it!  Those in affected areas need to be aware of quarantine orders and rules for compliance. Penn State Extension has developed a list of recommended management strategies that you can engage in, which involves closely inspecting any outdoor objects that will move from place to place, managing the population of host Tree of Heaven, leaving trap trees, and the use of pesticides according to their label. It is important to keep in mind that the sap of Tree of Heaven can cause headaches, nausea, and heart problems, and to protect oneself when handling it. Please visit the Penn State Extension website for procedures and checklists regarding yard waste and the movement of outdoor items including vehicles.

We’re sorry that this isn’t the best news to be bringing you, but we hope that you can take some time to educate yourself about this alarming new pest and join the team of informed folks trying to deal with the issue!

What to do if you see the Spotted Lanternfly:

If you see egg masses, scrape them off, double bag them and throw them away. You can also place the eggs into alcohol or hand sanitizer to kill them. Please report all destroyed egg masses to Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture.

Collect a specimen: Specimens of any life stage can be turned in to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Entomology lab for verification. Submit samples with the Entomology Program Sample Submission Form.

Take a picture: A photograph of any life stage (including egg masses) can be submitted to Badbug@pa.gov.

Report a sighting: If you can’t take a specimen or photograph, call the Automated Invasive Species Report Line at 1-866-253-7189 and leave a message detailing your sighting and contact information.

Links for more info:

https://extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly-on-grapes-and-tree-fruit

https://extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly-tips-for-handling-yard-waste-in-quarantined-areas

http://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Plants_Land_Water/PlantIndustry/Entomology/spotted_lanternfly/Documents/SLF%20Checklist%2011-12-2014.pdf

http://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Plants_Land_Water/PlantIndustry/Entomology/spotted_lanternfly/Pages/default.aspx

https://pubs.ext.vt.edu/420/420-322/420-322.html

This blog post prepared by POP 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

2018 POP Winter Newsletter

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“Many families, staff and volunteers were able to taste a fresh fig for the first time! They were all surprised at the difference between a fresh fig and a fig newton.” — Carolann Costa, Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House

Happy Figuary!  We thank you for supporting our vision of a more beautiful, bountiful Philadelphia. Here are some highlights from POP’s fall season: 

  • Planted our 1,206th fruit tree and supported our 59th community orchard site!
  • Celebrated our 7th annual Philadelphia Orchard Week with over 1800 participants at harvest festivals and orchard events across the city
  • Assisted with brand new orchard plantings with the Norris Square Neighborhood Project and South Philadelphia High School
  • POP’s new school orchard program published our first complete orchard-based lesson plan
  • Celebrated POP’s 10th Anniversary and were featured in PHS’s GROW Magazine
We hope you will take a few minutes to read below about some of the interesting people and stories we encountered along the way. 

FALL 2017 SEASON 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 59 different orchard sites in neighborhoods across the city! 204 volunteers joined with us and our partners at 14 orchard planting events this fall. Brand new orchards were planted with the Norris Square Neighborhood Project and South Philadelphia High School. We also expanded existing orchard sites at Bartram’s Garden, Tilden Middle School, Bartram High School, Pastorius Community Gardens, Monumental Baptist Church, Lea Elementary, Sayre High School, Penn Park, and Jewish Farm School. To read more about our orchard partners and view a map of POP sites: phillyorchards.org/orchards.


SCHOOL ORCHARD PROGRAM

2017 was the kickoff year for POP’s new School Orchard Program. Education Director Alyssa Schimmel collaborated with POP’s 12 city school orchard partners to begin developing a database of materials to activate the orchards as centers of learning and exploration. Across all sites, POP was able to teach 250 students through 44 school visits, with 14 formal lessons delivered in 2017. Read more about POP’s new school orchard program here! 


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. This season’s educational programs included workshops on jam-making, fruit tree care, permaculture, and harvest and use of orchard plants. Join us for our upcoming 4-part POPCORE orchardist training course at Bartram’s Garden in March!


ORCHARD WEEK & HARVEST FESTIVALS

This year we celebrated our 7th annual Philadelphia Orchard Week with over 1800 participants at orchard sites across the city. Events included orchard plantings, work days, harvest festivals, cider pressing, plant sale, crafts and games, volunteer opportunities, and more!  In addition to POP’s 10th Anniversary Celebration in September, we also kicked off the holiday season with a Winter Wassailing event at Awbury Arboretum in December. Join us for our first ever Fig Fest coming up on February 24!


ORCHARD PARTNER STORIES

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

“We have three sweet cherry trees that had a great harvest this year. Fruit gets a lot more attention & excitement than vegetables, which spread to our surrounding community. The cherry harvesting was a large gathering event, and we had people of all ages picking off cherries. Many people did not know that cherries came from trees. A lot of neighborhood children got to climb the tree to pick off the cherries, which one of them told me was a “magical experience”.

— Marta Lynch, FNC Poplar Learning Farm

Read more partner stories here!


2017 Orchard Partner Survey Summary

Results of our 5th annual partner survey provided valuable feedback showing the impact of POP’s programs and guiding our efforts to provide the best support to our partners. This year ‘Beauty and Neighborhood Greening’ was rated as the highest value of the orchard spaces. Partners reported 4385 individuals participated in caring for POP orchards in 2017 (twice last year’s total); another 4681 tasted something grown in a POP orchard; and 5386 used them as a gathering space. The survey again showed that almost all orchard produce is distributed within the neighborhood where it’s grown, including 57% harvested by or given for free to community members. POP partners reported total harvests of 3689 pounds of orchard produce. 81% 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!


POP Blog

POP’s urban orchard blog continues to cover a variety of topics in ecological orchard care as well as highlight our plants, programs, partners, and volunteers.  You can follow our blog or search it for past topics.  Some recent posts include:

POP Orchard Feature: Jewish Farm School

POP History 2016 & Volunteer Highlight: Angelina Conti

POP History 2015 & Volunteer Highlight: Tony Dorman

POP Fig Varieties and Introducing Megan Brookens: A Fellow Fig Lover!

POP History 2014 & Volunteer Highlight: Ryan Kuck

Fall Foraging: Crabapples and Gingko Nuts and Leaves


WAYS YOU CAN HELP!

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 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, 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 (alyssa@phillyorchards.org). To assist our Events Committee with organizing fundraising events or helping with outreach activities, please contact Tanya Grinblat (tanya@phillyorchards.org). Experienced volunteers are invited to join POP’s Orchard Committee and work directly with our orchard partners; for more info contact Michael (michael@phillyorchards.org).

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 (phillyorchards.org/volunteer/signup).

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.