Orchard Partner Stories: a look back at 2016

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Every year we ask our orchard partners to reflect on the season and to share stories with us about what the orchard provides for their community. Below are some of our favorites excerpts from 2016 celebrating the beauty, abundance, and power of orchards to serve as an engaging place of discovery and connection.


Historic Fair Hill

This year, our tiny little asian pear trees fruited. We planted them two years ago. Each pear was perfect. We must have harvested 20 lbs of pears–and those are only the ones that I was around for! Many neighbors for about two weeks were walking around, munching on pears. For two more weeks, I had people coming up to me saying, “Are there any of those pears left? They are so good!” I told them that in five years there would be more fruit growing here than we can imagine. They’d always smile like they were watching something incredible far away.  I like seeing people imagine their fruit trees five years bigger.

— Staff Gardener

The sweet-tart fruit of the nitrogen-fixing goumi at Awbury Arboretum.
The sweet-tart fruit of the nitrogen-fixing goumi at Awbury Arboretum.

Awbury Arboretum

I remember bringing a regularly visiting Awbury volunteer group of men to the POP orchard one summer day last year to help. We were weeding I think.  It seemed sort of boring at first, but then someone offered us to try goumi berries off a bush that was full and ripe with the berries. At first my group was hesitant, saying they had never heard of the fruit, but I think  all the men and everyone else there eventually tried the goumis, and this had an interesting effect our experience that day in the orchard.
We began to talk about fruits we liked growing up, remembering what plants our families grew in their gardens, and sharing almost forgotten herbal home remedies for illnesses our parents gave to us. 
The time we spent in the orchard that day helped us get to know each other more and  brought us closer together. I can see how gardening is a comfort and life changing at the same time. It reminds us of so much; yet it also spurs us to take hold of the present and dare ourselves. It helps us to try new things and to still reflect on our experiences and learn more about ourselves and each other.

— Leslie Cerf


Overbrook School for The Blind

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

— Roseann McLaughlin


Tulpehocken Station Orchard

One Saturday, when a few volunteers were working in our train station garden, a woman using a cane appeared among us with a hand outstretched. It turned out she is a neighbor who is a retired professional gardener and now takes the train every morning to Chestnut Hill to spend time at the library and at other favorite haunts. She remembered when the train station grounds were a dump (literally), and said she loves what we have been doing to make it beautiful. She wished she could volunteer to work with us, but her physical limitations prevented that, so instead she handed us a check for $100–a big deal for our small coffers!

— Marjorie Russell


Pentridge Children’s Garden

Every year, including this one, the neighborhood kids have their eyes on the apple trees for ripe fruit. As soon as they start sizing up, they come through the gates excited to bring some home to their families. We have to be careful that we wait until they are truly ripe, but we do let them try them as they ripen so they can compare different stages. Some kids down the block from a Laotian family bring home some under-ripe fruits for processing. The garden is therefore a symbolic and actual source of abundance and joy for the kids and families who live nearby.  

— Owen Taylor

Volunteers planting a rain garden including a variety of edible plants at Lea Elementary.
Volunteers at Lea Elementary planting a rain garden including a variety of edible plants.

Lea Elementary

Our orchard empowers exploration. The Edible Fruit Forest rests in a school yard. Built and supported, mostly, by the community, the school attendants, from student to staff, [initially] paid it no attention. They hadn’t yet noticed that the space being developed on their grounds was for them and their use. Now, there are teachers touring, students exploring, and staff stooping under trees for lunch, noticing and acknowledging the space in simple, interactive ways.

— Kaamilah Milton


Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission

This year, we had a lot more raspberries to harvest and share. We served the raspberries in small cups to the guests that came for meals. Most of the guests had never tried raspberries before, so they were really appreciative that we shared these fresh harvested fruits with them. It is also popular after their lunch for a healthy snack. We never felt this happy to share.

We have transformed part of the farm as a seating area. This space is important for the men in the Overcomers program to have a quiet and safe place to go and relax their minds. Visitors, volunteers and staff love to use this space to have lunch, gathering, and connect.

— Meei Ling Ng


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.

Black Rot of Apples and Other Pome Fruits

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black rot

Black rot is a disease caused by the fungus, Botryosphaeria obtusa, which can attack the fruit, leaves, and bark of any tree in the pomaceous family (apples, pears, quinces, medlars, hawthorn). Pome fruits are fleshy fruits that do not have a central stone, but are cored with small seeds. Identifying black rot early is important in stopping the spread of the fungus, as it also can be parasitic to weak or dead wood in other plants in your garden. [Note: A different species of fungus which affects grapes during hot, humid weather is also known as black rot.]

About a week or two after petals from your apple blossoms fall, you should start checking your upper leaf surfaces for little purple spots, which is an early indicator of black rot. Eventually, the middle of these purple spots will turn yellow or brown in color, as well as dry out, while the margins of the spot will remain purple. The shape of the spot may become irregular and the middle of the spot also might form pycnidia, which are small, black pimple-like fruiting bodies of the fungus. A heavily affected leaf will usually drop off.

Tree branches or limbs might contain cankers, or sunken in areas of bark that are reddish brown in color. When sap continues to ooze from a pruning cut, one of the causes may be black rot gaining a foothold in the wood. These areas can expand each year and cause the affected limb to die. At any sign of rot or canker on the wood, a biological mudpack is a great way to combat organically, prior to the drastic measure of pruning a badly infected limb.

Black rot is found on your fruit in usually only one spot, which can differentiate black rot from bitter rot. The original spot on your fruit can be from any break of the skin of the fruit, including insect injuries. Starting as a brown spot, the rot will most likely grow and possibly turn black. You might also see more pycnidia on the fruit during this time. The fruit can form concentric rings around the spot and the fruit will begin to turn leathery. As the fruit decays, dries and shrivels up, it will eventually become completely mummified.

Treatment of black rot is a year round process, that begins with building healthy soil and good tree maintenance during the winter.Black rot can overwinter, which means that it will lay dormant in your tree, bark, limbs, cankers and mummified fruit and survive until the next fruiting season. You should always clear or prune dead or decaying wood, as well as fallen debris or dead fruit from around your tree.

The best way to rid your trees of black rot is to cut out the offending areas or cankers during the winter. Make sure to dispose of these properly, either by disposing in trash bags, burning, or burying them. It is also important to take away all mummified fruit, for the same reason of limiting the spread of fungal spores. Additionally, when your tree is fruiting, you should remove fruit that is damaged or invaded by insects, so that the fungus will not spread there. While you could try organically-approved fungicides, such as copper-based sprays or lime sulphur, these are still quite harsh and should be considered a last resort. The best method is to keep a sanitary tree environment all year round and consistently remove all sources of fungus spores.





The Holistic Orchard by Michael Phillips The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control: A Complete Guide to Maintaining a Healthy Garden and Yard the Earth-Friendly Way (Rodale Organic Gardening Books)

black rot (Botryosphaeria obtusa ) on apple (Malus domestica ) - 5368722


Image result for black rot apple trees


Severe black rot infection with dead bark on tree trunk.



This edition of POP Tips compiled by Education Intern, Rachel Baltuch.

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