City staff, urban leaders and others meet at Dalhousie University to discuss the Halifax Urban Orchard Initiative in May 2012

City staff, urban leaders, and others meet at Dalhousie University to discuss the Halifax Urban Orchard Initiative in May 2012.

For many of us, planting a fruit tree is a decision made on a whim. The idea of growing, harvesting, and sharing fruit sounds fantastic.  Why not grow fruit trees in the community? So, we march off the garden centre and buy whatever is available. Sadly, as you’ll learn in my book Growing Urban Orchards and in my online workshop Researching Your Fruit Tree, this is not a recipe for growing success.

Few people know how much work is involved in planning an orchard. Where will it be? What varieties of fruit are best suited to the location? Which tree combinations are needed to ensure pollination? How do you care for the trees and protect them from pests and disease? Who will be responsible for their care?

These are all questions that will be explored at an meeting on June 26, 2014 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the city has launched an Urban Forest Master Plan. Part of this wide-ranging initiative involves developing an urban orchard pilot project that may see fruit trees planted across the city, beautifying the communities they are in while providing residents with a source of of free, organic fruit.

According to City Planner John Charles, one of the leaders of the HRM Urban Forest Planning Team, local residents and city leaders are invited to develop the pilot project plan. Some of the organizations invited include Ecology Action Centre , Clean Nova Scotia Foundation, Cole Harbour Heritage Farm, alongside community garden leaders, health workers, and conservation groups.

“The simplest part is ordering the trees,” says John Charles, “The hardest part is to make sure the project is sustainable in the long run and that’s why our partners will be so important.”

If you live in or around Halifax, you are invited to attend the meeting on June 26th too, and to join the conversation. From my experience leading the Ben Nobleman Park Community Orchard in Toronto, I assure you that getting involved will be worth the time and effort.

Here in Toronto, our fruit trees have given us so much more than just a delicious annual harvest. They have beautified our local park and helped us build the community. They have allowed us to interact with nature and learn tree care skills. And we know that if we care for our trees well now, they will give back to us exponentially with generous harvests for the next 25, 50, or even 100 years.

What a wonderful legacy for generations to come.

Meeting information is below. Good luck, Halifax!

Urban Orchard Planning Workshop
June 26, 2014 at 5.30 p.m.
Dalhousie University
Rowe Building (6100 University Ave.
Room 1011
RSVP by phone: (902-494-7100) or by email (hrmufmp@gmail.com).

Susan Poizner is the author of Growing Urban Orchards: The Ups, Downs and How-Tos of Fruit Tree Care in the City. She is the creator of Orchard People e-Learning Workshops. She is also the director of fruit tree consulting and education company Orchard People.