This column, if truth be told, constitutes a shameless promotion of a workshop on fruit trees to be held this coming Saturday morning February 25th starting at 9am and running until noon. The workshop will be held at the new Mississippi Mills Youth Centre, 134 Main Street in Almonte (the former Mac’s Milk right beside Milano’s Pizza). This workshop is a joint project of the Mississippi Mills Youth Centre, Lanark County Master Gardeners and the Neighbourhood Tomato Community Gardening Program.
Given the relative paucity of my knowledge and experience with fruit trees, I was overjoyed when Ed Lawrence, CBC gardening celebrity and Mississippi Mills gardening guru, agreed to co-present this workshop with me. I plan to introduce some elementary guidelines on planting and caring for fruit trees and talk a bit about the Mississippi Mills Urban Orchard and lessons learned over the last five years. Ed will give a demonstration on pruning. (And of course my plan is to ‘punt’ to Ed whenever I get in over my head.) The plan is to also leave a substantial amount of time to answer your questions.
There is no pre-registration for this event – first come, first seated! There also is no charge for the workshop – donations to the programs of the Mississippi Mills Youth Centre will be gratefully received!
The genesis for this workshop is a column that I wrote back in November of last year about the nascent public orchards of Mississippi. The planting of fruit trees at several locations in Mississippi Mills took place in late-April of 2012. The project was suggested by community leaders and was quickly embraced by the leadership of Jeff Mills and the Neighbourhood Tomato. The Edible Trees project captured the interest and hearts of residents from each of the Hamlets of Appleton, Blakeney and Clayton, as well as those residing in the Almonte Ward and the Village of Pakenham. Working closely with community partner groups, 70 volunteers were found to locate, plant, and offer ongoing care for the established trees. A grant was obtained from the Edible Tree program of Tree Canada; trees were ordered and planted in early 2012 just in time for an extremely dry summer. A total of 74 trees were planted – four varieties of pears and six varieties of apples.
In general the trees all appear to do doing well with a near-perfect survival rate, which attests to the care from volunteers – two of the last five growing seasons have had extended periods of drought. There are perhaps a few things that could be improved. Some trees need remedial pruning and a number of volunteers have expressed some concerns about diseases and pests over the years. I am hopeful that our workshop will provide answers to those questions and many more.
One other observation from my tour of the fruit trees last fall was that there are large quantities of fruit in our municipality that go un-harvested. I have heard a rumour that our newly formed youth group hopes to be able to do something about that. And putting on my Food Bank hat, I can report that our Food Band (‘the Hunger Stop’) will be prepared to process large quantities of fruit into apple sauce and fruit leathers using the commercial facilities at the Two Rivers Food Hub this fall!