Community orchards top-tips

This list is a slightly adapted version of a list of top-tips for successful community orchards created by Orchard Link and South Devon AONB unit.

  • Concentrate on building up the “team” – motivation and commitment
  • Communication is really important – hold events for lots of people, find jobs for people to do and make sure everyone has something to hold their interest
  • Hold monthly Saturday or Sunday morning work parties (with soup, cakes, or bacon rolls) – post a list of tasks and assign people to them
  • Invite members or guests with specialist knowledge to give informal talks (e.g. about fruit, pruning, wild flowers, insects, bees, and so on)
  • Emphasise skill-sharing and learning while at work
  • Scything is a great activity (use light Australian-style scythes) – must have risk assessment
  • Pigs can be great for de-weeding a site before planting. Only put them back in an orchard for clearing windfalls (gives the meat an appley flavour). Strong grazing guards required
  • Set up a WhatsApp group to encourage people to attend work parties
  • A couple of crab apples are a good addition to a community orchard for pollination and their attractive blossom
  • Tree protection (from livestock, rabbits, deer etc) is essential
  • Have a calendar of events all year round – wassail, pressing, jam and chutney making, blossom time
  • Use village newsletters, fliers, posters and school websites to advertise and communicate
  • Before starting a new community orchard, consider doing a survey or questionnaire of neighbouring households to gauge the level of interest and commitment, and establish a strong mandate to press ahead
    • And set up “round table” discussion with neighbours to find out what people want from the orchard
  • Involve cubs/brownies/scouts/guides etc
  • Taking grafts from old fruit trees already growing successfully on a site is a good way of propagating suitable local varieties and preserves local heritage
    • Graft two or more different varieties on to one root stock
  • Brambles can be cut and piled and then later re-used as a mulch or to protect young trees from deer
  • Establishing a natural ground cover plant like woodruff can be a good way of managing the vegetation
  • There is a rich folklore around apples and orchards in this country. Working with a community arts group can be a good way of developing this
  • Incorporate a community social area in the orchard – benches, barbecue, and a play area, all linked by regularly mown pathways
  • Consider planting a range of soft fruits (raspberries, blackcurrants etc) that will yield a crop quickly, while waiting for new apple trees to establish and start producing
  • Local orchard groups provide valuable services for community orchards – equipment hire, training, advice and so on. See PTES Regional Gazeteer for links
  • Choose the right fruit varieties and species for the site. See PTES FruitFinder to find out about varieties from your area
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