What We Plant and Why
In order for the Giving Grove orchards to be a sustainable, reliable source of food, certain steps must be taken. Before we know the site or the stewards, we must know the plants. Not all fruit trees are suited for our area. For example, there are hundreds of varieties of apple trees and dozens of rootstocks for grafting, but we chose only six varieties of trees on four different rootstocks. We based these selections on the following criteria:
- climate adaptability
- disease resistance
- nutritional value
- low maintenance requirements
- storage life
The reason for these criteria is simple—we want the trees to grow and produce a substantial amount of fruit with as little disease and insect trouble as possible.
In addition to traditional apples, pears, peaches and cherries, we offer fruits that are less known but very well suited for our climate. Jujubes (Chinese dates) are incredibly drought, insect and disease tolerant, and they provide a wonderfully sweet, crunchy treat at the end of the growing season. Figs, while Mediterranean in origin, also produce well here. These trees not only provide food, but they can be a source of education and wonder; a natural fit for schoolyard orchards.
The use of dwarfing rootstock is also very important. Dwarf trees not only take up less space (a crucial factor for small orchards), but they’re easier to maintain and harvest, especially at schools or senior living facilities.
When an orchard needs to be especially low maintenance, we design with plants such as serviceberry, bush cherry, goumi, jujube, and figs. These trees and bushes require less pruning and spraying than others. Many also are considered “grazing” plants with fruits you can pop right into your mouth—a tasty snack from nature.
We have also been adding nut trees to the mix. We have three varieties of hazelnut, three varieties of pecans and a hardy almond, and in 2016 will be adding chestnuts—all excellent sources of protein.