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Orchard milestone

The plan of the orchard and wildflower meadow. The tree planting is now complete

The plan of the orchard and wildflower meadow. The tree planting is now complete

A major milestone was reached today regarding Monifieth’s community orchard and wildflower meadow — the final trees have been planted. That means a total of 124 trees are on site. They consist  of seven pear, 20 plum, three cherry, 91 apple, and three “mystrees” (no-one knows what they are).

Orchard

OK, so it may not be the most exciting photo, but it beats the seaweed I showed last week. In the foreground is Area D (late season apples), with Area I (plums) behind

Most of the trees were planted in two sessions earlier this winter, but today we tackled the final 29. The process seemed to be much speedier than expected, and the job was done in three hours.

There was one major problem though — mice had gotten into the shed where the trees were being stored, and stripped the bark from 10 of them. Strangely, they only picked apple trees, and left the plums alone. We decided to plant the damaged trees anyway, on the off-chance they might take, but some looked in particularly sorry state. We’ll replace them next winter, if need be.

The soil is particularly compacted and very sandy, so planting each tree was a considerable amount of work. A metre square of turf had to be removed, and the earth then mixed with a barrowload of soil improver.

There were six volunteers (mostly Rotarians), with a couple of people delighted to just dig holes. They were the real stars, as that was, by far, the most arduous task.

Now, we just need to wait until the spring to see if all the trees have taken, and if they start to blossom. The orchard looks mightily impressive, but when the flowers come out, it should prove quite a sight.

In other news, I planted a grapevine in my greenhouse yesterday. It is a red Dornfelder variety, and is years away from bearing fruit.

The greenhouse floor is solid concrete, so I actually planted it in the soil outside, drilled a hole in the wooden wall, and poked the growing end through. This way the roots will have all the space they need in the garden, while the stem will benefit from the heat of being inside. It’s a tested technique, so in theory it should work. Just like with the orchard, all I have to do now is wait.

 

 


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Orchard plan finally bears fruit

East End Park -- site of the orchard and wildflower meadow

East End Park — site of the orchard and wildflower meadow

I’ve always wanted some fruit trees. Some apples and maybe a few pears. There wasn’t enough room on my allotment, so I tried to get a hold of some adjacent land which would have taken about six trees. That was a failure, so I was at a dead-end.

That was over a year ago, and I’d almost given up on the idea until I bumped into Alex Graham, who is chair of Monifieth EcoForce — an environmental group which does its best to keep the town looking good. I said I was looking for some land for an orchard for myself or the community. “Leave it with me,” he said. I thought little more about until we met again several months later, and he said there was a piece of ground near the golf course which would be suitable for an orchard combined with a wildflower meadow. 

A quick visit to the site left me overwhelmed. It was huge! Roughly 50 x 100m. It was more than I ever dreamed of.

Google Maps view of the site

Google Maps view of the site

The more I thought about it, the more the idea of doing something for the community appealed. There was no doubting this was going to be a massive task, and so I asked Frank King, a fellow allotment holder, if he would come on board. I was delighted to hear him say yes.

Not long after he came up with a genius fundraising idea. Why don’t we allow people in Monifieth to sponsor their own family tree? Brilliant. Folk would have a tree in their name with a plaque giving their details.

Meanwhile, I got in touch with Andrew Lear, who specialises in reviving orchards in this area, particularly in the Carse. He reckoned there was room for 90 trees. And he listed the types of pear, plum and apple which were commonly grown in this area.

So far, so good. But there were two huge hurdles to overcome — getting funding and permission. Thanks to Catherine LLoyd, of Tayside Biodiversity, we applied for a grant from Angus Environmental Trust — a group which uses money from the landfill tax to promote projects like ours. They were very enthusiastic and gave us a grant to cover the cost of the trees, stakes, guards and seeds for the meadow.

The bigger problem was getting permission from the council to go ahead. Although they were behind the idea, their cogs turned extremely slowly. However, after I put in an appeal with our councillor, things started moving — still too slowly for my liking, but faster than before.

On stipulation they had was I should consult with all the owners of the neighbouring properties to get their views on the matter. Two sides of the area was owned by the golf links. I spoke to the chairman, and he was delighted that an eyesore was going to be put to proper use. Residents, however, had reservations. While the vast majority were in favour, many were concerned trees would block their views of the golf course.

This was all passed on to the council who eventually agreed at the beginning of March to lease us the site for the orchard and wildflower meadow. Nothing can stop us now. The money is in place and we have the cash.

Now the real work begins …