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Orchard Stewards Program: Being an Observant Steward

OSP 3

Session 3: Being an Observant Steward

On the second Saturday of October, we welcomed fall with another Orchard Stewards Session. For our third session, we discussed what it means to be an observant steward. With pruning season surprisingly around the corner, Stewards learned the importance of absorbing nature—from the orchard ecosystem to individual leaves.

Permaculture informs orchardists in the ways of orchard observation. Permaculture is a form of agriculture in which the steward is observant of the entire ecosystem and sets up the system to be self-sufficient and sustainable. Permaculture also emphasizes sharing resources among stewards. Orchard Stewards have started a Cardboard Bank at Real Food Farm. We can now drop off unused cardboard for path making and mulching in our orchards. If you have any cardboard, please drop it off at Real Food Farm (by the painted shed near the walk-in fridge)!

The Stewards observed the orchard at Real Food Farm. They found curled leaves, left over fruit, sturdy trunks, discoloring, and a lot of woodchip mulch. Although not all Stewards may know what each observation means for their orchard, they can start keeping an eye on recurring markers in trees. Repeated oozing cankers and burnt-looking branches could be fire blight; curled, rough and waxy leaves could be peach curl; black, crusted material around branches could be black knot. Although some diseases and fungi can be killed off or go dormant in the winter, they can certainly come back in the spring. It’s best to start observing and knowing what might be wrong with your fruit and nut trees in the fall—but do not prune yet! The upcoming cold weather (despite this warm week) can shock the trees. You can find a worksheet to follow while observing your trees on our Resources tab on our website.

Next month, the Stewards will learn about their soil—what to look for, how to amend their soil and with what resources. I’m looking forward to our Stewards’ questions and comments! Thank you Stewards, for making your communities beautiful and resilient.

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