Did you go to the Fruit Tree Fair this year? Maybe you’re smiling over that Beach Plum you took home from FTF and planted in your backyard? Well you’ll want to make sure you return to the next fair to get yourself a second plant so they can pollinate each other. We hope you enjoyed our fair atmosphere, as we were aiming to have a little something for everyone. Whether your goal was to attend the workshop on companion planting in the orchard and buy some plants to take home with your free fruit tree, or you came simply to celebrate the urban greening uplift and festivities around the open mic stage, we hope you enjoyed yourself. Please do send us feedback as we’re continually fine tuning our event to bring the people what they want. This year’s family friendly atmosphere featured a kid’s nature play space as the center piece, while Millstone Cellars offered adults a sampling of their artisan hard ciders and meads. Local emcee Alanah Nichole elevated the energy at this event with various artists of all ages performing spoken word poetry and live music. This was an ongoing feature of the program as guests perused the vendor tents to learn about honey bees and native pollinators, plants for the orchard, various environmental and community non-profit groups, and of course food and drink options.
TreeBaltimore conducts a dozen or so tree giveaway events each spring and fall, and one of the most popular requests over the years has been: “Do you have any fruiting trees?” That’s why our planting partners <Parks and People Foundation and Civic Works’ Baltimore Orchard Project> decided in 2015 to come together and offer a tree giveaway event devoted entirely to native and urban hardy trees that produce edible fruits. On April 15th, 2017, during the most successful Fruit Tree Fair to date, potted Figs, Paw Paws, American Persimmons, Serviceberry laevis, and Beach Plums were given out. Over 250 trees were given out to Baltimore city residents. One of our goals while conducting any tree giveaway is to expand Baltimore’s tree canopy, by encouraging that the free tree be planted on private lands such as a homeowner’s front or back yard. The umbrella tree canopy mission is already working with many groups to plant out the public and community spaces. While a considerable amount of land in Baltimore city is privately owned, the tree giveaway invites private land owners to plant and grow their tree canopy. The tree giveaway is an important tool in raising a greater awareness of Baltimore’s urban tree canopy (UTC) goal of 40% land coverage. We talk about Baltimore’s precious 27% canopy coverage with much pride, reciting the famous words of Dr Suess’ character the Lorax, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Guests from Easterwood Park Recreation center proudly pose with their new Beach Plum plants!
In planting a tree, we are practicing an act of faith. Even before we dig the hole, we are setting intentions to find a good home for a new plant. We make plans for return visits as we look forward to a deeper connection with the land and community spaces we work in. As we watch the plant grow through the years and seasons, we develop valuable experiences that provoke a sense of well-being and hope for our community. When we have questions about caring for the young tree, we can seek out free resources in Baltimore. This might involve attending a Baltimore TreeKeepers training for best practices in tree care or a Civic Works Baltimore Orchard Project workshop on growing fruit trees. Lessons learned from our interactions with plants are optimal when we make time for regular observations. Maintenance is important for our hardy native trees, but especially important for the many types of fruit trees that have been cultivated from around the world like Apples and Pears for example. This web blog is intended to share with you some photos from the event and information from the workshops that we offered at this past Fruit Tree Fair. Under the four workshop sections, you will find a wealth of information on how to get started with your community or backyard orchard. Enjoy!
Kids learn the Civic Works Baltimore Orchard Project (BOP) tradition of making yarn PomPoms for decorating their fruit trees.
At its very best, nature play isn’t scheduled, planned, or led by adults, nor is it confined by grown-ups’ rules. Instead, it’s open-ended, free-time exploration and recreation, without close adult supervision. For many of us, this sort of nature play virtually defined our childhoods.
Devi and Harpreet of the Sacred Kitchen offered vegetarian food at the fair.
As city residents lined up around the block in waiting for their free fruit tree, they had a chance to study up on cultural information for Paw Paw, Persimmon, Beach Plum, Fig, and Serviceberry laevis.
A special family edition of Alanah Nichole’s MuchMoreThanAnOpenMic really brought this event full circle. Rec and Parks staff member Mary Hardcastle came up to recite a poem with some of the young sprouts!
A few hunks of some trees felled in the park provide seating for our guests at the fair.
Steve Hung on guitar. He later brought out a wooden flute and played a most melodious tune.
Workshop Number 1
How to Start a Community Orchard
Planting Coordinator with the Civic Works Baltimore Orchard Project, Eric Sargent, talks about the many considerations when growing fruit trees in a community setting.
- Sun, soil, water source
- What is the slope or topography of the land?
- What types of fruit is the group interested in planting?
- What is the history of the site?
- What is the mission of the group and the orchard space?
- When the fruit starts to produce who will eat it and how will it be distributed?
- Are there any concerns around vandalism or the site or crime?
- How many members for are involved and committed to the project?
- What groups are located nearby that could potentially get involved in the project?
- Has the group been made aware of the weekly, monthly, and yearly maintenance needs of the trees and are they committed to learn and care out these tasks?
- Is there funding available for the necessary tools, installation, and stewardship for the project?
- Can you connect to a resource? (Civic Works Baltimore Orchard Project, TreeBaltimore, etc.)
Workshop Number 2
Pruning and Training your Young Fruit Tree
Baltimore City Arborist Erik Dihle showed workshop attendees how to properly train and prune various types of fruit trees.
A number of factors are considered when manipulating tree’s architecture for optimal health and fruit production. See the image below of Erik’s hand-drawn flyer showing several different reasons for pruning away undesireable branches in pome (apple) fruit and stone (cherry peach) fruit tree scenarios.
Workshop Number 3
Nina Carroll’s Quick No Cook Fruit Canning and Preservation
Super Easy 3 Ingredient Strawberry Freezer Jam
Prep: 10 minutes
- organic sugar( more or less depending on how sweet the jam)
- 4 Tbsp. of Pomona pectin ( Read packet’s instructions before making jam)
- ¼ cup Lemon juice (optional)
- Wash and remove stems
- Mash prepared strawberries with a potato masher or pastry cutter in a large bowl.
- In a separate bowl mix the pectin and sugar thoroughly.
- Add to mashed strawberries
- Pour into a clean 8oz. jar or container Place lid and allow to sit for 30 minutes to set.
- Enjoy right away or freeze up to a year
- Makes 3-4 cups
- Recipe can be made with other fruits as well ( blueberries, raspberries, cherries, blackberries, pears and plums)
Workshop Number 4
Companion Planting in the Orchard with Todd McCree of Great Escape Nursery
My name is Todd McCree and I’m here today to talk to you about companion planting. But first, let me tell you a little bit about myself. My day job for the last 30 years has been IT. In my nights and weekends, I’ve been following my passion of gardening.
I have taken quite a few courses on subjects such as permaculture, plant propagation, and soil restoration. I also took off of work for a while and WWoFed – Willing Worker on Organic Farm – this is where I volunteered my time to work on a farm and they put me up and fed me. We put in 3000 foot of swales and earthworks and planted almost 5000 trees.
In 2012, I bought a property in Romney, WV that had 42 mature fruit trees on it. I now have a foodforest and almost 600 edible plants on the property. One of the things I strive to do is to put in plants that get along with one another. Believe it or not, there are plants that do not get along together and there are plants that get along great together.
In 2015, I opened Great Escape Nursery and Great Escape Farms. The nursery propagates and sells plants, mostly shrubs, online. The farm does a lot. We do product reviews, how-to videos, and a bi-weekly podcast about gardening and homesteading.
Plants that do get along well together are called companions. That is the topic of this workshop, companion planting. Some of the ways that plants help one another could be as simple as attracting insects for pollination or as complex as biological processes that provide nutrients to one another. We are going to talk about plants that help one another, but we are going to go one step further and talk about a group of plants that all provide help to a centerpiece, which would be the tree you received today.
A plant guild is a grouping of plants that work together to support one another to the fullest and provide better production than they would otherwise by themselves. We try to mimic the stacking and relationships found in nature while also providing useful resources to humans. In a guild, we may use a nitrogen fixer to provide nitrogen in the soil, a dynamic accumulator to bring nutrients to the surface for other plants, a plant that attracts beneficial insects to protect other plants and a plant that wards off larger prey like deer.
That Sounds Difficult!
While my last statements may sound like this is a lot more work than it is worth, it really is quite simple. Let’s pick apart some of the terms that I just mentioned:
- Dynamic Accumulator: This is a plant that has a very long tap root and mines nutrients way down in the ground and brings the nutrients up to the surface. What are some plants that have long tap roots?
- Here’s a few: Dandelion, white clover, borage, comfrey, chickweed, yarrow, nettles, chicory, amaranth, lamb’s quarters, mulberry, plantain, Plantain, Buckwheat, Burdock, Carrots, Dock, Beets
- Nitrogen Fixer: These are plants that put nitrogen into the soil. This could be done via a symbiotic relationship with other organisms or in other ways. Any guess what plants put nitrogen into the soil?
- Here’s a few: pigeon pea, mimosa tree, Siberian pea, lupin, clover, vetch, groundnut, kudzu, honey locust, Alfalfa, Wisteria, Elaeagnus
- Beneficial Insects: These are plants that Lure pollinators and pest predators. It is a bug eat bug world out there, and that is a great thing if we can attract predator bugs that eat the bad ones. Any thoughts on beneficial insectattracting plants?
- Here are a few: Dill, Angelica, Chervil, Celery, Fennel, Parsley, Parsnip, Cilantro, Yarrow, Sunflower, Aster, Calendula, Dahlia, Cosmos, Zinnia, Dandelion, Marigold, Daisy, and clover.
- How about plants that deter pests? mint, peppermint, marigold, lemongrass, citronella
- Great bird, bee, and butterfly plants: Borage, Nasturtium, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Spearmint, Sweet Alyssum, Nettles
- How about ground cover – those Perennial soft leafy plants to keep the ground cool on those sweltering hot summer days and that break down into plant nutrients?
- sweet potato, red clover, salad vegetables, parsley, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, rhubarb, strawberries
- Grass-Suppressing Bulbs – keep grasses and weeds at bay with a circle of bulbs
- Daffodils, Camas (wild hyacinth), Alliums (Garlic, Onions, Chives, Leeks)
- Deer – Plants that deer do not like or tend to stay away from. These include:
- Daffodils, chives, onions, and garlic.
Companion Planting Guild Drawing
Today I’m going to draw up a sample fruit tree guild on the board and explain why these companion planting groups were chosen. There is not a specific guild for a specific plant. You need to base your guild based on what you like.
For example, if you like to eat Alliums, then you might plant garlic and onions to suppress grass. But if you don’t like alliums, but do like flowers, you might plant daffodils or camas. You should plant what you like and what you will use as well as what helps with the plant guild.
Plant to your taste and your personality. There are a lot of different type of plants that perform the same function.
Daffodils are planted around the outside edge of the tree right at the drip line as well as right at the trunk. They are planted at the drip line to act as the first line of defense in the spring to stop the growth of grass into the guild. The outer ring of daffodils also helps deter deer browsing and has flowers to attract bees. The inner ring of daffodils helps deter rodents from chewing on the lower bark and has flowers to attract bees.
Comfrey is used as a dynamic accumulator to bring nutrients up to useable levels for the fruit tree. The comfrey will also grow larger as the summer goes on and shade out any grass that may be trying to move into the guild after the daffodils go dormant. Summer flowers on the comfrey will attract bees and other pollinating insects.
Goumi is a bush added as a nitrogen fixer. It flowers in the mid-spring, so it will attract pollinators, and it will fruit in early summer. The bush will be trimmed from time to time and the trimmings will be dropped to the ground to add additional nutrient and mulch to the soil.
Garlic chives are planted as a pest deterrent as well as an edible.
Chicory is planted as a perennial flowering plant to attract pollinators and beneficial insects. It also acts as a dynamic accumulator.
Yarrow is another dynamic accumulator. It is also a plant that flowers for a long period of time and attracts beneficial insects.
Autumn olive is a nitrogen fixer and is planted just outside of the drip line of the mature trees and a little further out for the younger trees. The bush will be trimmed from time to time and the trimmings will be placed on the ground under the drip line of the fruit tree to provide additional nutrient and add mulch to the soil.
White clover seed will be added in between guild plants as well as outside of the guild to help with fixing nitrogen. The clover seeds will be inoculated prior to dispersal to increase nitrogen.
These are the plants given away at the Baltimore City Fruit Tree Fair. I give some sample companion planting options below.
Brown Turkey Fig – Ficus carica
In some cases, a young, healthy fig tree undergoes proper pollination and fruit set, then drops all its fruit suddenly. This phenomenon is usually caused by overfeeding. It may take three to four years for the fig to recover from over-fertilization and produce a crop that ripens and stays on the tree. Avoid using shop bought liquid feeds instead use good compost fed at the base of the plant (20 L in the spring) and you should not experience this.
- Companion planting options for under a fig tree: Jerusalem artichoke, elderberry, comfrey, stinging nettle, horsemint, hogweed, lemon balm, snowdrop and wild daffodil.
- Companion planting options found around fig trees: European crab apple, tamarisk, blackberry, clematis, damson, quince, elderberry, Szechuan pepper.
Beach Plum Prunus maritima
Although indigenous to the mid-Atlantic coastal region, beach plum has been planted successfully on more inland sites. It is well adapted to drought sites with moderately fertile, slightly acidic, loamy and sandy soils. Beach plum does not perform well on heavy clay soils, but will tolerate moderately well drained conditions.
Companion planting options for beach plum:
- Green and Gold (Chrysogonum virginianum) This is a beautiful groundcover that attracts beneficial insects and can grown in partial shade.
- Dwarf Coreopsis (Coreopsis auriculata nana) This is another beautiful groundcover that attracts beneficial insects.
- Ramps(Allium tricoccum) k.a. Wild Leeks, are early Spring vegetables and grows well in the shade
- Camas (Camassia quamash) has edible bulbs and has flowers that attract beneficial insects. (Native to west US)
Paw Paws Asimina triloba
Companion planting options for paw paw:
- Ramps (Allium tricoccum) a.k.a. Wild Leeks, are early Spring vegetables and grows well in the shade
- Hog Peanuts (Amphicarpaea bracteata) have edible seeds and “roots” which are really seeds that develop underground, are shade-loving, climb up and sprawl out (smothering weeds), and fix nitrogen
- Notes: Ramps will grow well under Pawpaws, and will die back just when Hog Peanuts are getting large. If you do want to go through the trouble of harvesting the Hog Peanuts, there are no other actively growing plants in that layer during harvest time. The fruiting Pawpaw will benefit from the nitrogen produced by the Hog Peanut.
As for companion planting, I think of the usual suspects for fruit trees: daffodils, mints, garlics, annual legumes, bee balm, etc.
Paw paws have fetid flowers – Pollinated by flies and beetles looking for the stink. Companion planting for pollination will find under the pawpaws I’ve planted wild mint, mayapples, wild ginger and will add aralia racemosa and ramps soon. There are also currants and barberries close to them. Both mayapples and wild ginger have fetid flowers that attract the same sort of pollinators that pawpaws use, and they bloom around the same time, so that it part of my pollinating strategy.
Another option in companion planting is skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) which both have fetid flowers and are native to the west coast.
North American Persimmons – Diospyros virginiana
American Persimmons are one of the few plants that tolerate juglone, a chemical produced by black walnuts that can poison other plants, so American Persimmons can be used as a buffer plant between your black walnuts and your other forest garden plants.
As for companion planting, they are extremely tough trees with very few diseases or pests that bother them, so plant what you want around them. They need no help!
Because of its ability to thrive in both full sun and semi shade, the serviceberry can grow beneath semi dwarf and standard fruit trees. The fruit draws robins, cedar waxwings, and chipmunks
As for companion planting, consider the following:
- Use runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) or ground nut (Apios Americana). Ground nut is a vine varying in length from 5 to 30 feet. It produces an edible root and also fixes nitrogen, benefiting neighboring plants.
- In the understory, comfrey (Symphytum officinale) and horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) can be used as deep rooted pumps to bring subsoil nutrients to the upper root zones of the other species.
- Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a semi woody short shrub with both culinary and medicinal antiviral uses and can grow along sunny edges.
- Trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) are a native spring ephemeral, leafing out early, then as summer approaches they shed leaves and go dormant, like many other of our common spring bulbs. The trout lily bioaccumulates phosphorous in its leaves at a time of the year when heavy rain and snow melt can wash nutrients off the site, it then releases it back to the soil when the plant goes dormant in June.
- White Clover (Trifolium repens) acts as a ground cover to hold soil on slopes from eroding. It accumulates nitrogen through beneficial bacteria relationships. It attracts both honeybees and other pollinators.
- Mints (Mentha spp.), wild ginger (Asarum canadense), and comfrey are all useful to provide bee nectar and can form the foundation for a nearby apiary guild.
Thanks for viewing the Companion Planting and Fruit Tree Fair Workshop Notes post.