Monthly Archives: February 2014

Fruit Tree Pruning – Short-term Losses for Long-term Gains

Februrary, 26, 2014

On the cool Saturday morning of February 15, nine of us huddled around the multi-varietal021514 big picture pear photo 31 web pear tree. We listened closely, moving from tree to tree, absorbing as much information as we could during the comprehensive pruning class taught by Ingela Wanerstrand.

Since the fruit trees are just coming into their fourth year, much of the pruning advice centered around training the trees and roots for strength in early years so they will bear well in the future. A few winced when she urged us to take off the fruit for the first three or four years. After looking at the faces, she followed up with this consolation, “Well, maybe leave one.”

Ingela initially inspected the results of her pruning from the prior year. She was very pleased, mostly with the presence of many fruit buds near to the center of the trees.

Taking aim at the blackberries!
Come for any amount of time that works for you. Or, bring muffins.
Sat, Mar 1, 2-4pm, Work Party
Sun, Mar 16, 2-4pm, Work Party
Sat, Apr 5, 2-4pm, Work Party

She demonstrated spur pruning, challenges of twisting branches and blind wood, how to work with apical dominance through pruning and bending, the importance of fruit thinning, open vase versus central leader shapes, and tying branches for less or more vigor. The magic is in the way she constantly made decisions about priorities and design.

She had a choice of taking out a branch connected to a branch or a branch connected to the trunk and she chose to keep the branch connected to the trunk. On the multi-varietal pear, she headed back the more vigorous Harrow’s Delight so the other varieties could compete. She chose to head back a branch to another side branch of similar size so as not to create too many water sprouts.

We all beamed when we got to the Liberty. It is our star. It has a beautiful open-vase 021514 Liberty saw photo 23 web rotatestructure with a whorl of sturdy branches and well-angled crotches. (Who would have known from it’s first summer when it was a very tall stick with hardly a branch!)

Ingela loves to go back each year to the trees she prunes. Some trees she has been pruning for 17 years! “That’s the best way to learn,” she urged, “by looking at the results of each of the choices you made.”

We are delighted that Ingela likes to keep coming back! Stay tuned for another class from the master next February.


2014 – A Pivotal Year For The Orchard


We are off to a good start, already we have one well attended and extremely productive work party under our belt (see photo).011914 work party people 19

The City of Seattle funded community design process is behind us. We can now focus on implementing the resulting final design (see Library page) that the neighbors are excited about.

This week, ten diligent volunteers met to enjoy a light meal (including lotus root!) and outline top priorities for 2014. We began with a go-around, allowing each volunteer to voice his or her hopes and desires for 2014, and beyond. Interests ran the gamut but all resonated with our mission.

We agreed to three priorities for the orchard:

1) Take Good Care Of What We Have Already Planted

Joan, Justin, Ruth and Nancy M. will share the watering responsibilities, with Nancy H. as a substitute. We will continue with tree guild mulching and weeding. We are very lucky to benefit from top-notch pruning by Ingela Wanerstrand.

2) Water Research

We are entertaining all ideas about securing water for the site, especially since the cost to establish service from the City will cost $10,000.

We had consensus that we should consider a water catchment/storage system, if not as the primary water source, as a sound backup. We will likely end up with a 336 square foot roof on the shed. During an average year in Seattle, that roof could catch up to 7,257 gallons of water, well more than we could use no matter how we build out the site! (In Seattle, the average rainfall is 36″. Two thirds of the rain falls in the winter, from November through March. One inch of rain falling on a square foot of surface yields approximately 0.6 gallons of water.)

Becky, Sue H., Ruth and Justin are researching different ideas about catchment and storage.

3) Community Events

There is a very strong commitment to continuing the events that we host, especially Seattle Night Out (August 5) the Annual Cider Fest (October 18), and the annual Pruning Class (February 15). These events are social binders for the neighborhood, enjoyable, and they further our vision to allow Seattle residents to have nearby access to a beautiful public space where they can learn and participate in food growing, connect with neighbors, and nurture the environment.

Michelle P. has already volunteered to organize this summer’s Night Out. We welcome others to join her team or to start the planning for the Cider Fest. Michelle is also researching and coordinating possible funding sources.

Sat, Feb 15, 10:30-noon, Pruning Class
Suggested donation $10 per family.
Sun, Feb 16, 2-4pm, Work Party
Come for any amount of time that works for you.

Other Commitments

Nancy H., Kimberly and Jennifer have started planning for certain early plantings that can be installed with very little summer water requirements.

Ruth and Justin are committed to reducing their FECO administrative hours in 2014! Boy, that grant was time consuming. However, they both will continue to provide leadership, continue with various tasks, and provide support for the efforts that others have taken on.

Dana and Nora could not attend but both are willing to entertain proposals for administrative assignments this year.

We have an inspiring team and we will be reaching out to those who more recently volunteered to help with the orchard.

Large holes that we still need to fill, and that are closely related to our top priorities are:

1) Finding a Word Press expert who would be willing to donate up to two hours per month to make sure we get the correct updates we need, set up a back-up system for our content, and troubleshoot now and then.

2) Finding someone well versed in construction who would oversee the building of a shed that will have particularly interesting design features.

We are so appreciative of all of the other support we get from you who help with orchard labor, marketing, and general encouragement.

We welcome all ideas and suggestions.