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allowing fruit trees on city property  RSS feed

 
Lina Joana
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Hi,
I live in Pasadena, and a couple folks here have been working to get the city to allow fruit trees on public land. So far the city has not been welcoming. I can see the potential pitfalls - the mess and rodent attraction of fallen fruit. Does anyone live in a city where edible plantings are part of the cityscape, and have insights into how to avoid potential problems?
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1621
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I suggest guerilla gardening...

Don't wait for your council to do it, just get out there and start planting or grafting.

If there are ornamental varieties of fruiting trees (ornamental cherries for example) you can graft fruiting varieties onto the existing branches. It has the advantage of being fairly unobtrusive to do, and if you have plenty of scion wood you can do lots of them. The trees are already established so you can get fruit fairly quickly.

Or you can plant fruit trees yourself. The trick with this is to just make them look official/deliberate. Dig a nice hole, use stakes and a nice tree guard to protect from rodents. Make it look like it is supposed to be there. Most of the time the guys mowing the area will assume it is official and it will stay there long enough to become established. In open areas make sure you plant trees that will grow large - dwarfing apples, such as you typically get in small gardens, are not sufficiently vigorous to support themselves unaided and don't thrive when surrounded by grass.
 
Zach Muller
gardener
Posts: 778
Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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In my city there are plenty of fruit and nut trees on public land. Pecan, oak, black walnut, and mulberry are the main ones but a few others can be found here and there. I think the rodent thing is completely bs considering how many dumpsters are in a city. People and their garbage attract rodent problems, not fruit trees in my experience.

I planted an oak tree down on the street level in the easement and my neighbor came by to give me crap and question my choice. She said nut trees are messy and they will hit the cars. I kindly reminded her there is no parking on my side of the street anyway, I then pointed to the giant pecans sitting over cars not 50 feet away, and reminded her of the black walnut on the easement about a block away. She said 'oh' and had nothing else because she had not thought it through even one iota. She was just repeating some remnant of traditional "city tree" wisdom. That traditional city tree wisdom is the same crap I heard when I took an introduction to horticulture class at a local university. I think the old puritan values are what makes people want to sweep up after nature makes a big fruit and nut mess. if the city is so concerned about fruit laying around couldn't they just fire up a mower and run over it? I mean they mow the public spaces anyway.
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1275
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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crabapple are very common around here. I have future plans to guerilla graft them. The birds enjoy the apples. I don't know that it's ever been a problem here.
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1357
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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Don't call them fruit trees, call them native trees, or wildlife trees, or flood water drainage trees or noise pollution trees or property value increasing trees, anything but complains and lawsuits fruit trees. Like me they are lazy and don't want to have to fill out paperwork or re-educate your neighbors.
 
Zach Muller
gardener
Posts: 778
Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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That's a good point s., often time with cities what you call something makes all the difference. That is precisely why I have a wildlife habitat certification sign on my fence. The establishment recognizes the worth of native habitat, while on the other hand they will force you to cut down any non garden plant over 12 inches or charge me when they cut it down. So now I win since I can have plants over 12 inches that they recognize as worthwhile.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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Like Zach said, having Wildlife Habitat sign is something people realize as valuable. And it does keep them off your case about certain plants.

You can apply to be an official wildlife habitat here: http://www.nwf.org/How-to-Help/Garden-for-Wildlife/Create-a-Habitat.aspx Whole neighborhoods can do this, or businesses or schools, government buildings, etc.

Also, there are a lot of food trees that people don't "see" as much because they are unusual. There are tons of mesquite and carob trees here in Phoenix, both of which have edible seed pods. People also grow a lot of flowering pear and miss the fact that they actually produce pears that are good for canning if not the best for hand fruit as we know it. Orange and mock orange (marmalade) trees are all over town in public places and Arizona State University proudly advertises that it has the widest variety of date palms in the state.

Another thing that's entertaining is that people with home owner associations often cannot plant food plants in their front yard. However, along with mesquite and carob, I've seen sweet potato vines, bright lights chard, jojoba plants, etc. growing right there, in front of "god and everyone".
 
C. Kelley
Posts: 31
Location: zone 4b/5a Midcoast Maine
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Lina, look into how the city of Davis, CA got their edible landscaping going. You're close enough to them in Pasadena that you may be able to physically sit down with someone, or get one of the university folks to write some sort of official approving thing about trees.

I am fighting the same sort of fight in my small Maine town, fortunately there are a lot less of us and one voice can be much louder! We also have one of the American Chestnut test orchards here, so I am trying to partner with them to get chestnuts planted instead of shade trees when they re-do the downtown sidewalks in a few years.
 
David Livingston
steward
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Location: Anjou ,France
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I would plant Medlars , European Persimmon and Quince - all very decorative and if you try the fruit first time many folks do not like them therefore they are not fruit trees

David
 
Tegan Russo
Posts: 34
Location: Maritime Northwest USA, zone 8b
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City Fruit in Seattle might be a good example. They're a nonprofit that works with the city to care for fruit trees in city parks, as well as teaching classes on tree care and arranging harvesting groups to collect fruit from homeowners who have extra. http://cityfruit.org/
 
Sharon Kallis
Author
Posts: 55
Location: Vancouver British Columbia
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This is not a quick fix, but does help in creating community and "dealing" with fruit from the trees... here in Vancouver BC, we have a fruit pickers volunteer group that anyone can join- people who have too much fruit on private property trees can call, get the fruit picked, some of it stays with the owner and some goes to the picker, also to the food bank- a great way of getting something other then cans into the food bank as healthy local options- and a great way to build community too.
In a perfect world, wouldn't it be nice to imagine a new fruit tree planting strategy that includes community maintenance, training and a fruit distribution system?
A local non profit here- tree keepers-, is connected with the city for selling trees very affordably to the public and I bought a fig tree a few years ago, they keep a record of where the trees are going, they follow up to see how the trees are surviving and do tutorials on planting and care. Our city seems obsessed with planting more trees, but is not great at recognizing this needs an increase in park budgets for care and maintenance, in a time when budgets are getting cut. So finding where public and private partnership can work in this kind of way feels really important.
 
Dillon Nichols
pollinator
Posts: 597
Location: Victoria BC
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Several local community orchards or mini-food forests exist around Victoria; most seem to have been a separate impetus from the folks in the neighborhood, following some organizer/s appearance on the scene.

A possibly not complete listing:
A permaculture based community orchard has been started in Fairfield: http://fairfieldcommunitygardens.blogspot.ca/
Here is a good QA post that among other things lists some of the steps taken to create this place. http://fairfieldcommunitygardens.blogspot.ca/2012/08/fairfield-community-gardens-questions.html

Spring Ridge Commons in Fernwood is a food forest on an old school-bus parking-lot. It's the oldest of this list by quite a bit, and has some very sizable mulberries, figs, etc. Very cool. http://springridge.rd123.ca/

The Fernwood community centre down the road has a kitchen garden and a small community orchard. http://fernwoodnrg.ca/fernwood-nrg-programs/urban-sustainability/fernwood-community-orchard/

There is also Banfield Community Orchard in Vic West: http://www.hatchetnseed.ca/banfield-park-community/

Some info about how the above 2 are structured is available here: http://www.victoria.ca/EN/main/community/sustainability/social/urban_food_production/community-orchards.html

In View Royal there is Welland Legacy Orchard, which is a bit different; as the name implies, it was bequeathed to the town of View Royal by Rex Welland on his death; originally it was part of a private orchard, and it has an interesting mix of grapes and fruit trees. http://wellandlegacypark.tumblr.com/

A community garden on Wark St. looks quite permaculture-based, but doesn't have too many trees in it. Not a lot of info online: http://crdcommunitygreenmap.ca/location/wark-street-garden

Finally(AFAIK, so far!), there is a boulevard garden/permaculture orchard at Haultain Common: http://crdcommunitygreenmap.ca/location/haultain-common
This one seems to have gotten a boost, and official acceptance of the practice in general, when a lawyer got interested: http://fernwoodnrg.ca/boulevard-gardening-goes-mainstream/

We've definitely got some very cool projects around Victoria, but there are of course challenges. Even after creating/harnessing/leveraging public interest to get gov acceptance/assistance, future issues around planning and permission to do something are a complicated matter with the number of potential stakeholders. I also seem to recall there was also some sort of fuss with a union relating to the volunteers maintaining the community orchards on city land, but I think that has since blown over. Finally, the involvement of Gov funding can lead to dependency... makes my skin crawl a bit.

Most of these orchards are on quite a small scale. A broad implementation of 'boulevard orchards' throughout the city would produce far more food. But, they are an excellent starting point, good demonstration sites, valuable for training, useful for cultivar sources, hopefully serve useful community-building functions, and an excellent way for people to try something different and get comfortable with the concept.



Sharon, there is a similar fruit-picking group here in Victoria; I intended to join last fall, then discovered they want people to pay a membership fee to be a volunteer picker... my interest in being helpful was not stronger than my desire to keep my money in my pocket. It would probably be a good deal for someone without existing fruit sources, as the pickers do get to keep some of the fruit while the rest goes to the delinquent tree-owners, charities, and the organization itself 'to make value added products to defray costs'.
 
Sharon Kallis
Author
Posts: 55
Location: Vancouver British Columbia
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Dillon Nichols wrote:


Most of these orchards are on quite a small scale. A broad implementation of 'boulevard orchards' throughout the city would produce far more food. But, they are an excellent starting point, good demonstration sites, valuable for training, useful for cultivar sources, hopefully serve useful community-building functions, and an excellent way for people to try something different and get comfortable with the concept....
This seems to be the world I live in you describe Dillon! The small-scale, demo site that allows for training and building of awareness, understanding and comfort as you put it, seems to be the way to go in changing the current status quo- my years of partnering with the Park Board here on community eco-art projects has taught me the value of the word "pilot"!
When things can be done as pilot projects- with enough public awareness through hands-on programs, site signage and training opportunities- there is space to work out what is feasible from a pragmatic place as well as shift the tide of attitudes that may be nay-saying to start to suddenly having an awareness of what is possible. A good thing indeed! Thanks for the list of Victoria projects- I wonder if there are just too many potential fruit volunteer pickers that they use a payment as a way to glean the truly committed?
 
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