Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chapter 31: Community Orchard Takes Root

The Community Orchard Begins
If you've ever watched "The Castle", (" Dale dug a hole. Tell 'em Dale". "I dug a hole".) you too can appreciate the simple satisfaction that can be gained from digging a hole. But there is an even greater satisfaction in digging a hole with a neighbour, and then planting a fruit tree in it.

It was like looking through a glass of cold apple cider, a crisp, sparkling, sunny Autumn morning. The sun shone through the morning haze and lazy plumes of chimney smoke from neighbours chimney's. It was the perfect morning to start pegging the perimeters of our community orchard in the lane way beside our house.  

The previous weekend we did a letterbox drop with the kids, calling all neighbours to bring a shovel, a bag of manure or a fruit tree.

Whilst Joe and the kids measured distances and staked out the orchard, the first of our neighbours, Sharon, Grant and Jackie rolled up the avenue with compost, shovels, pitchforks, a citrus tree and a barrow full of enthusiasm. The digging began.

Super helpers to the rescue
neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours...

Neil from next door soon arrived with hessian coffee bags (to use as weed mats) and tools, followed by Graham and Margaret with her garden trolley that would have shamed Edward Scissorhands. By 10 am, Barry, Gaye, Kate, Mim, Ben and their kids made light work of planting the 9 fruit trees and taming the burly bramble of Buddleia that had otherwise taken over our nature strip.

After the digging was done, we had planted two blueberry bushes, a orange, lime, lemonade, kaffir lime, and avocado tree. A few days later, we were pleasantly surprised to find that another of our neighbours had stealthily planted a small apple tree also! The community orchard had become just that, and the idea was taking root.

We estimate she will be 5 before eating from this tree
 We plan to have a second planting session in a few months, hoping to add a pomegranate, mandarin and lemon as well as some apple and stone fruit trees, as well as a little wrought iron seat with a plaque to commemorate the 'alderton lane community orchard', will be placed nearby the fruit trees where anyone can stop, pick an orange and ponder the world.

Our Avocado

If you've ever considered doing something similar, go for it; It is actually very easy. The council were quite supportive of the idea and in fact you are well within your rights to plant anything on your own nature strip without council approval. There are some basic restrictions which may vary between different municipalities for example we had to allow 1.5 metres for pedestrian access and as a distance from the road. We had to plant 9 metres away from the corner and 3 metres from the powerpole. We also contacted Dial Before you Dig, a service that contacts water, electrical and phone companies on your behalf requesting info on the location. They then emailed us with reports of anything lurking under the surface, fortunately we had the all clear.

On A Roll
Speaking of things lurking under the surface, its time to take a look in your loo... for toilet rolls, that is. We have been collecting ours now for some months, chopping them in half, and stock piling them. Why? because they make fantastic containers for seedlings!

Rolls of honour

Growing your vegetables as seedlings has its benefits. It makes it easier to space your crop properly, choose the healthiest plants, and give them a head start before the grubs, slugs or snails can get their grubby slimy hands on them. Seedling trays are ok, I guess, but they can be flimsy and difficult to remove the seedlings one by one. We have been using our toilet roles instead. they are free, biodegradable and therefore can be put straight into the ground without disturbing the seedlings. You would be amazed how many toilet rolls you can accumulate without even trying.

Simply cut the rolls in half, and pack with a good seedling mix soil. Pop in your seeds and water them. We place ours on trays and keep them in the green house for a kick start.

ready for planting


  With Autumn coming to a close, there is still plenty to plant in  the patch. Onions, Garlic, Silverbeet, cabbage, shallots, lettuce, broad beans, turnips, pak and bok choy, and carrots can all go in, and plenty more.
Rain clouds through the looking glass 
  For any parent, the rumble of storm clouds and the pitter patter of rain can raise anxiety levels dramatically. What to do with the kids? Fear not. take one digital camera, one magnifying glass and one or more children. Combine and enjoy a lot of laughs. I suspect the possibilities of this combination are far reaching, and deserve further investigation.


Next time, lemons glorious lemons.


  1. Well done guys. Looks great.

  2. I like to think that I am changing the world a little bit at a time . then I see what you two are doing and I realise there are people out there changing the world ALOT at a time. Congratulations on a job well done.

  3. Hey! I know Neal! he's a friend of ours! great coffee, aye? LOVE what you are doing! where did you get your kafir lime and quince? i really want to get some in! how wonderful that you have a spot you can do this! really inspiring! and what a great way to promote sustainability in a community setting! yeah!!!

  4. oh ... and thanks for the toilet roll idea! bloody fantastic! thanks! it's almost time to start thinking about those early spring tomato' plants that have to go in!

  5. What a great idea.Do you have a Transition Towns Initiative in your area? Your's is the sort of project they would love.

  6. What a fabulous post - so inspirational. Congratulations to your family and your neighbours, all showing great initiative.

  7. Oh shucks you lot.... thanks for the lovely comments. we aim to extend the orchard in the next few months.

    Sorry Maggie, no ideas about the Kaffir, it was donated by one of the neighbourly folk. As for the quince, we discovered it. Seems to have been here for a long time. Cant believe you know Neil...small world...and yes, very good coffee.

    The loo rolls are working well, although prone to mould...ewww... that said, all transplants so far have been happy and healthy.

    jo & joe

  8. Helleeewwww funky frontyarders! Long time since I've even looked at my computer and since I am trying to develop our tiny vegie patch, I thought I'd look to your blog for inspiration, and WOW, have you guys been busy. You are truly inspirational and I want you to live in my 'hood! Congrats on everything you are doing, hooray for you, and hooray for me, for now I am truly inspired and I hope I can report some development in our mini patch. Hope you are all surviving winter and love to everyone. X Kate and crew. X

  9. Can I also ask where Neil got his coffee bags? Do you know? I have been looking for some similar to make outdoor cushions and can't seem to find them anywhere for a reasonable price. X

  10. this memorable post truly made me smile. thanks!!

  11. I love the images of your community orchard! Fantastic to see this work in progress. I also like the toilet roll idea...I'll start collecting from today!