Orchard News-January 2016. The Sunriver Community Orchard, established in 2011, produced an abundance of appealing and tasty fruit this fall. Numerous heritage apple varieties are flourishing and producing an increasing amount of fruit each year and this season we were thrilled to sample some amazing pear varieties. Much of the ripe fruit was processed into jam and fruit leathers, which along with more than 300lbs of fresh apples, were scooped up at the Apple Festival in September. The Festival was, by all accounts, a huge success and proved to be a wonderful way to show off our Orchard to the community. The funds raised by this popular community event will ensure the ongoing maintenance and long-term sustainability of the orchard.
In 2015 local horticulturist, Kenny Jones, joined the volunteer orchard team. His energy and plant knowledge have been integral to the creative development of this project. Kenny and I were able to plant the ‘Pia’ Memorial Garden atop the root cellar this summer and expect a vibrant display this coming gardening season. This fall we planted 5 more apple varieties and 2 more pear trees.
2016 promises to be another busy year and we are grateful to have the funds to address the infrastructure needs of the Orchard, such as; replacing many of the original 2nd hand posts that currently stabilize the fruit trees, removing some of the danger trees and slashing out the existing fence line in order to install a ‘solar powered’ electric fence around the orchard to secure the perimeter against bears.
Orchard workdays, held regularly on Wednesday afternoons, are open to any volunteers wishing to assist and learn. There are mentors there to guide them on all the aspects of orchard care and maintenance. These volunteers play a vital role in the success of the orchard and we value them highly.
2014 saw two new additions to the orchard. A cedar sided tool shed was constructed by EMCS students, funded by Victoria Parks and Recreation Foundation. A root cellar was fabricated by the shipyard at Sooke Marine Industries, the foundation completed by EMCS students, materials funded by Sooke Rotary Club. These new welcome additions will greatly enable the orchard volunteers to store gear, and harvested fruit – pest free and bear safe.
2013 EPCOR community grant ($5000) for Sooke Food CHI to enhance the drainage in the orchard and north side of the allotment garden. The new swale graded in the late summer of 2013 already is greatly assisting our orchard & gardens to drain through to a large storm drain on the north side of the garden, outside the fence. This new system included a hand dug 80’ drain to keep pod 3 of the allotment garden drier in the winter rains. While the drains were being installed a large portion of the orchard was graded to enable more efficient care & maintenance of the grasses by our volunteers. At last we can mow the orchard instead of using back breaking week eaters! No one will trip anymore on all that uneven ground that used to be there, when this area used to be the hay field for the Phillips farm.
The EPCOR grant also enabled us to have Jasmine Excavating come in to finally put an all-weather access lane into the orchard and wetland native garden. This lane was installed in the spring, so all the materials brought in for the apple shack construction was so much easier given most of our volunteers are elderly.
In the spring of 2011 the first young trees were planted at the Sunriver Community Orchard a heritage and demonstration orchard. Over 30 varieties of apples, 5 varieties of Pear, 2 varieties of cherry, 3 varieties of plum and some crabapples have been planted to date. Many of these apple varieties are from some of the older heritage tree’s found in the Sooke area.
Sooke Food CHI is grateful for the financial support for funding for this project to both create the orchard and support volunteers in becoming knowledgeable in all growing and horticultural aspects of sustaining an orchard and harvesting the fruit. Food CHI envisions that many of our volunteers will become orchard stewards and over the years help us create a most successful orchard to feed Sooke’s hungry. Seasonal workshops and training continue annually to build the community’s capacity to achieve these goals.
Apple Shack Learning Centre – see photos below
Designed by Maywell Wickheim of Sooke Marine Industries, with input from Glen Thelin, our volunteer orchardist and horticulturist. The shack with its hand hewn 8’ long cedar pales is a very handsome and welcome addition to the gardens. The shack serves a number of purposes – storage for the orchard, a place to keep heritage tree records and tools, and a learning welcoming space inside and outside for small gatherings of up to 15 or 20 persons for all kinds of hands on gardening workshops/demonstrations to benefit all of our garden users.
Funding and donations in kind for the apple shack came from a number of sources: Kludahk Outdoors Club lily walks, organized by Phoebe Dunbar; TD Friends of the Environment; Sooke Marine Industries; DEMXX Recycling (Coombs); Sooke Food CHI, Glen’s Gardening Company and Dapalouno Fine Homes.