If you’ve recently taken a stroll through Piper’s Orchard in Carkeek Park, you might have noticed the fruit trees have a new look! As we welcome spring and anticipate the coming of summer, many of our urban fruit trees are getting a healthy layer of fresh mulch. If you aren’t familiar with the benefits of mulching, there are several reasons why you might pile on the wood chips, including: weed and pest management, nutrient cycling, and soil moisture retention (also checkout this earlier City Fruit blogpost).
For an orchard like Piper’s, which has around 50 trees, mulching is no easy feat. This year, a three-way collaboration between City Fruit, the City of Seattle Urban Food System, and the Friends of Piper’s Orchard team helped many of the fruit trees get an early layer of mulch. Over two work parties, held on April 24th and May 5th, the roughly 15 volunteers and staff from the three partnering groups moved about 15 yards of mulch. This was enough to provide close to 30 trees with a mulch layer about 3-4 inches thick!
If you’ve been to Piper’s Orchard before, you might be wondering, “How did they move the mulch in that space?” It is true that the orchard is nestled within Carkeek Park, with only a small dirt pathway and several walking trails connecting the orchard to the main roads and parking lots. To begin, Paris Yates, UFS Senior gardener, shoveled mulch from a stockpile near the Nancy Malmgren Learning Center into the truck bed of a small Gator. He then drove the Gator along the dirt pathway and dropped the mulch off near one of the benches within the orchard. From there, volunteers took up shovels and pitchforks to move mulch into 3 gallon plastic buckets. Then, ever so carefully, the mulch buckets were walked up the orchard slope and spread at the base of the fruit trees. Whew! Luckily, on both days, we had a mix of light drizzle and sunshine -- the epitome of Seattle springtime!
One unique component of our May 5th work party was that four of the volunteers were doing a team building event with Starbucks! City Fruit was happy to help them build community and to share this experience with others who also have a deep connection to their place of work. Volunteers were also able to connect their experiences with how they have been managing the changes that occurred with the COVID-19 pandemic. As COVID numbers decrease, it felt good to be able to have these conversations out amongst the fruit blossoms!
Interested in getting involved? If you work for a corporate group that is looking for local volunteer opportunities, let us know! You can contact [email protected]. Individual community volunteers can sign-up for volunteer events as they become available by registering at our volunteer portal: https://timecounts.org/city-fruit.