If you had told me that one of my highlights of 2017 would have been sitting and staring intently at apples trying to ID (identify) them, I would have told you I’d rather get up at 5 AM once a month on a Saturday to get a train to London. However, not only did both of these things happen, but checking out apples along with other members of the Certificate in Community Orchards course (CICO) was indeed one of the best things I did last year.

https://www.theorchardproject.org.uk​_It all started when my chap woke me up one morning asking if I was interested in doing an orchard course that he had found out about from Garden Organic (formally The Henry Doubleday Research Association). As I am interested in growing food and I love trees, I blearily said ok, although I did point out that I’m really not good at mornings, which is why it makes it all the more surprising that I voluntarily get that ridiculously early train to take part. It must be good!

The course, the first of its kind, run by The Orchard Project, aims to help people not only learn more about orchards and the skills required to start and care for them, but also looks at how to make them real community projects.

Topics we have looked at include:

  • Tree planting
  • Tree ID
  • Pruning
  • Pest and disease ID
  • Planning orchards
  • Managing orchards
  • Group decision making
  • Climate change effects on orchards
  • Plant physiology

Although the course doesn’t aim to make us experts, it has given me enough knowledge and confidence to take part in community orchards and maybe even start one (hopefully in Kings Heath).

Alongside the course content, the great teaching and the brilliant people I have met on the course, one thing that has amazed me is how many urban orchards there are. London doesn’t seem like a logical choice for doing an orchard course, but we have been all over the capital and only scratched the surface of the amount of orchards there. It has also opened my eyes to how many orchards there are in Birmingham and prompted me to get involved in them.

For more information on future courses and orchards in general look at:

If you would like to get involved in the Kings Heath Orchard get in touch with me: https://www.theorchardproject.org.uk