Stark Brothers Nurseries donating 30 fruit trees for community planting project

The Victory Over Hunger (VOH) program didn’t find an acceptable location for this year’s inaugural garden until its third try. Now it appears the local food-growing venture’s plans to plant fruit trees has hit at least one snag as to its location.

Earlier this year it was announced that two sites had been selected for the planting of fruit trees. One area was just west of Eugene Field Elementary School on city-owned land at Market Street and Arch Street. The other orchard was tentatively slated to be created on private property adjacent to Fulton Avenue.

Since that time the South Side planting zone has been relocated to a city-owned lot at Bowling Avenue and 30th Street.

“We’re not comfortable using private property. The more we thought about it, the more we felt it best to keep these trees in public property,” explained City Manager Jeff LaGarce.

Dennis Green, a member of the VOH committee, speaking after Wednesday morning’s meeting of the city’s tree board, indicated that the Market and South Arch site may have to be reconsidered.

“It’s awfully gravelly from what I’ve seen,” he said.

Because neither of the proposed planting locations are particularly large is another concern. Green believes keeping all the trees on one lot would be preferable.

“If we could get them all together, it would save a lot of trouble from having to go from one spot to another and pull everything back and forth. If we could get them all together it sure would work out better,” said Green.

Green is also concerned about the elevation at which the young trees are planted.

“You don’t want them where they could get a late frost, so you’d need a high spot,” he said. “You’d probably want a southwest-facing slope to plant them on, but nothing in the world is ideal.”

A total of 30 fruit trees - 16 apple, five peach, five pear, four plum - are being donated to the city by Stark Brothers Nurseries. They are set to arrive on Thursday, Nov. 2. Upon their arrival, Parks & Recreation personnel will lend their assistance.

“We’ll drill the holes and bring all the trees out,” said Andy Dorian, director of the parks department. “They’re smaller trees so it won’t take very long.”

Once the trees are in the ground the work won’t end, which is why Green was at city hall Wednesday morning.

“I’m trying to see if the tree board will help maintain them - prune them, spray them and so forth,” he said.

While tree board members are experienced hands when it comes to performing maintenance on trees growing on city right-of-way, fruit trees present a different challenge, according to Ed Tamerius of the tree board.

“It’s different from pruning shade trees,” he said.

Kristy Trevathan, tree board president, told Green that the board would provide help as it could, noting the volume of trees its members already tend to regularly. Tamerius said providing mulch and water rings might be a possibility.

According to Green, the VOH garden generated close to 500 pounds of vegetables this year that were donated to local meal programs, such as Loaves and Fishes, plus food pantries provided by organizations and churches in the community.

The fruit harvested from the new trees in the future will also go to feed the hungry.

“The apple trees are all semi-dwarf,” said Green. “After they mature in four to five years you should be able to get 15 to 20 bushels off of each tree, which would be quite a bit of fruit.”

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com