UUCC Apple Orchard Planted on March 28, 2021

You may notice a new group of chicken wire cylinders just outside the Community Garden facing the Shaker Heights Middle School soccer field. They provide protective covering for 20 new apple tree saplings that 20 UUCC and 6 neighborhood volunteers planted on an emergency basis this past weekend.

The saplings are heritage apple varieties grafted by Dennis Grossman’s and Julie Short’s daughter and son-in-law. The latter have just sold their Ashland-area farm and are moving to the west coast. With April 1 as the date for the property transfer, there was a brief window of time between the thawing of the ground and the closing on the Ashland property to get the trees from Ashland into the congregation’s soil.

Members of the Ministry for Earth analyzed soil, sun exposure, and availability of water and ultimately decided that next to the Community Garden was the optimal location for these trees. Russ Fedewa, head of the UUCC Community Garden, welcomed the orchard as a new neighbor and even hooked up a hose to help our baby trees get watered.

The planting took two days. On Saturday, March 27, 2021, over 20 people (including 4 neighborhood kids and 5 neighborhood adults recruited by Dell Salza) dug holes and mixed mineral amendments into the soil. On Sunday, 12 people planted the saplings and constructed those chicken wire cylinders to protect against rabbits and deer for the foreseeable future. It was not easy work. We exercised our bodies and also our brains doing UU group problem solving. How many UUs does it take to plant an orchard? About 32: Barbara Bradley, Dell and Lou Salza, Debbie Wright, Ray Gonzalez, Jane Montgomery, Jean Martin, Steve Sanford, Nancy King Smith, Alison Bashian, Cliff Wire, Daniel Homans, Daniel O’Keefe, Julie Short, Becky Burns, Marlene and Ken Freeze, Laura Marks, and Tom and Carol Gibson. Our wonderful participating neighbors were Eric Siler, Camille, Isabel, and Lincoln Billups, Umut, Burcu, Grandma, Maya and Talia Gurkan. This planting was a lot of fun and one more link between the church landscape and the neighborhood.

It’s not over yet! The plan is to grow these trees using permaculture methods and without toxic chemicals. We will be planting bugleweed and lavender to attract pests away from the trees, garlic, onions and thyme to discourage the grass from intruding, dill and parsley to attract beneficial insects, nasturtium and chives to repel the bad insects, and yarrow and borage to nourish the soil. We’re told that it is hard to grow apples but the Ministry for Earth is up to the challenge!

Submitted by Tom Gibson, Head Tree Master

Apple trees protected by cages from deer and rabbits.