In the spring of 2014, UACC responded to community requests and began an ambitious long-term project to establish a community orchard at Friendship Court. The goal of this project is to transform the steep turf grass hillsides that surround the gardens into diverse ecosystems of fruit trees, berry bushes, perennial herbs, and native plants. The long-term plan is to include interpretive signs, benches, stone pathways, and a shade structure to create an inviting outdoor community space. We envision an urban oasis that produces fruit for the community, beautifies the landscape, supports wildlife, filters and absorbs storm water, preserves and propagates native plants, and encourages all community members to explore and learn together.
Tree Fruit Orchard
In November 2014, we planted the first 22 fruit trees on the northeastern hillside above the gardens. We are grateful for the help of many volunteers, the financial backing of BB&T Bank and individual donors, and a nod of approval from the National Housing Trust – Enterprise Preservation Corporation and Piedmont Housing Alliance (the owners of the Friendship Court Property).
Beneath the layer of wood chip mulch in the tree fruit orchard is a series of intentionally constructed ditches and berms called swales. Following the final measurement and marking of the site, we began the landscaping process by building swales to help slow the flow of water down the steep hillsides, and to allow water to infiltrate the soil and irrigate the trees. The swales will also help create a more accessible and walk-able landscape for visitors.
In the winter of 2014, we began work on a berry orchard on the northwestern hillside. This hillside is larger and had the potential for many different design variations. We started with a collaborative community planning process with Friendship Court residents. We presented them a rough drawing and asked residents to add to the design by writing or drawing their ideas. People liked the idea of a system of terraces planted wide variety of berries and flowers. Kids were especially interested in seeing strawberries planted throughout the space. People also desired benches and shade structures that allowed them to enjoy the space while staying out of the hot sun. Because the grass hillsides are steep and hard to walk up when wet, several residents requested staircases up the hill that aligned with the garden walkways.
We started the installation of the berry orchard in the spring of 2015. Working in partnership with local master stonemason Elizabeth Nisos, her partner Tracy Carver, the team from C’ville Foodscapes, and many volunteers, we started construction on the system of stone-walled terraces. The terrace system will help create a level growing space, capture stormwater and make the hillsides more accessible for walking and harvesting.
In the spring of 2016, we will finish the terraces and plant blackberries, blueberries, bush cherries, gooseberries, honeyberries, raspberries, and strawberries. We will also install interpretive signs and begin work on the benches, shade structure, and stairways requested by residents.
You can help us keep expanding the orchard by making a secure online donation!