The Benefits of Urban Orchards

Rozie Apps and Stefan Geyer
Friday, 29th November 2013

Wonder how we will grow more food in cities in the future? Lewis McNeill from the London Orchard Project explains how urban orchards are the step towards community resilience.

Stefan Geyer regularly interviews permaculture people on his radio show, 21st Century Permaculture on Radio Shoreditch.

Here Stefan speaks with Lewis McNeill from the London Orchard Project.

The London Orchard Project has a vision to plant orchards all across london, getting more people involved, more people eating local produce and better access to local food. As Lewis explains, they envision the "Orchardisation of the capital."

The project has planted close to 100 community orchards across the city and has helped restore many others.

Set up to advise anyone wanting to plant or restore an orchard (which can be as small as five trees), the London Orchard Project teach groups the necessary skills to plant and maintain their trees as a community. Planting days and skill sharing bring everyone together and linked up communities means various groups can combine forces to meet their needs. So if one group needs mulch but it can only be delivered in bulk, communities can work together and share.

Lewis also explains the importance of getting the soil right for planting a fruit tree. In urban areas, soil is usually compacted, filled with debris and lacking in nutrients. Experimenting with mycorrhizal root dips, The London Orchard Project plant the trees with fungi. These wrap around the tree roots and spread into the soil searching for nutrients which then feed the tree. In return, the fungi take sugar from the tree made in photosynthesis - a great example of beneficial relationships.

Across their various projects, The London Orchard Project have been planting quince, plums, medlar, apples and even a few apricots in specific microclimates. Working towards food security for the city, they are even planning to branch out to olives and grapes.

Lewis explains that for us all to have a future, we need to build resilience in communities. Becoming self sufficient is not only long lasting, but these orchards can be low input, create biodiversity, mitigate climate change, bring people together, and look beautiful, as well as many other benefits. 

To hear the whole interview visit www.mixcloud.com/21stCenturyPermaculture/10th-nov-2013/ 

If you have plans for planting or restoring an orchard, get in touch with Lewis and the team at http://thelondonorchardproject.org/

Further resources

Watch: How to convert a conventional orchard into a perma-orchard

Community Orchards Handbook for just £14.99 on our Green Shopping site

How to Make a Forest Garden by Patrick Whitefield for a special price of £12.70 on our Green Shopping site 

The resurgence of community gardening and urban agriculture in North America

'Propoganda gardening' at Incredible Edible Todmorden

Watch: Meet the guerrilla fruit tree grafters

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