New ‘Community Orchard’ germinates in Lents

See how the Malden Court Community Orchard is bringing together neighbors and organizations to create this property where natural abundance is shared …

On a cool November Saturday morning, volunteers are at work planting and cleaning in the Lents neighborhood the new Malden Court Community Orchard.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

On a disused plot of land owned by the City of Portland, volunteers with Green Lents have worked to create a community orchard on SE Malden Court, just south of SE Flavel Street, adjoining the Springwater Trail.

It all started when neighbors showed an interest in developing the site into a community orchard, smiled Green Lents Volunteer Engagement Coordinator and Design Lead, April Jamison.

Pausing from their activities are Luke Bonham, Jalene Littlejohn holding Jocelyn, Alison Hilkiah, and Green Lents Volunteer Engagement Coordinator & Design Lead April Jamison.

“For the last couple years we’ve gone door-to-door talking with neighbors in the area, asking them what they’d like to see here,” Jamison told East Portland News. “We asked what of things they wanted to have here planted. This includes everything from what kind of fence should surround the area, to the types of trees and plants should be here.”

The result is what they now call the Malden Court Community Orchard – leased to Green Lents on a 10-year renewable lease.

Dozens of volunteers tote and spread mulch, pull weeds, and plant trees, at his new community orchard.

Jamison said about 40 volunteers turned out for the “planting day” on November 21.

“We’re installing all native plants, including a Douglas fir understory,” Jamison said. “And, we’re putting in plants that supply our native pollinators, so part of it will become a Pollinator Habit Enhancement Site. The Community Orchard is based on a regenerative model of food-growing systems inspired by permaculture.”

Volunteer Kyle Linhares hauls a load of wood chips in the Malden Court Community Orchard.

They are planting topical orchard trees like apple, plum, Asian pear, and persimmon. “We’ll also have more unconventional ones, like pawpaw. We’ll plant seed berries, currents, gooseberries, and blueberries. Then, we needed to add natives and groundcovers like strawberries, and ferns.”

The Malden Court Community Orchard is an “open forage Community Orchard”, Jamison pointed out. “This means that anybody can come in here [for food] during daylight hours, ending at sunset.

This large group of volunteers makes the work fun and easier at the new community orchard.

“Green Lents is responsible for the site’s maintenance. We welcome volunteers to come for ‘work parties’ every third Saturday, from 9 a.m. until noon,” encouraged Jamison.

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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