LUSH (Let us Share the Harvest) Valley is offering a new tree pruning program. Black Press file photo

LUSH (Let us Share the Harvest) Valley is offering a new tree pruning program. Black Press file photo

New LUSH Valley pruning program will connect tree experts and owners

LUSH (Let Us Share the Harvest) Valley seeks to improve the quality of fruit from its well-known fruit tree project through a new program that aims to provide services to homeowners who donate fruit.

The Fruit Tree Program co-ordinates volunteers and fruit tree owners to harvest fruit from local backyards, and redistributes it through a diverse network of community partners. Building on the success of the Fruit Tree Program, LUSH Valley announces the launch of its “Prune Along Program” this season, where local tree care experts work alongside participating tree owners to teach the basics of tree care. In addition, LUSH offers a number of fruit tree workshops to encourage and facilitate conversations around the proper care and inherent value of fruit trees in our community.

“I like to think of Comox Valley fruit trees as a shared community orchard,” said James McKerricher, Fruit Tree Program co-ordinator. “This orchard has trees of all ages and fruit of all flavours, providing fresh fruit for us five months of each year. From the first cherries in July to the last apples in November, the Valley is exceptional: sour cherries, several varieties of Asian pear, figs, king apples, mirabelle plums, the list goes on. Difficult to source at local grocers, but growing abundantly right here in our community. The Fruit Tree Care program can help us learn about these fruits, enjoy them, share them and consider what we should be planting now for future generations.”

“The Fruit Tree Program has grown steadily since its inception nearly two decades ago, and now engages hundreds of volunteers to harvest thousands of pounds of fruit from backyards throughout the Comox Valley,” said LUSH Valley executive director Maurita Prato. “The Prune Along Program offers an opportunity for tree stewards to ensure fruit donations are high quality and to gain the skills to keep their trees healthy and productive.

“We strive to distribute only fruit of the highest quality. The fruit we distribute reflects our respect for our community. There is huge demand for our A-grade fruit; unfortunately, only a small percentage of our harvest meets that standard, which is what inspired this program.”

Trees that haven’t been pruned for several years can also be time-consuming and hazardous for volunteers to harvest, so this program would also help with that aspect.

Starting this month, each Prune Along session will be tailored to meet the needs and goals of each individual homeowner and will focus on the essentials: creating an ideal tree shape for ease of harvest, optimizing sun penetration and airflow to increase fruit quality, and pruning to promote vigour.

A two-hour, one-on-one session costs $150 and aims to leave the homeowner prepared to maintain their tree for years to come.

As part of this project, LUSH will offer a number of workshops on fruit tree maintenance, pruning and summer grafting.

“We’re seeing a real desire for this knowledge and we’re keen to facilitate this conversation for the benefit of the community,” said McKerricher

Interested fruit tree owners and enthusiasts should contact McKerricher at fruit@lushvalley.org

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