Everyone likes to complain about transplants filling Seattle, arriving in droves to clog the place up. But perhaps you will be so kind as to roll out a welcome mat for sixteen lovely new arrivals who moved into the High Point neighborhood earlier this month: a collection of pear trees, plums, apples, figs, and a cherry tree, along with a kiwi vine. (Kiwis grow on vines??? Everything is upended. I cannot cope.)
Welcome to town, pretty fruit trees; try not to let the Seattle freeze stop you from making friends, or to let the literal freeze damage your tasty swollen buds.
The brand new orchard, located by the High Point Commons Park in West Seattle, will yield hundreds of pounds of fruit in the coming years. And if you’re looking to relieve quarantine cabin fever with some outdoor frolicking, good news: You can help out with the harvest, or just take a stroll among the blossoms.
Annie Nguyen is the Executive Director of City Fruit, which tracks thousands of fruit-bearing trees around the city, coordinating massive harvesting operations to collect food and donate it to local food banks. They’ve never established an orchard of their own — until now.
“What we’ve noticed over the last few years is some of the orchards have had a lot of damage from pests and difficulty producing the kind of food that we can donate to food banks,” she says. The new High Point project is an attempt to devote more attention to tree health, hopefully yielding more usable food.
City Fruit collaborated with a coalition of groups — the Seattle Housing Authority, Neighborhood House, the Open Space Association of High Point — to identify prime real estate for trees to move in, with the hope that neighbors will take on stewardship. The High Point Commons is perfect, she says, because of its proximity to families, tree-friendly soil and light, and a nearby apiary. You’re welcome, bees.
For now, the trees are quite small — some as young as two or three years old — and might not fruit for another couple of years. (That timeline might be sped up with care for the surrounding soil, as well as additional nearby plantings that can encourage fruit-friendly biodiversity.)
That doesn’t mean there’s no work to be done right now, though. Spring has just sprung, and as we enter the early days of the harvest season City Fruit needs volunteers to help wrap trees around the city in pest-preventing cloth. And once summer arrives, they’ll need even more hands to grab the fruit from the trees, just like Dorothy Gale in the Haunted Forest but hopefully with less shouting.
But wait, you might sneer, how much fruit can there possibly be in a dense, sleek, sophisticated modern metropolis like Seattle? Well, as of now, City Fruit is tracking around 6,000 fruit trees on private property all over Seattle — and that doesn’t even account for those hidden away in new-building courtyards that City Fruit hasn’t been told about. Do we really live in a city, or is this just a giant orchard interrupted by a couple of large buildings?
“The public orchards are open to everyone,” Annie says, so there’s nothing stopping you from taking a pleasant stroll through one today. There’s Piper’s Orchard up near Blue Ridge, another along the Burke-Gilman Trail, the Amy Yee Orchard near Judkins Park, one by Martha Washington Park near Rainier Valley, another tucked along I-5 by Green Lake … and on and on and on. Annie recommends getting in touch with City Fruit if you want to know where the closest one is to you.
And if you’d like to join in the welcome wagon for the newest addition to Seattle’s fruity family, mark your calendar for Earth Day (April 22, although really every day should be Earth Day) when City Fruit is planning a little welcome-to-Seattle party in High Point Commons for the trees.
In the meantime, property owners with fruit trees should make sure they’re registered with the organization so volunteers can come harvest; and if you live in an apartment and don’t have room for an apple tree in your tiny broom closet, Annie suggests that you “lobby the landowner to see if a fruit tree can be planted” somewhere on the property to help feed those in need.
“It’s not just building an orchard,” she says. “It’s a collaboration.”