How this project started
In June 2010 our school applied for Grounds for Learning 'School Orchards' project. We were one of ten lucky schools in the whole of Scotland to be accepted. Our eco-group and Primary 6/7 took on the project in September 2010.
The big launch
In November 2010 we held our first Apple Day to launch the project.
The clothes theme for the day was 'Fruit' and all children and adults showed great imagination and were rewarded by prizes for best costumes.
The day started with the whole school assembly led by Primary 6/7 during which each class made their own contribution.
- Primary 1 performed a song..
- Primary 3 and 4 illustrated an apple story which was presented wonderfully by Sean McQuade.
- Primary 5 made an animation about the benefits of apples.
- Primary 5/6 presented role-play advertising nutritional value of apples.
- Primary 7 rapped the songs about various apple facts.
In November 2010 Primary 6/7 and the eco-group visited an orchard in Glencruitten. They learned about the varieties of apples that are suitable for growing on the west coast of Scotland, about the ways to train trees to grow and how to protect trees from rabbits and deer.
They visited the same orchard in June to see some seasonal changes.
Choosing a site
Primary 6/7 and the eco-group examined the school grounds with the help of Graeme Scott from Oban Rural Development. After the final inspection it was decided that the most suitable site would be the lawn at the front of the school.
After months of planning and research we were finally able to plant the first batch of trees in our orchard.
We planted several Scottish heritage varieties (Bloody Ploughman and Hood's Supreme Apples). Other fruit trees that we planted are James Grieve Apples, Braeburn Apples and Victoria Plum.
We would like to thank the Hydro Board for putting up a special deer fence for our orchard. Special thanks to Alastair Crowe for organising it and managing the resources.
Also, a big thank you to the Forestry Commission for donating the seats, deer fencing and posts. Also thanks to Atom Hire for the digger.
Choosing where to plant your orchard: things to consider
- Good drainage
- Heavier soils are better than sandy
- Sunny area to help fruit ripen
- Flat areas are easier to work on
- South facing areas are better, especially for later flowering trees
- Choose sheltered sites or create windbreaks
- Wider spacing between trees
- Ideally, rows should run North to South
How to plant fruit trees
- You can plant then during early spring or autumn
- First you have to space three metres between each tree (only if you have more than one tree and three metres if they are apple trees)
- Then dig deep and wide holes so trees have space to stretch out their roots
- Put the tree in to see if it fits (if not keep making it deeper and wider)
- Then put a wooden stake in and wood on the roots so no one can pull it out
- Cover with soil and stop half way and add bone ash, keep going until it's finished then water the soil
- Put rabbit guards and weed suppressant sheets and tie the tree to the stake
Our Orchard Heritage research
While researching the history of orchards in the area, we found out that most orchards belonged to big estates, although folk from neighbouring houses were allowed to pick some fruit for their own consumption. These are the orchards that we discovered:
The walled garden has several old apple and pear trees. Many of them are trained to grow and climb along the wall (espalier). The trees that we could identify were James Grieve apples.
Dunollie House let us know that they have a row of old apple trees in their garden. They used to have many trees in the orchard but because of the age of the trees they were cut down not long ago.
The orchard within the walled garden does not exist anymore, but local people remember that it used to have a wide variety of fruit trees and supplied the estate house and local population with apples. The garden is mostly a ruin now but we have heard that there are plans to bring it back to life.
We also found out that there used to be an orchard in Oban behind King's Knoll Hotel, along Croft Road. An old Victorian map shows that fruit trees grew there. Unfortunately, this is all the information that we have to date.
We hit a major snag with the orchard project during the session 2011- 2012. The council had to move the orchard to make way for a new turning circle and drop off zone at the front of the school. It took most of this session to reinstate the orchard and deal with issues including water logging. Finally in March/April 2012 the orchard was looking good with 5 apple trees, a level grassy area and the original picnic benches donated by the Forestry Commission. Primary 7 designed a sign for the orchard and it was made up by a local print company. Primary 7 pupils also looked for colourful waterproof mats to be used when sitting on the grass and they are very popular with our primary 1 and 2 pupils. The pupils are thrilled to finally be able to use the orchard as an outdoor classroom.