25 years of graft and grafting at orchard

The Apple Day community celebration is the highlight of the year for members of Horfield Organic Community Orchard (HOCO). This year’s event takes place on Sunday 22 October and also celebrates the 25th anniversary of an extraordinary community food project. 

HOCO are tenants of Horfield & District Allotment Association. In 1998 the association needed to make sure more than half their plots were actively cultivated. The orchard project began when Avon Organic Group (AOG) took over several abandoned plots on the margins of the Golden Hill allotment site. Members of AOG cleared a jungle of brambles and bindweed, and in the process rescued a number of fruit trees already on the plots, including apples, plums and a pear. Before planting new trees, the soil was improved with compost made from unsold vegetables collected from local businesses.

“The time, energy, and love that have gone into our orchard is awesome,” says Shannon Smith, a member of HOCO since 2008. Shannon oversaw the changes that led to HOCO becoming an independent project in 2011. “The orchard is here today because of care given by hundreds of active members over the years, combined with support from the wider community. Tens of thousands of visitors have come to our fundraising public events since 1998.”

The sale of young trees at Apple Day is a longstanding fundraiser for the orchard. When a fruit seed is planted, the tree that grows will not be the same as its parent. Fruit trees are reproduced by grafting young wood from a parent tree onto a rootstock. Earlier this year HOCO members, who are volunteers, took part in several grafting workshops, and have looked after the baby trees since then.

“Caring for 70 tiny fruit trees is a huge responsibility,” says Shannon. “They need protection from extremes of temperature and wind, along with regular watering. It’s amazing to think that small saplings can grow into trees that have the potential to be fruitful for at least five decades. More than a thousand trees grafted for HOCO have been planted in gardens and allotments in Bristol and beyond. I wonder how many apples they’ve given?”

Pre-ordering trees is recommended. More information will be on the HOCO website in early September.  

Please contact HOCO c/o the website to sign up for up-to-date information: www.community-orchard.org.uk

Phone: 0117 373 1587