BUILDING THE TEAM
Lesson: New and Enhanced Partnerships
The Rio Grande Community Farm project re-vitalized the relationship between Tree New Mexico and the Farm. A new garden coordinator will continue to be key in the ongoing sustainability of the project including the coordination and scheduling of watering and monitoring.
Boy Scout Troop 226 from Albuquerque Academy was a surprise collaborator on this project. An Eagle Scout candidate came forward with a new hedgerow planting project just south of the existing community garden and beside the planned garden area expansion. After discussions with the Scout and Albuquerque Open Space managers it was determined that planting the fruit trees into the new hedgerow fit the objectives of all parties. Albuquerque Open Space’s landscape architect prepared the site plan including the fruit trees and appropriate, complementary native shrubs. The Scout, his Troop and their families executed the planting, irrigation preparations, and mulching with training and assistance from Tree New Mexico. Several of his fellow Troop members have now expressed interest in developing further Eagle Scout projects with Tree New Mexico and/or Albuquerque Open Space.
PLANNING AND IMPLEMENTATION
Lesson: Site Design
In late March 2012 the date was set for planting and initial leveling of the site occurred. During April the site was disc plowed to eliminate weeds and a preliminary berm was created for irrigation water management.
All fruit trees were planted on May 12, 2012. The soil surface in the planting area, about 200’ x 12’, was entirely mulched to reduce weeds and surface evaporation. Flood gates were installed and the entire site flooded to test the berm and water flow. The berm was modified as needed and oats were sown on the berm for stabilization. New Mexico Olive trees were also planted for wildlife screening.
Volunteers then monitored soil moisture twice weekly; flood irrigated once weekly; and provided additional water to individual trees as monitoring indicates need. November through March, watering decreases to bi-monthly or as needed. From April through October, volunteers monitor soil moisture twice weekly; flood irrigate once weekly; and provide addition water to individual trees as monitoring indicates need. Disease and pest inspection is conducted twice monthly through August and then once monthly until first frost. Mulch was supplemented as needed throughout the first two project years.
Lesson: Harvest and Distribution
By 2013, approximately 100 gardeners and their families had become community gardeners at Rio Grande Community Farm. It is anticipated that most of the fruit will be harvested by and distributed to these families.
In the early years when the harvest is small, fruit will be picked ad hoc. As the volume increases, the Rio Grande Community Farm garden coordinator will direct the harvesting and equitable distribution of the produce. Where possible, children will be involved and benefit from the fruit. Rio Grande Community Farm hosts a summer camp for young children that roughly coincides with harvest time for cherries and apricots and could be used as an opportunity to engage children in the fruit tree project.
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