Back in March some of us were sceptical about planting fruit trees next one of Brixton’s most polluted traffic hubs, the St Matthews one way system. But in five short months and helped by this summer’s burst of sunny weather and ample rain, the Brixton orchard and meadow garden is thriving. Energetic volunteers from Urban Growth and Charity Works turned up today to get stuck in for some weeding and feeding.
Of the 35 trees – varieties of cherry, apple, plum, quince and one lovely mulberry – there had been only two casualties. Kevin Sewell of Urban Growth, leading the orchard maintenance team, explained: ‘March is not the best time of year to plant new trees so we went for more mature 3-5 year olds. But the normal failure rate is 20% so we have done quite well. We will replace those two lost plum trees at a better time in November’.
The trees now stand in meadow of lush grass in which are scattered drifts of purple verbena, golden echinacea and offset by grey artichoke leaves. Nestling in between are salvias (sage), mint, cornflowers, lavender and even a bed of alpine strawberries. Yarrow and wild mustard have blown in on the wind to add to the mix. ‘You can eat the mustard flowers’ Kevin tells us.
And what of the pollution? ‘Not a problem’, Sebastian Wood the orchard site manager tells us. ‘It would have been more of a problem if the soil had been contaminated but it’s all good’. The activity attracted the interest of one passer by from Bologna who offered his labour. ‘We are a university town and the students help to maker urban gardens like this where I come from. I am happy to help’
The Brixton Orchard is on common land and is open to all. It was created with funds from local businesses through the Brixton BID in partnership with Urban Growth and with match funding from the Mayor of London’s Air Quality Fund.
You can come to the orchard for their workshops and to pitch in any Thursday from 2-4pm. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details