Students from Kindergarten to Grade 7 dug holes and planted trees at Dorothy Peacock Elementary on Friday.

Walnut Grove orchard takes root

Students got started on a long-term gardening project.

Students at Dorothy Peacock Elementary got their hands dirty Friday, as they created a new orchard of fruit trees on school grounds.

Students dug holes, tossed in coffee grounds and fish for fertilizer, and planted a variety of trees along the school’s driveway.

“I have seen amazing things happen in my own garden and around my community when people get their hands dirty,” said organizer and parent Sandra Holcik.

The project was the result of a lot of work by staff and by Holcik, who spent two years bringing the orchard together.

Holcik and principal Joanne Rempel first applied to Trees Canada for an Edible Tree Grant in 2014. The grants allow local groups to create orchards, but there are a limited number of grants given out each year.

This spring they got their cheque for $4,000, which covered the cost of trees, tools, and other equipment for the orchard.

The actual planting was done by students, with Grade 6s and 7s mentoring kindergarteners and Grade 1s.

Over the course of about an hour, they planted everything from strawberries to persimmons. The plants will give fruit in sequence, from about June for the strawberries to fall for the apples and other trees.

Many of the students hadn’t done much gardening before.

“We had to have shovel training this week,” said Holcik.

While the oldest and youngest students at Dorothy Peacock did the planting on Friday, they won’t be the only caretakers of the orchard. The whole school will be involved going forward, said Holick.

Chief Susan Miller of the Katzie First Nation talked about the importance of gardening – a new community garden is starting on the nearby Katzie reserve too, she said.

“When you’re planting this, keep your mind very clear. Think about what you want to do in your heart,” said Miller.

Miller has nieces and a nephew attending Dorothy Peacock.

The rules for the orchard are simple – anyone is welcome to take a piece of ripe fruit, but no one is allowed to simply strip the trees bare and haul off everything. The orchard exists for the school and the community around it.

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