The good part was that they were quite enthusiastic with the idea of choosing traditional heirlooms instead of commercial varieties, the use of aromatic herbs to limit the orchard was promptly accepted, as was the plantation of other species besides fruit trees (as fruit shrubs, herbs and plants that attract pollinators. Though I didn't explain in detail what food forests are, I spoke about the use of plants that either repel nasty insects or attract good ones, or that are beneficial for the fruit trees in other ways. But they weren't very sympathetic with the idea of grafting edibles into the existing ornamentals — well, the agronomist and the landscape architect weren't, but the representatives of the Participatory Budget thought it would be great to graft and to start doing it even before the planting begins —. We also explained it would be good to plant ahead some nutrient giving plants and nitrogen fixers to prepare the soil for the actual plantation, just to learn that the "job" has to be done in one go, once the contractor comes in they'll do all the work that has to be done, no possibility of first this and then that. Say again, contractor?? The creation of the orchard is seen as an "enterprise" that has to follow the normal procedures of municipal constructions.
I was imagining we could deliver a detailed budget along with the design and would then get a sum to put the orchard together. Well, no! As we're talking about public money, once the design is done there must be a public contest for choosing the contractor. So everything, from trees, to bushes, to digging the holes to put the trees, is going to be purchased by the city along with the execution of the needed works to a company that is fit for public contracts. I understand the need to ensure the sound management of public money. Absolutely! But there is also a sort of waste in this method, as the hole digging is a clear example... Can't the volunteers dig themselves? Well, that, it seems, is due to security concerns. The city doesn't want liability issues...
Hummm... it just makes it necessary to be extra detailed in the project plan, for instance, by stating exactly tree varieties (the name of the heirloom and maybe even where to find it!), all the specificities of plants and be very precise in what and how we want the orchard to be (so there's a lot of work ahead!).
What does this mean in terms of schedule? To develop the design, open the public contest and wait for the whole process to take its time, means that we won't be planting before the end of the winter. But we want very much to start the orchard before that. Anyway, we're trying to show why it is important to start early with the preparation of the soil, and hopefully we can start in the end of summer.
Unfortunately, as for the grafting of edibles into the ornamentals, we've learned with Nicola that we need to collect the branches at an earlier time and keep them (cool) until early spring to be able to graft them. So it won't be possible or advisable to graft before the winter as we were hoping to. We'll have to figure out how to keep the orchard in motion while we're waiting for plantation time! This means that if YOU have any ideas, please let us know!!