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Tree Wardens

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Tree Wardens

Orchards for Schools

Orchards for Schools

Plant an orchard in your school and be a #ForceForNature

Orchards for Schools is our popular grant programme for UK schools that provides a free pack of fruit-bearing, wildlife-enhancing, carbon-storing orchard or fruiting hedgerow for your school!

Schools that are successful in their application will receive their orchard and/or hedgerow pack, an engaging set of supporting resources and training, designed by experts and teachers, that are linked to the national curriculum.

This project has been made possible thanks to our Orchard for Schools major donors, together with donations from our supporters.

Please note that applications are now closed.

Before you apply...

Case studies

Christchurch Primary, London

Thanks to The Orchard Project, the school community became orchard experts, successfully planting, pruning and harvesting from their thriving orchard and sharing their skills and expertise with other schools.

Orchards for Schools

Dunipace, Scotland

Thanks to Learning through Landscapes, the students and community from Dunipace Primary have learnt about and grown their very own orchard full of local Scottish varieties of apples, plums and pears.

The Orchards for Schools Tree Care Pledge

With a little maintenance and planning, trees give back so much more than we put into them. But they do need to be cared for, especially in the tender early years of their growth. If you apply for an Orchards for Schools tree pack, you are also signing up to our Orchards for Schools Tree Care Pledge to Plan, Grow and Care for your trees.

Using the resources and guidance provided, you will create a well thought-out tree planting project, making sure you plant your trees in a suitable location where they can thrive for years to come. Consider finding a location which is close to a water supply so you can keep them watered regularly, especially in the spring and summer months.

You will plan how to best engage your pupils with your new orchard and hedgerow so they can grow a strong connection with their trees and learn to respect and value their role in tackling the climate and biodiversity crises. Your students will also develop the skills and knowledge to care for and celebrate the wonders of your orchard and hedgerow across the whole school.

Make sure you have permission to plant the trees in a place where they can remain for years to come.

Trees must be planted where they will have light and space to thrive over the next 25 years. You will carefully position a cane and tie to support their early growth and keep the space around the base of the tree clear of vegetation with around a 10cm layer of mulch which helps and provides nutrients.

Try to plant your trees in December so your trees have more time to establish their roots before dry weather arrives in the spring or summer.

Prepare the ground by digging a hole larger than required (0.5m x 0.5m) and add mycorrhizae and seaweed fertiliser if available.

You will water your trees regularly (20 litres a week each) including during the school holidays if there are periods of dry weather. Thanks to the resources provided, you will engage your pupils with caring, learning from and celebrating your trees through club and lesson activities. You will observe the young trees, checking for disease and pests to ensure they remain healthy.

Try to plant your trees in December so your trees have more time to establish their roots before dry weather arrives in the spring or summer.

Prepare the ground by digging a hole larger than required (0.5m x 0.5m) and add mycorrhizae and seaweed fertiliser if available.

Frequently Asked Questions

Orchard tree and hedgerow packs are available to all schools in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. All nurseries, primary, secondary and special schools both dependent and independent are eligible to apply. Youth organisations and other community organisations are not currently eligible, however they may make an application for tree project support through our Branching Out Fund.

This programme is only available to schools who have not previously participated in the Orchards for Schools programme.

If you have previously participated in this programme, please sign up to our Young Tree Champions programme.

Compared to growing annual plants like tomatoes and salads, fruit trees require much less annual care once the trees are established. However there is more to do in the first few years in order to get them established; they’ll need to be watered, weeded and guarded, from strimmers, ball games and rabbits, for the first three years.

It’s important that senior management allocate time for an enthusiastic member of staff to be assigned the lead contact for the project. The lead contact will need to complete the application process and to make sure there is a plan in place to involve students in your school to help plant, connect, learn, share and care for your thriving fruiting orchard or hedgerow.

Make sure you have permission from the landowner for the proposed location to plant the trees before completing the application form. It is also worth checking your school improvement plan for any new proposed developments onsite.

If you apply for an orchard fruiting tree pack, you will receive 5 maiden fruit trees. You need to ensure a distance of between 4 and 5 metres between the trunks of each fruit tree. The trees will generally grow to a height of around 4m although if regularly pruned, they can be kept to a smaller size of about 2.5m.

If you apply for a fruiting hedgerow pack, you will receive 100 whips per pack which equates to approximately 15-20 metres of hedgerow, 1 metre wide.

Plant where your trees can receive lots of sunlight and where the drainage is good. Also consider a location that is accessible to all and allows you to easily water your young trees and hedgerow regularly (near an outdoor tap). Consider setting up a Young Tree Champion club so that these students can support you with the maintenance. You can read our Planning and Planting Guide for more information.

In total, each school can apply for one fruit tree pack and one hedgerow pack or both.

Orchard fruiting tree pack contains 5 maidens (1.5-2m high) mixed native fruit trees including apple, cherry, plum and pear. The species of each variety of fruit tree vary depending upon your region. All trees are selected as semi-vigorous so they can establish in the majority of soil types and climatic conditions.

Hedgerow packs contain 100 whips (small bare root trees up to 0.5m in height_ which when planted closely together (one foot apart) will create a fantastic mixed hedgerow, approximately 15 to 20 metres in length and 1 metre wide. The pack will contain a variety of native hedgerow species (up to 0.5m in height) including hornbeam, sloe, dog wood and quick thorn (exact species will vary by country).

It is not possible to select which fruit/varieties of hedgerow you receive. There are no nut producing plants in any of the packs.

Successful applicants will receive their orchard tree and/or hedgerow packs in December 2022. We will notify you of the exact date of delivery at least one week in advance.

Please remember that deliveries must be made to manned school sites, so ensure you note a delivery address where someone will be available to receive the packs during work hours.

When your tree and/or hedgerow packs arrive get them into the ground straight away and give them a good water – they’ll be thirsty from their journey! Make sure you use the stakes, tie and guard to help protect your young trees from footballs(!), rabbits and strong winds.

It might be useful to set up a Young Tree Champion club. Recruit students from all years that really want to help save the planet and become a #ForceForNature. Your Young Tree Champions can also engage the whole school in learning about the wonder of trees.

For the first three years or so, the main tasks will involve:

  • Watering regularly from spring until September, 20 litres per tree once a week during dry weather – consider making a plan for children living locally or any local volunteers to water the trees during the summer holidays.
  • Maintaining a good layer of mulch at the base of your trees and over the bare ground created around a 10cm depth to conserve moisture. Find out more about the importance of mulch here.
  • Keeping the base of the tree free from grass and weeds.
  • Guarding the trees from strimmers, ball games, rabbits and deer.
  • Looking out for signs of stress to the trees such as yellowing of the leaves which may indicate lack of water or nutrients.
  • Formative pruning helps the trees fight off infection by allowing for good ventilation. This will also encourage your trees to produce more fruit. Pruning trees can sound daunting but you can find excellent information and guidance on The Orchard Project website.

Consider recruiting a local Tree Warden (see Tree Wardens) to help provide advice and expertise on caring for your trees. Read our detailed Planning and Planting  guide and watch our ‘Care and Community’ webinar for more information.

Before your bareroot trees or hedgerow whips arrive, mark out the location of your trees and make sure you’ve removed the turf or immediate vegetation (1m radius). To give your trees and/or hedgerow the best start make sure you dig each hole 30-50cm deep and turn the soil over, removing weeds and add peat-free mulch. This will give your trees the nutrients they need to grow, help maintain moisture and suppress competing weeds.

You can find detailed instructions in our Planning and Planting Guide. Watch our ‘Let’s Get Planning and Planting’ webinar for more information.

Yes, fruit trees can be planted in pots – the trees you’ll be provided are the maximum size recommended for containers, and you’ll need pots/containers of 1 metre x 1 metre x 1 metre. They should be planted with mulch, to help provide vital nutrients for the young trees and retain water. Pots should have drainage holes in the bottom to prevent roots becoming waterlogged if overwatered or due to rain.

If you have big plans and want more packs of either trees or hedgerow plants, then please join our Young Tree Champions programme or apply for a Tree Council Branching Out Tree Planting Grant.

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