The following article was written by Ellen Worthing, a 28-year Locust Point resident.
Locust Point Has An Orchard!
Early last year I was reading an article in the Chesapeake Bay Journal about an organization which was planting fruit trees in Baltimore City neighborhoods. On a whim I visited the Baltimore Orchard Project‘s website and filled out its form. “Why not?” I thought. Locust Point is a city neighborhood and should fit the criteria. Less than a week later I received a response from Eric Sargent, the Baltimore Orchard Project Planting Coordinator, suggesting he visit Latrobe Park to see if there was opportunity for an orchard planting.
Eric and I took a look at the forested berm area at the south end of the park. The berm was created in the early 1980s as a sound barrier for the newly built highway. The State Highway Administration used the dredge removed from the bay when it constructed the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel to create a 30-foot-high ridge. If you look close enough, the berm resembles the salt piles at the North Locust Point Marine Terminal. The city planted a few pines dispersed sporadically on the berm in the early 1990s and then let nature take its course. Since then, a delightfully lush forest has sprung up unassisted. The berm is awash in Callery pear trees, mulberry trees, black locusts, alders and a willow oak. On the west end there is a grove of black walnut trees and a sycamore.
This area turns out was the exact environment that is perfect for the native tree plantings available from the Baltimore Orchard Project. I watched Eric expertly take a soil sample and waited for the report. Good news, the Latrobe Park soil was ideal! Eric recommended five tree species for our park:
Paw-Paw: This fruiting tree will grow to 15 feet tall. This native fruit will taste of pear, peach and banana.
American Hazelnut: The tasty nuts are highly prized by cooks for their easy-to-crack shells and small, sweet kernel. Squirrels love them as well … most likely for the same reasons.
Service Berry: The berries will be similar to blue berries and great from making pie. The trees will grown up to 25 feet high. We’ll be competing with the birds for these berries!
American Persimmon: These trees will be our largest fruit tree. The fruits will taste like dried apricots.
Black Locust: A locust tree for Locust Point. These trees attract pollinators although don’t provide any fruit.
I spoke to Greg Sileo, Locust Point Civic Association (LPCA) President, about the potential for this project in our neighborhood. He suggested I make use of the LPCA mini-grant program to get some funding to help pay for the trees and consulting assistance from the Orchard Project. Eric graciously provided two presentations for the program over the last few months, one for the LPCA Board and general membership. Then we headed to Baltimore City Recreation and Parks for approval of our plan. Eric recommended we plant at the berm’s west end behind Francis Scott Key Elementary Middle School.
On April 29, 2017 we finally had everything in place to initiate the Latrobe Park Orchard planting. Volunteers from the US Airforce, the Burns and Wilcox Insurance Group, and the Marines assisted in digging holes, adding compost, planting the trees, adding stakes, and netting.
The 14 trees will have to be pruned and allowed to flourish for two to four years before they are ready to bear edible fruit. At that point, if you can pick it, you can eat it. Bon Appétit .