Wascana Centre fruit orchard serving to diversify Regina’s tree cover

A fruit orchard placed along Hillsdale Street is part of the Provincial Capital Commission’s (PCC) forest team’s plan to diversify the planting and tree canopy in Wascana Centre.

The project is also an opportunity to gauge the plants’ ability to survive outside of their normal environments.

Sarah Romuld, an ecologist with the PCC, said this year the forest team has experimented with plums and pears with those varieties showing signs of success thus far.

In the future, there are plans to try and grow apricot trees.

“By expanding canopy in the park, diversifying the plant species, visually for the public for their enjoyment, for food resources for both wildlife and the public, it’s kind of hitting all those notes,” said Romuld.

Once the trees and shrubs have matured in the nursery, they are moved to the main orchard or in other smaller orchards around the park.

Fruits such as apples, honey bear, pin cherry, raspberries and Saskatoon berries are growing in the park currently.

Right now, five of the 7,000 apple tree varieties are growing in the park, according to Romuld.

The project has been ongoing for a number of years and planting will continue to help further the yield of the orchard, for example, using alternative ground cover and pollinator beds.

“It’s a mixture of trample-friendly grass that’s drought-resistant and has flowers in it,” explained Romuld.

“So you’re changing up the habitat for various species as well as pollinators which will help pollinate the flowering trees, which increases your fruit yield.”

Once the fruit trees and bushes are yielding more produce, the fruit will be available for the public to pick and will be utilized throughout the community.

John Bailey, CEO of the Regina Food Bank, said having the connection to where our food comes from is critically important.

“Having more and more access to locally grown food, having people learn from it and have it as a teaching tool is also important,” said Bailey, “I think it also plays a critical role in fighting food insecurity and moving us towards food security.”

He added fresh food is an important part of what they do at the food bank.

“We love to make use of it and get it into our hampers and make sure we’re feeding the people of our community with food from our communities,” said Bailey.

While there is no formal partnership between the orchard and the food bank, the potential to be able to access those yields in the coming years is exciting for the food bank.

Once fruitful, the orchard will play a key role in community outreach, whether it be through expanded school programs or various educational workshops, such as pruning.

The trees at the nursery are sporting Gemini Apples, although this year’s yield isn’t enough to have any big plans.

They will be harvested before they are relocated to the orchard. Within a few years, yield numbers are expected to increase.

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