MOORHEAD — An edible forest will be planted in Moorhead this spring.
City forester Trent Wise said the plan calls for the planting of about 100 apple, pear and plum trees and about 25 juneberry and chokeberry shrubs during Arbor Month on May 13 at MB Johnson Park in the northern part of the city. Wise said they hope to add apricot trees, too.
He told the Moorhead City Council the berries might be ready to be harvested in a year or two, and some fast-bearing fruit trees might be ready in volume in about five years.
The trees in what he said could also be called an orchard or forest garden will be purchased through a grant from the Bush Foundation. The forest will cost about $10,000, which also includes supplies.
The plantings will be watered once a week by the city forestry department for the first two years, with pruning taking place on a rotating basis every three years.
Wise said the plan created by the city's Community Resilience Task Force followed a community survey where 300 of about 350 respondents said they favored the idea of the orchard with about the same number saying they would use it.
Concerns raised by residents were maintenance and whether wildlife would damage the trees and shrubs.
Wise said his department would handle the watering, with public works caring for the mowing of the grounds. He added that minimal maintenance is expected.
To keep wildlife away from the trees, he said fencing will be used around the plantings as well as tree guards to keep rabbits and deer away. To keep voles away, he said they will mow grass every 20 to 30 days. Smaller mesh fencing around tree guards will be buried in the direct area, too, to keep the voles from burrowing under the trees. They also plan to cut the grass short in the orchard in the winter.
The forest is being planted on higher ground above any possible flood zones.
City Councilwoman Deb White said she had some problems with the location in the far northern end of the city, and she hoped more such orchards could be developed and be more centrally located.
Wise said this was a pilot project, and they hope to plant more of the orchards across the city to "enhance the ecosystem and make the city more food resilient."
Mayor Shelly Carlson said she hoped possible educational programs at the forest would also be offered as she had just planted two apple trees and would like to learn more about caring for them.
Wise said the fruit trees that will likely bear fruit in possibly three to six years will likely last 20 to 30 years, but those that take up to 8 to 10 years to bear fruit could last 75 to 80 years. He said some of both varieties are planned.
Fargo has an established orchard that was donated to the park district near the Red River and 76th Avenue South called Orchard Glen Park. That edible forest has cherry, pear, plum and apple trees and is also open to the public for harvesting.