St Mary’s awesome orchard action

| By Enviroschools Marlborough

St Mary’s School Enviro Team wanted to provide fresh fruit for their hāpori whānui and community. They wanted to encourage students to eat more fruit, learn about growing and taking care of fruit trees as well as encourage wildlife to their school like insects to pollinate the flowers.

Team work.

To do this their Enviro Team proposed a space that they thought would be great to plant an orchard. It was beside an existing garden shed, sheltered from the wind and easily accessible by vehicles. The area was very dry though and the rainfall in Blenheim is often low. They knew they would need to think about how they could provide a watering system to help the fruit trees grow and bear fruit.

They researched fruit trees that would be suitable and how many trees would fit into the space. A survey was then put out to get feedback from all students before choosing the types of fruit trees. Once they had decided on the trees, they were purchased with a Growing for Good Grant from Countdown. They were then ordered and delivered.



Excavation for irrigation.

Installing the irrigation hose.










Each class contributed by coming at a set time with their buddy class to help dig the trench for the irrigation. Once the irrigation was in, the students worked out how far apart the trees should be planted, measured it and dug the holes.

The orchard is a valuable addition to the school environment and has helped build connections within the school and community through the process of planting, maintenance and harvest. Kids Edible Gardens has supported students at St Mary’s with learning about where food comes from, what it takes to grow different fruit and vegetables and how to cook healthy kai. Of course, the students also experienced how enjoyable it is to share it!  It is hoped the learning will continue at home, “growing” within their family as well as their wider community.

Well done to the St Mary’s School Enviro Team, what a great action project! You have shown us an example of how we can build sustainable communities through kai.

St Mary’s School students’ reflection of their orchard planting

How well do you feel the project went?

“We think it went well. Everyone worked well together on the project and made it so the whole school would be a part of it. We learnt organisational skills by making sure each class would have a contribution to digging, explaining instructions clearly and supporting younger students. We learnt how to work as a team better and how all the trees needed to be planted, ensuring we didn’t harm the roots.”

Was there something that didn’t go so well?

“Everything went well, next time we would think a bit more about how we could communicate more effectively with each class. There were a lot of the younger children asking questions that we thought we covered. This was a good learning experience for us.”

What changes and benefits have come about through planting the orchard?

“It brings more responsibility onto us to maintain it. When the fruit grows it will be good to give back to the community and to have some fruit for children to eat when they are hungry. It has given the enviro group a lot of light, more mana, helped to get more members into the enviro group and made it feel like more of a group.”

What skills did you learn when designing and planting the orchard?

“We learnt to evaluate the importance of different opinions about each tree and weigh up the best trees to plant in our location. Understanding the climate of our school and what trees would work best in it. How to take the trees out of the bags without damaging the roots and ways to better care for plants. We learnt how to put in the irrigation system and understand how it all works. We learnt a sense of leadership, how to take a class and teach them what to do as well as how to work through issues when they popped up and worked through it together.”

What would you like to improve in the orchard?  How are you going to maintain it?Where to from here?  

“We should have a roster to check on the trees to show them love to help them grow. A working bee to maintain the orchard would be useful when things need to be done. We want to keep learning more about taking care of fruit trees then teaching this to the classes.”

These trees are full of potential.