Orchard flourishes in middle of urban area

For the past 10 years urban permaculturist Rory Harding has been growing a burgeoning food orchard in the back yard of his George St home. Tim Miller visits the urban orchard to discover what it is all about. 

The last place you would expect to find an orchard is in the back yard of a Dunedin property in the middle of the city’s student quarter.

But that’s exactly what Rory Harding has created at his George St home.

For more than 10 years Rory Harding has been growing and tending to an urban orchard in the back...
For more than 10 years Rory Harding has been growing and tending to an urban orchard in the back yard of his George St home. PHOTOS: GREGOR RICHARDSON
A passion for gardening has helped Mr Harding cover the 500sqm property with about 300sqm of edible plants — from heirloom apples and feijoas to kiwifruit and plums, all of it organic.

His orchard includes kiwifruit (below) and apples.
His orchard includes kiwifruit (below) and apples.
"The focus is fruit mainly and whatever we can get away with underneath that, so greens, medicinal plants and other greens which support the growth of the trees in some way."

Concrete walls and fences around the neighbouring properties shield the orchard from southerly winds, creating a nano-climate

"That’s a big part of it’s success I think, the mitigation of the cold rather than trying to increase the warmth."

A rainwater collection system meant even during dry periods the orchard received enough water.

Yields vary from year to year. The feijoa trees can produce up 200kg of fruit a year, and what is not eaten by the family or preserved is given away.

"A common question about yield is self-sufficiency and we are nowhere close and don’t expect to be on an area the size of this."

Mr Harding, who works at an organic garden, also hosts workshops and tours of the orchard to teach others how to grow edible plants.

His advice to other budding urban gardeners and orchardists is to be adaptable, have a good understanding of what you are planting and why.

"Don’t get too carried away or whimsical at the start but if you’ve got space for a vege garden then you can plant fruit trees into that space and let it eventually dissolve into a more naturalistic system, if that’s what you want."

As weather patterns change, due to the effects of climate change, it will be more important than ever to be adaptable, Mr Harding says.

"Staying adaptable will be very important and having foods which grow on the edge of our environment at the moment, so when they can grow we already know how to do that."


Good on you, brother :D #UnlimitedFruitGoals

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