The orchard will be put in an unlandscaped area of Heritage Presbyterian Church’s grounds, the same site as the first local community garden, named Swenson, Karoulina said.
“This project was dreamed up about a year ago,” she said.
At that time, the Community Gardens board initiated a strategic five-year planning process, and “it became clear that in order to ensure sustainable food sources for Benicia, we’d have to turn our focus to perennial plants,” she said.
That would be orchards and what Karoulina called “food forests,” including an approach called permaculture gardens.
Developed during the oil crisis of the 1970s, permaculture and forest garden designs developed out of the desire for both self-reliance and higher produce yields with less effort.
One of the system’s founders, Bill Mollison, said it works “with nature,” rather than against it. In preparing a growing project with this approach, gardeners study how much light, wind and water the place receives before they start to plant.
The system also encourages planting a variety of species, from those that discourage pests as well as plants that provide mutual benefits to each other.
Taller plants or trees provide shelter for other plants as well as fruit and nuts for the gardener.
Benicia Community Orchard (BCO) will be “a small, productive and beautiful orchard giving us fruits, proteins (nuts) and fats (avocado),” Karoulina said.
In addition to working with Heritage Presbyterian Church, she said, “we’ve partnered with another nonprofit organization, Common Vision, that will help us obtain and plant 18 trees, all in one day.”
She said the local community gardeners have been examining new trends in both commercial and backyard fruit tree management.
“We learned that the best strategy was to plant trees on full-size or semi-dwarf rootstocks, but keep them small with severe pruning,” she said.
The trees are expected to grow about eight feet, “to promote vigorous, strong plants with high yield, yet keeping them small and manageable,” Karoulina said. “This is how BCO will be installed and managed.”
The orchard will be designed and operated similar to a community garden, she said.
“A group of people became founding members,” she said. “We gave the first priority to our current BCG gardeners and people on our never-ending waiting list.
“As a group, we’ll collectively install the orchard and will take care of it,” she said.
“We’ll share the harvest among each other and community members in need.”
The orchard will be financed primarily through the membership fees, with some money coming from the community gardens’ general funds.
The site, at 1400 East Second St., will be dedicated Saturday with a series of activities that begin at 9:30 a.m., Karoulina said.
During the dedication, which she described as “simple, beautiful and meaningful,” community orchard members and children will hold 18 candles and recite a poem. The candles will be put in the spots where trees eventually will be planted, she said.
From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the site will be prepared by community orchard members and 20 volunteers from Common Vision, as well as family members and friends.
“We’ll dig holes for the trees and a trench for a drip irrigation system, move soil and mulch,” Karoulina said.
From 10 a.m. to noon, children will participate in educational and art projects, guided by members of Common Vision, so they can learn about fruit trees and the planet. They’ll also paint the Benicia Community Orchard sign, Karoulina said.
Once the site is ready, those at the site will start planting trees, she said.
They’ll take a potluck lunch break from 1-2 p.m., then return to work from 2-5 p.m., planting, mulching and cleaning up the site.
In other Community Garden activities, the organization has rescheduled its “Precious Water in Our Gardens” workshop, which was rained out in February.
“It’s now rescheduled for Sunday, March 23, 1 p.m., at Avant Garden,” Karoulina said. Avant Garden is at First and East D streets.