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Orchard Learning Programme and short courses

Orchard Learning Programme 2022
Course dates, outline & information
9-months from February - October - see below for dates
The programme is designed for participants with some experience of growing tree fruit (e.g. apple, pear, plum).
It is ideal for anyone involved with a community orchard, as well as professional and home gardeners looking after more than a handful of different trees.
Course fee
£250 (plus HOCO Harvest-share membership*, which involves 20+ volunteer hours)**
£350 (plus HOCO Friend membership*, includes a £50 donation to HOCO)
**Bursaries available - get in touch for a chat
Deadline for applications: Friday 28 January 2022.

Ask for an application pack using this link: or contact us with any questions.

Orchard Learning is a hands-on and holistic programme that blends group sessions with one-to-one learning. Participants will gain experience, knowledge, skills, and confidence to care for fruit trees for years to come.  HOCO will host an advanced Orchard Learning Programme in 2023 designed to develop skills for training and organising volunteers. The 2022 course (or an equivalent) is a foundation for the follow up.

The Orchard Learning Programme guides participants through a growing season in an established community orchard. The programme begins as days lengthen, soil is stirring, and trees, as well as pests and diseases, are waking up from dormancy. It follows the fruiting arc from blossom, pollination and fruit set, to development, ripening and harvest. During the course participants learn to tune in to, and be guided by, the characteristics and needs of individual trees of different ages, varieties, and conditions.




  Friday 28 January 2022

 Deadline for applications

 Friday 4 February or
 Saturday 5 February

To be confirmed

Informal interviews

 Saturday 26 February 

Group session


Introduction to HOCO

                Meet your Tree Buddies

 Friday 25 March or

 Saturday 26 March

One-to-one sessions (1.5 hours each) tbc

Dormant Season Pruning

                 Planning for the year ahead

 Saturday 23 April

Group session


Feeding the Soil Food Web

Diversity and Resilience

 Friday 27 May or

 Saturday 28 May

One-to-one sessions (1 hour each) tbc

Growing season pruning (1)

Plums and fruit thinning

 Saturday 25 June

Group session


Managing pests, diseases and disorders

 Friday 22 July or

 Saturday 23 July

One-to-one sessions (2 hours each) tbc

Growing season pruning (2)

Pruning for fruitfulness

 Saturday 20 August

Group session


Harvest, storage and making the most of the crop

 Friday 23 September or

 Saturday 24 September

One-to-one sessions (1.5 hours each) tbc

Growing season pruning (3)

 Saturday 29 October

Group session


Planning for next year's growing season

Course review


*Participants agree to be/become members of Horfield Organic Community Orchard, and can join as a Harvest-share or Friend member (more information about membership here). Members share responsibility for looking after a pioneering community orchard, and helping to organise successful community events.

Here's what participants say about the Orchard Learning Programme:

"A unique opportunity to share in the management of an orchard with a highly knowledgeable leader. Prepare for action! You'll learn a lot." Colin

"A wonderfully complete immersion in the year of the orchard." Rebecca

"Growing apples, pears and plums? If you want practical knowledge and valuable skills, then this is the place for you." Rob

"Shannon is a great teacher as well as being phenomenally knowledgeable about fruit growing. I can't think of a better way to learn than having hands-on experience of every form and variety of fruit tree." Mary

Book an hour with The Apple Tree Lady

Shannon Smith - our Orchard Learning co-ordinator - is offering one-hour fruit tree consultations
in gardens and alloments within a 2km-ish radius of Horfield Organic Community Orchard.
The fee is £20, which includes a £5 donation to HOCO.
Available from Monday 17 May 2021, by advance booking only.
Shannon will share her expertise, and give practical and down-to-earth advice
about fruit trees of all ages and conditions.

An hour with the Apple Tree Lady is highly recommended by Alison, a recent Orchard Learning participant,
“I’ve learned more about apples in 30 minutes than I have in the whole of my life!”

Please book using this link: or contact us with any questions.

Get Growing Fruit Trees 2022 - an introduction over a growing season

Saturdays: 19 March, 21 May, 16 July, 17 September, 2pm-4.30pm

Course fee: £125, £115 (H&DAA / AOG member), £90 (HOCO Friend member), £75 (HOCO Harvest-share member)

6 places                         No previous experience needed.

·      March - Know your trees, their care needs, site, and soil

·      May - Pests, diseases, disorders and resilience

·      July - Pruning - why and how

·      September - Harvest, storage & preservation

Praise from previous year's Get Growers:
"A very useful course - very sensible and down-to-earth information from a very experienced and well informed teacher."

"Lots of practical advice. Great to see things develop through the year, and be in a relaxed and pleasant environment."
"I'm looking forward to a much improved crop of apples in future years, and thoroughly recommend this course."

Ask for more information about Orchard Learning courses using this link:
or contact us for a pdf form, and with any questions
Does fruit tree pruning leave you stumped?

Knowing when to prune, is as important as knowing how. Understanding the seasonal cycle of fruit trees is essential to planning, shaping, and enjoying fruitful and healthy trees. Learn to tune in to the character and needs of trees in your care. Use different pruning tools, make pruning decisions and put them into practice.

Courses take place in HOCO’s rich and diverse outdoor learning environment. Learners will work with real trees, and learn by doing. They are led by Shannon Smith, a knowledgeable and down-to-earth tutor.

One-day Pruning courses (2020)
4 places                            For fruit growers with some experience, keen to deepen knowledge and improve skills

Pruning - Dormant season Apple & pear trees      
Saturday 28 March, 10.30am-4.30pm

Pruning - Growing season Apple & pear trees - Fully booked. Please note that because of Covid-19 the group workshop will be replaced by one-to-one sessions, to be arranged with each participant.
        Saturday 25 July, 10.30am-4.30pm

Learn by doing, and gain hands-on experience and confidence to:

·      Form and train young trees

·      Renew established free-standing and trained trees

·      Restore old trees

Course fee: £50; £45 (H&DAA/AOG member); £40 (HOCO member*)

Discounted fee if both courses booked at the same time: £85; £75 (H&DAA/AOG member); £65 (HOCO member*)

Introduction to Pruning Apples & Pears
One-day course
Saturday 27 June, 10.30am - 4.30pm - this course is fully booked
Hands-on introduction for absolute beginners. Participants will learn the basics of pruning while being guided as they work with real trees

or contact us for a pdf form, and with any questions.

Pruning fruit trees for beginners - one-day course - Fully booked  Please note that because of Covid-19 the group workshop will be replaced by one-to-one sessions, to be arranged with each participant.
4 places                         No previous experience needed

Growing season pruning of Apples & Pears
– an introduction

        Saturday 27 June, 10.30am-4.30pm

Course fee*: £55, £50 (H&DAA/AOG), £40 (HOCO members**)

*Includes follow-up 30-minute one-to-one session in your garden or allotment.

Participants learn while working with real trees of different needs.
They are guided by Shannon Smith, a knowledgeable and down-to-earth tutor.
Course covers: pruning technique & tools; trained forms;
renewing fruiting wood on established trees; restoring older trees.

Get in touch if you want to be the first to hear about new courses.
or contact us for a pdf form, and with any questions.
Horfield Orchard,
8 Dec 2021, 11:05