What’s better than building an orchard to get fresh fruits and enjoying the fun of gardening within the touch of nature?
Before leaving for the summer holiday, a group of students, professors and staff joined hands to plant HKUST’s first orchard. Located on the LG7 grassland (next to the organic farm) the orchard started with the transplanting of 14 seedlings that will become healthy, diverse and flourishing fruit trees that the campus community can enjoy for years to come.
This project started last September as an EVMT capstone project. The project was undertaken by EVMT students Joanna Cheng, Marvin Kwok and Jenny Yuh, who worked closely with their faculty advisor (Stanley Lau) and the Sustainability Unit to develop the project. Recognizing that they needed additional expertise, the group also reached out to the Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden (KFBG) and Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) to identify the technical details of building an orchard. The group adopted the goals that the orchard should play an important role in community for providing fresh fruits, creating a resting and relaxing area, and create a social and learning space for garden lovers. In doing so, the students also learned more than they ever thought possible about horticulture and the importance of sustainable management.
Starting with a stakeholder survey, they found that 80% of staff and students supported the idea of starting an orchard. Student responses confirmed that they believed that an orchard would let them get closer to nature and beautify the campus, and staff responses confirmed that an orchard would be seen as an area to relax and provide education opportunities.
Next the group focused on the technical details of an orchard on the HKUST campus. Given the climate, the rainfall patterns, the soil conditions, there were clearly some fruits that were not feasible. After considering local preferences, other species were taken off the list. In the end, five species of fruit trees were selected that met all of the criteria: Papaya, Kumquat, Lemon, Guava and Pineapple.
Looking back, group member Joanna enjoyed the process as much as the outcome, as the experience helped her learn about permaculture concepts and people-oriented engagement. “I was impressed to find out horticulture and gardening can be a sophisticated profession. I hope that more areas on campus will be transformed into little gardens, with herbs and other plants, and designed with permaculture approach.” Joanna’s teammate, Jenny, noted that her time management skills and communications skills were polished through the project and she thinks that the orchard will create an excellent platform for the campus community to enjoy fruits and gain a sense of ownership to green our campus.
The third member of the project, Marvin, was encouraged by making the project finally happen after undertaking such great efforts. He hopes that the orchard can raise the sense of people to act sustainably and that this orchard will be the beginning of many additional gardening projects on campus.
One of the lasting outcomes of the project is the creation of a new Gardening Club. Until it gets established, the Club will be under the direction of the Sustainability Unit. Over time, we hope the Club will become self-sufficient with lots of volunteers and garden enthusiasts nurturing the orchard and enjoying the harvests. A survey conducted at an Urban Gardening Workshop during Environment Week showed that 90% of the participants were interested in gardening. That is great news for the long-term success of the orchard.
If you love gardening and want to be part of the team, check out the group page on facebook “HKUST Gardening Club” and notice the recruitment announcement later. Join us to gain your hands-on experience, feel the freshness of soil and sweetness of fruits. A sustainable campus can only be created with your support!