Orchard Learning

We love learning about growing fruit trees. HOCO is a rich, outdoor learning environment that hosts courses and workshops open to all. Members enjoy hands-on learning opportunities at working meetings, training sessions, and when taking part in projects.

Climate change is already taking a toll on the orchard. Stressed trees are more vulnerable to diseases and other problems. Extreme weather events are the new normal. We are heading into stormy weather and an uncertain future. HOCO is a living experiment in resilience. We are learning to experiment and evolve our practice to meet serious challenges to food production now, and for the future.

Summer Orchard Open Day Workshops
Saturday 15 June from 2.30pm

HOCO is offering these activities as fundraisers-by-donation on the day:

  • Art in the Orchard led by Julian Gregg. Changing seasons and human activity inspire Julian’s watercolours, drawings and prints. All budding artists are welcome to enjoy this friendly plein air session. Bring your own art making materials, along with drinking water. Drop-in from 3pm to 5pm.
  • Learn to prune fruit trees – for beginners led by Shannon Smith. Introducing the basics of assessing, planning, and pruning trees for health and fruitfulness. 1-hour sessions at 2.30pm & 4pm. Please sign up to book your place in advance: https://tinyurl.com/pruning-fruit-trees-taster

Get Growing Fruit Trees an introduction over a growing season

Sundays: 10 March, 12 May, 14 July, 15 September, 2pm – 4.30pm – places available

This course is the ideal way into active HOCO membership. There is a selection process based on the application form and an informal phone chat.

  • March – Know your trees, their care needs, site, and soil
  • May – Pests, diseases, disorders and resilience
  • July – Pruning & Fruit thinning – why and how
  • September – Harvest, storage & preservation

    Course fee: £130, £120 (H&DAA / AOG member), £95 (HOCO Friend member), £80 (HOCO Harvest-share member)
    Deadline for applications: Friday 8 March, 2024.
    Apply using this link: https://goo.gl/forms/0niaxJCUPhNlzSNy1

Seasonal Fruit Tree Pruning Courses for Beginners and Improvers

Courses are led by Shannon Smith, a knowledgeable and down-to-earth tutor. Participants are guided to practice and problem-solve as they work with the less-than-perfect trees in the orchard.

Orchard Learning Pruning courses are tailored to meet the needs of participants and their trees. Each course begins with a small group workshop in the rich and diverse outdoor learning environment of Horfield Organic Community Orchard (HOCO). Participants are introduced to the seasonal pruning cycle. They meet the best tools for the job, work with real trees, and learn by doing. Follow-up one-to-one sessions take place by arrangement – at HOCO and/or the garden, allotment or community project where your trees grow*.
Professional gardeners are welcome to get in touch to chat about ongoing professional development at HOCO and/or with the fruit trees in your care.

Fruit Tree Pruning courses 2024  

Dormant season pruning – Beginners* Apple & pear trees        
        Saturday 16 March, 2pm-5pm
This course is fully booked

Dormant season pruning – Improvers** Apple & pear trees        
        Sunday 17 March, 2pm-5pm

Delayed dormant season pruning – Improvers** Large, mature trees in need of renovation and size reduction
        Saturday 29 June, 2pm-5pm (TBC)

Growing season pruning – Beginners* Apple & pear trees       
        Saturday 3 August, 2pm-5pm

Growing season pruning – Improvers** Apple & pear trees      
          Sunday 4 August, 2pm-5pm

*Beginners – no previous experience needed
**Improvers – at least 2 years experience, plus participation in a practical pruning course

  • Courses cover:
    • Planning
    • Pruning technique & Tools
    • Forming and training young trees
    • Free-standing and trained trees
    • Renewing fruiting wood on established trees
    • Restoring older trees

Course fees include a 3-hour small group session, and 3 hours one-to-one follow-up session(s)*:
£130; £120 (member of AOG or H&DAA)  £100 (HOCO Friend member); £90 (HOCO Harvest-share member)

*Gardens, allotments, community projects in the Bristol area. Get in touch for a chat if your trees are growing outside the Bristol area.

Orchard Learning Programme

Developed with HOCO support in 2018 to celebrate the 20th annniversary of the orchard. This wholistic, hands-on 9-month course is tuned to the growing year. Participants experience a unique learning opportunity rooted in a rich and diverse local food project. Designed for professional gardeners, community growing project workers, and keen fruit growers with at least two years experience. If circumstances allow – we hope to offer this course again in 2025.

Contact Us here

The Apple Tree Lady

Book an hour with the Apple Tree Lady for friendly and expert advice on fruit trees in your garden, allotment or community growing project.
Use this form to Book an hour with the Apple Tree Lady
She is also happy to try to identify mystery apples when the fruit is in season. Use this form to Ask the Apple Tree Lady to eye-d mystery apples

Join us as an active or supporting member

See What’s On this spring and whole of the 2024 growing year

Read about the orchard here

Contact Us