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Orchards and Apple Trees With Eugene Higgins

Thursday, 27 September 2007

As we are going rural and rural gardens tend to be a good size, Eugene will be giving a beginners guide on how to grow an orchard in your back garden. It's easier than you think.We will also reveal the winning name for the The Afternoon Show apple variety.


Orchards have been established in England since the Roman times, and during Norman times were used for making cider.  However an Orchard is not just for growing apple trees. According to the dictionary, it is a large garden of fruit trees. In the Elizabethan times this included apples, peaches, cherries, quinces, damsons, apricots, plums to name but a few.

It is not difficult to undertake a small orchard.
You do not need any special requirements besides space. Any decent soil will do so long as your planting area faces towards the sun.

. What can you grow - apples, pears, plums, cherries, gages, blackcurrants, damsoms, blueberries (most of Offaly has perfect soil for them)

. You can buy fruit trees in any good garden centre. They retail at approx €22 for a small tree (young tree - age 1) and €35 for a two year old tree (more expensive as it will fruit sooner).

. Like any new plant they need attention in the first planted year. They need a good spring feed to the roots in the spring and pruning of the branches as they grow.

. They will all survive the winter and don't need to be brought into a greenhouse.

. Apple trees will be pollinated if there is another apple tree that's flowers at the same time within a 1 mile area but pollination would be better with at least one other apple tree.

So what's been stopping you, get planting!

Fruit Trees

1) eating apple varietys - "Peaches Melba"
2) a cooking apple variety "Uncle Johns"
3) a pear tree called "Winter Nelis"
4) a Blackcurrant "Ribes Nigum" This tree is cheaper at €6

For someone who has a smaller garden or perhaps even only a balcony in their apartment, they can still bear fruit! There is a miniature apple tree called "Coronet" which is a great variety for growing in small gardens/balconies. They are available from many garden centres and woodies etc. Priced at €35.

Apples have been a feature of Irish life for at least the last three thousand years. 

Apple orchards were a feature of most gardens in the past but with the development of commercial orchards, the tradition of growing many varieties of apples has been lost. The Seed Savers Association was set up by Anita Hayes in 1991 and with many volunteers they travelled the country locating old orchards to create the Native Irish Apple Collection in their orchard in Clare.  (Seed Savers is registered organic which suits traditional varieties as they were grown due to their resistance to disease before the advent of the" spray" philosophy.) It has been a great joy to re-introduce these apple trees, which were presumed extinct, and to offer them for sale so that they may once again be in the hands of the people to enjoy and pass on.

Seed Savers have an unnamed variety of apple tree that they invited The Afternoon Show to name. We put an appeal and saw an image of our tree on the show on Wednesday. This young tree is currently in bloom but will remain nameless without our help. It is a medium sized yellow apple, very juicy so also a good juicer and cider apple.   So, we invite our viewers to send in their best name ideas and the winning name will be announced today live from the Ploughing Championships Rootstock (the equivalent of seeds) from this tree will be available to purchase from or from the Seedsavers store in Clare when the variety is mature enough to graft next year.
The person who comes up with the best name will receive a rootstock from the variety that they have named so that they can grow the variety of tree that they actually named themselves!

Some examples of names that have come in already: Biddy early, phoebe, sheana's smile, afternoon delight, little nell, the yellow submarine, afti.

Apple: Reid's Seedling -  Eater
- is a moderately juicy, crisp, sweet apple with some pink spots in the flesh. It has very large, round, conical fruit with smooth yellow skin covered in carmine red stripes and some russet specks - a very beautiful apple.
Apple: Uncle John's Cooker  -  Dual
- is a beautiful, large, round, red apple and has a sweet, dry, strong berry flavour. It is a wonderful eating apple, very popular with children. It's very wind resistant and hangs on the tree often after all the leaves have gone.
Pears: Winter Nelis Eater
This is a first rate winter pear with small, round to conical, slightly russeted fruit. It is a good late variety and frost resistant. The skin is greenish/ yellow and it has rich, melting fruit with a pleasant aroma. It is a moderate cropper and a late flowering variety.
Blackcurrant (Ribes Nigrum)
Early July, good cropper, unknown origin. Grown at ISSA for several years.