Posts Tagged ‘Pruning’


A welcome sight, the arrival of another load of horse manure, thanks to Dara Ward and the Kellys of Killinick.

A welcome sight, the arrival of another load of horse manure, thanks to Dara Ward and the Kellys of Killinick.

We  are lucky to have found a friendly stable owner who knows a friendly haulier of manure since we moved here to Tacumshin, near Rosslare, in Co. Wexford. The other morning, not long after dawn, Willie Kelly arrived from Killinick by tractor with a large trailer load of horse manure in tow. The last load Willie delivered is not fully used yet but it has become inaccessible by wheelbarrow. The heavy rain in the last month has created a temporary pond between the manure heap and the vegetable bed. It will do no harm for the manure to be left to rot down until such time as the ground dries up anyway.

The latest load of horse manure is located much nearer the new veg patches so no excuse. The veg beds are marked out. As soon as the soil is a bit drier, we’ll be out to turn the sod, mulch with manure and cover the fresh beds with black re-useable plastic sheeting. Meanwhile there is pruning and coppicing to be carried out while the apple, pear  and other trees are bare.



A top tasting apple crop ripening at the Irish Seed Savers Assoc. orchard in East Clare, confusingly called ‘Irish Peach’.

Not a great year for apples many people are saying, but there is fruit about, perhaps not as plentiful as in other years due to the inclement weather. My ‘James Grieve’ solitary tree is giving me the usual large red and green apples which often fall into the mint patch below before I get around to picking them from the tree. Picking is of course preferable to avoid bruising the fruit.

On a visit to the Irish Seed Savers Open Day in Scarriff, East Clare recently, Pat was on hand to guide us all around the enormous collection of apple tree varieties growing in the orchards there. This is some of the advice he proffered:

RIPENESS TEST: Twist the apple half way, then turn it up a third of the way. If it comes off the tree, then it is ripe. If not leave it to ripen further.

PRUNING TIMES: (1) Shaping is done in the dormant season (2) Disease pruning if necessary is done when the foliage first appears. (3) Fruit pruning is when some unripe fruit is taken off to ensure the remaining fruit ripens well. (Grafting takes place in March or April and budding takes place in August).

ORGANIC DISEASE TREATMENTS: SCAB – this is a fungus and one needs to break its life cycle, so leaves should be removes after the fall or at least mown when on the ground. CANKER – cut back sick branches or gouge out affected parts of trunk until no brown infected wood is visible.

SELF-ROOTING APPLE TREES: These are vigorous, often native Irish trees such as Castletownbere, Foley and Ballyvaughan Seedling. After the tree is growing for atleast 2 – 3 years, take a 6 inch cutting, (see previous week’s blog entry on herb cuttings).

CHOOSING HERITAGE APPLE TREES FOR TASTE: Good tasting apples we sampled at Seedsavers Open Day were Irish Peach, Gladstone and Sovereign.

Irish Seed Savers Association  is on the go 20 years. A huge debt of gratitude is owed to many, especially Anita Hayes and her husband for initiating the whole project and to Dr. Lambe in UCD who collected so many endangered apple tree varieties during his lifetime which are now the core of the ISSA apple collection. Many of these trees are now available again along with other heritage fruit and vegetable varieties to bu by mail order. Just check out to find out more and consider becoming a friend of the Irish Seed Savers Association.


The remaining harvest from two blackcurrant bushes. Once stalks are removed and fruit rinsed, the blackcurrants are frozen in small lunch boxes for adding on top of hot porridge at any time of year.

To paraphrase Eamon Dunphy – I got a good – not a great – blackcurrant harvest. Whereas last year, the blackcurrants were in great clusters amidst the verdant vibrant foliage, this year I had to search for sparser clumps of fruit. Anecdotally, I notice fewer butterflies and flying insects such as hoverflies and bees this summer compared to last year. The cold and wet weather and less sunlight may all be factors. I guess I should be thankful to have a harvest, mediocre as it may be.

To help me find every last ripe blackcurrant, I took secateurs in one hand and collecting container in the other. Found myself a low seat and went currant spotting! The old branches bejewelled with fruit were cut out at the base and the fruit could then be picked in comfort from the pruned branch. The harvesting also became a thinning exercise. In the autumn I will mulch the blackcurrant bushes with compost and hope they grow again vigorously next year. Mind you, they are around 20 years producing fruit every year, so they have given great service, you could say.