Orchards for everyone
None of these trees remained by the time that Santry Community Garden was established in 2010 but with the goodwill of the council behind them, this newly-formed community group has set about replanting the orchard, drawing on the shared knowledge, skills and experience of its members.
Some, such as Niall O’Connor, Martin O’Donoghue and Ciara Travers, are knowledgeable horticulturists, while others such as Donna Callan have brought organisational and people skills to the project.
Another great stroke of luck was O’Connor’s chance meeting with David Howell (“we met at a course for master composters”), who turned out to have a passion for pruning, training and grafting orchard trees. Invited to come on board, he now shares his considerable skills with the group. Last week Howell gave them a master class in the art of grafting apple trees, using scion wood taken from UCD’s collection of heritage apples and a variety of different rootstock provided by the specialist Irish nursery Fruit Nut ( fruitandnut.ie). The resulting grafted trees (all 100 of them) will soon join the 180 trees already planted in Santry’s community orchard over the last couple of years.
Santry Community Orchard operates on a shoestring budget with only sporadic funding – some from charities such as “Trees for Cities” ( treesforcities.org) and the rest from members of the local community garnered through a small membership fee and through sponsoring the costs of a tree. Each sponsored tree bears a neatly printed aluminium label containing a dedication and the name of the donor, many of them grandparents gifting trees they hope their grandchildren will enjoy long after they’re gone. santrycommunitygarden.ie
Grow your own trees
With soils finally drying out but the bare root season not yet over, now is a good time to plant fruit and nut trees, and to graft them. Whether you wish to plant a single tree in your garden or an entire orchard, here are a few key things to bear in mind to ensure a bountiful harvest for the future.
Rootstocks: Most fruit trees (apples, cherries, pears, quinces, plums, gauges, damsons, peaches, nectarines) are grafted or budded, a skilled technique by which the vascular tissue of one plant is inserted into that of another. This is done so that the very best qualities of any particular cultivar (for example, tastiness) can be combined with the very best qualities of a particular rootstock (for example, dwarf-growing, or a tolerance for damp soils). Choosing the rootstock that best suits your garden’s location, soil conditions and microclimate as well as the available space and the training method is crucial.
Confusingly, some nut trees are also grafted onto rootstocks, but in this case they don’t offer the same qualities as the rootstock of fruit trees, especially when it comes to dwarfing. A good nursery/garden centre should always be able to offer you expert advice in this regard.