Fruit and Nut
Updated 19th September 2018
New Nursery Site!
Fruit and Nut will be moving to new premises later this year. It is with some sadness that the site at Cooloughra - our home for 8 years - is being vacated but the new site offers long term security for the nursery as well many exciting new research and educational possibilities.
The new site is in east Mayo - easily accessible from the N17 and N5 - and the process of relocation is expected to be completed by the end of December. The site is a former meadow (now overgrown with briars, willow and gorse) and to fully develop new propagation and trialling beds will take 3-5 years. Although all our older trialling stock will have to be left behind, some of the smaller/younger trees at Cooloughra will be lifted and moved to the new site.
Trialling work will focus mainly on cobnuts, pinenuts, araucaria and vaccinium (see cranberry and cowberry below). The nut trialling will primarily examine nut growing as a food security issue, with particular emphasis on rehabilitating/improving marginal land considered too poor for contemporary agriculture. It is intended that the site will become a demonstration project for how quickly marginal land can be made productive in terms of nut crops.
Training and Education
The move to the new site also signals the start of a new emphasis by the nursery on training and education. In particular we would like to get many more people - especially young people - involved in the work of the nursery, through volunteering, internships and perhaps as long term collaborative partners in tree propagation and research. All enquiries welcome!
Nut Research in Ireland
As we move towards our tenth year of dedicated nut research, it is interesting to look back and observe how the direction of research at the nursery has changed over that period. While we still maintain an interest in fruit, the research aspect has been scaled back and for the next few years will be mainly confined to berries tolerant of acid soils.
Meanwhile, nut-related research continues to expand, notably into pinenuts and araucaria. The pinenuts are particularly exciting as there is almost no research being undertaken anywhere else in northern Europe and the only knowledge of the nut-bearing pines relates solely to their occasional planting as ornamental trees in public parks and the gardens of the big houses. We are only in our fifth year of research with the pines, but each passing year brings new information.
From both food security and commercial perspectives, cobnuts are also of major interest. As the first large cobnut orchards to be planted in Ireland near their first commercial-scale harvests, it is perhaps disappointing that this nursery remains the sole flag-bearer for nut growing in Ireland, and that there is still almost zero interest from either state bodies or farmers' organisations. The only other on-going nut research to be found in Ireland is at orchards themselves, where a very small (but growing!) number of growers are now contributing to the collective pool of knowledge.
From our perspective, the lack of interest from teagasc or the universities (or other nurseries) means that for the foreseeable future the nursery will continue to lead the way in Irish nut research. Although somewhat constrained by limited resources, our new premises will provide for a further 5-10 years of research (beyond this, lack of space will become an issue).
Up till now the nursery has relied heavily on short term volunteers and interns to help with monitoring and data gathering but now we are looking for someone prepared to commit long term. If you are a young person based in Ireland, interested in horticulture and food security, and fancy the idea of becoming an authority in something that no-one in conventional agriculture in Ireland knows the first thing about, and perhaps looking to developing a livelihood in that area, we'd like to hear from you!
Supply of trees 2019-2020
We hope the transition to our new premises will go smoothly but some disruption is unavoidable.
During the transition period it may not be possible to service small barerooted orders of fruit or nut trees: for the period autumn 2018-spring 2019 the nominal minimum order size for despatched orders will be €200. Smaller orders may be handled at our discretion (we will try to facilitate all previous customers). Once the transition period has passed, the nursery hopes to resume small orders of apples, pears, plums, damsons and cherries, and all nut species in our range. Rootstock orders will not be affected.
Customers intending to collect stock will be able to collect from the new premises from early December onwards.
Contract growers wanted
As a consequence of our impending move, nursery expects to be short of tillable ground for growing on stock during 2019 and 2020 and is looking for contract growers to take on some of our apple and cobnut stock and grow it on for a year. Please contact us for further details.
New lines 2018/19
American Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon)
Long cultivated for its tart purple-red berries, popular in cranberry sauce, the American cranberry requires moist, free draining acidic ground to do well. Providing those conditions are met, it is very easy to grow.
Large scale commercial producers construct special beds that can be briefly flooded several times a year. This helps reduce certain pests (generally only a problem in large scale production), control weeds and also facilitates harvest. However, for the small scale producer, cranberries can be easily grown on wide, slightly raised beds. An established bed will yield 1-2kg (occasionally 3kg) per m2 (10-20t/ha).
For best results, the water table should be maintained at 30-60cm below the ground surface. The American cranberry does not thrive in permanently waterlogged or very dry ground. The ideal pH is 4.0-5.0 (upper limit 5.5)
We offer the variety Pilgrim, a late high yielding variety with blueberry size purple-red berries, popular in the United States since the 1960s and now grown commercially in Europe. This variety has cropped well at our trial site at Cooloughra.
We believe the cranberry has massive potential in Ireland. Although trialled in the 1980s and 90s by Bord na Mona, the idea at the time was to compete on international markets. Given the two hundred years of experience and know-how of the American producers, this was always somewhat optimistic! However, for niche Irish markets, the cranberry is a potential winner.
Cowberry/Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)
Closely related to the cranberry, the cowberry is native to many European countries including Ireland. It is cultivated on a large scale in many countries, notably Sweden, Finland, Germany, Poland and the Netherlands. The berry is similar to the cranberry but sweeter and less astringent. It prefers drier, well drained acid land but is much more tolerant of wind than the cranberry and will do well in Atlantic coastal regions. To the best of our knowledge it is not cultivated in Ireland.
We offer the following varieties:
Koralle. Light red berries, highly productive and reliable cropper. Slightly fussier in its soil requirements (requires very well drained soil)
Red Pearl. Dark red berries, more tolerant of less-than-ideal soil conditions but yields can be more variable.
Both varieties are highly ornamental.
Nut calendars 2019
Unique hand drawn nut calendar by UK- based horticulturalist and food security researcher (and former Fruit and Nut volunteer) Ella Sparks. The calendar features cobnuts, walnuts, heartnuts, chestnuts, pinenuts and araucaria, including historical information, interesting nut facts and top tips for growers (aimed primarily at growers in Ireland and the UK but suitable for all growers in cool temperate climates) and also shows public holidays, phases of the moon and principal solar events.
Ideal for a gift or hanging in your kitchen! Available from October. Supply will be limited so be sure to order early!h
Size: double A4. Each month has one page displaying the calendar and one page with artwork and useful information about nuts.
Price 20.00 including delivery.
Growing cobnuts in Ireland: An examination of the commercial potential of cobnuts
New updated and revised version of the 2014 document. Included for the first time is cultural information for growers. From orchards examined by Fruit and Nut during the period 2014-2017, it is clear that poor or haphazard maintenance is a reoccurring theme. The new document places much more emphasis on site maintenance, particularly ground cover control. The document is now available upon request (pdf).
Latest research: Why cobnuts sometimes have very poor crops
On-going research from Fruit and Nut has determined that mild winters are causing cobnuts to produce male flowers earlier in the year. In some cases the male flowers are finishing before the female flowers emerge. Given the reality of global warming (and in Ireland's case milder winters), this trend is likely to become more pronounced. For the cobnut grower, the best remedial action is to planting at least one variety with late male flowers (for example Cosford). The nursery is working on developing a new very late flowering variety by crossing a particularly late flowering wild hazel (found growing close to the nursery) with Cosford.
The Future is Trees project - update
The nursery has been contacted by a number of landowners in relation to this project. So far, all the sites offered have been unsuitable, the main reason being that they were situated too far from our base in county Mayo. In several cases, the terms of the lease offered was non-viable (the period of lease was too short). For the project to be viable, the minimum period of lease is 50 years. Further details can be found here
Seed grown chestnuts, walnuts and heartnuts not a reliable way to get nuts
We hear an increasing number of stories from people who planted seed grown chestnuts, walnuts and heartnuts, who are disappointed with the small or nonexistent yields. Our view is that as far as reliable nut production is concerned, seed grown trees of these species are not worth the gamble.
Yes, with a large enough trial population some trees are bound to do well and this is of interest to researchers such as ourselves looking to develop improved varieties but for successful nut production, we strongly advise using grafted or stooled trees of named varieties proven in Irish conditions.
However, seed grown trees of some other nut species do succeed: for example pinenuts and monkey puzzle trees. In these cases named cultivars do not exist and most trees are still raised from seed.
We are currently trialling several thousand pinenut trees raised from seed. We hope that with such a large number in the trial, some favourable genetic characteristics will emerge, for example precociousness (the ability to produce nuts as a young age) and adaptability to Irish climatic conditions.