Our orchard team are working together with Dr Gordon Reid to take leaf samples from old orchards around Ireland. This is part funded by the Genetic Resource Grant Aid Scheme and we are targeting significant orchards in Bantry House, Birr Castle, Dunsany Castle, Franciscan Monastery on Achill Island, an abandoned famine village in The Burren and several old Palatine sites in Limerick. In addition to these sites we are researching individual trees brought to our attention in counties Mayo, Galway, Meath and Down. It is hoped from DNA analysis of these samples that we will discern anything that is unique to Ireland and will propagate these trees to preserve them before it’s too late.
In June we are summer pruning our plum orchard and in our M9 research orchard we are rethinking the management after two trials one using cardboard and willow mulch and the other using perennial green manures. We have now removed Mypex as a weed suppressant and sown with a specialist mix for clay soils.
In our potted nursery we continue tending to our trees bench grafted in spring by nipping out rootstock shoots and routine feeding with seaweed dust. We are weeding our budded trees and preparing for summer bud grafting across four sites.
We have erected four log hives in trees around the orchards one of which has already been occupied by a swarm of native Irish black bees and we wait patiently for swarms to find the rest during the balmy days in June. These colonies are hugely beneficial to the pollination of our orchards. We have also transferred the two colonies in our two national hives into two transfer log hives which have settled in very well.
In the gardens we will be sowing carrots and parsnips during June and planting out chard, cucumbers and Amish Pie pumpkins. We’ll be keeping a close eye on our fruiting plants and continually feeding them with comfrey to provide them with much needed nutrients to help them grow.
We are putting up our support structures for our plants, as when we let them go to seed they can be quite heavy and need additional supports. Our Canasta lettuce is looking fantastic as it begins going to seed.
Our seed team are collating and archiving all of the historical information we have on our seed varieties. Where they come from, any letters or articles about these rare heritage varieties and we aim to build a record of these seed stories.