Visit to the Rosemount Biology Field Station

25th February 2014
News Item

The first 2014 Green Communities training event took place on Tuesday the 25th of February, and involved a visit to the Rosemount Biology Field Station at the UCD Campus in Belfield, Dublin 4. There was a great turnout of 23 people for this mid week event, despite the cold weather, and a location that can be difficult to find. The weather was actually very kind to us, and after having experienced a horrible heavy rain shower at 2 pm, Dublin was clear and sunny as we set off towards UCD at 3 pm. Some participants were already at the field station by 3:30 pm and everyone had arrived by 4:30 pm.

The training started at 4 pm with a talk and demonstration by Kevin Kenny of the different tools used to graft, bud, and prune apple trees. This looked at differences in quality, correct use, and maintenance of tools. I have attached some photographs of our activity with this email.

By the time that we set out into the Lamb Clarke Historic Orchard everyone had arrived, and the weather was still clear, although cold. We were lucky in missing most of two showers that skirted by to the north, but that provided excellent rainbows for background orchard photography. Kevin explained that the original orchard plantings at this site are now reaching full maturity at 24 years old. Apple trees are commercially viable fruiting trees up until about 30 years of age, although they can last for over 100 years. Because cultivars can have weak vitality it is better not to take grafts from aged trees as the resulting clone may not provide a good fruit yield.

The purpose of pruning is to control shape, size, and vitality of the apple tree, all of which contribute towards its optimum fruit yield. The preferred technique is the “Dutch Cut” which delivers a conical shaped tree with around 7 lower fruiting branches, 3-5 middle fruiting branches, and 3 top branches. This shape of tree maximizes fruit production and delivers sunlight to all parts of the tree. Pruning must begin after 1 year’s growth, within the dormant winter months, and must stop the runaway vertical growth by pruning at about 80 cm to encourage the growth of lateral fruiting branches.

After tea and sandwiches we were given another indoor class by Kevin on grafting and budding. Unsurprisingly there are multiple varieties of graft and budding technique but there are a few basics to consider. Grafting is done in the winter, while budding propagation is carried out during the summer months of growth. All apple trees sold commercially are either budded or grafted trees. The selected variety, or top of the tree, is referred to as the scion, and is grafted or budded onto a rootstock of choice. The rootstock determines the relative size of the tree but does not affect the type of fruit or the quality of the fruit that the tree bears.With grafting the upper part of the root stock is cut obliquely and joined together with an obliquely cut sample of scion wood, derived from the preferred fruiting cultivar. This asexually provides a new fruit tree. The majority of size-controlling rootstocks originated in England. The "M" prefix refers to the East Malling Research Station, England, where much of the initial research was conducted in the early 1900's. The "MM." prefix, Malling-Merton, refers to hybrid trees of the Malling series crossed with "Northern Spy" in Merton, England in the 1920's. For demonstration purposes Kevin used M9 Rootstock grown in the Netherlands, and scion wood that was from an Irish Cultivar called Yellow Pitcher.

Budding employs the same principles as grafting but only attaches a dormant bud to the rootstock. When this cultivar bud begins to grow the original root stock shoots are pruned away. Using this method it is possible to have multiple apple cultivars growing on one tree!

By the time that the training was complete at 7 pm at least 9 different community garden and community groups were trained on how to begin growing their own Historic Irish Apple Cultivars at home and within the community.

Green Communities Members may also be interested in the next Dublin Community Growers Event which will be held within the downstairs cafe at NCAD, Thomas Street, Dublin 8. This will start at 7 pm on Wednesday the 5th of March.

The evening will consist of a group discussion on how to grow Dublin Community Growers, and urban growing in general. This will be held with food and refreshments ... perhaps a glass of wine. A map locating the venue is attached. Entrance to the cafe is via NCAD Students Union Building, turn right after walking into courtyard from Thomas Street.

Please RSVP Robert Moss at dcgsecretary@gmail.com