Half acre orchard in West Cork, Ireland

Hi all, I’ve been updating the fruit map for my backyard orchard in West Cork and thought I’d share it here.

The long rectangle to the east is an 11x3m polytunnel (DIY water pipe design) with hybrid persimmon and grape to be trained and lots of veg. The square to the north is a DIY chicken coop, run, and yard. There are raised beds between the house and the road and some potato beds south of that. By the raised beds is another hybrid persimmon to be trained espalier against a low south facing wall.

The winters are never that cold, could get to -10C on a bad winter, usually more like -5C. The summers are never that hot, might spend a month over 25C if you’re lucky. It rains very often. In terms of solar radiation my 3kW PV panels facing south west produced about 3MWh last year.

The soil is rocky, sandy to the south and heavier to the north, with lots of organic matter. The drainage is good, but the heavier spots can get waterlogged in winter. It’s bumpy and slopes down to the north, which helps. I haven’t done any soil tests, but our agricultural department has a GIS soil map for the whole country, and this is what it said at my address:

From here.

The total plot is half an acre. The NW border is a dense 3m hedge, I put a 2m high windbreak across the driveway, and the other borders are banked hedgerow, mainly hawthorn with a sycamore, willow, rowan, a big ash, sessile oak, dogroses, and blackberries. It’s fairly good shelter but we can still get strong winds from S and W, so I added some cobnut hazels in the hedge there.

On the northern corner down a bank is a beautiful swampy woods left wild, with a buzzard family nesting there and a million frogs. I planned the fruit trees to be more vigorous to the north and more dwarfing to the south so it feels like those woods continue onto my land. When selecting trees I’ve prioritized disease resistance, late flowering, “reliability” without a hot summer, and storage/processing options (with one or two guilty exceptions). The trees were all dressed with seaweed dust and mycorrhizae and a little coco based compost, and mulched with what was 6" woodchips. Grids are at 3.8m spacing, and most grids have a nitrogen fixer in the middle.

I bought the place almost two years ago, and finished planting out the last tree a week ago. This is my first big scale gardening project. All the work has been done solo, often hauling around bags of compost on the back of a pushbike! The locals probably think I’m somewhat weird, haha.

I plan to use this thread to post pictures (later in spring), track leaf out and flowering times, and track my apple breeding project.

We’ve been getting really late frosts here for a while now, so I’ll try to breed late flowering, late leafing apples with good disease resistance (scab+canker) and good storage times. I also plan several interspecific crosses using the same tardy apples (14,23,28,30,38,57,65), Malus Sieversii, and Malus Trilobata (super late flowering, passably edible sweet but small fruit, disease resistance, no known crosses??).

If you have any questions or advice for me it’s all welcome! I’d love to discuss the cultivars after all that research for example :smiley:


2022 Bud Break and Flowering Times:

ID Name Bud Break Flowering
7 Autumn Olive Seedling 28 Jan -
8 Autumn Olive Seedling 14 Jan -
9 Saskatoon Smoky 20 Jan -
16 Quince Krymsk 30 Jan -
53 Hazel Tonda Di Giffoni 10 Feb 30 Jan

Excellent, intensive use of space. And no doubt good exercise, too! :slightly_smiling_face:


You’re right! I learnt the true joy of digging a hole or trench, over and over again. I’d been missing out :slight_smile:


You should post some pics from ground level of the orchard and plants.



Looks like a great project! Will follow this thread closely I’m looking forward to your posts.

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Yes, I guess you must be a steady, dedicated gardener. I don’t think I could keep up with the organizing and ordering, never mind the planting. Great job!

Probably good that your soil drains so well given the cool moist climate. The only challenge might be the pH so high.

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In spring when I’ve some fresh mulch down and things are looking good, I’ll make a post for each type of fruit - show each plant and talk about the cultivars a bit. Until then, here are some random progress pics from '20 and '21:

Everything done by hand as cheap as I could! Reused a lot of materials, and designed things to divide into standard lengths to use as little lumber etc as possible. The picnic table gave me enough confidence to build the fence, the fence to build the chicken stuff, the chicken stuff to build the tunnel, and so on!


Looks great!

How does it work with nurseries in Europe? Can you buy from all over or only in Ireland?


Good work

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I can buy from any nursery in the EU but no longer from UK. In Ireland I love the nearby Future Forests nursery, but I’ve also used nurseries from Germany, France, and Poland. The traditional varieties and rarities on offer are amazing.

For example the other day I was browsing a german nursery for both sweet sloes (prunus spinosa), and sweet medlars like Sussmispel, selected to be edible out of hand without bletting (like the difference between PCNA and PCA persimmons). If only I had somewhere left to put them!


I notice you have a Rosemary Russet apple tree. I bench-grafted one a few years ago in hopes that it meets its description as a smaller, more reliable version of Ashmead’s Kernel. It is doing well in a container right now, but still too young to bear. I was wondering if you’ have any first hand experience with them?


I’ve had Rosemary Russet in the ground a year. It seems happy and went from about 3ft to 6ft last year with some nice strong scaffolds forming, and it doesn’t seem to show any disease on the leaves. It flowered well and late enough to miss the late frost we got, but I picked them off to focus on growth for its first leaf, so I can’t rate the fruit yet.

My research says scab, canker, and mildew resistant. Very good very strong sweet/sharp taste. Eater/Juicer. Long keeper. Heavy and reliable bearer.

It’s the tree closest to the chicken coop in the photos above.


Wow. You can do a lot on half an acre!


How much does it cost to buy a place like yours in West Cork?

I bought the place almost two years ago

Have you eaten the Ard Cairn Russett or the Cornish Aromatic?
You must like them as they’re part of your plantings?

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Never! Of all the fruit listed, the only cultivars I’ve tried are Autumn Olive Seedling (really nice texture, sweet slight pleasant astringency, somehow tomatoey) and Gooseberry Black Velvet (just delicious and blackcurranty, made great jam). I’ve eaten a lot of mulberries in my time but I think they were all rubra or alba not nigra.

Everything else will be a great surprise! Looking forward to tasting ard cairn russet (supposed to be all sweet, no sharp, and like banana) it’s a heritage variety from only 50km away.

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Put the last two apples in the ground today. Reinette Amorique, and Amour. Both very late flowering french guard apples from Brittany on M106. Both should have good disease resistance here and store very late. Amorique is supposed to be really ancient and well acclimatised to wet weather and full wind in Brittany. Amour there is less info for:

Of unknown origin, the “Amour” apple tree is present in the northwest of France and more particularly in Ille et Vilaine. Of very good taste quality, it is an excellent table fruit with juicy and very fragrant flesh. Medium in size, it is rounded and irregular in shape, yellow in color streaked with red with the presence of cork around the peduncle. This variety is very resistant to pests and diseases. The “Amour” apple is harvested in October and eaten from January to March. It holds up well to cooking and is also appreciated for its juice.


Your adventures are interesting–so keep going!

I have an Ard Cairn Russett, entering 6th leaf season on G-30, but I’ve stunted it
by having it in pot and ignoring it. I think I need to find a spot in the orchard for this one.

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Nice job! Great to see a fellow Irish person on here. I’m in Dublin.