Apple Pruning & Orchard Care Cork

We provide orchard care to customers in County Cork and nearby in southern Ireland. Get in touch for professional & experienced apple pruning and orchard care. Our services include orchard design, forest garden design, planting, grafting and mobile poultry foraging systems.

Is Apple Pruning Necessary?

The biological reproductive aim of your fruit trees can differ from your human centered aims of high yield, the taste you like and large, accessible fruit. Almost all apples we eat come from trees that have been grafted. This gives us the variety of apple we want on a tree whose size and disease resistance characteristics will suit the site it will be grown on, if the orchard is well designed.

For the above reasons it usually becomes necessary to prune for healthy productive trees. In this case however a little knowledge can be dangerous – your tree will be better off untouched than pruned without the appropriate tools and knowledge. With that warning, please read on for a little knowledge on the subject 🙂

Winter Pruning

In the winter the sap will have fallen and the tree stores its sugars in the roots. Pruning done then will not really rob the tree of its energy, and so increased vegetative or leafy growth can be expected during  the spring and summer after winter pruning, as a full tree’s worth of energy tries to express itself in the reduced tree size. Therefore we use winter pruning more to give structure and direction to younger growing trees and increase leafy growth in trees that are lacking vigour.

We winter prune apple and pear trees generally from November to February. It’s a good time for disease removal as canker spores are less active. We winter prune on mature trees to a more limited extent and they may require subsequent summer pruning to re-balance the trees energy levels. The Irish Seedsavers Association run a great one day apple pruning course every winter at their site in County Clare, Ireland.

permaculture pruning

Summer Pruning

Central leader summer pruning
This apple tree in Cork was overly vigourous, bearing little fruit, but after two years of summer pruning it now flowers and fruits abundantly 🙂

In the summer however, some of the sap is up in the branches and leaves, so if we prune now we will rob the tree of some of its energy. This is very useful if the tree has too much leafy growth and too little fruiting wood or if a tree has outgrown its allocated area. Summer pruning  is useful if it is desirable to limit the trees size for any reason. Summer is an especially good time to remove the vertical leafy water shoots that can shade ripening fruit. You can thin out apples too now if you want bigger apples (from the ones remaining on the tree).

Summer pruning is generally more important for mature trees. Dead and diseased wood can be a little more obvious in the summer due to an absence of leaves, but removing this can be done in the winter also. The overall structure of a tree is easier to assess in the winter for the same reason. We carry out summer pruning on mature apple and pear trees and all prunus species trees which includes cherries & plums.

Apple Tree Grafting

In addition to the pruning service we can graft new varieties of fruit onto your existing orchard. We do this  to improve pollination chances if there is limited space for new trees or just to give more variety of fruit. Often people have only one or two apple or pear trees in their garden and these will benefit from more pollinating partners of a different variety. Here is a little review of The Grafter’s Handbook which is the classic text on grafting.

grafting fruit Ireland
Mature quince converted to 4 varieties of pear via cleft crafting Cork Ireland
Fruit tree nursery cork ireland plant out
Dalinco whip and toungue graft planted out Cork Ireland

Pear Tree Grafting

Quince is used as the normal pear root-stock, but interestingly hawthorn and rowan are also viable root-stocks.

We have trialed pear on rowan root-stock in the nursery for the last two years with 80 – 90 percent success rate. In theory rowan will be a very suitable root-stock for wetter ground where pears cannot normally be grown.

I chose rowan over hawthorn as an alternative root-stock to quince  as it doesn’t have thorns and so is easier to handle and graft.

Stay tuned for updates on how these trees progress! We’ll be watching for growth, size, disease resistance, long-term graft compatibility and fruiting.

pear grafting cork
Pear on rowan

Medlar Grafting

Medlar is an interesting fruit that was popular in medieval times but has has since fallen out of fashion. It is a promising permaculture fruit for Ireland generally with few disease problems. We graft it onto hawthorn and we have a limited stock available at the testing site in West Cork.

Forest Garden Design Ireland

Forest gardening has become increasingly popular and for many people is a symbol of permaculture. There are many variables and design considerations however and designs should always site specific. Even within Ireland there will be huge variations in what will work depending on local conditions. These variables include annual rainfall, sunshine, wind exposure, coastal exposure, soil type, depth and pH. Human influences, neighbouring plant species, pollinator availability and local pest populations will also have an impact.

Climate and Micro-climate in Ireland

There are eye-opening climate charts available on Met Éireann’s old website that show the huge climatic differences that occur across the island of Ireland.

Even within County Cork there are huge variations, for example Cork city gets less than half the annual rainfall of parts of West Cork.

There are more surprises in store – statistically April is the driest month in Ireland – remember all the great weather at Easter? Furthermore many areas in Ireland receive as much or more sunshine in spring months of March, April and May than in the summer months of June July and August! Okay maybe that isn’t a surprise.

Full climate & micro-climate post coming here soon.

Lough Neagh - both the wettest and driest place in Ireland : ) Image from Met Éireann