This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol3", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
" The man who plants tall standards in a grass orchard, and then wants to make a decent living out of it, will have a long time to wait. It is often pointed out that in Canada standard trees planted in grass pay well, and that the system, instead of being curtailed, is being extended. In this respect there can be no comparison between Canada and Ireland. The land tenure is different, the climate is different, the market is different, the labour question is different. If fruit farming is to be made to pay in Ireland, the grower must look beyond his apples, pears, plums, and damsons for results. There can now hardly be any two opinions that the only method of fruit farming which pays well is the cultivation of mixed fruits, and even vegetables (in tilled land, not only tilled, but thoroughly tilled and intensely cultivated land, land of which the greatest possible use is made, and none of which is allowed to be unproductive). The weight of fruit got from a given area under this system is not only far in excess of that obtained under older systems, but the quality is infinitely better; and in the fruit markets of to-day, and of the future, quality is the ruling factor. Good varieties must be grown, they must be well grown, the produce must be clean, it must be well packed, and the fruit must be graded.
"The method of cultivation naturally influences the type of fruit tree to be planted and the distance at which the trees are to be planted. In a grass orchard full standards are planted and they must not be nearer than 30 ft. apart. Such standards have no place in a cultivated orchard. Half-standards on crab stock planted 24 ft. apart every way, with a dwarf bush tree on the Paradise stock between each half-standard every way, is the now recognized system of planting. The dwarf or bush trees can be moved away at the end of ten or more years, when the half-standards are getting crowded, and so leave them full room. The object of planting the bushes is to tide over the hungry time, the first six years, and this they certainly do. They come early into bearing, the fruit borne by them is first rate, and they are prolific. There is a general impression that these dwarf bushes on Paradise stock soon wear out, and the quality of the fruit produced by them deteriorates. This is a fallacy. I can point to healthy bushes of such apples as Beauty of Bath, Bramley's Seedling, and Stirling Castle twelve and fifteen years old, which are healthy and vigorous and which bear good crops each year of first-rate fruit. In the spaces between the fruit trees, bush fruit and strawberries must be grown. Gooseberries, currants, raspberries, strawberries, or good vegetables, or if farm produce for home consumption is required, potatoes, turnips, or mangold can also be grown.
" Fruit farms worked on these lines are those which will give in every way the best results. May I just give a couple of instances. In Wexford and Killkenny some acres of mixed fruit were planted in 1904 in single-acre plots, under the supervision of the Department of Agriculture. Accurate accounts have been kept and the plots have been well cultivated. Plot No. 1. - The initial cost of preparing the ground and planting was £20, 15s. 4d., and in the first year vegetables and small fruit to the extent of £9, 7s. 7d. were sold off this plot, leaving a loss of £11, 7s. 9d. In the second year, 1905, the cost of cultivation was £15, 6s. l1d., and produce sold brought £24, 6s. 4d., showing a profit of £8, 19s. 5d. Out of the total receipts of £24, 6s. 4d., apples only produced £1, 8s. Plot No. 2 cost £12, 10s. to cultivate in 1905, and the produce from it was sold for £20, 18s. 10d., showing a profit of £8, 8s. 10d. The apples sold produced £2. Each succeeding year will, of course, show larger profits as the apples, pears, etc, come into bearing. For instance, this last-named plot in 1906, its third year, already shows a clear profit of £23, although apples, etc, still remain to be sold. These are not the best plots; I have selected good average plots, so as to be within the mark, but they sufficiently illustrate the advantages of the mixed system of fruit growing."
The above was submitted to Sir Frederick Moore, who has kindly added the following statement: " I have gone over it carefully. You will see that it was written some six years ago, and experience has taught something since then. On the whole I adhere by the statements made in it. They are substantially accurate. The question as to the distances apart I have modified: 12 ft. every way is too close. We now recommend 15 ft. every way, as that enables better and longer work to be done with horse labour, which is an important matter. I still hold that it is a benefit, where you are growing two types of trees, to grow them mixed. You will notice in my paper I touch on the point you allude to as the duration of bushes on the Paradise stock. I could go further and state that I know of bushes on Paradise twenty-five years old, still producing very fine quality fruit. Further, you must remember we have been dealing with farmers, not skilled fruit growers, men who knew absolutely nothing of fruit and who had to be taught the very elements of it. Each plot consisted of one single acre; many of these farmers have now doubled and trebled the acres at their own expense. The whole thing was an experiment to see if the farmer could be taught to grow fruit well and profitably, and then be left to work out his own destiny. It is succeeding.
"The market-grower question and the market garden are very different matters. The prices given are actual records from these experimental 1-acre plots, but the cost of planting and preparing did not include the cost of the trees supplied. The ground was in nearly every instance land under permanent grass, and we could only get the farmers' figures as to cost of preparing. The amount included in cost of preparing and planting also included cost of fencing, which was considerable in some cases. Since the above article was written considerable progress has been made in fruit growing in all parts of Ireland. Farmers have gained knowledge and experience, and are extending their orchards, especially in the north of Ireland. The best varieties of apples for cultivation have been determined, and methods of packing have improved. A vigorous and active association has sprung into existence, called the North of Ireland Fruit Growers' Association, which has done more to improve and standardize apple packing than any amount of literature would have done." [f. w, m]