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.
Although Ireland is not at present a fruit-growing country in the same sense that England is, there are great possibilities in store for it under better management. The climate on the whole is much better than that of England or Scotland, and there are districts in the north, south, east, and west that may be regarded as distinctly favourable for the industry. A few years ago Mr. (now Sir Frederick) Moore, Keeper of the Glasnevin Botanic Gardens, discussed this question, and we reproduce, with permission, his remarks from that interesting publication Irish Gardening: -
"So much has been spoken and written about fruit-growing in recent years that but little fresh remains to be recorded on this subject, and those not immediately interested in the subject are getting bored and beginning to ask: 'Why all this fuss about fruit?' Those who are directly interested, and who have watched the trend of events, have no reason to feel discouraged at the results which have so accrued, more or less directly stimulated by the flow of speech and ink. The uninitiated may find some difficulty in discovering these results, but the nurseryman, the market salesman, the market grower, the retailer, and the consumer all know and feel that a great and drastic change is taking place in Irish fruit growing and in Irish methods of producing and marketing fruit - a change which is one of gradual advance in the right direction. Only those who have refused to march with the times have cause to grumble, and they fortunately are being gradually crushed out, leaving the field open to more progressive competitors. Perhaps it is not altogether a misfortune that our Irish orchards fell into such a neglected condition during the last half-century. It opened the way for modern systems of cultivation, modern varieties, and a fresh start with young trees. It would be no misfortune if many of the old orchards still remaining were cut down and burnt, and new orchards planted to replace them.
" Many timorous people look aghast at the idea of planting more apple trees in Ireland when they read of the enormous imports of American apples into this country, when they have it officially recorded that there are this year 200,000,000 fruiting apple trees in the United States, which are estimated to yield 4,500,000 bushels of apples for export, chiefly to the United Kingdom; and that in British Columbia alone 20,000 ac. of fruit have been planted within the last twenty years.
"Should these facts really be deterrents to intending planters? They simply prove how great is the market for good fruit and what an opening there is for first-class fruit. Many of these 4,500,000 bushels could be kept out of the United Kingdom, not by protective tariffs, but by supplying our own market with sound home-grown first-quality apples and fruit. A mere surmise! says the sceptic. By no means. Ireland, England, and Scotland are producing double the quantity of good fruit which they produced twenty years ago, and the market price for such good outdoor fruit has steadily gone up, whereas the price of American apples has fallen.
" On the other hand, there is practically no sale for poor or bad fruit, for indifferently packed, or for badly graded fruit, and the consumer and producer are alike benefiting by the change. A few facts to substantiate this. A mixed basket of, say, Ecklinville, Early Victoria, Lord Grosvenor, all good varieties, would if sold as picked from trees, unsorted, and ungraded, scarcely fetch 4d. to 6d. per dozen. The first week in September first-quality Ecklinvilles sold in the Dublin market at 2s. per dozen, second quality sold at 9d., of course all good fruit; a mixed lot of Ecklinvilles, two dozen, containing some apples as good as the first quality, fetched Id. per dozen. These prices are instructive. They certainly are encouraging. Nor is the encouragement confined to cooking apples. Good early apples sell freely and well, and command an excellent and remunerative price. Without leaving the Dublin market numerous instances can be given. Beauty of Bath is a healthy, free-fruiting variety, not given to canker, and succeeding in almost all Apple-growing districts. The fruit is of good quality, attractive in appearance, quite large enough for a dessert apple, firm, and a good traveller. Nicely packed boxes of two dozen brought from 2s. to Is. per dozen, according to quality and packing, during the last half of August. In early September boxes of medium Irish Peach, not by any means first quality, brought Is. per dozen, and more were wanted at the price. Many other instances could be given, but those cited will suffice.
"The question so constantly asked, which immediately concerns all interested in progressive horticulture, is: Does fruit growing pay? My answer is: Yes, when properly and well done. Those who do not intend to go thoroughly into it, and to work hard at it, had better leave it alone. Much injury has been done by enthusiastic advocates who have painted in too roseate colours the probabilities and possibilities of fruit growing. £100 per acre is with these gentlemen an ordinary estimate of the profits after a few years, the more moderate putting it at £70. These estimates, for they are only estimates, are illusory and absurd. No doubt under exceptional circumstances £70 per acre on a small plot has been made in one year, but the average profit on an established well-worked fruit farm in this country will not exceed £40 per acre per annum, and it will probably be nearer £30, which cannot be regarded otherwise than as a handsome profit from land, though far removed from the Eldorado many intending growers have been led to expect. One writer of repute states: ' The fruit grower's life is an ideal one'. I can only stigmatize this as a travesty of the facts. The fruit grower's life is a strenuous one and a laborious one, and, to the intelligent and industrious worker, an enjoyable and profitable one.