Orchards shall grow all over Skerries!

Thank you for all your help in 2022 and 2023 – we now have eight open orchards in Skerries… with just over 100 trees in total!

Here is a map showing all eight locations. A tree trail, just under 3 kilometres long, from Greenlawns to Kelly’s Bay and taking in St Patrick;s Close (near the station), the Ballast Pit (near the pedestrian lights), Skerries Rock: The Vale and The Lawn, and Mourne View!

Skerries Open Orchards? Here’s a quick overview:

  • What this project is about: Bringing fruit and nut trees to different locations all over Skerries and that way increasing biodiversity, improving our public spaces, and strengthening our community. Read more at “Why Start an Open Orchard” below!
  • The background to this project: Sustainable Skerries saw the opportunity to secure funding for open orchards which was offered by an organisation called ChangeX. See more about this on our ChangeX page. We then got together a group of interested people, formed the Skerries Open Orchards Project (a part of Sustainable Skerries, which in turn is a committee of the Skerries Community Association) and started planning our first open orchard, in close contact with Fingal County Council.
  • Season 1: 2022. We planted the first mini open orchard, Kelly’s Bay Open Orchard, on Sat 12 February 2022! See below for a short report, a video and some newspaper coverage. The Kelly’s Bay Open Orchard Guardians are keeping an eye on the very young trees.
  • We planted another small open orchard at the Ballast Pit Pedestrian Crossing on Barnageeragh Road in March, as well as two mini open orchards in Mourne View.
  • Season 2: 2023. In 2023, Fingal County Council helped with the purchase of 70 more trees. On two Saturdays, we planted a total of 70 trees. See our blog post for details and lots of photographs, and also below!
  • Current status: We are now hoping to do it all again in 2024! Interested in joining us? Let us know in this online form or by email to sustskerries@gmail.com
  • Tips for others who are planning open orchards: Start small, with just one area. Make sure you start with local residents and the local authority on board. Then go for it! (If you’re in Skerries: Contact us via this online form or by email to sustskerries@gmail.com) See at the very bottom for some more detailed mini orchard tips.

Why start an Open Orchard?

Hans Zomer, SkOOP, December 2021

The Skerries Open Orchards Project aims to plant fruit trees in public places in Skerries.

The trees will provide free fruit to local residents and greenery to the open spaces in our town, but there are other benefits too. A newly planted tree will offer some extra pollination opportunities and absorb a small amount of carbon dioxide as well as rainwater that might otherwise have stayed on the surface. And as the trees grow, so do these positive effects.

Of course there are already many fruit trees around the town, but by planting fruit trees on public land, the project is an investment in our shared public space. The trees embellish our greens and provide an opportunity for residents’ groups to work together to protect and nurture them. The trees will start to produce fruit, but it’s the process of caring for them that produces the most important harvest: strengthening our community and improving our public space.

The History of Skerries Open Orchards

The further down you scroll, the further back in time you’ll go!

The 2023 Planting Season:

Skerries Open Orchards Planting Season 2023

On Sat 4 and 11 March 2023, we planted another 70 trees, bringing the total up to over 100 apple / pear/ plum / damson / hazel trees in 8 locations in Skerries! Many more photographs and a map showing all mini orchards here.

Interested in more photos from the planting days? Go to the blogpost we published about it!

2023 Overview:

  • Sat 4 Mar, 11  am: Kelly’s Bay Open Orchard: 14 trees
  • Sat 4 Mar, 1 pm: Greenlawns Open Orchard: 12 trees
  • Sat 11 Mar, 10 am: Selskar Court Open Orchard: 8 trees
  • Sat 11 Mar, 11 am: Skerries Rock The Vale Open Orchard: 12 trees
  • Sat 11 Mar, 12 noon: Skerries Rock The Lawn Open Orchard: 8 trees
  • Sat 11 March, 2 pm: Ballast Pit Open Orchard: 5 additional trees
  • Sat 11 March, 3 pm: St Patrick’s Close Open Orchard: 8 trees

Mini Orchards Planted 2022

And see our blogposts about our recent planting events.

Ballast Pit Triangle Orchard:

Planted up on Saturday 26 March 2022.

Mourne View Open Orchards:

“School View Open Orchard” or Mourne View OO 1 on the left, “Wild Cat Lane Open Orchard” or MV OO 2 on the right!

Kelly’s Bay Open Orchard

Planted on 12 February 2022

Our first planting day: Kelly’s Bay Open Orchard

We planted our first open orchard on Saturday, 12 February 2022, from 11 am.

30 adults and 20 kids, two hours, 20 trees and lots of snacks which we all brought along for our work party afterwards. It was great!

Now we are keeping an eye on the young trees and are getting ready for new orchards in the autumn: Send us an email if you’d like to see the next one in your part of Skerries! sustainableSkerries@gmail.com

By the way, we are extremely happy to have the support of Fingal County Council for this project – and we are looking forward to some more durable signage which they promised to support us with.

Our Planting Day in the local media

Skerries News, 18 February 2022

Fingal Independent 16 February 2022

Great write-up in the online version

…and even more great pics in the printed one!

This is how it started: December 2021:

Tips for Open Orchards

This is a rough list that we are keeping for our own learning, and also in order to share what we have learned with anyone who’s interested and happens to see this page!

Any comments or additions, please send us an email to sustskerries@gmail.com … it might take a while, but we will look at them!

  1. Find a suitable area.
    1. Not too close to houses (blocking windows / light for gardens)
    2. 4 m away from paths
    3. Close to future tree guardians, or where they pass regularly
    4. Public 
    5. Not used for ball games e.g.
  2. Establish that it’s OK for planting an open orchard
    1. Find someone who knows about these things – we were lucky in that we had the head gardener of our local park volunteer to be on our committee.
    2. Visit the site – is it too exposed? 
  3. Find people who will be tree guardians. A WhatsApp group works well.
  4. Draw up a plan where to plant what, and get the OK from the local authority.
    1. This may involve a couple of meetings with them on site.
    2. Listen to the local authority, they are your friends, just sometimes short of time…
  5. Agree a planting day. Plan for 2-3 hours for 20 trees and 30 adults.
    1. It’s important that you have insurance for that, by the way. We were insured as we are doing this as Sustainable Skerries, and we included the planting event in our overall insurance
    2. We found Saturdays worked best. Depends on your community.
  6. Once you have the OK and a planting day, order the trees. Have them delivered just before the planting day. The roots must be kept moist at all times.
    1. For the first year, we went with English’s Fruit Farm. Good value and good if small trees.
      In 2023, we ordered trees from Yellow Furze. They were bigger and came in pots, so we didn’t have to be so careful as with the bare-root trees.
    2. We also ordered organic compost (one bag for six trees) and fertiliser from Fruit Hill Farm.
    3. Get the trees sent to a local resident. Our 20 trees easily fit into one large plastic bag. Bare rooted trees are surprisingly small.
    4. If no one has spray paint for gardening / sports, order a can of that, too.
    5. No need to buy tools, there should be enough in the community.
  7. Arrange for people to sign up for the planting day.
    1. We used an online Google Form. For insurance reasons, we thought it best to know who was coming. One form per group: 1 or 2 adults, up to 4 kids.
    2. Make it very clear that children must be under supervision by their parents at all times. No unaccompanied children.
    3. Ask people to
      1. dress warmly and for rain, wear gloves and old clothes
      2. bring any tools they have that are:
        1. half moon edgers for cutting out the sods
        2. mattocks / pickaxes (very, very useful for breaking up hard ground)
        3. spades
        4. forks
      3. bring wheelbarrows – one or two per planting day would do
      4. bring loops of 80 cm to 1 m diameter (hoola hoops, bicycle tyres) – they are great for guiding you when digging out the holes
      5. bring large plastic bags to put the dug-out soil on
      6. bring cups and mugs for the after-work party (avoiding waste wherever possible)
      7. bring some treats to share for the after-work party, and some tea / coffee (that was very welcome) and fruit juice or water
      8. the local residents to bring out garden / camping tables for the goodies
  8. Don’t forget to let the local media know! Let’s spread the word!
  9. On the day before the planting day, spend a couple of hours preparing:
    1. Dig one hole (and cover it up again) for easier demonstration the next day.
    2. Mark where all the other trees are to go with the spray paint.
  10. On the planting day:
    1. Bring a printed list of all who signed up, plus space for entering details (name, email, number of adults and of children) on a clipboard
    2. Have one volunteer make sure that everyone is signed up.
    3. At the beginning, do a safety announcement. Ours is included here for your reference.
    4. Also announce that you’ll be taking pictures and publishing them, including on the web, and that anyone who wants themselves or their children to be kept out should make themselves known to you. Take note who it is (maybe have some armband ready; in our case, nobody objected to photos).
    5. Then demonstrate how to plant a tree properly, taking care to make it as easy as possible for the young tree to grow.
      1. Dig the hole deep enough and loosen up the soil below so roots can go there.
      2. Mix in compost with the soil you took out, and a little bit of fertiliser.
    6. It’s easiest if one or two people lay out the trees next to the spots where they are to be planted (roots covered in plastic until the very end!), and then everyone picks a tree and plants it.
    7. Make sure that any leftover goodies are shared, and all waste is taken back for recycling.
  11. Make sure that you stay in touch with volunteers afterwards by sending an email to all with
    1. links to your blogpost (if you did one), 
    2. the ChangeX page, 
    3. any local media coverage,
    4. information on how to keep an eye on the trees & invitation to join the Tree Guardians group for this particular open orchard
    5. invitation to keep in touch with your group (newsletter, if you have one)
    6. a big thank you for being part of the day!

Our Health and Safety Announcement

  • Be aware of the danger using the tools.
  • Always leave tools where you can see them.
  • Always leave tools in a safe manner (prongs pointing down etc.)
  • Children must be under supervision at all times.
  • Please keep the 2m distance Covid hygiene implies.
  • Should you have any questions, look for someone in a yellow vest, like myself, .. or …. X for gardening / planting questions only, Y and me for organisational questions.
  • Should there be any incident, it must be reported immediately to Y or to myself.
  • This event is organised by Sustainable Skerries, a committee of the Skerries Community Association.
  • We need to know who is here, for insurance reasons – one person per group must sign in.
  • If you haven’t done so already, please do so now with Y or me.
  • Be safe, have fun, let’s plant some trees!

And besides…

Some more details are on our ChangeX page. You can still join the Skerries Open Orchards Project or sign up to be a Treee Guardian for Kelly’s Bay Open Orchard (or a future open orchard in Skerries), either here on this page or, if it does not work for you, by following this link!

This page was last updated on 13 March 2023 by Sabine McKenna.

%d bloggers like this: