Kevin O’Neil’s Organic Orchard

Visit: Kevin O’Neil’s Organic Orchard – October 2021

Walcot Nursery, Walcot Lane, Drakes Broughton
Wednesday 6 October 2021

A keen group of Civic Society members thoroughly enjoyed their visit to Walcot Nursery on a warm, windless October evening. Kevin’s business took shape 20 years ago when he first purchased a nearby field. It has since expanded to 15 acres, produces between 18,000 and 20,000 organic fruit trees each year and employs three people.

They use crop rotation for sustainability and they propagate using a bud system rather than a graft. Kevin demonstrated how the bud is chosen and then bound tightly onto its host. The budding work is undertaken in the summer with a 90% success rate. The trees lie dormant during the winter and then grow vigorously in May and June. They are sold during the winter months as bare root trees (not in plant pots), arriving with the purchaser within 24 hours of being lifted out of the ground. The trees can be developed into bush trees, or espaliers or cordons because they are versatile at such a young age and can be grown to whatever type the customer requires.  

The nursery usually sells all the trees it can grow. They are one of only three organic fruit nurseries in the country. They grow over 50 varieties of apples and 30 varieties of plums and pears. Some are rare and unusual varieties such as the Pitmaston Pineapple (apple) and the Christmas Pippin (apple). Members relished sampling the apples at the end of the tour!

Whilst the nursery is of course pesticide free, they spray with soapy liquids towards the end of winter to deter aphids. Deterring the local deer is another matter and the staff have tried all sorts of ingenious methods as the deer love to graze on the new trees!