|Michal Slawski, reports on the recent socially distanced open day at Nangle & Niesen’s wholesale tree nursery in Aherla, County Cork.
Nangle & Niesen’s annual trade event provided a great opportunity to see first hand the excellent quality of the trees and the care that goes into producing them.
Set up by Des Nangle and Dutch nurseryman Matthew Niesen in 1973, the nursery was established to serve the domestic market with small trees, conifers, and hedging. By the 1990s the nursery had expanded from its original 50 acres to over 100 acres and was now specialising in specimen trees for the domestic market. Over the years the nursery changed hands before being owned outright by Ronan Nangle. The last 10 years have seen significant growth in the UK export market as well as expanding into mainland Europe.
Situated about 200m above sea level on free draining, fertile soil the nursery is home to over 35,000 trees in over 300 varieties. The sizes range from 8/10 to 60cm, but specialising in the 10/12 to 30/35cm girth market. The elevated site has meant that it is continually exposed to windy, wet conditions. This has developed trees that are particularly suited to the Irish conditions by culturing the root and heads.
TREE PREPARATION AND GROWING
A walking tour of the nursery took in the existing and new plantations. Ronan explained that the process of growing the best trees starts when selecting the stock for growing on. They look for shorter, stockier trees that are feathered down low and with a good root system to start with. They make frequent trips to growers in Europe and deal with growers that they know and trust. Once they take delivery of the stock, they store them in their humidity controlled shed (over 9,000 trees in the winter of 2019/20). In December/January they prune up the planting stock. This involves reducing the crown and lateral growth by up to 30% and pruning back the root system to encourage fibrous root growth.
Once this work is done, they are stored until they are ready for planting later in the spring. Before planting they are treated with Symbio Mychorrizae bacterial stimulator. After planting they are caned and tied and have a new leader trained in. It is this pruning done before they are planted that starts the culture in their root and crown development.
Nangle and Neisen take a scientific and biological approach to soil preparation, developed after discussions with Hillery Murphy of Soil Biology Ltd in the UK and Andy Robinson of Whites Amenity in Dublin. In essence, they are feeding the soil and enabling that to feed their trees.
This is the third year of getting their soils analysed and their first year planting into the soil that has been biologically enhanced. They now spread manure, then work in basalt, dolomitic lime, and patentkali before sowing a green manure crop with different grasses, clovers, chicory, and plantain. They leave this crop there for the summer and winter until they are ready for planting in the spring. They then get the ground ready for planting, mulch in the green crop, and plant the trees.
This is the first year that they have planted into the ground after a three-year preparation cycle. About 12 failures in the 9,000 trees and excellent growth and vigor with less disease/pests.
Ronan shared his views on the outlook for the business. In general, the future of the industry over the short to medium term is cautiously positive. Demand for trees remains strong both domestically and in the UK. Supply at the moment is below demand due to strong growth in the last few years and greater demand from the East. The result is their trees are selling at increasing prices.
However, uncertainty is where we are now. Covid, Brexit, and the state of our economy in the crisis could change everything in a heartbeat.
The other silent danger is the looming threat to the industry – plant health and biosecurity. The movement of trees and plants between states has aided the increase of pests and disease (Ash Dieback, Xyella, and OPM to name a few). Managing imports from Europe going forward is going to be important in controlling the increase in these pests and diseases. There will have to be greater emphasis on where and how the trees are grown, with public authorities, in particular, having to step up to the plate. Their procurement needs to lead the way no longer can everything be based on the lowest price.
He felt the need to strengthen our plant health and biosecurity measures and promote our trees as being from an area with a low risk of pests and disease, and that marketing needs to improve on this subject. Having said all that, he Is optimistic for the future. They grow good trees and there will be a demand for good trees as we move into a greener future. He has two new root ball machines arriving in November and he intends to drive the business on for the next few years.
The tour finished with a gourmet meal, prepared from locally sourced ingredients. ✽