Farm Ireland

Friday 23 February 2018

Holly is a hardy crop that could be grown on most Irish farms

Hardy: the Holly crop
Hardy: the Holly crop

Following the clearance of much of our scrub woodland, holly has become scarce throughout Ireland.

This scarcity has been accelerated by the theft of whole trees of holly during the time leading up to Christmas by thieves who then sell it to exporters for resale in Britain and on the continent.

It can be a lucrative crop to grow in hedgerows or as individual bushes and there is room for some on all farms.

I have planted hundreds of holly plants on my own farm along the woodland edges. This is now thriving, except for the odd place where sheep broke in and damaged it.

It requires care for the first few years to keep down vegetation but once established it is hardy and can be harvested annually.

Holly does not transplant well if bare rooted and is best purchased in pots. Like ivy, it is great for wildlife and many species of birds feed on its berries.

There are numerous varieties to choose from apart from the common Ilex aquifolium. JC Van Tol is non-prickly and produces good crops of berries but perhaps the best is Alaska which is slower growing but smothers itself with red berries annually.

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