KC Gardens

Protect your fruit trees from pests

Flowering peach tree

Tip of the Week

Even though it is the middle of the winter and plants are still dormant, now is the time to start planning for the upcoming growing season. The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” holds true when battling pest problems that can attack fruit trees during the growing season.

Scale Insects There are a number of dormant sprays that can be used on fruit to control various diseases and insects, but a dormant oil spray is designed to control scale insects. If you have had problems with scale, now is the time to start looking for an opportunity to spray. Normally spray should be applied before March 1, especially with peaches and nectarines. Apples are tougher and the application can be delayed up until the green tip stage, or when growth is just beginning.

Temperatures need to be at least 40 degrees so spray has a chance to dry before freezing. If the spray does freeze before it dries, plant injury can occur. Applying the spray during the morning will help insure that it dries properly. Thorough coverage of limbs, branches and twigs is vital for good control.

Peach Leaf Curl In addition to scale management, now is also a good time for peach leaf curl control. If you have ever seen emerging peach leaves that are puckered, swollen, distorted and reddish-green color, this is the symptoms of peach leaf curl. Uncontrolled, this disease can severely weaken trees because of untimely leaf drop when leaves open out in the spring. Fortunately, peach leaf curl is not that difficult to control if the spray is applied early while the tree is still dormant. By the time you see symptoms, it is much too late. As a matter of fact, fungicides are ineffective if applied after buds begin to swell.

Peach leaf curl can be controlled by a single fungicide application either in the fall after leaf drop or in the spring before bud swell. Just as with dormant oil sprays, don’t spray when temperatures fall below freezing before the spray dries.

There are several fungicides labeled for this disease including liquid lime sulfur, and chlorothalonil. Like scale control, thoroughly cover the entire tree during application.

It is much easier to achieve good spray coverage if the tree is pruned before spraying these products. It also prevents wasting product on limbs that are going to be pruned out anyway. So now is the time to make plans, purchase needed supplies and take advantage of our next spell of warm weather. Protect your fruit trees before spring arrives and it is too late.

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