Fruit trees are a rewarding addition to the landscape. Not only do they serve as beautiful spring-flowering ornamentals, they produce a crop of fruit available for picking and eating fresh off the tree. Home-grown produce tastes like nothing you can find in a supermarket, often with more nutritional value.
Unfortunately fruit trees have some pest and disease problems associated with them. Many new hybrids have better resistance to diseases than older varieties, and cultural practices and a well-suited site can help prevent problems. In some cases, a regular spraying schedule will need to be adopted to produce a healthy crop of fruit.
Regular pruning is an important maintenance practice to thin branches in the tree canopy for good air circulation and to make the remaining branches stronger to better support the fruit yield. Pruning also helps prevent pest and disease problems. In late winter, remove damaged or diseased branches, rubbing branches, suckers from the base of the trunk, and watersprouts: branches that grow upright and clutter the center of the tree. Excessive pruning on apple trees can cause more watersprouts, so prune lightly one to two times a year. Once those problems are addressed, prune for aesthetic value.
Some gardeners establish a spraying schedule for their fruit trees if there has been a history of disease or insect infestation. The following is a general schedule, be sure to read all labels before using any chemical to prevent damage to your tree or the surrounding environment.
Winter dormancy: Use a dormant oil in February or March before the tree buds out to prevent damage from scale and spider mites overwintering in the bark of the tree.
Early spring: We recommend using Bonide Fruit Tree & Plant Guard, which controls a wide range of fungal diseases as well as insects like mites, aphids, and scale. Begin treatment with one application when flower buds are visible but still in tight clusters.
Flowering period: Do not spray when the tree is in full bloom, this will affect bees and other pollinators that are necessary for a successful fruit yield.
After flowering: After the petals have fallen from the tree, spray again. Applications can be repeated every 10-14 days throughout the summer. Read the label carefully to determine the proper spraying schedule and the pre-harvest interval. The pre-harvest interval will tell you how long you need to wait between the final application of the product and harvest.
At the end of the season, avoid leaving fruit or old leaves decaying around the base of the tree, this can cause disease and insect infestations. Do not use them as compost!
If you notice problems on your trees, stop in with a sample or photos and we’ll be happy to diagnose and advise you on the best course of action to take for a healthy, productive fruit tree.