Early Spring Care for Fruit Trees

We look forward to the time when apple and cherry trees start to bloom because we know that spring has finally arrived. Fruit trees are wonderful additions to the home landscape, both as fruit producers and ornamental blooming trees. But unfortunately spring and early summer is a time when fruit trees need to be protected from several insect and disease problems that can affect them at that time of year.

Fruit tree disease problems often overwinter on dried fruits or "mummies" that fell on the ground last fall and have remained there under the tree during the winter. This also happens with leaves from trees infected with fungal diseases; the spores overwinter on the leaves and are present to re-infect the tree the following spring as it begins to leaf out. For this reason, sanitation beneath and around your fruit trees is very important. Collect and discard or burn all debris from the tree, including leaves and fruit each year. Also prune out and destroy all dead or diseased branches and twigs each spring.

Dormant Oil
Fruit trees should also receive an application of dormant oil spray before they begin to bud out. Dormant oil is used to control or suppress scale and spider mites on apple and pear trees. Lime-sulphur is used for the same purpose on plum, peach, apricot and cherry. It will also help control peach leaf curl and plum pocket.

To be successful with any spray application, the spray must be applied at the right time with thorough coverage of the tree. Dormant oil or lime-sulphur should be sprayed on the tree while it is still dormant, before any new shoots or flowers begin to appear. To make the job easier and to ensure adequate coverage, thin out excessive growth by removing all dead and weak wood.

DO NOT combine dormant oil applications with lime-sulfur, or pesticides containing sulfur. Plant injury may resuult.

Insect Traps
Early season insects of fruit trees like apple maggot, cherry fruit fly and coddling moth can be controlled with two different types of traps. Apple maggot and cherry fruit fly overwinter as pupae in the soil and begin to emerge in early to mid June. A large circular ball, painted red like an apple and coated with a layer of petroleum jelly or Tanglefoot will attract and trap these insects, hopefully before they begin laying eggs.

Tanglefoot, a very sticky substance, is particularly effective in trapping the adult insects. The fruits on apple and cherry trees are smaller and less brightly colored at this point in the season, so are less attractive to the insects than the trap. One trap per tree is sufficient.

Another type of trap is effective against coddling moth. Use a plastic gallon jug, like a milk container, and place in it 1 banana peel, 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup sugar. Fill the jug almost full of water, replace the cap and shake it well to mix and dissolve the contents. Remove the cap and firmly secure one jug into each apple tree. The moths are attracted to the scent of the concoction in the jug, becoming trapped and drowned when they investigate. Refill the jug with water as needed throughout the summer.