Pests and Diseases

Lots of people worry when they see a bug on their fruit tree, but here's the good news - very often, they're being helpful, not harmful!

Healthy trees are much less likely to be attacked by pests and diseases, just like healthy people are less likely to get every cough and cold that's going around! Very often, the bugs you see on your tree are predators, who have turned up to eat the bugs that cause damage. It's much more important to look at the health of the tree itself, and any damage that might be occurring, than the bugs (though sometimes it's also great to be able to identify a bug, and we've got a great book to help...keep reading!).

There's lots of ways you can protect your fruit trees from pests and diseases:

  • Pick up all fruit from the ground under your trees throughout the fruit season, as they can easily spread disease to healthy fruit.
  • Make sure enough light and air can circulate around your fruit trees with pruning and weed control.
  • Monitor your tree for pests and treat them—only if necessary—before they cause too much damage to a tree. Very often, the appearance of a pest will be followed by a predator that will eat it up, for example aphids are often followed by ladybirds.
  • Use physical bands around tree trunks to catch crawling insects like codling moth larvae and earwigs.
  • Use physical barriers like tree guards to prevent animals such as rabbits and hares eating young trees.
  • Use a safe organic fungicide (such as Bordeaux or lime sulphur) in spring to prevent the outbreak of fungal diseases such as curly leaf, blossom blight, or apple scab, especially if conditions are wet. Your trees may need two treatments. You can read all about organic fungicides, what they are and how to use them in the free sample.

And one of the most important things - DON'T PANIC! Just seeing an insect on your fruit tree is no cause for alarm—many insects may in fact be "good guys", ie predator insects that are doing you a favour by eating the pests that damage your fruit. If you’re sure that your tree is being damaged by a pest or disease, try to identify what it is, as this makes working out the appropriate treatment much easier. 

A word of warning—many of the chemicals available at garden shops that are used against pests can do more harm than good. Even products like pyrethrum (a natural insecticide made from daisies) can be harmful to beneficial insects in your garden if not used the right way.

The other way to learn more about how to keep your fruit trees healthy is the "Pest and Disease Know-how" section in the Grow Great Fruit program which includes the following topics:

  • Pest and disease control: why organic?
  • Five key steps to pest and disease control
  • Monitoring for pests, diseases and nutritional deficiencies
  • Orchard maintenance: what is it, and why is it important?
  • Preventing big animals from damaging your fruit trees
  • The pros and cons of copper sprays
  • Understand the life cycle of pests and diseases to learn how to control them
  • Why are healthy trees less likely to be attacked by pests and diseases?
  • Different types of fungicides to use in organic gardens
  • How to protect your trees from above and below
  • Practical spring tips for preventing pests and diseases
  • Home spray units
  • Make your own organic fungicides
  • Diagnose common problems,
  • What healthy trees should look like at different times of the year.

You'll also learn about the life cycle and best organic prevention methods for these pests:

  • Rutherglen and Harlequin bugs
  • Controlling birds—different netting systems for home gardens
  • Fruit fly
  • Codling moth
  • Pear and cherry slug
  • Aphids
  • Fruit tree borer
  • Grasshoppers
  • Rabbits and hares
  • Apple dimpling bug
  • Earwigs and garden weevils
  • Carpophilus beetle

and these diseases...

  • Silver leaf
  • Brown rot
  • Black spot
  • Bacterial canker
  • Bacterial spot
  • Gummosis
  • Phytophthora
  • Blossom blight
  • Freckle
  • Shot-hole
  • Leaf virus diseases

So, you can see your best defence against pests and diseases is to learn how to keep your tree healthy and your garden balanced, but for those times when you really do want to identify a bug on your fruit trees, we've sourced this really excellent pocket guide (available below). Unfortunately it's out of print now, but we managed to get the last few copies available!

 

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What's bugging my fruit? Common Insect Pests of Deciduous Fruit Trees
This handy ebook features more than 15 common pests of deciduous fruit trees including a descript..
$39.95
Ex GST: $36.32
What's that spot? Common Diseases of Deciduous Fruit Trees
This handy ebook will help you identify and treat more than 25 common diseases and conditions of ..
$39.95
Ex GST: $36.32

About Us

We – Hugh and Katie Finlay – draw on over 15 years' experience as orchardists at our farm, Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens, to bring you the Grow Great Fruit Program, the farm-proven system for home fruit growers.

To read the full story of our farming journey, click here 

MAFG Blog

Our blog gives a snapshot on various aspects of life on the farm. Currently Katie is documenting her journey as winner of the 2015 RIRDC Rural Women's Award for Victoria!

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Grow Great Fruit Forum

Our Grow Great Fruit Forum is a place where our program members can access member resources, ask questions, and find answers to their specific fruit-growing problems.

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