My brother is the ultimate gardener. He makes everything seem so easy and prides himself on growing a good share of his own food without all the chemicals that are on almost everything at the store. He loves the thought of not having to depend on others for food and I’d like to see him raise animals again someday. He doesn’t trust the “organic” label, so lately he’s planted some fruit trees to go along with the multitude of veggies in his garden. When we spoke the other day he said he doesn’t know how organic apple growers do it, because his new apple trees already have something going on with them. His compromise is to just spray once a week, not “spray the crap out of them several times a week” like most apple farmers do. (Only he didn’t say “crap”. 🙂 )
So I decided to throw his dilemma up on Twitter/Facebook and see what his options might be:
“HELP! My brother's apple trees have pests and he doesn't know what to do, is there a natural way that WORKS? Thx!”
Here are some of the responses I received, and I’m adding them here just as I got them. I haven’t clicked on the links or Googled to find out what some of these are or if others have had good luck. I have to run out the door again in a sec, but wanted to throw just this out there to hear what you think. Maybe you can shed some light on these and add more of your suggestions, too…?
- From @PodChef “Blast off w/ water. Coat w/ kaolin clay?”
- From @Honeycoop: “Look up kaolin clay as a spray for apple trees.”
- From @Lindsay4Trikona: “Has he tried Neem? https://www.eartheasy.com/grow_nat_pest_cntrl.htm”
- From @LowMileageFood: “Scroll down to ‘Insects on fruit trees': https://ow.ly/1Q4Js” (I see now that this is the same site as Lindsay suggested above, it must be a good one…?)
- From Alex (https://amoderatelife.blogspot.com/): “Kelly, I have read that blending cayenne pepper powder and seventh generation or mild soap and water is a powerful bug deterrent. I have done the soap and water on my roses and it does get rid of the aphids. He might want to do a test spray to see how one branch does.”
- From Lisa: “You might want to call Al-Mar Orchards and see if the owner will help you out as they are all organic. I did an article on them one time for our chapter's newsletter. Innovative stuff.”
- From Sarah: “Have him try planting nasturtiums at the roots of the tree – most pests don't like the scent of them and they repel them away. Plus, you can use the flowers in a salad!”
- From Ashley: “Definitely have them inquire at a nursery. My mom brings in leaves, bugs, etc all the time and gets help. Theres gotta be someone working at one with some natural tips!”
- From Heather: “There are natural sprays–look at https://www.gardensalive.com/“
- From Tina: “https://www.groworganicapples.com/”
More reading on pesticide dangers:
- This topic goes perfectly with Wendy’s guest post here the other day, “A Farmer’s Daughter’s Response to “Organic Manifesto” – be sure to read it over if you haven’t already. 🙂
- Learn about Pesticide dangers – A comprehensive list with pesticide information you need to know.
Sustainable Eats says
I would ask what it is they are spraying with. Things like neem oil, lime sulphur and copper may not be all that harmful although there is some new evidence showing copper is not as benign as it was once thought to be. The other two are considered acceptable for organic practices so even though they are spraying it might not be as harmful as what a conventional farmer is using. It’s certainly worth asking. And yes, those farmers using an integrated pest strategy are using way fewer chemicals and trying other methods of pest control instead.
Shelley, I’ve heard that same line many times recently for some reason, probably because I, too, was calling around about apples last week, and finding a local organic apple around us is pretty much impossible as far as I can tell.
I don’t know the answer to your question (sorry!), but if I had to guess I’d say that it’s maybe sprayed a bit less than any old conventional apples, but they obviously still are sprayed or they’d call them organic… If you find out any more, please let me know. HEY, I just thought of someone to ask, but they don’t check email often. I’ll let you know when I hear back.
Hi Kelly, I want to know your thoughts on this info I rec’d while inquiring about an orchard. I was wondering about their growing practice. This is what I got: Integrated Pest Management System, which is a biological system that attempts to prevent pest problems by trapping and sterilizing first. This does not mean that the farmers never use sprays: only if there is serious fungal infections and never on the fruit.
I’m looking to make homemade applesauce this year and want to purchase from a good source. I’m in GR, so if you have any leads send them my way!
Thanks for all you do!
Michelle (Health Food Lover) says
That does seem like a predicament but great everyone has so many suggestions.
This Aussie Website could be of help: https://www.permacult.com.au/plants/apple04.html
Thanks for sharing your post in the Wholesome Whole Foods blog carnival! 🙂
Sustainable Eats says
it sounds like early scab – he can google for images. It begins as brown spots which eventually turn to black. it’s caused by a fungus. If he has fruit on the trees he can find a copper based spray that meets the organic criteria, although it’s not necessary. It’s probably already in the fruit but spraying now will help prevent it from further spreading. During the dormant season (before leaf set) he should use a lime sulphur spray (also meeting the organic criteria) but once there is fruit on the trees that would cause it to drop. It’s ok to eat the fruit, you just cut the black spots off.
During the dormant season he needs to carefully rake and burn any fallen leaves and mulch from the base of the trees or it will overwinter and come back.
If there are any evergreen trees or bushes nearby he should also use the dormant spray on them (he could use the lime sulphur or neem spray in the off season). There is some evidence that garlic, onion or chive “tea” will help prevent scab but at this point he already has it so copper is his best bet.
There is probably a place closer to you but I get my supplies at http://www.groworganic.com so he could at least do some reasearch there to start. He could also take samples of leaves or fruits to any local farmers market and befriend an apple grower and ask for advice. There is also probably a master gardener group close to him that would diagnose any problems for free too. He could find them by emailing the local ag school and asking about a small farm extension or master gardener’s organization.
The booties are used to prevent coddling moth which you may not have in your area and they need to be put on when the fruit is about 1/2″ big.
He can also look into using trunk bands (cardboard taped to the tree) so that caterpillars overwinter in them and then he would need to periodically replace the bands and destroy them, along with the larvae. That would have needed to be done in winter as they are probably hatched out now.
One last thing he can do to prevent aphids (which would be visible but I don’t think his problem is pests) is to put sticky bands around the tree bases. This prevents the ants from climbing the tree to defend the aphids against predators like lady beetles and lacewings.
Probably more than he wanted but that’s my twenty five cents. ;p
Nylon footies put on apples when they are marble size keeps the bugs out!
Alex at A Moderate Life says
very cool! I have a miniature apple tree and I am going to do this! How do you bind the nylons to the branch?
Sustainable Eats says
You can either take two corners and tie a knot or twist around itself. I got mine at http://www.groworganic.com – $10 for 1000, way cheaper than buying real nylong footies.
I just called him and he said he’s got rusty colored spots on the leaves and they look like they’ve been eaten.
He corrected me and said that he plans to spray *as needed* (so he doesn’t lose the trees over it), but not weekly like the conventional apple growers do.
Sustainable Eats says
Kelly, you never said what kind of pests he has going on. That would alter the answer.
Diatomacious Earth!!! Mix with water and spray on the tree. You can also “paint” it on the trunk. It is just fabulous for getting rid of all insects yet is completely non-toxic. I take it internally myself as a natural anti-parasite remedy. We give it to our dairy goats, chickens and pigs and it keeps magots from hatching in their droppings. Our fly population has diminished immensly. I sprinkle it around the permiter of our house in the spring and voila! No ants inside! I also mix in water and spray on the veggies in our garden for all kinds of pests. Check out all the benefits on line. It is a very ecconomical and safe organic pest control. The apple orchard down the street from us uses it on their trees with great success. Just make sure you get the food grade form and not the toxic swimming pool stuff.