Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
November, 2000
Regional Report

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As branches on other trees turn bare, persimmons brighten the winter gloom.

Winter Fruit Tree Sprays

The holidays are good for eating, gifts, decorating - and spraying fruit trees. Although less glamorous than the other three items, spraying fruit trees with a dormant solution is a good practice this time of year.

Spray Plans

Plan your tree-spraying schedule to coincide approximately with cool-weather holidays - New Year's Day and Valentine's Day. Specific cues are even more important to follow, since they change a bit each year according to the weather - the fall of the last leaf (December), the height of dormancy (early January), and bud swell (mid-February). Of these three, the precise period of bud swell is the most important time for spraying. Spraying before bud swell is too early and may miss some insects. Spraying after blossoms open is too late and may harm the buds.

Good Things about Spraying

Oil sprays smother the eggs of scale insects, aphids, and mites. Lime sulfur and powdered or liquid copper sprays discourage the growth of fungus (such as peach leaf curl) and virus. Choose a spray that contains at least 50 percent copper. On apricot trees, use only copper sprays, since sulfur will damage them.

How to Spray?

If the rains haven't thoroughly moistened the soil of trees to be sprayed, deep water those trees a few days before spraying. The heavy dormant oil spray may harm the plants if roots are dry; they need moisture to help them absorb the concentrated nutrients. Dormant oil spray is too intense for the foliage, as well, which is why the first spray is timed after the last autumn leaf falls and before the first spring leaf unfurls. (Summer-grade horticultural oils are fine to use during the growing season, because their "superfine" droplets won't clog the leaf pores.)

When to Spray?

Spray on a cool, dry, windless, sunny day to minimize evaporation and drift. Make sure that all leaf, branch, and trunk surfaces are thoroughly covered with the spray solution. Drenching the soil from the trunk to just beyond the drip line is also helpful to kill pests on the soil surface. Reapply if rain falls within 48 hours of the application.

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